For the past year and three months, I have been in a non-official relationship with a man nearly five years older than me. When we met, he was very interested in a relationship, but I was unsure about it since I was 17 and he was almost 22. A year and three months have gone by, and we’re still not “together…” but we haven’t stopped communicating or wanting things to work out. We’ve had opportunities to be with other people, but neither of us have considered anyone else. Our relationship has seen its ups and downs for sure, and we have come so close to being an “item” so many times, but then he says, “I don’t know what I want.”
As much as I want to know what he means by this, I think I already do. I feel he has become comfortable with what we have been doing, and changing that scares him. He’s a chicken and knows it. He has apologized to me so many times because he knows it kills me, but not as much as being without him does. We’ve tried hating each other, letting go, and ignoring the other, but we can’t, and I’m glad. I love him and he has admitted to loving me. But I’m at a loss. We talk about the future a lot and I do see myself with him, but I don’t know what to do. Do I leave him alone to figure things out? Cut him off? Give him an ultimatum? I know I have to stop tolerating it, but what is the best way? Please help me.
In this situation, there is only one thing you can do: You need to make a decision and stick with it. You’re both scared to make a commitment to something, but you’re also both scared at what happens if you don’t make a commitment. So, you’re left in this uncomfortable in-between world, where neither of you really knows what’s going on. That has got to change, because it’s clearly making you feel really crappy.
You’re right – this guy now feels comfortable where he is with you, and is terrified to change things. I’ve seen it happen so many times with couples I actually know. He knows that, right now, he can have you around whenever he wants you, but he’s free from the emotional and societal strings that an official relationship would bring. He gets to have his cake and eat it too, as they say – and that’s working out in his favor, so why would he want to change it? Unfortunately, it’s not working for you. And honestly, it’s kind of messed up that he knows that, apologizes for it, but doesn’t do anything to change it. It shows a very selfish side of him that isn’t looking great to me right now.
Since he is clearly incapable of making a decision, you have to be the one to do it. He’s happy with how he is with you, but you aren’t – and that’s not fair to you! I don’t like to advise anyone to give an ultimatum when it comes to relationships, but in this case, it’s necessary. You don’t have to do it in a crazy, mean way, but you have to do it.
Here’s what you can do: talk to him in person. Even though he already knows, explain that you love him and want to be with him and hate being without him… but that you just can’t do the casual, non-official thing anymore. Tell him that if he wants to be with you, it has to be in an official relationship. Say that if he doesn’t want that, then you guys will have to stop talking. And then leave. Just leave. Give him some time to think about it – it might take a few days – and during that time, don’t contact him. Let him see what it feels like when you’re not around.
All of the above sounds easy, but I know that it’s incredibly difficult. You might be wondering, “When should I do this?” The answer is, well… now. I don’t want to say “wait until you’re ready,” because, to be honest, you might never feel ready to do something like this. Giving an ultimatum is something you have been actively avoiding, and you will continue to come up with reasons to push it off as long as possible. You just need to rip the band-aid off and do it.
Yes, this will hurt… a lot. It’s not easy at all. But you deserve to be happy with this guy, and you aren’t getting what you deserve from him. If he truly loves and cares about you, he will find a way to make things work. He’ll stop being selfish and he’ll start compromising. And if he doesn’t truly love you, he won’t. That possibility is the harsh truth, but you need to know it’s there. And if that is what happens, I’m so sorry, but honestly… you’re better off.
Just try to be strong and stick to one thing. It sounds like maybe you’ve tried to do this before, and have then ended up back together. This time, don’t let him get his way. Show him it will be different. It might take some time for him to realize, “Oh shit, she’s for real this time.” He might need to realize that before he can commit to a relationship. In the meantime, you have to decide to go through with this, and focus on yourself. Good luck.
What’s on your mind? Heather can help! Send her your question at firstname.lastname@example.org