Stereotypical male, or just being cautious?
June 18, 2009 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Am I that stereotypical "afraid to commit" male, or am I just being cautious about a relationship I care about?

I was talking on AIM with a friend of mine, and he said I should message Jane Doe because she would enjoy this conversation. I did. That was a little over two years ago. Jane and I talk every day for at least an hour, if not more. She lives over 10 hours away from me, but after about 6 months I drove to see her. Since that time we've seen each other in person every other month, usually by plane. At this point it's been about two years, and we still talk just as much. Everything about her and about us is wonderful. Physically we get along well, emotionally we help each other out, times spent together are always filled with fun. I've even told her that a normal guy would marry her in an instant, and I completely mean that.

Some other key bits of info: I'm in my low 30s and have had 5 girlfriends. She is about 10 years younger and this is her first relationship. Both of our parents married young and divorced. Actually, both of our parents divorced several times. Jane lives at home, going to college, has grad school coming on the horizon. I lived at home until my late 20s, and am currently in my 2nd apartment.

After all this, we currently are not "boyfriend & girlfriend". I am very reluctant to call us that. We've had conversations about it, and my reasoning usually revolves around these items: 1) she will be in grad school, and I don't want a relationship tainting where she chooses to go 2) we live far apart and neither are in a position to change that 3) it would be better if my living and job status were more stable (a house, basically) 4) I worry that neither of us have enough experience with "life". I know many family and friends who got involved with a relationship/marriage too soon. Or got together (stayed together) for the wrong reasons.

In conjunction with number 4, there is a part of me that thinks she is just afraid of losing me, and not being able to find someone else. Also, I haven't been on my own for that long, so I'm afraid that if i get into a steady relationship I'll turn into one of those grumpy guys pining for the days of being single. While I don't go to bars or actively seek out people, I do like the idea of being flirty with waitresses, or just friends in general, just because it's fun. I certainly wouldn't want anything sexual with anyone else, but I would think that playfulness would stop once we dated.

A lot of comedians and sitcoms focus on a guy being "afraid to commit". Am I that stereotypical male, or am I just being cautious? I love her, and only want the best for her and us.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
What do both of you want? I recommend continuing to talk about it and maybe figuring out what you want and working toward that. If you both have what you want, then I'd recommend doing what you can to not second-guess the situation but enjoy what you have.
posted by kalessin at 9:12 AM on June 18, 2009


Yes, you are. Being "girlfriend & boyfriend" doesn't mean you're married, fercrhissakes.
posted by Grither at 9:13 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


A relationship and a marriage are not the same thing. You say you love her, so why not date her? The things you are worried about (financial stability, life experience etc) don't really apply if you are just dating. If you were engaged it would be something to worry about, but otherwise, not so much.

You're clearly interested in her, and it sounds like she is attached to you too, so why not give it a try? If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, but if you never try you'll deprive yourself of the experience of being with someone you care about.
posted by Lobster Garden at 9:15 AM on June 18, 2009


In conjunction with number 4, there is a part of me that thinks she is just afraid of losing me, and not being able to find someone else.

Are you afraid of losing her? She may get tired of being your "not-girlfriend" after awhile.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:24 AM on June 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


We've had conversations about it, and my reasoning usually revolves around these items: 1) she will be in grad school, and I don't want a relationship tainting where she chooses to go 2) we live far apart and neither are in a position to change that 3) it would be better if my living and job status were more stable (a house, basically) 4) I worry that neither of us have enough experience with "life".

#2 is a reasonable concern -- a long-term relationship with no end date on the long-term-ness is really tough.

But the other 3 points don't make much sense. Those points might explain why the relationship is imperfect. They're certainly reasonable concerns. But they don't obviate the words "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" and "relationship."


I know many family and friends who got involved with a relationship/marriage too soon.

If you were considering marriage, it'd be reasonable to consider that you know a lot of people who have gotten married too soon. But saying that you're not in a relationship because you know a lot of people who have gotten into a relationship too soon ... again, this just doesn't make sense. You're either in a relationship or not, and it's based entirely on your current status/interactions with this person.

You're clearly ambivalent about the situation, so I recommend deciding whether you want to be in a relationship with her or not. It's been 2 years! It's well past time for "I'm very reluctant to call us that..." If you want to be with her despite the obstacles, then OK -- she's your girlfriend. If you don't find the obstacles worth dealing with, then OK -- break up and move on.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2009


My answer might be completely skewed because I think already that 2+ years of a long-distance relationship is too much. Life is waaaay too short to be apart from the person you love for that long (especially for a young woman in college who should be out experiencing college social life, not waiting for her 30+ year old AIM buddy to decide if they should be bf/gf). So, yes, I think you are being a stereotypical male who has one girl on the hook but is looking for something else to come along.

You seem to be in a state of arrested development. If you're 30+ and worried that neither of you "have enough experience with 'life'"....well then, what the hell have you been doing all these years?? Cause this is life and what you are doing right now is experiencing it. Also, if you are 30+ and are still struggling over whether to call yourself "boyfriend & girlfriend", then you need to start growing up. Finally, if there is any single iota of a chance that you will end up being one of those "grumpy guys pining for the days of being single" when you commit to her, then don't do it. At all. Spare this girl the pain and let her be with someone who will happily commit to her and love every minute of it. Please see this awesome comment from a similar thread in response to that same attitude.
posted by ejazen at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


In my experience, moving from dating to "we are boyfriend and girlfriend," denotes exclusivity and working towards the possibility of a shared future. Two years suggests that you are working towards a future. Keep in mind, you could break up long before you get to the let's move in together/get a dog/get married stages. Lots of people do and then they just start over. Breaking up, while painful, is not the same as divorcing.

Are either of you dating other people? Do you want to and/or mind if the other person does? If dating other folks is not appealing & you see the possibility (not a commitment written in stone) of a future together, then take the leap. You didn't mention moving for each other or anything, so that doesn't seem to be on the table. Even if you are not labeled boyfriend/girlfriend, if you care about each other, it will probably influence any decisions you both make about the future. That's not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you make each other happy.
posted by katemcd at 9:47 AM on June 18, 2009


Hmmm. Weighing in at the other end of the scale here. I read your post and thought "Wow. this guy really cares about this girl, and doesn't want to get in the way of her living a happy, fulfilling life." Because, yeah, you're over 30, but she is just barely over 20. She hasn't finished undergrad yet. She wants to pursue graduate studies, and then she'll presumably want to live in the real world and build a career for a while before she starts to think about a family. And she's never had a real relationship! I mean, I guess it's possible to meet and marry your very first boyfriend at a young age and live happily ever after, but it seems kind of unlikely.

And there's no two ways about it: if you get in a relationship it will skew her decision about where to attend grad school. And if she went to the one closer to you and then you two break up, she'll always wonder "What would my life have been like if I'd gone to the better school? What opportunities did I pass up for Anonymous's sake?"

You're not afraid to commit to her. You're afraid to let her commit to you. And I think that speaks to a great maturity and caring on your part.
posted by philotes at 9:57 AM on June 18, 2009


I hesitate to say "stereotypical "afraid to commit" male," solely because I have a feeling this thread could lead to another Misandry and Ask MetaFilter (and who wants that...) but.... yeah. Stereotypical "afraid to commit" male. And considering that this has been going on for two years, perhaps you should think about not continuing to lead this girl on.
posted by srrh at 9:58 AM on June 18, 2009


Who cares if you're afraid to commit? It's your life, and her life, and some people on here who don't even know you saying they think you're acting "stereotypical" cannot take the place of your good judgment.
posted by kathrineg at 10:29 AM on June 18, 2009


Additionally, it is not leading someone on if you're both open and honest.
posted by kathrineg at 10:29 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


And there's no two ways about it: if you get in a relationship it will skew her decision about where to attend grad school. And if she went to the one closer to you and then you two break up, she'll always wonder "What would my life have been like if I'd gone to the better school? What opportunities did I pass up for Anonymous's sake?"

Well, sure, if they break up. But if she goes to grad school someplace far away and they break up over that, then she'll always wonder, "You know, I really liked him. I wonder what would have happened if I'd given that a go."

All you can do in this and most situations is choose and know you chose. Decide that yeah, this thing might have a chance at making me happy long term, so I'm gonna commit to it. Or decide that you know, I value my independence at this point in my life and I think she does too, and I don't want to be responsible for tying her down if I'm not sure I can make her happy.

Ultimately you will have to come down on one side of that fence. And hemming and hawing has costs as well. You can't guarantee that everything will work out as you hope it will. Nobody can. All you do is know your own mind and act on what you really want. That way, even if it does all end in tears somehow you know how you got there, and you know you gave it your best shot. It's a lot better than just sort of stumbling into some kind of resolution, always pining over what would have happened if you done X or Y or Z.
posted by Diablevert at 10:30 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


philotes: If she wants to be in a relationship with the OP, that is her decision, since he clearly wants to be in a relationship with her. I don't think he should try to push her away because he thinks he knows what's best for her. She is an adult and capable of making her own choices. Sure, she may end up regretting them, but there is no way to foresee the future and even if she did regret it, it would be a learning experience.

So I think the OP's first reason for not wanting a relationship is a moot point because she can make that decision for herself.
posted by Lobster Garden at 10:34 AM on June 18, 2009


I think all four of your concerns are reasonable actually.

That being said, if you continue in this manner you have to be prepared for the relationship to end at any time. She's going to want more at some point either with you or with someone else. If you really do love her I would start considering how you two can be together at some point in the near future to give things a real shot, and to me that would mean living in the same city. If you decide she's not worth that effort/commitment you should really start spending your energy finding a more realistic option and allow her to do the same.

Also, if the four reasons you list above really just boil down to reason #4 and you're emotionally or psychologically scarred by past family events, then I would make haste to a therapist's couch before you blow a real chance of happiness with her or any future person that comes into your life.
posted by the foreground at 10:35 AM on June 18, 2009


You never know what will or can happen so youmight as well do what you want.

And after 2 years, it sounds like you want to be with this girl.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:40 AM on June 18, 2009


I don't see how you're "leading her on" if you're open about your concerns. It's up to her to ask for what she wants in relationships.

And, yeah, she's young and blah blah blah, but one of the ways we learn is to do things wrong. If this doesn't work for her, and she doesn't have the ovaries to ask for what she wants, she will eventually learn to do so. She's got plenty of time.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:40 AM on June 18, 2009


I also have to say that, after two years, I would dump anyone who was all "Well, we're not boyfriend and girlfriend" if that person also wanted a monogamous relationship. If you're having a monogamous relationship with someone, you're their boyfriend. (You didn't specify in your post if she was seeing other people, but you imply that you're not seeing other people, so if that's mutual, then I think avoiding the "boyfriend/girlfriend" label smacks of an unusual aversion to commitment.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:44 AM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've read your question and the answers. Thinking outside the box here (bare with me).

You have been talking to a girl for over 2 years now. Traveled to see her ever month. I assuming you two are more than friends during these visits. And you think you are not committed to this girl already in her mind? Ask yourself this Do you love her? Does she love you? If the answer is a double Yes then tell her that you want to be exclusive with her. As far as holding her back, why can't you go with her? Or maybe you will not be holding her back. If she loves you then she will be with you.

I'm sensing a little insecurity on your part. Maybe you feel you have a real connection with her the way things are right now and you do not want to jeopardize that. Well in order to be loved to you have to risk being hated. For what it's worth good luck sir.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:45 AM on June 18, 2009


Ok so let's break this down:

1) she will be in grad school, and I don't want a relationship tainting where she chooses to go

I'm sorry but this isn't your call to make. She's an adult and it is really patronizing (and really sort of self serving) to say you don't want to commit to her for *her own good*

2) we live far apart and neither are in a position to change that

Ok then why are you even in this relationship to begin with, it's been 2 years

3) it would be better if my living and job status were more stable (a house, basically)

Why? A relationship doesn't equal marriage and kids tomorrow, would this really change anything? Lots, hey most, people in their late 20's and early 30's manage to date people without houses and stable careers.

4) I worry that neither of us have enough experience with "life".

I don't know what this means. You don't seem to want to sleep around, but at the same time your idea of what a relationship would mean sounds really depressing. I also find it odd to be exclusive (which from the way you say things I guess you are?) and yet you aren't officially in a relationship. To me that would be the worse of both worlds. No commitment or future but also no chance to look else where?

You do sort of sound like one of those stereotypical can't commit guys, but at the same time I don't think committing to someone you don't want to commit to is a good idea ever.

What you really don't mention is what she wants. Does she want a committment? Is she unhappy with the status quo?

Overall, you just sound sort of lukewarm about her and that's ok. But I wouldn't dangle her along forever, if your heart isn't really in it, it's time to let her go. This in between thing is pretty cruel, unless you know for a fact she is 100% ok with the status quo.
posted by whoaali at 10:48 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Excuses, excuses. Like a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle for relationships, you can't both know someone and stay on your original trajectory.

There's no ideal time and place for a relationship. You're _always_ going to be forced to deal with this. If you're unwilling to expect some sacrifice from a partner (and reciprocate), you'll have a hard time finding more than a summer fling.

You're both in a position to move unless one of you is in prison. 75% of my unmarried over-30 friends are still single because they haven't figured this out yet: If you want a relationship, you're going to have to take turns living in places that are less than ideal for one of you. Alternate every 5 or 10 years. If you're not wiling to move, call it quits now and look for someone magical enough that you're willing to suffer a bit more. For Christ's sake, people cross oceans, give up their native languages AND abandon lucrative careers to be with their partners EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Grow a pair and pack your bags, dude.
posted by paanta at 10:59 AM on June 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


It sounds like you're in denial about where all this is going. You're trying to deal with this as the situation you'd like it to be, not as it is. For example:

I don't want a relationship tainting where she chooses to go

It's going to anyway. So if you plan to keep things going, you need to deal with that.

Same with the boyfriend/girlfriend thing. For all intents and purposes, long-distance issues aside, this woman is your girlfriend. If you accept that, you can begin sculpting this arrangement into whatever it's going to be. By hovering around it, you're making this harder than necessary on both of you.

Unless you acquiesce to giving this relationship some structure that both of you can depend on and then push the boundaries of, you're basically creating a hostage situation with your mixed signals. If you love her, then by god go ahead and love her -- it's not like your legs will be instantly cut off and you won't be able to flee if you decide you need to.

If you don't love her and you're just addicted to the attention you get from her, then you need to break this off ASAP, because as good as it feels, it will keep both of you from ever meeting or consummating an actual adult relationship. It's hard being single, but as long as you're getting steady support from someone without any sort of commitment, every other woman's (totally reasonable) expectations are going to seem totally unfair to you.
posted by hermitosis at 11:09 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It doesn't sound like the situation merits a commitment where you two would be boyfriend/girlfriend as you're not in a position to make plans for a future together at this point. I think your misgivings about it are warranted given her age and ambitions. As well as your own desires. So as long as you're both consenting adults and understand the nature of the relationship what's wrong with keeping it as is?

My only advice from my own experience would be to make sure she's absolutely clear that this isn't going anywhere (if it's not). When I was younger, in a situation like this without a lot of experience I was laboring under the (wrong) assumption that my low-key relationship was leading to something when (like yours I'm assuming) it really wasn't. We were enjoying each other but in terms of a commitment to building a future together there wasn't any. This can be easy to fall into with an LDR too, especially when you've been together for a long time. My mistake was thinking that we were a solid couple and it was inevitably leading to us being together long term, even though we weren't there yet and it might take 5 years or whatever for us to be ready. After we broke up I was heartbroken and felt like it was all a delusion, that I'd been wasting my time and missing out on other opportunities. Make sure she's not making that same mistake.
posted by Marnie at 11:09 AM on June 18, 2009


yeah, you're over 30, but she is just barely over 20. She hasn't finished undergrad yet. She wants to pursue graduate studies, and then she'll presumably want to live in the real world and build a career for a while before she starts to think about a family. And she's never had a real relationship! I mean, I guess it's possible to meet and marry your very first boyfriend at a young age and live happily ever after, but it seems kind of unlikely.

So ... she shouldn't get into a relationship, because maybe it could turn into a marriage and it's not good for your first relationship to be the only relationship in your life? Huh? By that reasoning, no one would ever enter into a relationship! You just have to go with the flow and see where it leads. If you two strengthen your relationship and end up staying together your whole life, great! But at most that's way in the distant future. The references to marriage, starting a family, etc. seem premature considering that these two aren't sure if they're gf/bf yet.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:21 PM on June 18, 2009


Well, sure, if they break up. But if she goes to grad school someplace far away and they break up over that, then she'll always wonder, "You know, I really liked him. I wonder what would have happened if I'd given that a go."

Excellent point. I tend to think the opposite way because I have this idea in my head that when you're young you should make major decisions in favor of yourself and your career, and after you've built your life you start adding people (spouse, kids) to it. But I know not everybody lives that way and it's very true she could regret not being with him.

I don't think he should try to push her away because he thinks he knows what's best for her. She is an adult and capable of making her own choices.

Also true. She certainly can make her own choice about this, but I came at this post thinking that 10 years is a pretty massive age difference when you're in your early 20's. OP has had a lot of time to be single and learn about himself and cruise the dating scene. Whether he considers himself "experienced" or not, he's at least had time to develop a sense of self separate from parents & school. But you're right, it's not for him to tell her how to live her life.

And Jaltcoh, again the age difference is my motivating factor here. OP is in the getting-ready-to-settle-down age group, whereas the girl in question is solidly in the exploring-life age group (at least, as I define these non-objective age groups in my own head). I just assumed that OP would be more apt to steer the relationship towards marriage than someone the girl's own age. But again, I assumed where I shouldn't have, and made an ass out of ... well, pretty much just me.

Ok, so I retract my implicit advice that OP make this decision on his own, and recounsel that he discuss all these issues at length with his non-girlfriend. I stand by my assessment that he's not the stereotypical non-committer, though. He's a non-committer thus far, but for some fairly sound and atypical reasons.
posted by philotes at 12:45 PM on June 18, 2009


I love her, and only want the best for her and us.

If this is the case, then I think after two years you make a decision. You stop worrying about the risks and trust that regardless of possible mistakes you could make together, you each care deeply about the other and aim to make each other's lives better and richer. That decision could be to forego a relationship for now--to say, "We are not currently in a relationship, and neither of us has power over the other to prevent, impede, or sabotage a relationship with someone else. We trust that our friendship will endure, and we are open to the possibility that one day in the future we may ask ourselves this same question again (should we be in a relationship?) and come to a different conclusion." Or the decision could be to begin an explicitly acknowledged dating relationship, not necessarily with a specific agenda or timeline (or, if you and she prefer, with one), and then you move on to the process of determining how she'll make her grad school choice, what each of you will do career-wise in order to get yourselves geographically closer (or at least geographically more flexible), etc. Either way, I do think that after two years, you owe it to yourselves and each other to evaluate your situation, see how/where your respective desires and goals align, and decide how to proceed. It's not unfair to pursue a relationship with a less-experienced, 20-something woman, nor is it fair to decline such a relationship. However, this intense, long-distance friends-but-maybe-more status is like keeping both of you in limbo.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:25 PM on June 18, 2009


I call bullshit on your entire post. You're keeping this girl in a holding pattern and trying to pass it off as you looking out for her best interests. You don't want to get into a relationship because it might "taint" her decision-making process regarding grad schools. Bullshit. And you know it.

You're in the shower with a rain coat on. Either take off the rain coat, or get out of the shower.
posted by pecanpies at 4:41 PM on June 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Both of you should keep doing what you are doing with each other and date other people. If she doesn't want to do that, then you stop doing what you are doing with her and date other people.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:01 PM on June 20, 2009


And Jaltcoh, again the age difference is my motivating factor here. ... I just assumed that OP would be more apt to steer the relationship towards marriage than someone the girl's own age. ...

He's afraid of even having a girlfriend; I wouldn't assume he wants them to get married. The OP himself is a counterexample to the assumption that an unmarried 30-something is necessarily going to push for marriage.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:02 AM on June 21, 2009


« Older Forum software questions. (1)...   |  How do I get my company websit... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.