Struggling with my boyfriend's apparent lack of effort in our relationship, but I'm not sure if it's worth trying to work though, because he won't discuss if he have a future together.
posted by hasna to Human Relations (39 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My boyfriend and I (female) are both almost 30, and have been together for just over a year (and know each other for basically just as long, also). We're both employed full-time, and rent our own separate apartments. We see each other about twice a week for dinner/sleepovers, and have been in this schedule since we first started dating. This is my first relationship ever, and while this is one of his longest, he's been with a few people before. Neither of us are from our current city, we've only been here a couple years, and we share the same social circle. We have an open relationship where we are both allowed to sleep with other women, which works well for us.
There are two big issues that I'm having in the relationship, and I'm unsure of how to talk to him about them. I usually get very, very emotional when having serious conversations (with my parents, bosses, teachers, and yes, my boyfriend), and so I'd like to sort out my thoughts before we talk, otherwise I'll spend most of the conversation crying so hard I throw up.
For the most part, our relationship is wonderful. I am absolutely head over heals in love with him. He is my best friend. He makes me incredibly happy, and I want to share everything with him. When I have a bad day, being with him is the first thing I want to do. When I have a great day, or something exciting happens, I wish he was (or am happy he was) there to share the moment with me. On our rare days off together, we have so much fun! He is very sweet, and incredibly affectionate, both physically, and with his words. He's grounded me in a lot of ways, and I've learned a lot about myself because of him. He is incredibly intelligent, curious, creative, well-travelled, great at fixing things and doing things with his hands, and we share a lot of the same interests. I know he's the kind of man I can absolutely trust.
Issue #1: He's not very good at communicating (his needs/wants/intentions), and has a bit of a hard time responding when I communicate with him about my own. Also, he has a history of depression (etc..) which he seems to be struggling with a lot now**, and I feel like it's impacting our relationship in a significant way. He seems to be taking me, and our relationship, for granted. I do everything I can to be an awesome girlfriend (and I really, really enjoy doing it!!). I cook him dinners and do all the cleanup, leave his place cleaner than I found it when I leave, take an active and sincere interest in his hobbies, make him little gifts and crafts, leave him notes occasionally around his house, shovel his walk when offer to cook him soup when he's sick, try to arrange my work schedule to see him more, etc. I actively try to find ways to show him I love him. He, however, seems to show his love for me by buying me things, and by cuddling a lot and saying sweet things in person and by text. I realize this is likely the way he naturally shows love, but I feel like when it comes to most things that take actual effort, or forethought, he doesn't bother. I think he's only washed my dishes once since we've been together (and often goes and lays in the bedroom when I'm cleaning up), he's never left me a sweet note or card, I can't think of any time he has ever pro-actively helped out with a chore/task/errand without specifically being asked. In short, I don't feel like I'm being pursued. He takes advantage of the fact that I'm here, and he gets his cuddles and sex twice a week from someone he loves, and he doesn't really need to do anything more.
I spoke with him about this about 5-6 months ago, and it upset him greatly. He became incredibly sad, and said he feels like he does a lot for me (I don't remember if he gave any significant examples), and he's sorry I don't feel like he loves me enough. I gave him some tangible examples of things that I would appreciate, and while things got a bit better for a short while, it seemed to very quickly go back to how it was. He has never brought up anything I do that bothers him, or things he wished I'd do, or any problems or rough spots in the relationship. He recently made an off-handed comment about how I cook with too much salt, but seriously, that's about it.
Issue #2: I have a hard time deciding if it's worth talking to him about this again, as I'm not sure how long our relationship is going to last. At 1+ year into a relationship, it feels like most couples will at least discuss in a general sense where they see the relationship in the future. My boyfriend appears to intentionally avoid such discussion. During the summer, I had a small breakdown, and started crying, because he had said he was going to move away by X month, and I didn't know how to comport myself in a relationship that had an expiration date. Since then, nearly the only reference he's made to the future has been "variations of "No one knows the future" and more notably "I'm not just going to up and leave without telling you, don't worry!". He said he's going to stay in this city for likely another year and a half, and still doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, but that's as detailed as he gets. He never says anything to the effect of "We'll figure it out together", or implies anything about us being together.
But I'm nearing 30. I've travelled the world, had countless adventures, been appropriately reckless (drugs/alcohol/sex), and I'm at the point in my life where I want to settle down with someone I love. I don't even mean get married, buy a house, and pop out 2.5 babies. I just want to be with someone who wants to intertwine their life with mine, make life decisions together, and plan on being together for the long-haul, if not forever. But my boyfriend doesn't even want to live together (he lived with a girlfriend before and hated it, said it turned them into nothing but roommates, and doesn't want to do it again).
I don't need my boyfriend to say "Yes, I plan on being with you for the rest of my life". I don't want to get engaged, or make similarly binding agreements yet. I know that most relationships come to an end, and that ours may not last decades. But I'd like to know if he's interested in seeing if we can make this work. If he wants to see if he might be interested in being together long-term, or if he's planning on just enjoying it for now, and then (for better or for worse) breaking up with me and moving away in 12-18 months. As far as I know, he does want to marry someone someday, and possibly have kids, though he doesn't seem to know what he wants to do with his life, or where he wants to live. He knows what I want to do with my life (including specifics like location, not having my own babies, etc), and while it's pretty specific (relief/NGO work) I am so, so ready and willing to make compromises and changes in order to enable my partner to have the life they dream of, also. But I can't communicate my willingness to make compromise to someone that won't discuss the future at all with me.
If he really is in this just for the fun (I know he loves me and cares about me deeply, so that's maybe not the right way to put it...), I can be ok with that. I'll recalabrate my expectations, won't get my hopes up about things like moving in together or traveling together, or planning for the future. I'll be a lot more tolerant about the things I mentioned earlier on in my post, because I won't have to deal with them forever. I mean I'd LOVE to see if we have a long-term future together, absolutely. But really, I'd just like to know his intentions.
So, to conclude an overly long post:
1- Do I have realistic expectations of a partner? It's my first relationship, so maybe I'm way off.
2- How do I clearly communicate to him "Do you see us together in 5-10 years" without making it sound like I want a ring on my finger tomorrow?
3- Are these really two separate conversations we should be having, or is bringing up both these issues together ok?
4- What can I do to make sure I can have a talk with him about this like a grown-up, encouraging him to talk and communicate, and not spend the entire evening sobbing hysterically, unable to speak a word?
5- If he does make it clear that he only wants our relationship to be temporary, how can I protect my own heart, and make sure I'm not getting myself in too deep? DTMFA isn't something I'm considering.
6- Any advice you have, I suppose.
Thanks, mefites! I'm posting this under my real account in an attempt to put my big-girl pants on, and so I'll be able to clarify anything if need be.
**I also suffer from depression (bi-polar, specifically), and I know what a heavy impact it can have on every part of daily life, including motivation to do things you would otherwise want to do. Treatment is tough here, as it usually takes 12-24 months to get an initial appointment with someone, and so while "Therapy!" is an obviously needed and important step, it's not anything that feasible in the short or medium-long term.