Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Should I Stay With a Commitment-phobe?

Dear Jocelyn,
My boyfriend (27) and I (30) have been together 18 months. He has been slow to commit all along and blames it on a past breakup. It took him 10 months to call me his girlfriend, and then he also panicked and broke up with me when I wanted him to meet my children. After a week, we got back together and he met them. He is amazing with them—volunteering for their activities, planning their birthday parties, etc. However, he still has not said "I love you" even though I've been saying it to him for about 4 months. I finally asked him and he said he cannot say "I love you" because he feels it's "pointless" and that I should look at his actions rather than words. He spends every weekend with me and the kids, but when I've asked him to spend more time together, he says no...then the nights he's not here he texts me constantly saying he misses me. When he talks casually he uses "we" statements about the future, like "our" future house, making me beneficiary of his work benefits, etc., but when asked directly he says we won't live together, he doesn't believe in marriage, etc. While he has met my parents, he has not told his mother that he's dating me and he knows this bothers me a lot. I am so confused because he sends so many mixed signals. He's not seeing anyone else and I know he's very happy with me, as he tells me this all the time, and we just click and get along like we've been together for years. My friends and family love him, his friends love me. I guess I'm asking—do I wait for him to commit (which I am willing to do if it was even a possibility) or am I deluding myself here? I can't get a straight answer from friends because maybe they don't want to hurt me, and talking to him about the future is impossible without eliciting a panic-response.
-Wants a Future

Dear Wants,
That must have been a doozy of a break up! You are right that he is sending mixed verbal signals in that he talks about you guys having a future together (e.g., sharing a house), but you should listen to what he is telling you right now. He says he does not want to marry or live together, won't say he loves you, and didn't even want to meet your kids.

What he is doing is not fair to you, but it is definitely unfair to your children. They are bonding with him, developing a friendship, and perhaps even starting to look at him as a father figure—and he could walk out of your lives at any point. He has known them for months, but imagine their heartache if you two continue to date for five years before one of you decides to end this.

He has already proven to you that he is scared of anything smacking of commitment. You know what you want—a mature relationship leading to marriage. The best thing you can do at this point is to set some boundaries with him and make your expectations clear. Tell him that you love him, but it is clear you both want different things. You need to go your separate ways, and IF he works on his issues and decides he is ready to marry (and proves it by buying a ring), then you would be thrilled to marry him. Otherwise, you can't stay with someone who you don't have a future with.

This isn't manipulation or coercion, it is you deciding what is best for your and your children, and pursuing that. If your boyfriend loves you, he will find a way to work through these fears to be with you.
-Jocelyn

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How Do I Handle Possibly Losing a Friend To Someone Else?

Dear Jocelyn,
I have a really good friend (neighbor) that I support with all her life drama daily. We recently met a girl at our gym and had planned to go out as a group. It never worked out, but now the new girl texts with my friend daily and they go out and don't include me. I mentioned to my friend (as it bothered me) that I thought this was strange, and she finally sees what I am talking about. The new girl will make plans with my friend right in front of me and not ask me. We are nice to each other, but I feel she doesn't want to socialize with me. I really don't want to be part of this friendship with the new girl and have told my friend. She keeps telling me about their plans together and it gets me more and more angry. My friend now asks me to go with them, but I feel like it's an afterthought. This weekend, my friend is having the new girl to her house for dinner and asked me after the fact; I said "no thanks," then she proceeded to say she wanted to make it a girls' night and invite some of her other friends. I have never met some of these friends nor had dinner at her house before. I'm really trying to not be a baby but my feelings are hurt. I have known my friend (neighbor) for 7 years and she recently got divorced so I have been a support for her 24/7 and have talked her off the ledge many times. What should I do? Stop talking about the new girl with my friend and change the subject? I feel like a better offer comes up and my friend goes with it. I hate to keep mentioning this to my friend because this really isn't my personality and I don't ever have problems with friendships. Any advice you can offer to keep me sane would be great.
-Third Wheel

Dear Wheel,
This seems like the sort of awkward situation that requires a dispassionate review of the facts. You are friends with your neighbor (let's call her "Mary"). Both of you recently met another woman (let's call her "Susie"). You and Susie are not very interested in a friendship, but Susie and Mary have hit it off. Now they are making plans and seeing each other without you.

Is it wrong for Mary to have friends other than you? I'm sure you don't think so. Is it wrong for someone to want to hang out with Mary and not you? I'm sure you don't think that either. After all, you don't even sound all that fond of Susie. But even though those two things are true, it can still hurt to see your close friend becoming bosom buddies with someone else. You might know intellectually that it is fine for Susie to want to be friends with Mary and not you, but you may still feel slighted to see it play out right in front of you.

It sounds like this hurt you are feeling might be affecting how you react to situations with Mary. If you didn't have any hurt feelings about her friendship with Susie, would you have accepted her invitation for a girls' night?

You might try giving yourself a pep talk that sounds like this, "I have a perfectly good friendship with Mary. We have been friends for seven years and she appreciates me. Right now, she is developing a new friendship with someone I don't want to be friends with. That's alright. She is excited about it. We can still be good friends." Try being enthusiastic about their friendship. Support it; smile when Mary mentions Susie. If Mary senses she has to choose between you two as friends, it is going to strain your friendship. Instead, continue being a good friend to her and choose to take the supportive and friendly route. Eventually, the jealous feelings will fade and you'll find yourself actually being supportive about them.
-Jocelyn

Why Won't My Boyfriend Let Me Meet His Family?

Dear Jocelyn,
I am 49 years old. I have been seeing a 49 yr old man (who I attended high school with) for over 6 months, yet seems like more because of how close we have become. We have a great relationship. Compliment each other. He helps my bad traits as I his. We even went away together. After his dad died he moved in with his mother as so she didn't lose the house. He basically supports her and his nephew. He refers to them as his family. He also takes them and his aunts etc. to all the family functions (i.e. niece's graduation, BBQs etc.)

He refuses to tell them about me. Says its my personal business and its none of theirs. His brother in law was asking him about the 'trip' he took. He said yes he went away. Then when he asked if with a woman he wouldn't answer. told him none of his concern. On his birthday I left a balloon on his car. His mother asked if he knew who left it. He replied yes, but wouldn't tell her who.

I know he is a very private person. Doesn't tell anyone anything. But he does tell me details of things, even things about family. I know its not that he ashamed of me because I have met and hung out with friends and people he even works with. But he still won't tell his family about me. I even asked the other night if someone in his family got married would he bring me as his 'plus one'. He said probably not. Since his dad died his mom has always been his plus one and sometimes one of his aunts also. I just feel hurt that after this time, and how I know he feels about me by opening up to me- he still won't involve me in his family things. He says it has nothing to do with me. Its just his family is one area of his life doesn't concern anyone else. My friend said he probably  wont do anything until his mom passes away. I told him that and he said once she passes he wont have any family, and that he won't deal with anyone except maybe his nephew. What is etiquette for involving girlfriend with family? It really bothers and hurts me- which he knows- but he still won't do anything. And as result I wont be able to see him for this next whole weekend because of family events.
-Secret Girlfriend

Dear Secret,
I agree with you that this is probably not because he is ashamed of you. This is probably not personal at all. However, it is still disturbing. Your boyfriend has developed an extremely compartmentalized life. Most people have overlapping circles in their life - someone's family might know a few of that person's friends, friends might know of a few colleagues, etc. In your boyfriend's life, his family is segregated from everyone else he knows. This might not be a big deal, except for the fact that he lives with family members, and are involved with them daily. The fact that he refuses to share any details of his life with his family is strange, at the very least.

This sort of behavior is sometimes seen when the person grew up in a dysfunctional or abusive household, and is a way of protecting that person. However, if this is true (and if your boyfriend has not resolved his issues with them), then he should not be so intricately involved with his family. 

It is your decision as to how to handle this. Can you accept your boyfriend's decision to essentially hide you from his family? If you decide that you want to stay with him and live with this, then you need to truly accept it. Don't try and change this behavior, or you will simply drive both of you nuts. If you can't accept it, then tell your boyfriend clearly that you find this behavior disturbing, and you can't be with a man who segregates his life like this.
-Jocelyn