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Can't we just be happy the way we were?
February 15, 2013 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Girlfriend pushing relationship faster than I'm comfortable with, any way to hit the brakes?

So I've been with my girlfriend for about a year. We have a great relationship and really up until recently I thought we were perfectly matched, both on our viewpoints and values and how we treat each other... its one of those natural relationships where you dont feel like you have to force anything, you both just naturally make the right choices that makes each other happy. We both know this is the best relationship either of us have been in.

However, it seems as we neared the 1 year mark, her interests are no longer in the here-and-now of what fun things we're going to enjoy together, but rather the what-will-be of moving in together, getting a puppy, getting married, etc. She starts these conversations often, and despite my obvious disinterest, she persists. While I am not against the concept of marriage, I have no interest in it now... I'm in my mid-20's and living on my own for the first time in my life, and really enjoying it. I have an awesome girlfriend, a tight crew of friends, and alot of personal hobbies on top of our shared hobbies... to me, this idea of "domesticating" is basically a downgrade of where I am now. I don't know a single married couple, young or old, who displays a positive example of domestication, at least its not the lifestyle I envision for myself. Would 30 year old me like that life? Possibly, but current me does not.... and if I had to accurately guess, I'd predict more like 35.

What I dont understand is that we know plenty of couples who moved in together or got married or got a puppy and they all eventually disappear from our social world and we're left talking about how their current lifestyle seems so lame to us, the exciting fun loving couple... then a few days later she's asking which breed of dog "we" want to get or what neighborhood "we" want to move to. If I protest she quickly says oh she's just thinking of the future, with a wistful look in her eye. This sort of talk is, unfortunately, just a big turn off for me... I've been thinking of it lately and trying to think around it, but thats just the truth. These conversations feel smothering, as I'm not ready to pigeonhole myself into expectations of when I have to pop a question by to hit a deadline that we arbitrarily set one fateful night after 2 glasses of wine. She asks when I'd be ready to move in together, which maybe is an innocent question and I'm overreacting, but if I said "after my lease is up" then I'd feel like the next 6 months are my last months living awesomely alone... basically I wish the question was just "are you ready to move in together?" "no" "ok".

A month ago I would have never expected to be asking this question, but now here I am, and I'm left wondering... is there any way to put the brakes on my girlfriend, and bring her back to "normal"? Our relationship has been awesome up to now, and we went through the standard phases.... super energetic sex filled awesome new relationship novelty time, the period of hey-what-do-you-know-this-is-still working where you happily start getting comfortable around each other but sex is still awesome if just a bit less spontaneous, with an abrupt shift to where we are now. In the last month, really since this all started happening, our sex life has curbed too, and I don't think its me... I now always have to initiate (this is new), we come home from a night out on the town and she's too tired to have sex by the time her jackets off. The big one, that kind of slapped me in the face and kicked off all this introspective thinking, is that after I treated her to a very extravagant and romantic Valentines date on Tuesday, she was weirdly surprised that I wanted to have sex when we came home... she wanted some time for her food to settle, then passed out. This was after 2 nights we spent together that she didn't want to have sex "so we could build up to Valentines day" and taunting me with new lingerie she had bought all through our date. The next morning when I got a text at work asking when I wanted to try out the new lingerie, I gave a vague uninterested response, as pornhub had already taken care of whatever needs were left unsatisfied.

Basically I'm trying to cool off since V-day and she's coming over after work tonight and I want to have a serious talk. Normally I think the relationship questions on AskMe are ironically just asking for permission to break up with somebody, but I'm actually looking for advice on how to keep this relationship happy for the both of us. I just dont know if theres anywhere to go once those seeds get planted and she starts getting these dream husband dream house in the burbs white picket fence fantasies.

So long story short... can I slow down my girlfriend's expedited pacing of our relationship? Or, because my last 2 relationships ended for the same reasons, are we crucially mismatched? I'm not even past age 25 and am not going to entertain any notion that its time to slow and settle down... but I respect that thats just some people's lot in life. I also notice that my girlfriends always paint me as their dream husband, because I treat women right and respectfully, which is apparently not the norm, and as soon as we hit the 1 year mark they think they've found the one.... and subsequently change into a person who I dont want to date anymore. Meanwhile, dudes who treat their girls like trash pretty much get free reign to do what they want, cheat on their girlfriends, coerse them into stuff they arent comfortable with, and the girls cant get enough.
posted by el_yucateco to Human Relations (100 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Talk to her, like you've said you are going to. There is no magic bullet for fixing relationships, and the only way to solve anything is to talk to them about it.

Good on you for wanting to talk to her. Make sure you do.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:20 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Be completely upfront and tell her that you aren't ready for that level of commitment yet (I'd tell her exactly what you said here about being in your mid twenties, etc).
posted by marimeko at 8:21 AM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's perfectly reasonable for you not to feel ready at age 25 or age 35...

It's perfectly reasonable for her to feel "ready" now, even before the year mark.

At some point (probably soon) you will have to decide if she is the one for you and you may need to speed up your perceived timetable or change your vision of how your life will be...or you will need to let her go. My feeling is if you don't already have a solid idea of this around the 1 year mark, unfortunately you may have to break up with her, because she seems like the type of girl who wants to settle down. There's nothing wrong with her--most women will want that. There's nothing wrong with you for not wanting it at 25. A lot of 25 year old guys are not ready, and quite frankly you don't sound mature enough for marriage. Sorry.

If you keep trying to stretch things out as they are, she will become increasingly anxious, you will fight more, and you will both become miserable.
posted by the foreground at 8:24 AM on February 15, 2013 [36 favorites]


Tell her how you feel about the situation. You owe her that much, at least. If you're not ready to settle down, and she is, then you're mismatched. If you're not compatible sexually, then you're mismatched. The only way to find out whether you're actually mismatched or not is to sit down and have The Conversation about where you Are and where you're Going. Not wanting to settle down is 100% OK, but being in a relationship where you're both pulling in different directions is generally not. You both seem to want opposing things, and unless you can come to some level of agreement about what is going to happen, your chances of staying together are slim.

Honestly, the fact that you're considering treating your girlfriend of one year, with who you're in the best relationship you've ever had, "like shit" speaks volumes. If I was your girlfriend and read that, we'd be having a Conversation for sure.
posted by Solomon at 8:26 AM on February 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


She starts these conversations often, and despite my obvious disinterest, she persists. While I am not against the concept of marriage, I have no interest in it now

This is a clear signal from your girlfriend and you cannot ignore it or put it off or wish it would go away. She's ready for a commitment. If you are not, then really, please tell her so and let her move on.
posted by three blind mice at 8:27 AM on February 15, 2013 [64 favorites]


Maybe I should just start treating women like shit, since they seem to enjoy it so much?

No.

You need to meet more self-actualized women, basically. The women who "enjoy" being coerced (really coerced, not your basic light-BDSM lifestyle stuff) and "enjoy" being treated badly are women who have grown up being treated badly and controlled and have not had the chance to work through that and find their own goals and true sense of self. They don't "enjoy" being treated badly the way you'd "enjoy" a tasty meal; they are used to being treated badly and find it a sign of normality. A lot of those women are the ones who will say stuff like "all men are dogs, you have to withhold sex to get what you want" and what they mean is "all the men I know disrespect women and my only bargaining power is withholding sex because the men in my life don't care about my feelings and wishes when I say them in words".

As to what to do about your girlfriend - everyone is going to say that you need to explain to her that you like (or love, whatever) her very much and want to stay in the relationship in a committed way but you don't want to live with anyone or get married right now - not because you're looking for a "better" relationship but because you like how you're living at the moment. Don't hedge with "maybe someday I'll be ready to get married"; keep focused on the here and now.

As a long-term piece of advice: pay attention to when you've had your fill of the single/casual life, because you can easily form single/casual habits and miss the intimacy and support you actually want. God knows I don't mean "get married in your twenties" - but as you get older, pay attention to maintaining closeness. You'll accrue more life responsibilities as you get older, even without a marriage/dog/child, and if you're not careful, you can drift in a relationship where both of you have been in the habit of "keeping it casual". More casual relationships work really well when you have lots of free time and you can stay close and loving pretty easily that way, but once both of you are busy, you can drift. (I say this as someone who has had this very realization in their thirties and had to make some meaningful relationship changes.) Anyway, that's long, long-term advice, but I wish I'd had it as something to think about when I was younger.
posted by Frowner at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2013 [43 favorites]


Tell her your thoughts just as you told us. This way you can lay your priorities on the table for her and she can decide what her priorities are. Mind you this could end a number of ways "she adjusts to your plans" "her priorities are exactly as she's mentioned and won't wait so she'll end your relationship" "both of you give a little and meet halfway" .. You just have to be ready to be a flexible if you want to keep her if it comes to that.
posted by xicana63 at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a lot going on here, most of which would best be worked out by using words to describe your emotions to your girlfriend. Talk to her about how you feel. Say it that way. "I feel trapped", "I enjoy going out and having sex with you", "I'm not ready for kids". "I feel guilty that we might feel different". And then ask her how she feels and listen to what she says.

Expressing yourself this way instead of clamming up or saving it for the bros will help resolve the issues you're dealing with, because the two of you together will be working on the problem. Or at least both aware that there is a problem. I'm really sorry if the solution to the problem(s) is going your separate ways. It sucks in the right now, but in the long run giving each other the opportunity to get what you really want in life will leave both of you much, much better off.

Here, let me give you a personal example. About 5 years ago I was just about your age. Dating a nice girl, we got along great, were exclusive for quite some time, etc. I eventually picked up that she was ready for a family, and I wound up feeling much like you do now. We talked about it, and even though we were have a great time together and neither of us were happy about breaking up, we did. I went back to my man cave, and she went and got married and had a kid REAL QUICK. She and I both were ecstatic with that result.

There is much to be said for taking the big decisions in life that seriously, and confronting the real impact that ignoring them can have on a relationship. Talk to her. Tell her how you feel. And if you have to, wish her a happy life with her family.
posted by carsonb at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2013 [23 favorites]


dudes who treat their girls like trash pretty much get free reign to do what they want, cheat on their girlfriends, coerse them into stuff they arent comfortable with, and the girls cant get enough.

I really don't like this trope, but insofar as there's something to it, it's that the people who are right for each other find each other. The people who want drama-filled relationships that aren't going to go anywhere in which fidelity is not an important factor will date eachother and have those sorts of relationships. The relationships exist via consent of both parties. Note that your girlfriend isn't dating one of those people-- it's because it isn't what she wants. The people who are good at engaging in long term relationships in which the two partners don't cheat on each other are the sort of people looking for a long term relationship that eventually leads on the path toward marriage. I mean, what were you expecting would happen in this relationship after a year?

At your age, given what you want, the secret to not getting yourself involved in a huge mess is to extricate yourself gracefully from the relationship, secure in the knowledge that you can find something else more in keeping with what you're looking for when you're ready for it.
posted by deanc at 8:29 AM on February 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


Your girlfriend is actually already normal. It's not a gender-specific thing, but a lot of times when people have been together for a year, at least one (if not both) start thinking about a definite future together. If you're not ready for that with her, then let her go so she can find someone who wants to settle down with her.

And, um, what's this?

Meanwhile, dudes who treat their girls like trash pretty much get free reign to do what they want, cheat on their girlfriends, coerse them into stuff they arent comfortable with, and the girls cant get enough. Maybe I should just start treating women like shit, since they seem to enjoy it so much?

This is a kind of weird sentiment to stick into your questions about your girlfriend, who seems to enjoy your respectful treatment so much she wants a future with you. Look into this sentiment a little more and maybe think about what it is that YOU want out of your romantic relationships. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to settle down, but you need to respect that, own it, and be honest with your partner.
posted by mibo at 8:30 AM on February 15, 2013 [63 favorites]


To quote Annie Hall, "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

You're going to need to have The Conversation. If she wants to step it up, that's perfectly legitimate. If you don't, that's legitimate also. But -- those are incompatible aims, and may very well/probably mean the end of things.

Slowing her down, or somehow hitting the snooze button on this relationship isn't (I feel) a realistic scenario.

On the bright (?) side, there's probably a lot of other young women who aren't ready for marriage yet, either.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:32 AM on February 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


I think it's very important that you let her know not only that you're not ready "yet" but that you don't envision yourself being ready for another half decade or more. Because a plain "not ready yet" might still leave her thinking that's on the order of "not ready for another year or two, with an expectation of at least slowing moving in the direction of her goals.

You say you've clearly stated your disinterest in what she's asking for, and she can't make you change what you want, but it seems she's also pretty clearly stated what she wants, and here you are asking how you can change what she wants. It sounds like you two are just incompatible on this issue, and it's a pretty fundamental one.
posted by drlith at 8:35 AM on February 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


Maybe I should just start treating women like shit, since they seem to enjoy it so much?

Wow, it doesn't really sound like you're respectful of women at all. I mean I get that you're bitter right now because of the Valentine's Day thing, but this is a horrible reaction.

If your girlfriend wants to move in with you, there is no way to make her unwant that. Of course there isn't. You can tell her that you aren't yet ready to move in together and don't foresee a time when you will be ready, and see if she still wants to be with you. That's the best you can do.

She's not doing anything wrong, you know. There's no reason to resent her desire for increased commitment; it's as normal as your desire to maintain the status quo.
posted by torticat at 8:36 AM on February 15, 2013 [100 favorites]


The best way to keep your partner happy is to talk to them. The short-term pain of a difficult conversation is sometimes necessary for long-term happiness and satisfaction.

The worst way to keep your partner happy? Is to treat them like trash. Don't be that guy.
posted by sockermom at 8:38 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frowner is wise.

anyway when i saw this in your post: "Maybe I should just start treating women like shit, since they seem to enjoy it so much?" & i had to write a reply, jesus christ, no, definitely do not do that. unless you want your personal life to become a roller coaster of drama, fights, tears, emotional manipulation, and hassle, don't.

look, if you don't want the same things she wants, have an honest and open conversation about it pronto. be respectful when you talk to her, but don't feel guilty about the way you feel and the way you would like to live your life. if she wants something you're not willing to give, it would be better for both of you to separate - she can go look for someone who is on the same page as her, and you can enjoy dating/being by yourself in your 20s. each of you wants something normal, it's just 2 different normal desires.

you're concerned that you'll get screwed when "she starts getting these dream husband dream house in the burbs white picket fence fantasies." a relationship works beautifully when the most important goals and dreams are shared by both people in it. consider that before you get into a relationship again after this one.

if you aren't ready for monogamy and wish you could just have "free reign to do what (you) want, cheat on girlfriends" please think about dumping her before you do something unkind, and date casually for a while...don't get into a relationship with anybody until you really want those limitations and boundaries.

sounds to me like she is just more into it than you are, and the fact that she's SO INTO YOU is why she sees a future with you, she probably thinks of you as husband/life partner material. it's ok to not reciprocate your woman's feelings every single day to the same degree, but you two want clearly different things here. trying to procrastinate and "slow her down" is not gonna make her want the same thing you want. and it definitely won't make you suddenly want to have a long term future with her if you aren't that into her now.
posted by zdravo at 8:40 AM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


So long story short... can I slow down my girlfriend's expedited pacing of our relationship?

Yes. By using words to talk to her, rather than expressing "obvious" disinterest, which may not be all that obvious and is also open to different interpretations. Rather than wishing she would ask you if you're ready to move in together, quit being so passive and tell her you want to talk about this and then talk about it. Take the initiative. Do so calmly and thoughtfully. Do not play games like "treating her like shit" because that is immature behavior. Be a grown-up.
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


To everyone chastising my last sentence, I was venting my frustration with an observed behavior in our culture. You've obviously never been a guy trying to woo a female by being nice and courteous and respectful only to have her choose some abusive douchebag or player instead. It was a rant. Forget about it. Christ you people cling on to the tiniest thing huh? Was that really not obviously sarcastic?

Thanks carsonb for giving me a really useful answer: "Talk to her about how you feel. Say it that way. "I feel trapped", "I feel guilty that we might feel different". And then ask her how she feels and listen to what she says.

There is much to be said for taking the big decisions in life that seriously, and confronting the real impact that ignoring them can have on a relationship. Talk to her. Tell her how you feel. And if you have to, wish her a happy life with her family."


Thats a big part. I feel guilty that I have to broach the subject and possibly start the conversation that ends our awesome-to-this point relationship. I get that now, but yeah its more fair to both of us for it to happen sooner than later.

And really, you guys can drop it on the treating-women-badly thing, I see it hit a nerve so I apologize to any who were offended.
posted by el_yucateco at 8:45 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, so your girlfriend doesn't feel like having sex on Valentine's Day, she initiates sexy conversation the next day, and you blow her off because porn's taken care of the urge just fine? Because that was her initiating, something that you says she doesn't do. Which, to me, begs the question of whether you want to have sex with her or just sex in general, on your schedule?

That undercurrent that I read into your question just intensified by the time I got to the end, where you trot out ye olde "women clearly just want to be treated like shit" trope. Why, in a question which is ostensibly about your girlfriend liking you too much, so much that she wants to commit to you in a more permanent way. What gives?

Maybe you're just all thrown about right now because you feel that she is suddenly wrong for you, but examine where all this hostility is coming from before you talk to her about the status of your relationship. Contempt has never fixed any relationship, and you'd both be better off not being together.
posted by lydhre at 8:45 AM on February 15, 2013 [64 favorites]


I think it might help people answer your question if you could clarify a few points:

1. Do you expect to actually "slow down" your girlfriend by saying or doing certain specific things, other than having a frank conversation about how you aren't ready for commitment yet? If you are looking for ways to manipulate her opinion and make her feel satisfied by a situation that currently does not satisfy her - rather than coming to some kind of compromise for the immediate/mid-term future after an open discussion.... you are going to need very different advice.

2. I know you're frustrated by her recent change in behavior, but do you really want an answer to your question: "Maybe I should just start treating women like shit, since they seem to enjoy it so much?"

I hope this is simply an expression of your frustration and that you didn't think too much about it. If you are honestly wondering whether treating women right is perhaps not worth it, that's another discussion entirely. Don't get me started on how wrong this question sounds. Your girlfriend is not a part of a mythical jerk-loving species, which may prefer shitty treatment, and she does not have inexplicable needs which you can mollify without actually addressing them. The problem you two are having has nothing to do with her being female and you being male. It has to do with differing expectations of commitment.

As a woman I am finding it extremely difficult to accept that you "treat women right" based on what you've said. In fact, professing to "treat women right" makes me wonder whether you think all women need to be treated in the same formulaic way. They don't.

If you're finding this response infuriating, because you don't like being pegged as disrespectful to women, I think it would help us if you could clarify what kind of information you want. Do you want a guide for how to talk to your girlfriend about your feelings? Do you want help sorting out what your feelings are and framing them in a sensible way? Do you want feedback legitimizing your desire not to settle down just yet?
posted by Cygnet at 8:46 AM on February 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


"Meanwhile, dudes who treat their girls like trash pretty much get free reign to do what they want, cheat on their girlfriends, coerse them into stuff they arent comfortable with, and the girls cant get enough. Maybe I should just start treating women like shit, since they seem to enjoy it so much?"

This is phrased in such a way that it appears you would prefer to cheat on your girlfriends and coerce them to do things they aren't comfortable with, that the respectful boyfriend is a bit of an act. Christ, I honestly can't imagine any of the kind and respectful men I know even thinking that last sentence.

If you've been play acting the perfect boyfriend role, then your girlfriend probably has no idea of what your true feelings are. Your descriptions of the conversations about your future lean towards you saying what you believe she wants to hear. Stop doing that. Be honest abut what you want. If she wants to settle down and you don't, the relationship isn't going to be compatible. Being a jerk to women is not going to solve that.

And please work on accepting that women are humans and stop othering us. Would you be fine with your girlfriend sneering that all men prefer gold digging sluts so she should be one of those?
posted by Dynex at 8:46 AM on February 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


She asks when I'd be ready to move in together, which maybe is an innocent question and I'm overreacting, but if I said "after my lease is up" then I'd feel like the next 6 months are my last months living awesomely alone... basically I wish the question was just "are you ready to move in together?" "no" "ok".

You do realize that you don't have to be asked a direct question to respond, "I don't think I'm ready to move in together for a long time." I'd bet that your girlfriend is noticing your disinterest in planning a future with her, and that's partly why your sex life has declined. While you know that you want to maintain the status quo, to your girlfriend it might feel very like you don't see any future with her and may be planning your exit.

I completely agree with other commenters that you have to tell her that you don't see yourself ready for an increased commitment for at least five years, more like ten. Her desires for a more settled life aren't wrong, neither are yours for more freedom. They're just incompatible with each other, and she deserves to know that. But I don't see a situation where you explain to her that you'd like to return to the status quo, and things are great.
posted by gladly at 8:46 AM on February 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


You sound like my brother, who is that age. He had this amazing girlfriend for a few years but she wanted more than just living separate and dating. Which is completely and totally normal. He held her off and held her off but eventually, she left. She should've left. And you know what? He misses her a lot. He lost out on this beautiful, hilarious girl because she figured if she wasn't getting more commitment, she might as well be playing the field.

Your girlfriend isn't going to "unwant" these things. You can move forward, break up now, or draw it out painfully and break up later. Choose wisely.

Also, the "I'm a nice guy, girls like these awful assholes and nooot meee who is niiiiice" is the worst bunch of bullshit ever. You're already not a nice guy in my book just for saying it. Clearly you need to mature a bit more like a fine wine before you're in a serious relationship with a loving partner.
posted by kpht at 8:51 AM on February 15, 2013 [42 favorites]


End it with her now. For a good number of reasons, a lack of compatibility and the fact that you're clearly in completely different places in your lives being only two of them.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:51 AM on February 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


So long story short... can I slow down my girlfriend's expedited pacing of our relationship?

No. After about a year, it's entirely normal that she'd be thinking in terms of the future, if that's what she's like. It's also normal that you would not want to think in those terms, if that's what you're like. There's no foul here, you just kind of want different things. Basically, she's thinking about where your relationship is going, and you're not ready to think of it in terms of going anywhere - you want it to stay in a holding pattern for the foreseeable future. She wants progress, you want stasis.

Some perspective: When she's talking about settling down and getting a puppy, she's not talking about doing it right now. She's putting out feelers to see if you're in this for the long haul; she'd like a puppy and a white picket fence, but not necessarily now. She wants to know that she's not wasting her time with you. When you demur, that sets off a panic response in her head that makes her push the issue. A lot of the heavy lifting in interpersonal relations can come not from learning something, but from finally admitting what we pretty much already know: she pretty much already knows that you both want different things here, and doesn't want to admit it. This is why your sex life has tapered off.

You say that you don't want that commitment now, but might want it in five or ten years; this would be asking her to hang around for that long and wait to see if you decide you want to settle down - and not only that, but if you want to settle down with her, which you have to admit is a lot of resources to gamble in terms of time and emotional investment. You're asking her to stake everything on a pretty flimsy "maybe."

I mean, you could tell her the truth: that you don't want things to move forward and will not want that for a long time, that you want your relationship to stay exactly the same at least until you're in your thirties. Maybe she'd be fine with that, but I doubt it. Still, you can try.

But really - and I'm not saying this to be mean - it's sort of a selfish thing to want her to put her relationship aspirations on hold for you. If the conversation went as you envisioned it, where she asks you if you're ready to move in together and you say no and that's fine...what then? She waits until you bring it up, if ever? Your ideal here is a situation where it all goes the way you want and very little of it goes the way she wants. That's not going to happen without her being a totally different person.

To be honest, I understand why you wouldn't want to toss this relationship away after investing a year in it, and I don't doubt that you do love her and care about her, but I think the kindest, smartest thing to do here is to end things respectfully. You both deserve happiness, and your best chance of finding that is with someone whose desires are more aligned with your own.

Finally:

Meanwhile, dudes who treat their girls like trash pretty much get free reign to do what they want, cheat on their girlfriends, coerse them into stuff they arent comfortable with, and the girls cant get enough. Maybe I should just start treating women like shit, since they seem to enjoy it so much?

Women who appear to enjoy being treated like shit (I am not talking about abuse here, mind - I'm talking about the classic "women dig jerks" misconception) are actually women who enjoy drama. This is a good time if and only you yourself enjoy drama and are prepared to basically let the occasional hurricane rip through your life. This ceases to be a good time pretty quickly.

More to the point - and again, I am not saying this to be mean or insulting - if you find yourself saying that women seem to enjoy being treated like shit and that you yourself should try it, that is a dead giveaway that you're not really getting how that whole thing really works. It's a terrible idea to try to play a game you don't understand.

You've obviously never been a guy trying to woo a female by being nice and courteous and respectful only to have her choose some abusive douchebag or player instead.

Women are surprisingly a lot like men in that they tend to get with people they're attracted to, whatever those criteria are for the individual woman, rather than whomever accrues the most Niceness Points. If you're kind and courteous and respectful but there's no chemistry there, you're a friend. You can't woo someone if you don't turn their crank. Abandon this line of thinking as soon as you're able. It fosters a resentment that is extraordinarily unattractive.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:51 AM on February 15, 2013 [53 favorites]


[Folks, let's cool it a little and try and keep this focused on constructive answers to the stated problem, bumpy framing or not.]
posted by cortex at 8:52 AM on February 15, 2013


Nope, you can't just be happy the way you were; you're already not that way anymore, for one thing, and you're both already unhappy, for another. (She just doesn't know she's unhappy yet, because you haven't told her how you feel.)

Sadly, long-term monogamous casual relationships are kind of like unicorns. Turns out that without increased commitment, there's not a lot of tradeoff for the fact that sex gets less spontaneous, life gets hard and busy, people get sick, yadda yadda. You either just get bored, and then other people start lookin' preeeeeeeetty good, or you get resentful because "why do i even HAVE a partner if i still have to always do my dishes/can't keep my stuff at his place/never get to get married."

What I'm saying is, until you're ready to settle down, you're going to repeat this pattern:

I also notice that my girlfriends always paint me as their dream husband, because I treat women right and respectfully, which is apparently not the norm, and as soon as we hit the 1 year mark they think they've found the one.... and subsequently change into a person who I dont want to date anymore.

That's called serial monogamy, it's not a pathological problem you have. It's people dating, finding they are incompatible, and then stopping dating. I don't know why you think this is somehow a horrible, singular problem YOU and YOU ALONE have...? It's how most people date.

Also, work to lose that "poor Nice Guy me, I'm such a nice guy and those idiot women have to go wanting to MARRY me" bullshit *right quick,* as you may have noticed from the blowback, it's excessively unattractive.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:52 AM on February 15, 2013 [39 favorites]


Talk to her. Honestly. What it sounds like is that you guys are both building up a lot of resentment towards each other, not addressing anything, and it's coming out in unhealthy ways that's ripping your relationship apart. You resent her for pushing the topic. For "teasing" you (oof, re-think this thought pattern, please) with sex and not delivering and are (consciously or otherwise) punishing her with passive aggressive behavior. She resents you for not having a serious define the relationship talk with her and is punishing you by pulling away. Just talk to her. Accept that, yea, this might be the end of the relationship because you are in different places in your life and in your perceived sense of 'what comes next'. Enough people have jumped down your throat for this, but, seriously, drop the nice guys finish last thing. Whatever resentful, frustrated place that's coming from, it isn't your girlfriend's fault. Or the fault of women in general.
posted by picklesthezombie at 8:55 AM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's the thing. She's telling you that she wants to move forward. You want things to stay the same.

Like it or not, you are now not compatible because you want different things from the relationship.

The other problem is that while she may want to be married and starting a family in her 30's, she feels like she found the right guy NOW and she wants to move forward.

Your issue is that you don't feel strongly enough about her to up your time table.

While you suspect that you might be ready in your 30's, you can't promise that.

Here's what you need to consider: Would settling down with this amazing woman earlier than you prefer be more painful, than letting her go and never seeing her again?

If the idea of moving in together and moving forward with your relationship has no apeal, none whatsoever, then the truth is, you don't want to be with her.

If the idea of breaking up over this issue fills you with dread and fear, if you hate the idea of never seeing her again, then you DO want to be with her, the question is when.

From what you've said in this question, I think you're in the first category.

If that's truly the case, break up. You're wasting her time.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:58 AM on February 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Hey admin, can I get that last line taken out of my original post? It was (obvious to me, not to others) written in frustration, as I stated in a post that kind of got buried. Its totally taking away from the topic I was trying to discuss, and I really do everything I can to not carry that stereotype myself... which is where the frustration comes in when you do everything you can and things still don't go as you'd like.
posted by el_yucateco at 8:59 AM on February 15, 2013


You've obviously never been a guy trying to woo a female by being nice and courteous and respectful only to have her choose some abusive douchebag or player instead. It was a rant.

I understood that it was a rant, it just seemed like a poorly-placed one. You weren't complaining about what you describe here, but about the now three women you've dated who have ended up wanting increased commitment after a year of dating (or, as you put it, changed into someone you didn't want to date). That's just not something you can hold against the women you've dated. Wanting commitment is normal in the progression of a relationship.

The relevance to your question is that you come across as very resentful, as if your girlfriends' wanting to solidify your relationships has been a fault of theirs. You are asking if you can change them; the answer is no, and furthermore that they don't need to be changed. You just need to have a conversation about your divergent hopes for the relationship.
posted by torticat at 9:03 AM on February 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


ps. thanks for the advice everyone, gonna hash this out tonight
posted by el_yucateco at 9:03 AM on February 15, 2013


[Done, but be careful with framing in the future; editing a post after the fact is disruptive in its own right and not something like doing much. Everybody, carry on.]
posted by cortex at 9:03 AM on February 15, 2013


My guess is that, when the two of you sit down and have a frank talk, the two of you are going to decide to end the relationship because you want different things. That's okay. It's okay for her to want to get married, and it's okay for you to want a less committed relationship than that. Each of you will be able to find what you're looking for with someone else.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:04 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nowhere in your question do you even suggest that you've told your girlfriend that you don't want to move in together. You've suggested to her that you might want to in the future, but you say here that you don't see that happening yet.

You need to tell her, carefully, and you need to be prepared that she might be VERY surprised, and that she might not immediately know how to react. I don't have the impression that you've been at all clear about your feelings and about what you want. She deserves to hear them but you might not like the response.

No direct experience of this, but I do have experience of a partner who sometimes thought he'd told me things (because the thoughts were so loud in his head) when he really really hadn't.

And yes, women aren't this strange different species. We're people.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:07 AM on February 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Both of you are being perfectly reasonable. However, if you are upfront with her and tell her you're not ready, that's the only way to put the ball in her court, and she can choose to stay or go as she pleases.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:13 AM on February 15, 2013


dudes who treat their girls like trash pretty much get free reign to do what they want, cheat on their girlfriends, coerse them into stuff they arent comfortable with, and the girls cant get enough

Go check those guys out at 35. They're generally miserable, alcoholic or drug-addicted, and alone.

More generally: be open, honest, and communicative. That's the only way to make relationships work.
posted by ellF at 9:13 AM on February 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


What I dont understand is that we know plenty of couples who moved in together or got married or got a puppy and they all eventually disappear from our social world and we're left talking about how their current lifestyle seems so lame to us, the exciting fun loving couple... then a few days later she's asking which breed of dog "we" want to get or what neighborhood "we" want to move to.

Others have commented on other parts of your question enough, so I wanted to chime in here to suggest that you find a way to start empathizing with your girlfriend (whether you wind up breaking up with her or not) and with other women in general, and not just see it as some dumb bug in her personality that's screwing things up.

Marriage is highly, highly idealized in our culture. Women, even the most independent and feminist among us, have been inundated with tons of social, cultural, and political messages about the priority of getting married. This is something that may be very difficult for some men to understand, because those messages -- from Cinderella onwards -- have not really been directed at you; they've been squarely directed at your sisters and female friends and girlfriends and potential girlfriends, since childhood. Quick: how many reality shows can you name that feature weddings? Now, how many of them center on the groom?

This is not to say that your girlfriend only wants to move in with you because she's absorbed a bunch of stupid messages from pop culture; desiring a commitment with someone you care about is, of course, a perfectly common impulse. But it is to suggest that your girlfriend may be seeing many friends going on and getting married, and combined with the nearly endless cultural messages women receive of the superiority of marriage over anything else, she may be starting to feel like she's missing out on something important. Combine this with the fact that if she's someone who wants children, she has a limited time frame for fertility (unlike you, who -- barring some medical problem or a vasectomy -- will remain able to father children for the rest of your life), so in her mid-20s it is not at all unexpected or unreasonable to consider if her partner now will be the father of her children.

So yes, you need to communicate with your girlfriend. You need to tell her how you feel, and you need to listen to her when she tells you how she feels. And I would also suggest that aside from that conversation, you might want to start thinking a little more curiously and compassionately about the experiences of women in general, and see if there are new things you can simply observe (rather than judge) that might give you a better sense of insight and understanding.
posted by scody at 9:20 AM on February 15, 2013 [30 favorites]


Break up with her so she can find someone excited about building a future with her. Tell her it looks like you're both seeking different directions in life. There is basically no way you're both going to be happy in this situation.

Be up front with future dates that the domestic life isn't for you and you aren't looking to make a big commitment to anyone for a while. By this I mean proactively have these discussions so that your partner can make informed decisions about the relationship.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:21 AM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Frankly, it just seems like you and your gf are on different timetables and want different things out of the relationship right now. There is no one "normal". Your gf is not uncool for wanting the things she wants, just as you are not uncool for not wanting to commit so quickly. But if you have different expectations of how this thing will play out, you owe it to her to make it clear what yours are.

For example: "She asks when I'd be ready to move in together, which maybe is an innocent question and I'm overreacting, but if I said "after my lease is up" then I'd feel like the next 6 months are my last months living awesomely alone... basically I wish the question was just "are you ready to move in together?" "no" "ok"."

I find it strange that you say, maybe this is an "innocent question". Even if she really did want to move in, what's uninnocent about that? She wants what she wants and you want what you want and you have to be able to handle this in a mature fashion. The fact that you would prefer that she just ask the question as "are you ready to move in together?" to which you could just answer "no" and move on, indicates to me that you are not willing to have an honest conversation with her about this. If this honest conversation leads to the breakup of the relationship, you should be willing to take that, because you love her and what her to get what she wants too. If she's already thinking about commitment and white picket fences, I doubt she's going to be willing to wait till she's ~35 (assuming you're around the same age), and you should make it clear that's what your timetable is looking like.

Finally the whole Valentine's thing is just terribly offputting. You seem to think that you're owed sex because you paid for an expensive dinner and she was wearing sexy lingerie and flirting with you. After a big meal is rarely the best time for sex, so her passing out after the meal is very understandable. In fact after our own Valentine's dinner my boyfriend and I decided to watch an hour of Downton to let the food digest a bit before having sex and ended up watching the whole of the two hour special and leaving the sex for the next day. So your passive-aggressive rejection of her the next day is really not on and would be a huge turn-off for me. You seem to think you're super respectful of women, but that alone indicates to me that you're not as respectful as you think you are.
posted by peacheater at 9:25 AM on February 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


I don't know a single married couple, young or old, who displays a positive example of domestication, at least its not the lifestyle I envision for myself.

Really? I am a 29 year old man and let me tell you, the few years of domestication I've been involved in have been amazing. Here's why:

1) When we grew up, had jobs and moved in together - we had a lot more money for fun things. This summer, we've got two music festivals, three hiking trips and a bunch of fun things planned...and a lot of spontaneous stuff to come before then. Having money rocks.

2) I spend a lot less time on housework and I always have someone who can help me with structural errand stuff if I just can't. This takes my stress level down, as does it for her. We generally split everything 50/50, but most activities around the house don't scale as a result of more people, so sweeping the floor is something I do every other week, not every week.

3) I always have a partner in crime. A party where I know one or two people? No problem! An event I need to go to? I have someone to go with. A night where a snowstorm cancelled our plans? We go to the local dive bar together because we both live close.

4) If either of us are sick, stressed, or especially busy, the other person can help pick up the slack. You have NO idea how awesome that is - it allows you to buckle down and really focus on the big moments in your life.

Now, we did it with a couple of ground rules that we more or less obey 100% of the time:

1) We aren't going to spend a lot of nights at home watching TV. We both saw couples who did that and realized that isn't us. So we don't.

2) We allow each other space. This is very important - when my best friend is in town, it is implied that I will drink more than I usually do. She's there to make me coffee in the morning. I return the favour.

3) We both need to keep making each other better - so we come up with fun ideas for weekends, make special plans, work out together - but the point is, we're always trying to keep the relationship fresh and to create a positive impact on the other person's life.

4) If something is bothering us, we talk about it. We don't yell. We don't use judgement words. If one of us is feeling really angry, that person takes a walk and we come back and talk about it. We always end fights by cuddling and pointing out all of the things we are really good at.

The point of this is: you get to set the table for what your relationship becomes. The words you use like domestication signify you've allowed the cultural misconception of how men/women interact to cloud how your relationship works. You don't have to conform to social norms, but you need to start by stopping to conform to the typical guy who thinks commitment = giving things up.

You're allowed to be not ready, but don't let it be because you think that commitment will come at a cost. Be up front and honest about what you want out of life and your partner can do the same and if you find a middle ground, it's going to work out. I can say I'm still "the fun one" in my circle despite the fact we've lived together for three years. She fell in love with the fun one and doesn't want me to be any different.

Talk to your girlfriend and see where you land, but don't let yourself be culturally pressured into thinking domestication is bad for a man. It is what you make it.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 9:26 AM on February 15, 2013 [118 favorites]


is there any way to put the brakes on my girlfriend, and bring her back to "normal"?

Nothing about her now isn't "normal." It's normal for her, and normal for a lot of people, to be thinking about where a relationship is going to go. If it's been a year and it still works, it's a "normal" thing to do to find ways to increase the intimacy and explore whether you have found a life partner here. It's an increasingly "normal" thing for people in their mid-twenties to move in and/or marry so they can build careers and a household together more efficiently and start families while they're younger and energetic and very fertile. There's nothing abnormal about any of this. She isn't going to go "back to" normal - she already is normal. For her.

You want different things, and you have to be open and honest about it. To not do so is to be a huge jerk, because you're wasting her valuable time by letting her live with false expectations and nurse empty hopes.

You could just say "I've noticed these questions increasing lately, and you've brought up ideas about moving in and getting a puppy. We need to talk about that, because I don't want you to think I'm ready for that now, when I'm not, and won't be for a long time."

Here's an important prescription. You've already been through this twice, and you're about to go through it a third time. In addition, since you don't see yourself getting married for ten years at a minimum, but you still want to date, you're going to have to go through it a bunch more times. Now is a great time to learn how to talk about this with women. You need to find some words for saying "I'm not interested in marriage yet and maybe not for a long time, maybe never." Because I can guarantee you one thing: the pressure to move relationships forward does not get lighter as you and your partners get older. Biological clocks and personal timelines become more and more important and more and more a factor in determining what decisions are made. You either need to make it really clear that you're not open to marriage, as long as you're not, and let the chips fall where they may, or concentrate on dating women who also want to retain maximum independence and aren't interested in increased intimacy. They do exist.

A separate topic is your dismissive vision of marriage - picket fence, lame, suburbs, etc. Some people actively want and choose that lifestyle. They're not everyone. I have loads of friends who are married, and who have children, who live awesome and involved lives, have parties, run events and projects, travel, stay social. You may not want the kind of lifestyle your early 20something friend group wants - but it's normal to split off from friends of younger days who gravitate toward a different kind of life than you want. There are other kinds of adults out there, ones who love having an intimate home life but who also live creative, adventurous lives. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Was that really not obviously sarcastic?

It's really not, because unfortunately it voices a very commonly heard trope offered by people who actually believe it and mean it. Since it's impossible to distinguish you from someone who means it, it's best not to trot it out even in a joking manner. Some people will think you mean it, some will agree and support you in similar misogynist expressions, and some people will just think it's jerky to joke about women that way. It's a lose-lose thing to do; just scratch it up to a lesson learned and avoid tossing those sorts of lines off in future. Nice guys don't.
posted by Miko at 9:29 AM on February 15, 2013 [33 favorites]


Your feelings that married or domesticated couples get boring is really really weird and off-base.

There is NO REASON married or domesticated couples should stop going out, partying, having adventures, or having sex. I'm married and have lived with people - I generally go out and have more adventures when I have a significant other. Ditto sex. And I'm now in my 40's!!


Drop the stereotypes. You'll be happier in life.


Your GF likely did not have sex with you the other night because there is this underlying issue causing tension, and that can be a libido killer.

You are OK not to want to settle down. However, your attitudes about life are stereotypical, negative, and don't have to be reality if you don't want your life to go that way. Your attitudes are not "OK." They make you sound pretty awful.

I'm married with a kid and I'm not living the life you describe. None of my friends are, either.

You've got the wrong idea, just FYI.
posted by jbenben at 9:33 AM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Dude, this lifestyle you want to hang on to, well, if you cling to it long enough, you might just get to keep it forever. You might not want to be one of those guys.
posted by cross_impact at 9:41 AM on February 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I sympathize with el yucateco because when I was his age I wanted my own apartment and my solo vacations as well as a boyfriend or girlfriend who had that stuff going on for themselves and who also liked getting together with me a few times a week. And for the most part, I was able to find that, although sure, there were some times when the person I was dating wanted something different than that and we had to end things.

Then I met someone who really wanted to get married and I loved him so much that I decided getting married to him was what I wanted. And I haven't regretted that, but also didn't regret my relationship style in my twenties and early thirties.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:56 AM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


What I dont understand is that we know plenty of couples who moved in together or got married or got a puppy and they all eventually disappear from our social world and we're left talking about how their current lifestyle seems so lame to us, the exciting fun loving couple... then a few days later she's asking which breed of dog "we" want to get or what neighborhood "we" want to move to.

I've been there, 24yo and making fun of my boring married/partnered friends when they could only stay for one drink then had to head home to take the dog out, or whatever.

But the thing is, it is possible to be the "exciting fun loving couple" and not want a domestic life for yourself RIGHT NOW, but still be able to see a future where you would be happy to settle into it. I'm the type of person who enjoys playing what-if games in my mind and out loud with my partner. I don't want a dog RIGHT NOW, but I still like to talk to my husband about what kind we would get if and when we did get one, because it's fun to imagine possible futures.

I think it would be to your credit if you could learn understand that your GF might just enjoy picturing this happy future with you, when you're both ready, and that she's not necessarily saying she wants that stuff tomorrow.
posted by coupdefoudre at 9:58 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The dark triad works as a mating strategy.

The comment about "how their current lifestyle seems so lame to us" is just odd. I am a man who married at 25 (still am 12 years later) and have two kids. It doesn't feel lame to me. We still go out with each other, our respective friends, and yes, even "make whoopie". (my opinion is that sex is greatly overemphasized. YMMV) It is not my "lot in life". This is my dream. I certainly am thankful that I am not one of my thirtysomething coworkers who is still playing the dating game. I'd much rather be helping my son make a Pinewood debry race car than out on a Saturday night trying to "hook up".

Of course, you are welcome not to want to settle down and she is welcome to want to settle down. If this is a point of disagreement, it is a rather fundamental one, so you are probably better of if you stop wasting each other's time.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:02 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


You talk about "normal" in your question, so let's look at that: it is apparently normal for your partners to expect a greater level of intimacy and commitment at around the one year mark. We can know this, because it keeps happening. That's not some weird thing where women get all squirrely for no reason: you are choosing partners who want these things. That could be just because that's a pretty common timeline, but nonetheless, there are plenty of women who want to maintain separate living arrangements long-term, and you are not dating them.

So, I guess the question is, why is that? Why are you not making your needs clearer up-front? We have a strong cultural narrative of relationships moving consistently towards monogamy, intimacy, shared space, and family building unless something derails them; strong enough that if you want something that's not part of that narrative, you really need to be specific and obvious about that. As things stand, you can't turn back the clock on a developing relationship, and if you could it wouldn't be "normal," any more than it would be possible or normal for me to turn my 2 year old back into an infant.

You're not wrong for wanting what you want, but neither is she. Have the talk with her -- she's given you plenty of openings, so don't think that you're the one having to broach the subject, she's broaching it CONSTANTLY. Make it clear that if she wants to move in with someone and get a dog with them in the next decade, it will have to be with someone else, because you don't want that life for at LEAST ten years. And then, when you are dating your next girlfriend, be clear about that from about the third date on.

One thing to be aware of, though: you will be asking these women to choose between a life with you and a life with children. The fertility drop-off in a woman's mid-thirties is no joke, and while it might seem abstract to you, it doesn't to a lot of women whose plans include children. If you are going to want to be a dad someday, you may have to choose between earlier domesticity and settling down with someone substantially younger than yourself. That's not necessarily a bad choice, and certainly you don't want to have kids sooner than you're ready for out of panic, but it is information you need to not avoid or brush under the rug because it's not convenient.
posted by KathrynT at 10:05 AM on February 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


and the girls cant get enough.

So this idea right here is the problem. Trust me, no one likes being jerked around. Women aren't inscrutable mystery boxes. What you're holding up as an ideal is an immature relationship where the boy is a brat and the girl is mistreated and desperate for affection. Don't hold that up as some sort of ideal - it's a sad, violent, transient way to live your life. If you want to be a man who is more than what his penis tells him, strive to understand your girlfriend.

I know right now it feels like friends that couple off become instantly boring and disappear from your world. That's partly true, but that doesn't have to be you. It's a choice. It will remain a choice. I'm 35 and I have married friends that go to concerts every weekend and get pass-out drunk but also are in healthy, committed relationships and working full-time jobs. You don't need to change who you are to be in a healthy relationship, even if it can feel that way when you're in your mid-twenties.

Talk this out with your girlfriend. Don't try to psych her out or manipulate her. The fact is, you're not ready to "nest". Tell her it stresses you out and makes you uncomfortable right now. Tell her you need more time to be young and party, if that's what you feel. But also tell her that you value your relationship with her, if you do. Even if this is bad news to her, it can be good news for your relationship because you both can have confidence on where the relationship is and where it is headed. You don't need to set deadlines, but maybe say lets talk about this again in 6 months or so.

Maturity is really about knowing how to communicate what you need and understanding how to deal with what others need. It's not about becoming lame and boring. Try to understand what you really want out of the relationship in a direct way (sex? fun? comfort?). Ask your girlfriend what she wants. It can really be that simple. Maybe this is a deal breaker for her, or maybe she will wait for you. Don't be afraid of crossroads, though. I'm guessing by talking openly about this would be a big enough step for her right now.

Most importantly - don't be afraid to be mature right now. You should embrace maturity because it will save you stress, heartache and disappointment.
posted by lubujackson at 10:11 AM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Can't we just be happy the way we were?

No. Because she wants your relationship to grow in a way that you do not. You don't want what she wants for another decade. You can't ask someone who's ready for marriage to wait around hoping you'll decide she's good enough to marry.

You need to have the talk.
The talk will probably lead to the break up.
posted by 26.2 at 10:11 AM on February 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's normal for a woman to want to settle down in her mid-twenties. Not every woman wants to, but it's a perfectly reasonable time to want to start the path to having children-- because she only has about 5-10 years at this point in which to find a good partner, develop intimacy with him, and start trying to get pregnant. Most men I know and have dated haven't really understood that type of pressure, at all-- they all want kids at some indeterminate future date, because they don't have the same kind of biological deadlines (at least not for an extra 10 years). As upset and annoyed about women as you are (she doesn't want to have sex with you because she can tell you're not on the same page as her, btw), you are the kind of guy who makes women upset and annoyed because you don't know how to say "no," because you're holding out for the promise of regular sex. She is holding out for commitment, you're holding out for fun sex, and neither of you are gonna get what you want. (Women who want commitment don't want to be "the hope of regular sex" in your mind, and it's a big turn off to sense that probably.)

Honestly, your question read as really unpleasant to me, because you mostly emphasized energetic sex and lingerie and pornhub and treating women badly so you can get what you want (yeah, sarcastically, but why be so bitter and sarcastic if you don't feel like you're being cheated out of having the ideal, compliant girlfriend? It's creepy as a woman to know that "nice guys" secretly envy assholes because they get "what they want," jesus christ). If I sensed that kind of passive-aggressive sexual hostility in a boyfriend I would drop him in a hot second (and have). And I'm the non-committing, keep-it-casual type. So try to work on that.

There are women out there who will want what you want, but you have to find them and date them. And if you start dating a woman who starts talking about commitment, you need to tell her how you feel and break up with her. As in, you need to make that choice FOR YOURSELF if you're not in the relationship you want. Relationships aren't about finding someone and sitting back and just hoping they don't change and you keep getting to have great sex. (Yeesh.) Clearly you're getting something out of the emotional intimacy or you'd just stick with casual hook-ups, so you need to zero in on what you actually want and communicate it well.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:26 AM on February 15, 2013 [39 favorites]


I'm going to tell you a story about me and my ex-boyfriend R.

R and I were a couple when we were in our 20's. We were together for about a year, but then he broke up with me, when he realized that before long I was going to want to advance the relationship to a point where we were moving in together and all that, and he knew he was definitely not ready for that with anyone at all. It broke my damn heart, but after a while I realized that yeah, it was for the best.

R and I stayed close friends, and I watched him go through three more long term relationships which ended for the same reasons. R always swore, again and again, that he was never going to want to get married or have kids or any of that. Deep relationships, yeah, but none of them ever lasting more than a couple years.

Which is why all of his friends were completely floored when, a few months ago, he announced he was going to marry his current girlfriend A. "I thought you said you weren't ever going to marry anyone???" I asked him, surprised.

"I wasn't ready until now," he said. And even though I hadn't meant what I'd said as an accusation, he added, "and who I was dating had nothing to do with whether i was ready. I wouldn't have been ready back when we were dating. But you and all those others did help GET me ready. It just TOOK 20 years is all."

I tell this story to make two points:

1. No matter how good a relationship is, that is a separate issue from whether you personally are ready for moving in/marriage/etc. in general. And there is nothing wrong with that. But you absolutely, positively have to be honest with your girlfriend about where your head is at, and what you are feeling. And let her choose whether that's something she wants to stay with or not. That is something that R was always up front about; and it was my choice to stay with him nevertheless. It still hurt when R realized I was kind of holding out hope he'd change (yeah, I kinda was, but that was my own fault) and broke up with me, but in time I realized it was the best thing.

2. The second point: Even if you do ultimately break up over this, if she's worth her salt she will not hate you for this. As heartbroken as I was at the time, I quickly came to realize that R and I would not have lasted, and that it would have been even worse if we'd tried. I did have one split-second flash of "why wasn't he ready back then" when he told me he was engaged, but then realized that mid-40's me and mid-40's R would probably have divorced by then anyway because yeah, we are two very different people now, and that would have sucked; and the only reason that even happened was because mid-20's R had made mid-20's me very, very happy. Mid-40's me is a different person, though, and the mid-40's me is instead overjoyed that her friend mid-40's R, whom she has always loved, has found someone to make him happy, and I am joyfully planning what to wear to his wedding (and putting up with his teasing about my maybe hooking up with his half-brother, who's only 27 himself so no).

So you may break up, yeah, but even if you do this does not have to mean your relationship hasn't had a positive impact on either of you. My relationship with R definitely did on me, and it deeeeefinitely did on R.

But be honest about where you are and what you feel, and then both of you can figure out what to do next. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


There is no hitting the brakes. You want different things.

Sure, you might want a dog and kids and a white picket fence, but you don't want them with her. Break up so you can both move on.

Thank you FAMOUS MONSTER:

2. If you want to make sense of something said during a Talk About Us, the quickest shortcut is simply to excise the words "right now," if they appear. Forget them. Become selectively deaf when they show up. Develop a highly specific learning disability that prevents you from perceiving the words "right now." It will save you a ton of wondering. For example: "I don't think I can be with you [right now]," "I'm not ready to be in a relationship [right now]," etc. Remove "right now" and you will hear what they are actually saying.

2a. Use the space you saved to insert the words "With you," whenever they're talking in general terms about whether or not they are willing or able to be in a relationship. It's harsh but honest. Someone who tells you they just don't feel like they're able to be in a relationship is actually saying they don't feel like they're able to be in a relationship with you. Don't take it personally. Compatibility is not about being the best, or the worst. Don't call them out on their dishonesty, either - the world is lubricated by little lies like this. Just say you understand and put on your coat and hat and leave them to it. This will save you a lot of wondering as well, and it will also save you the puzzlement that happens when they said they didn't feel like they could be in a relationship and then two weeks later they're picking out promise rings for some chippie.

posted by who squared at 10:40 AM on February 15, 2013


Everyone's saying good things, but I'd change one thing in the script:

Instead of "I'm not ready for that level of commitment" say "I'm not ready to be that domestic."

My boyfriend (mid 20s) and I (late 20s) have been together for almost two years, but we're not making plans to move in together. Granted, neither of us want to have kids, so we're not looking to map that event on our individual or mutual timelines, but even though we're committed to a future together, we're not moving down a track of domesticity.

Due to your girlfriend's too-frequent discussions of house-family-kids, she's probably not as laid back about the "TOGETHER" thing as I am, but make sure your complaints are accurate. Don't blame the problem on commitment issues unless it's really true.
posted by itesser at 10:40 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's normal for a woman to want to settle down in her mid-twenties. Not every woman wants to, but it's a perfectly reasonable time to want to start the path to having children-- because she only has about 5-10 years at this point in which to find a good partner, develop intimacy with him, and start trying to get pregnant.

I just want to emphasize this. Not all women are going to want to settle down at this age, but many are going to start heading in that direction. It's perfectly normal, and the sooner you realize that, the better. Your options going forward are to either A) date younger women; B) date only those women who are not interested in settling down; or C) open yourself up to a little more domesticity in the short or long term.
posted by yarly at 10:47 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


When you talk to your girlfriend about this, you need to tell her the truth.

I was once in a relationship very like yours, except for one difference. I was about 28, and my guy was about 25. He was exactly where you're at, and I was also pretty much where you're at, except that, by about six months in, I knew that I loved him and that he could possibly be The One.

And so I let myself start to assume the idea of "us". We both dreamed of traveling in Southeast Asia, so one day I just casually was like, "wouldn't it be fun to just save up and go traveling together?" Radio silence from him. As we headed toward our first anniversary, both of us found ourselves in unstable living situations. I started making noises about maybe moving in together. He was waaaaaay not into the idea, though he framed it as "not ready" rather than "you're not The One". For the record, I wasn't making these overtures out of the desire to domesticate him or settle down. It just seemed like the logical thing. If you love someone and spend most of your free time together anyway, and you're both looking for apartments at the same time, duh. If you've always dreamed of visiting Vietnam and I've always wanted to go to Cambodia, duh.

Anyway, a few months down the road, he broke up with me. I wasn't The One. I wish he'd just told me that when I started making "you're The One" noises in his direction, rather than acting as if the notion of us traveling together or living together made me some kind of shrew.
posted by Sara C. at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


It's only going to get more brutal as you get older, if you date women your age group.
Not wanting to settle down is fine, but all things have consequences. And as has been mentioned a few times, this is a pattern you are likely to find yourself in a few more times.
posted by edgeways at 10:53 AM on February 15, 2013


I know it's only part of your question, but let's talk about this:

The big one, that kind of slapped me in the face and kicked off all this introspective thinking, is that after I treated her to a very extravagant and romantic Valentines date on Tuesday, she was weirdly surprised that I wanted to have sex when we came home... she wanted some time for her food to settle, then passed out.

Dan Savage has some very good advice for Valentine's day, and any other special occasions that involve a big meal with alcohol: fuck first. As you get older, and as you settle into your relationship, it becomes increasingly difficult to overcome the soporific effects of a huge meal and half a bottle of wine. The solution to this is to make a later dinner reservation, and have sex before you leave.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:54 AM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


From this girl's perspective:

I'm in my forties now, and can think of three instances where I wanted to settle down more than the guy and the guy dealt with it by avoiding the issue. I can tell you that each time, it was horrible, I lost a gigantic amount of respect for myself, and the takeaway from it for me, because the guy was doing the dance of avoidance, was that, 'something is wrong with me; I'm not the kind of girl guys take home to mom.'

I have friendly relationships with a number of exes -- but these three guys? Never will it happen. Not because they are awful humans, just as you are not an awful human. But in the name of, I don't know, avoidance, these guys hurt me --- oh, the pain. I will avoid them forever, not because they are the devil, but because those relationships hurt to the core and I want no memory of them.

Moreover, at the time I was in the throes of pain, in two of these relationships I acted in ways that I am very ashamed about. The third time around, older, wiser, so I did nothing I regret, but I still feel the same aversion to the dude.

The danger here is that you are going to hurt this girl much more by leading her on than you will by doing the very hard thing of separating yourself from her now, by being a Good Human. The danger here is that she is going to lash out in her pain, causing you pain.

As far as treating people like shit, whether it was sarcasm or whatever: Well-adjusted women don't like it, full stop.
posted by angrycat at 10:56 AM on February 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


I was 24 once, with a girlfriend of 4 years that started talking about just staying home when she went back to visit her parents at Christmas. She was ready for marriage, and as it turned out, I was to. I just needed a little kick in the ass to realize it I guess. I didn't have to think about life without her for long at all to conclude that life without her would suck.

We've been married for 21 years.

Which isn't a suggestion to move forward with this girl. However, be sure that it's not just fear of change or general laziness that is the impediment for you.
posted by COD at 10:58 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


All the good advice has already been said. Hopefully you've heard that this probably isn't right for both of you, since differing life goals/timelines for things as important as marriage and family are pretty much a dealbreaker. I sincerely hope that you do talk and agree to part ways as it sounds like you'll both be happier in the long run.

A few more things I just want to point out, as a woman, for you to think about as you move forward in your dating life. A lot of people here are reacting negatively to your tone and for good reason. Please re-read your post with an objective eye and think about what it reveals about your character. Some things I notice:

* You felt resentful that you did not get sex even though you took her out for an expensive dinner. An expensive dinner does not mean that she owes you sex. Promises of sex do not even mean that she owes you sex. No one EVER owes another person sex.

* Sex happens when both parties are happy with the relationship and attracted to one another. If sex is not happening, something isn't right. Think about what that might be — from BOTH perspectives. It sounds like you've been sending "obvious signals" that you're unhappy with what she wants. Isn't it possible and indeed reasonable that she's feeling insecure about your relationship and that's putting a damper on her sex drive? (And since you're not feeling great about things either, it might not be bad for YOU to put the brakes on. You can't just fuck your way through serious relationship problems.)

* A woman wanting a commitment with you is not a failing on her part, nor is it abnormal. It may not be right for you and that's fine, but you might want to curb the passive hostility/resentment over the fact that someone loves you enough to want more.

* I would really urge you to spend some of your upcoming post-relationship free time meeting some different types of people. You seem to have horribly stereotyped views of things like "domesticity" and the roles of men & women. Seriously, find the kink/poly/swinger/sex-positive groups in your area and get to know some of them. You'd be AMAZED at the range of shapes and colors relationships and yes, even domesticity can take. You seem really turned off by the Leave It To Beaver lifestyle, but there is so much more out there.
posted by annekate at 11:05 AM on February 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


Whooo, yeah, somehow I missed this --

The big one, that kind of slapped me in the face and kicked off all this introspective thinking, is that after I treated her to a very extravagant and romantic Valentines date on Tuesday, she was weirdly surprised that I wanted to have sex when we came home... she wanted some time for her food to settle, then passed out. This was after 2 nights we spent together that she didn't want to have sex "so we could build up to Valentines day" and taunting me with new lingerie she had bought all through our date. The next morning when I got a text at work asking when I wanted to try out the new lingerie, I gave a vague uninterested response, as pornhub had already taken care of whatever needs were left unsatisfied.

This is a separate conversation, I think. And I think you're getting feedback that isn't quite accurate.

Because yes, it IS true that an expensive dinner should not make anyone feel obligated to have sex with you. However -- it also kind of wasn't fair for her to be all "ooh I can't wait to screw you on such-and-such-a-day" and then when that day shows up, her being all "whoopsie, I take it back." Mind you, I do NOT think she should have just gone ahead and had sex with you out of obligation either, and I do not think she didn't have the right to change her mind. What I am saying, though, is that maybe she could think twice about teasing you like that and then not being honest herself about why she's changed her mind.

So other people are right when they say that she didn't "owe" you sex after an expensive dinner. But you ARE absolutely within your rights to say, "uh, wait a minute, I got a whole song-and-dance about how you were waiting until Valentine's Day but then ON Valentine's Day you kind of did a bait-and-switch, and that kind of wasn't fair." What I am HOPING she would say is something like: "You're right, that kind of wasn't fair for me to set things up all artificially like that, and I should have asked for a rain check on the sex on the way home because I was feeling too full to fuck right away." You didn't necessarily handle things great, but I have to admit, she wasn't completely guiltless in this regard either. She didn't owe you sex - but she DID owe you a better way of taking a pass on it, to my mind.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think the only thing which hasn't been said, is you talk about how her questions about advancing the relationship are a turn off for you. Have you considered that your non-specific answers and avoidance might be a huge turn off for her?

Let's say that you go the route telling her that you don't know if you'll ever want those things. There's no way you can answer if, much less when. It could be that she's happy with that answer, glad that you're finally hearing her, and the relationship goes back to you two enjoying each others company, and not constantly stressed about a game of trying to feel where the relationship is.

However, I suspect like many of the other posters that you two both want different things, and this will turn out to be the turning point in the relationship.

I also think that it needs to be re-iterated that you need to bring this up when starting a relationship so you can end this one-year die off.
posted by nobeagle at 11:45 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to favorite Scody's answer twelve times. Listen: you aren't entirely off about the one-year mark, and how it makes your girlfriends want to marry/live with/trade promise rings with you. I'd caution you against assuming that it's because you're The Awesomest, because that cultural pressure is real, and doesn't necessarily reflect all on you. How many women do I know, personally, who hit the year mark and started demanding marriage? Gads. This is A Thing that guys in relationships face, because this is A Pressure that women have to contend with.

This doesn't mean, actually, that your girlfriend is baby-crazy, or that she isn't actually into you. But it does mean that she may feel pressured to send out feelers, or to check on how things are going, or to expect that you guys will be racing towards that "finish line" in order to consider this relationship good or successful. It could mean a mix of things, really, that combine her personal desires with cultural expectations and stuff her family and friends say.

Sticky situation, yes? You aren't exempt from those cultural expectations though! How many guys do I know who describe marriage as boring domesticity and set 35 (exactly 35, no earlier, no later) as the only age at which they might enter it? Gads! You have a lot of assumptions and expectations on your end, and you might not realize which come from you, and which come from prevailing cultural stereotypes you've grasped onto? (Which, not to poke at you, your deleted, frustrated rant seems to exemplify. That was a trope everyone got riled up on, because it's as arbitrarily culturally bound -and thus potentially stereotypical and inoffensive- as when women say things like "if he really loved me, he would do X!" [where x is something unrealistic or unnecessary or services unfair demands]).

Look, my point is: I think you both have desires for this relationship, at the same time as you both feel certain pressures or fears about it. This is A Thing, and doesn't mean to guys are bad or unrealistic or immature or anything.

But you have to use your words and have a real conversation with her, as opposed to avoiding the issue through performances of disinterest, because that is the only way you guys can actually get a what you want, and how you want this relationship to develop. It is the only way to clear things up in an honest, or adult, manner. So do it.
posted by vivid postcard at 11:55 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am female, but have been the running-away-from-domesticity partner before, and I have to say that now I am finally with a boyfriend who is equally happy with just enjoying the "here and now", and who is not planning for marriage, and we are both super happy to find someone who feels the same.
Don't forget that breaking up may work out for the best for everyone involved.
posted by bluestocking at 12:02 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was about to say what EmpressCallipygos said.

What's coming through is that you are viewing your relationship as an exchange of stereotypical role-playing tricks that you play on each other. She asks about the future and you stall and wish these questions would all go away. This is an enactment of the stereotype that men need to string women along in order to keep them around for sex and companionship. Conversely, the Valentine's Day thing - which I think in reality is best explained by underlying tension combined with unfairly poor communication from her - reads to you like Golddigger Withholds Sex In Order To Con You Out Of An Expensive Dinner. Proceeding to reject her subsequent advances, because you don't need her because porn, is another stereotypical response. No wonder you made that remark about bastards being more successful - it's the next logical move in the Stereotypical Relationship Game.

The only solution, as others have pointed out above, is to talk about it so that both of you know what's actually going on. At least one of you is interacting with a stereotype instead of a person here, and at least one of you may be making yourself up backwards in order to match up to a template of how life and relationships stereotypically go. Be A Real Boy.
posted by tel3path at 12:06 PM on February 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


Actually, assuming there's "guilt," I think the guilt goes both ways in that situation. She could have given an explanation, but he could have been like, "hey, are you still feeling into sex?" You know, communication. Or just taking the obvious cue that she clearly wanted to have sex but felt too tired-- there's really no further explanation that needs to be given than "Zzzzzzz" and it doesn't sound like it was done in bad faith. It sounds like she wanted to have sex, felt safe enough to reneg rather than having forced sex out of obligation that would not have been titillating or that fun for her, and then the next day was like "hey, so about that sex!" Which is actually being a pretty good sport and pretty into him. I mean, it sounds like she thinks her boyfriend is a nice guy who can read her physical cues and is understanding, and not a Nice Guy who buys her dinner and gets furious when she doesn't have sex, even though she had the nerve to be a tease, and then sort of pouts and degrades his girlfriend in his mind by setting her in competition with porn.

Sorry Empress, there have been lots of times when I was "supposed" to have sex with a guy and I was so fucking tired I didn't have the energy to put up with the "whyyy notttt" song & dance, so there's more than one reason a lady might not want to discuss the whys and why nots. If he's not the pushy type, maybe she thought it was okay to signal her unwillingness with sleep, because he's usually understanding and men and women both get too sleepy for sex at times. If he is the pushy type, maybe she didn't want to put up with it while tired and sleepy. So many possibilities.

------

Just wanted to agree with other posters that a major hurtful thing that's been done to me in relationships was when a guy would treat me like a shrew for signalling that I wanted commitment. And the reason that it was hurtful was because it was done in an avoidant, non-confrontational way, where they would just "cool" whenever I mentioned something, wouldn't discuss their anxieties with me (so I had no idea what was going on), and then eventually would act like I was being weird and disgusting and boring by wanting a family life. The way you're talking about your girlfriend now sounds a lot like you're going down that road, and I would just advise you not to-- she's not looking at your nice casual thing and thinking, "hmm, how to ruin this?" The truth is that she DOESN'T have what she wants right now, even though to you it feels perfect. There are no "brakes," she wants something different than you do.

I agree with scody and vivid postcard somewhat-- but it's also true that if, as a woman, you are thinking about having a family, then I repeat, you need to find someone somewhere between your mid-twenties and mid-thirties or it will be vanishingly hard to impossible. She's not being that weird. There are guys your age who will settle down. It's harder to find them than guys like you, but if you can't deal, you need to let her go so she can find one.

I dated a string of guys from ages 19-23 who were super into commitment, much faster than I was. It's not always a gendered thing, even though there is a typical pattern. I would just advise you to treat your girlfriend like a Person rather than a Woman (with a special Woman marriage brain, or whatever).
posted by stoneandstar at 12:09 PM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Can't we just be happy the way we were?

There comes a time in a person's life where feeling happy is less important than feeling fulfilled. That fulfillment can take the form on family, career, hobbies, etc. It sounds like your girlfriend is looking down that road, and you're not. There's nothing wrong with either of you, but you need to let her know that you're not there, and won't be for another 5-10 years. Neither of you is "wrong;" but you may be incompatible. The only way to find out is by talking about it honestly and clearly.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:18 PM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sorry Empress, there have been lots of times when I was "supposed" to have sex with a guy and I was so fucking tired I didn't have the energy to put up with the "whyyy notttt" song & dance, so there's more than one reason a lady might not want to discuss the whys and why nots.

I maybe wasn't clear when I said "song and dance". I was talking about her doing a whole "oooh, I'm gonna screw you soooooo hard on valentine's day," and then after dinner on valentine's day, suddenly being all, "....what? sex? Where'd this come from?" You know? The song-and-dance I was referring to was hers.

Again, I do NOT think she should have had sex and gone along with it. What I would have done, if I were her, was:

1. Spoken up on the way home and said "okay, so, I know I was setting things up for us to boink like bunnies after dinner tonight, but seriously I'm not feeling all that great - I know this sucks, but can we postpone that bit until tomorrow night?"

or

2. Said exactly that when he said "so, wanna bone?"

Mind you, we are indeed responding to what the OP says happened. So (she said, turning a gimlet eye back on the OP), if she actually did handle it this way, then I take back my bit about her being a tiny bit at fault.

Either way, it's a second bit of communication you both may need to work on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:20 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey OP! Your desires might not necessarily be incompatible with your gf's. Your gf might not want to get married right now; she's may be putting out feelers for a few years down the road. Could be next year, could be ten years. I understand your anxiety. Try to tell yourself that you might not know when she wants all these things.

Before you talk with her, imagine five years have gone by. You and your gf continue to get along fabulously, you've hiked the Appalachian trail together with your super cool dog, you've had sex on all the continents, and you've got plans to travel Ireland by horseback. Or whatever is exciting to you.

Your future is what you build together. Does that five years with your gf sound pretty excellent? What kind of life do you envision, and could it be excellent with her?

Talk this out with her. Start by asking what she wants out of the relationship, and when. Then talk about what you'd like out of the relationship, and when. Assess from there.

Good luck!
posted by nicodine at 12:22 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm 33 and I'm pretty much in the same boat as you are and with a recent breakup to show for it. There are circumstances were marriage would be great for me, but I'm interested in it as a means rather than an end. Being happy and supporting the people I love are the end. That is all to say, this question will not magically go away as you get older. If anything, it will magically get more urgent.

>Meanwhile, dudes who treat their girls like trash pretty much get free reign to do what they want, cheat on their girlfriends, coerse them into stuff they arent comfortable with, and the girls cant get enough.

I'm really answering to address this part of the question though. I really, really warn you against going down this rabbit hole. Comparing your relationships to any other relationship is bad news bears. Whether you're inventing a fictional bad boy or recalling a particular bad boy from your past or from your partners' pasts: No good will come of this line of thought. As you've discovered, healthy relationships live in the present and in shared futures. Comparisons between other couplings will lead to bitterness and bitterness is foul soil for any relationship to thrive in. You're not that dude. You're never going to be that dude. Being that dude will not make you happy. There is no reason to even pretend that "that dude" is a real non-fictional thing in the Universe of your own experience and your own relationships.

Let these bitter thoughts go like clouds passing on the wind.
posted by Skwirl at 12:36 PM on February 15, 2013


OP here.

So someone said something that was really helpful and really made me think. Does the thought of adjusting my plans and moving in/getting married cause me more pain than the thought of not seeing her and talking to her every day for the rest of my life? Nope.

I'm seeing alot of projections and assumptions in your answers, and my apologies for not going into more detail since I thought my post was long enough already. About 6 months in to our relationship, we had a serious discussion regarding future children... we both happily agree that we do not want any ever, and continue to. So biological clock isn't really so much a concern.

I also didn't realize until now the dynamic which is so obvious to everyone else, and please take a second and try to understand my perspective, as it pertains to "needs being met" and not just your typical guy trying to stick his penis in things. I didnt realize that in being a dick about talking about our future, I was sabotaging our present intimacy... funny that our present intimacy issues, and some basic mutual-respect things in general, were the reason I was being a dick about commitment. I'm starting to think we're in a Catch-22 and couldn't realize it.

When it comes down to it, I love this woman and want to spend the rest of my life with her. Maybe I'm getting caught up in my own head and just letting fear get the better of me. My biggest fear is of getting married young, losing our friends, becoming mundane and boring and bored of each other, eventually realizing our marriage sabotaged the development of two awesome individual people. I'd happily marry her knowing that we can still be an awesome couple and awesome people and that not everyone has to fall into the standard drags. Again, sorry to all the married couples that I'm offending with my extreme negative/stereotypical views of marriage.

And just to make another comment on the Valentines Day thing, since I feel like I have to defend myself a bit... if my girlfriend surprised me with hot lingerie Valentines sex before we went to dinner, then I said "hey, I'm actually pretty tired and don't feel like putting that suit back on, lets just skip our reservation and go tomorrow" would you all be telling my girlfriend its unreasonable for her to be upset? Talk about double standards people!! You'd be telling her to DTMFA, the most overused black-and-white advice given on this site other than "seek therapy".

Thanks to all who tried to put yourselves in my shoes and offer productive advice. We're hashing this out tonight and I'm glad I made this post this morning, as it really has opened my thinking alot.
posted by el_yucateco at 12:39 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Empress, it seems to me that she did communicate with him. She wanted her food to settle, which is the most normal response EVER after a dinner date, and then ended up falling asleep. It's only a bait and switch if you think that once sex is promised you are owed sex, food coma or no food coma.

The transactional nature of expensive dinner = sex is the issue, because if the date was awesome why be so angry that there was no sex at the end of it?
posted by lydhre at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lydhre, I'm amending my responses now in light of the OP's response, to wit:

if my girlfriend surprised me with hot lingerie Valentines sex before we went to dinner, then I said "hey, I'm actually pretty tired and don't feel like putting that suit back on, lets just skip our reservation and go tomorrow" would you all be telling my girlfriend its unreasonable for her to be upset? Talk about double standards people!! You'd be telling her to DTMFA, the most overused black-and-white advice given on this site other than "seek therapy".

Hell, no, we wouldn't. At least I wouldn't, I'd be siding with you. Because NO ONE should feel obligated to have sex for any reason, of EITHER gender, no matter WHAT bells and whistles the other person went through to convince them.

PERIOD.

AT ALL. EVER.

And the fact that you're assuming that is making me suspicious about your version of events, to be perfectly honest.

Listen, everything else you've said about sincerely wanting to spend the rest of your life with this woman does sound sincere, and I mean it. But I still sense that you've got some things to think through, there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:47 PM on February 15, 2013 [23 favorites]


>And just to make another comment on the Valentines Day thing, since I feel like I have to defend myself a bit... if my girlfriend surprised me with hot lingerie Valentines sex before we went to dinner, then I said "hey, I'm actually pretty tired and don't feel like putting that suit back on, lets just skip our reservation and go tomorrow" would you all be telling my girlfriend its unreasonable for her to be upset? Talk about double standards people!! You'd be telling her to DTMFA, the most overused black-and-white advice given on this site other than "seek therapy".

Flipping the script like this is false equivalence. Sex is not equal to dinner reservations and you know that. I understand that you feel defensive. When having difficult conversations, it helps when you're feeling that "defensiveness" feeling to fight the urge to explain and instead, take a breath, and practice active listening.

That is all neither here nor there. You don't owe Ask Metafilter an explanation. Reading up on active listening may help your next conversation with your partner, though: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening
posted by Skwirl at 12:49 PM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


And just to make another comment on the Valentines Day thing, since I feel like I have to defend myself a bit... if my girlfriend surprised me with hot lingerie Valentines sex before we went to dinner, then I said "hey, I'm actually pretty tired and don't feel like putting that suit back on, lets just skip our reservation and go tomorrow" would you all be telling my girlfriend its unreasonable for her to be upset? Talk about double standards people!! You'd be telling her to DTMFA, the most overused black-and-white advice given on this site other than "seek therapy".

??? Why would anyone tell a couple to break up just because of a postponed dinner date? There's usually way more to DTMFA than that. Hopefully, talking to your girlfriend will help to clear up a lot of things between you two. It sounds like you've driven yourself nuts with erroneous assumptions, when simply thinking and talking openly about it would've helped you navigate the situation before it got this bad. You've jumped to some frankly bizarre and ill-informed conclusions here.
posted by wondermouse at 12:50 PM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


[el_yucateco, this really isn't the place for ongoing discussion or debate. Now is probably a good time to stop adding more complexity to the question so the original issue doesn't get buried. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 1:03 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


please take a second and try to understand my perspective, as it pertains to "needs being met" [...] Thanks to all who tried to put yourselves in my shoes

This is not a criticism, but rather an observation: you have made several remarks in this thread that people should try to see things from your perspective. I would like to reiterate/remind you that when you speak to your girlfriend (tonight and in the future), it will serve you well if you work hard to give her the same courtesy as you repeatedly expect others to give you. Being able to stay present with someone else's point of view, even when there are disagreements, is at the heart of good communication.

Again, not a criticism: just a word to the wise.
posted by scody at 1:15 PM on February 15, 2013 [22 favorites]


I'd happily marry her knowing that we can still be an awesome couple and awesome people and that not everyone has to fall into the standard drags.

Well, okay then! Because moving to the suburbs and never going out (or staying out) past 9 pm is not some sort of legal requirement you have to adhere to when you officially get married. Let go of your fear that this is something that automatically has to happen, because it isn't.

So I guess my question (which you don't have to answer here, but think about it as you head into these conversations with your girlfriend) is: If you know that this fear is in your head, then what is it that makes you shy away from her talk about getting a dog, moving in together, etc. when you also say you'd love to spend the rest of your life together?
posted by rtha at 1:25 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


If my husband wanted to cancel a valentine's dinner date OR didn't want to have sex with me because he was tired or not feeling great, that would be absolutely fine. That's because I trust him enough to know that he wouldn't disappoint me without a good reason. Also because I care a great deal about his comfort and want him to be happy, even at the expense of my plans. Getting upset about either of those things strikes me as a kind of self-centered reaction. If it were something that happened regularly that would be a drag, but every once in a while is just about compromise. You might very well not be ready for that kind of relationship, but to me that element of trust and relatively minor self-sacrifice is one of the hallmarks of a healthy and happy long-term relationship.

Also, you mention these couples that get boring and never go out with their friends anymore, which you and your girlfriend say is "lame". Part of that might come from them feeling happy enough at home with each other that they don't feel a need to go out in search of more fun and excitement elsewhere, even with their friends. Nothing wrong with that, either, even if it isn't of interest to you.

So someone said something that was really helpful and really made me think. Does the thought of adjusting my plans and moving in/getting married cause me more pain than the thought of not seeing her and talking to her every day for the rest of my life? Nope.


Be really, really careful here. It sounds like you've changed your thinking kind of dramatically on this issue. This could be a temporary knee-jerk reaction to the fear of losing her and your feelings on this might not stand the test of time. This is a very difficult thing to figure out. If I had to guess, though, it just doesn't ring true that you're now suddenly ready. Be open and honest with her if you're really not sure, but if on reflection you're just not into the whole marriage/living together thing any time soon you absolutely owe it to her to tell her that.
posted by hazyjane at 1:30 PM on February 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


this idea of "domesticating" is basically a downgrade of where I am now

Your fears of more commitment don't sound completely rational. It's almost like you think there is something magical about moving in together that will automatically make your life less fun. What specifically would cause your life to be less fun if you moved in with your girlfriend? You can move in together and not spend every free moment with each other, if that's what you want.

You're basing a lot on what happened to your other friends when they moved in together, but if their lifestyle doesn't appeal to you, odds are good that you will make different choices. What you're doing right now makes it more likely you will end up domesticated, because you aren't involved in planning your future. Your girlfriend is in the driver's seat and you're reduced to either dragging your feet or just refusing. Why don't you come up with your own plans for the two of you?

If you don't like your future where you slow down and settle into a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, then plan to do something different and share that with your girlfriend. If she doesn't like your vision, and you can't agree on something, then you want fundamentally different things and should break up.

What I dont understand is that we know plenty of couples who moved in together… we're left talking about how their current lifestyle seems so lame to us... then a few days later she's asking which breed of dog "we" want to get or what neighborhood "we" want to move to.

This one is easy to explain. There's nothing intrinsically boring about joint decisions, or intrinsically exciting about making decisions on your own.

Also, it sounds like you think that the recent problems in your sex life are foreshadowing the life of dullness that you believe is your destiny. But you should consider whether your girlfriend is just turned off by your lack of investment in the future.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:36 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


And just to make another comment on the Valentines Day thing, since I feel like I have to defend myself a bit... if my girlfriend surprised me with hot lingerie Valentines sex before we went to dinner, then I said "hey, I'm actually pretty tired and don't feel like putting that suit back on, lets just skip our reservation and go tomorrow" would you all be telling my girlfriend its unreasonable for her to be upset? Talk about double standards people!! You'd be telling her to DTMFA, the most overused black-and-white advice given on this site other than "seek therapy".

Stop seeing the world through immature, battle of the sexes eyes. People are calling you out on that as kindly as possible, but you don't get it. Yet. Men who fixate on "double standards" that are detrimental to men are, IMO, not very wise to the ways of the world.

When it comes down to it, I love this woman and want to spend the rest of my life with her.

Really?

This sort of sounds like A Thing People Say. Or rather, A Thing (You Think) People in Relationships Say. Much like how you frame relationships as men do this, women do this, couples do this . . .

Be honest with yourself, and be honest with your girlfriend. People are people, not stereotypes. You are not a bad person for not wanting to settle down yet. She is not a bad person for wanting to settle down. You might not be right for each other, but that doesn't mean that one of you is wrong.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:55 PM on February 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


There are a lot of great responses here, but I'll throw in my personal experience: my boyfriend and I have been dating for just over a year. Before we were together, he had two two-year, long-term relationships. In both of them, they never moved in together, their parents never met each other, etc. This is because my boyfriend was so filled with fear at the things that would come next that he held off on these traditional post one-year things.

Now, after a year, we are living together, our parents have met, and he said "I love you" earlier than he ever has. He told me that this is partially the result of him trying really hard to work through his fears and understand why they exist, but it's also because I have tried to be really open and honest with him about what I want and then give him the space to be ready for that. I suggested moving in together for the first time in September. He didn't agree to it until December.

It sounds like you and your girlfriend are on different pages, but that isn't the end of the world. There is something in the middle, but you can't figure out what that is until you talk to each other openly and honestly about what you're ready for and what you want.
posted by anotheraccount at 2:06 PM on February 15, 2013


Reading my first impression of your post and the whoopsie that came from the last line- you're upset because you can't prevent the women you date from wanting different things than you (in this case going commitment heavy). You obviously don't seem to have problems getting into relationships if you keep having year longs that fizzle at the idea of marriage. This is not a case of even being a nice-guy-who-never-gets-laid, you've latched onto a script that doesn't even apply to your situation.

So you have the fantasy of having more power in the relationship because then she can't hurt you by dumping you for not doing the marriage progress thing. Because in the end, if she's not getting what she wants, as an autonomous adult and she will leave. Being the unreachable one in the relationship is tempting for people of both genders- I have fantasies of that too. But game playing is really lonely.

You're also asking us to tell us how to tell you to make her have different goals, or at least not leave you for being in that place. You really don't have to go along with her, nor should you if the idea distresses you, but it's probably not in her best interests to wait around without a clear timeline, at least, relationships being built on compromises. Since you basically want the casual monogamy thing indefinitely or at least on a broader timeline, you should find someone who wants that.
posted by Phalene at 2:33 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


This may seem like a tangent at first, OP, but please bear with me.

No one owes their partner money/gifts/dinners on demand. No one owes their partner sex on demand (or in exchange for money/gifts/dinners - you do realize that sounds like the assumption that men have to pay women for sex, and that women who are bought things owe men sex in payment, right? Not cool). No one owes their partner commitment on demand. That said - it is ok to want to be treated to nice things, it is ok to want to have sex, it is ok to want commitment. The frequency or intensity or timing of those things are often negotiable, and indeed I believe that the honest & good-faith negotiation of those things are at the heart of having a happy relationship.

Your girlfriend's sex drive may be impacted by her experience of you denying her something she wants/needs more of: commitment. Your interest in commitment may be taking a hit as a result. It can be a vicious circle. Please have a conversation about both of your needs and expectations - hers and yours. Be honest with yourself and frank with her about your concern related to commitment. I believe that negotiation is possible in many cases, and where it isn't then perhaps your needs aren't compatible. And while that's sad, compromising to the point of unhappiness is much sadder in the long term.

Good luck.
posted by pammeke at 2:33 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


you've already gotten lots of good advice about what to say to your gf so i'm just going to comment on if things don't work out with said gf, although i do hope they do. in the future it would be good to be really clear about not wanting to get married until much later. i say this because it seems to be turning into a pattern for you and that should be nipped in the bud. kind of like you tell women you get serious with that you don't want kids just say something to the effect of "i don't see myself getting married anytime before 30 at the earliest". that will avoid a lot of trouble for the both of you!

it seems to be helping you to talk about all this marriage/living together stuff so i encourage you in the future to be open to talking more about these kinds of issues with your partner rather than avoiding talking about them. i do think your views on both marriage and sex could use some refining.
posted by wildflower at 2:47 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was in my 20s and dating my now-husband, I kind of thought that if he wanted to commit to being with me in the long run, there were these culturally sanctioned steps that we should take at the "right" times. So after a year or so, I broached the idea of moving in together, and he freaked out. And I took that as meaning he did not see a future for us being together in the years to come. And I was upset, because I thought that was like him saying he was planning on breaking up with me soon.

When we ACTUALLY talked it through, what he said was that he didn't see himself wanting to ever share a house with ANYONE. He liked his space, and his ideal would be living next door to his girlfriend forever. And he didn't see the point in marriage, so he didn't think he would ever do that. But that he DID want to spend the foreseeable future in a relationship with me. And when I thought through all the implications of that, and all the reasons why I had expected the "usual" progression of things (mainly cultural baggage), I was relieved, and willing to just keep on as we were. And we didn't talk about moving in together or getting married again for five or six years. So effectively he did "put the brakes on" and things were fine.

But he did it by making his own wants and needs really clear, and the timeframe for moving in together/marrying clear (i.e. "never"). If your girlfriend is just looking for assurance of ongoing commitment, and is doing it in the socially sanctioned way because she sees that as the only possibility, then a frank discussion might work. If she actually does want to live together, get a puppy with you, and get married because of what those things are like, not because of their social significance, you might be screwed. But the only want to find out is to talk with her.

(For what it's worth, we ended up moving in together and getting married in the end after all - mainly for very practical reasons. We were living in a country where I couldn't get my visa renewed unless we were married, and the immigration authority would not have believed our marriage was real if we hadn't lived together. Turned out we actually liked the whole co-habitation thing anyway.)

And finally, this weirds me the fuck out: if my girlfriend surprised me with hot lingerie Valentines sex before we went to dinner, then I said "hey, I'm actually pretty tired and don't feel like putting that suit back on, lets just skip our reservation and go tomorrow" would you all be telling my girlfriend its unreasonable for her to be upset?

This is basically confirming what you implied in your original question: that you think of sex as the reward for you, and dinner as the reward for her. It sounds like you are saying, "what if I had denied her the fancy dinner after she had paid me for it with sex? She would have been justifiably annoyed." I think a healthier relationship would see the sex as fun for you both, and the dinner as (unrelated) fun for you both, so why would there be a problem if you only got to do one awesome thing instead of two?
posted by lollusc at 3:21 PM on February 15, 2013 [28 favorites]


Spending the rest of one's life with the person they love is awesome, if and only if it's actually something you want. You don't have to want it, there's nothing wrong with that. It's perfectly fine to want your own space and the life you are having now.

Just because you don't want a domestic, married life does not mean that it sucks, nor does it mean that you'll continue to not want it.

Let her go, since you two want different things (for the love of odin, don't string her along, that's just cruel).
posted by Neekee at 3:46 PM on February 15, 2013


Yeah, your explanation actually makes your attitude sound worse. In response to your hypothetical: yes, if my boyfriend were too tired to go to dinner, that would be okay.

that you think of sex as the reward for you, and dinner as the reward for her. It sounds like you are saying, "what if I had denied her the fancy dinner after she had paid me for it with sex? She would have been justifiably annoyed." I think a healthier relationship would see the sex as fun for you both, and the dinner as (unrelated) fun for you both, so why would there be a problem if you only got to do one awesome thing instead of two?

Yeah.

Are you dating a lot of women who play games, too? It sounds like you have this really transactional view of sex and rewards, where girlfriends give you special dolled-up sex and in return you pay for romance, I don't know.

The reason I feel like this is relevant to your problem is that I think you're always going to feel resentful and angry toward women who want "more" when you feel like you're already providing what you need to get physical gratification out of the relationship. They're putting out, you're taking them out on dates, what additional reward would you get for committing? Essentially nothing in that calculus. So maybe you should think about whether you belong in an emotionally intimate relationship right now, or whether you're getting into them for less-than-tenable reasons. (Since this is a recurring pattern for you.)
posted by stoneandstar at 4:00 PM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


because my last 2 relationships ended for the same reasons
I strongly suggest you dig deeper into that factoid, there. I feel like there's so much going on in this thread and your question/follow-ups that I'm not sure it's worth my two cents, but that sticks out and your future romantic life (with or without this particular woman) likely hinge on something you might find upon reflecting more on that.
posted by sm1tten at 4:56 PM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


What you don't realize is that in your own way you are treating her "like shit." I mean, you are getting all the bennies of a committed relationship. That is one reason we old fossils like to quote the old saying about why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free....if you are not ready to settle down, you probably should not be seriously dating anyone. Do you really expect her to wager her premium years of fertility on betting on you wanting her to be "the one" in five or ten years when you finally feel like settling down?

If you don't want to settle down, don't. But don't be disrespectful to this or any other woman by playacting a serious relationship when really, this one isn't.

If you love this woman, can see her having your babies down the road, etc. then you need to decide to move up your timetable. If you don't love this woman, or you love the sex but aren't interested in giving her the security it is obvious she craves, then do the right thing and break up with her so she can find what SHE wants.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:07 PM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


OP, aren't you lucky. Women are posting here to tell you what they actually think. This could save you years, if you take it to heart.
posted by glasseyes at 10:16 PM on February 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


My biggest fear is of getting married young, losing our friends, becoming mundane and boring and bored of each other, eventually realizing our marriage sabotaged the development of two awesome individual people.

Fun fact: There are no magic curses placed on wedding rings or marriage certificates. If a marriage is hella boring and mundane and stagnates the development of the two people involved it's not because they got married.
posted by like_neon at 5:19 AM on February 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Do you really expect her to wager her premium years of fertility

OP stated in his update that neither of them want kids. Many of us women aren't into making babies, so I'm not sure why that scenario is so often assumed in AskMe responses when it's not mentioned in the original question.

el_yucateco, I hear your concerns re: losing yourself in marriage. I have enough friends who got married young, and woke up years later feeling that they'd stumbled into some sort of life-script not of their choosing. I think the issue is that they simply didn't have enough living under their belt to have a clear idea of who they were, and what they stood for, and how to go about making choices that were true to their ideals. They ending up Sliding vs. Deciding, if that makes sense.

But that doesn't have to be the case. Sit down and write out a manifesto. THIS is what I believe in; this is what I want for my life; this is what I don't want. Have your partner do the same. Then, have a meeting of the minds, and see where your longterm goals overlap, and where they diverge, and make a plan. Decide, rather than slide.
posted by nacho fries at 9:15 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


on the Valentines Day thing, since I feel like I have to defend myself a bit... if my girlfriend surprised me with hot lingerie Valentines sex before we went to dinner, then I said "hey, I'm actually pretty tired and don't feel like putting that suit back on, lets just skip our reservation and go tomorrow" would you all be telling my girlfriend its unreasonable for her to be upset? Talk about double standards people!! You'd be telling her to DTMFA, the most overused black-and-white advice given on this site other than "seek therapy".

What? Hell no! I'd be telling her to appreciate the great amazing sex you mutually shared together, and to reschedule going out for a time that you both feel like doing it - as with basically anything.

And, as a site, I think we're a little past DTMFA, though obviously therapy is a recurring theme (generally appropriately, IMO - talk therapy can be very valuable for all sorts of people dealing with feelings, conflict, and life generally).

I know you're feeling very defensive about this thread in general, and though a number of things you've said have pushed buttons (including mine), I want to focus on two things - you are clearly actively engaged in thinking about this, and you're talking to your girlfriend. What a great starting point. Best of luck to both of you and your talk, and hope it results in the best outcome for both of you (whatever that is).
posted by arnicae at 11:28 AM on February 16, 2013


...if you are not ready to settle down, you probably should not be seriously dating anyone.

I feel so strongly about this that I'm going to break my no-relationshipfilter policy to say:

This is horrible advice.

How in the world can we expect anyone to reach the point in their life where they're ready to settle down without "seriously dating anyone" first? Suggesting that "settling down" [marriage-level commitment, children, etc.?] should be the cost which men pay for the benefits of "seriously dating" [cohabitation? sex?] is a transactional model of relationships just as noxious as any in this thread.
posted by pullayup at 11:45 AM on February 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Pullayup, all I mean is, don't seriously shop until you are planning on buying, so to speak. If you are not ready to settle down, don't get into a "serious relationship." Date around if that is what you want to do but do not give another human being the impression a relationship is progressing when it isn't and won't be.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:59 PM on February 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


(unless the two parties involved discuss and AGREE. As in really agree, not just lip service.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:00 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to second St. Alia's advice, having been a girl who led two different guys down the path of "I love you, of course we'll move in together some day, sure why not think about getting engaged?" only to realize suddenly that I didn't want any of that and to start the dating game all over. It's much better for me to know I'm "dating around" than looking for a serious relationship, and it's led to much clearer communication and better satisfaction all around.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:58 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you are saying, "what if I had denied her the fancy dinner after she had paid me for it with sex? She would have been justifiably annoyed."

This. Your professions of love for your girlfriend stand in stark contrast to your mercenary, somewhat prehistoric ideas about how relationships work. Relationships aren't, "You give me access to your private parts; I give you luxury items." Or maybe they do work that way, in the world of high-end escort services.

Responding passive-aggressively to an invitation to sex with a "vague" text message? After being in a relationship for a year? This is not how adults behave. I'm going to give it to you straight: you come across like a spoiled child, not a 25-year-old man in a serious relationship. I don't think you *are* ready to settle down.
posted by enzymatic at 4:02 PM on February 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


When you're talking with her about the differences in your perspectives and the difficulty you've had communicating, I wonder if you two will surface that what *you* viewed as a wonderful/extravagant/romantic Valentine's Day celebration was, to her, a terrible and possibly heartbreaking let-down. HER vision of a romantic Valentine's Day with you might well have included a proposal -- or at least some meaningful expression of your desire to continue to be with her and hopefully make her happy for years to come, not just for the evening. Even though you evidently hadn't given her any reason to expect such things.

It's at least one possible explanation for why your respective expectations vs. ultimate desires for sex afterwards were so... divergent. I hope your conversations with her are valuable to you both.
posted by argonauta at 6:36 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


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