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.


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