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Is this just summer-fall-winter-spring-summer-fall-winter-spring love?
February 12, 2014 10:38 PM   Subscribe

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.

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.


However!

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.
posted by hasna to Human Relations (39 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
If he really is in this just for the fun...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.

I'm going to be brutal here: this is the desperate flailing around that a person does when she's clutching at straws. It completely contradicts this:

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.

You are nearly 30. It is completely, totally normal and age-appropriate to want to invest emotionally in a relationship that is going somewhere.

Your needs and expectations are just as important as his.

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?

By breaking up with him...but that's not the answer you want to hear. Sorry, but based on my own (extensive) experience, you can't fool your own emotions. You can't will yourself into being cool with a temporary relationship when you want something lasting. You can't practise 'reverse psychology' on your own heart and feelings. That's the sad truth.
posted by Salamander at 10:58 PM on February 12 [31 favorites]


The problem is you are trying to be the cool mid-20s girlfriend who is totally modern and doesn't want to pressure the guy into anything lest he run away and you are not that, you are the 30 year old woman who wants to see if this is actually going to be a relationship worth investing in.

So let's say nothing at all changes, because it won't if you don't take some kind of action. What then? What if you're still thinking this five years from now and never stepped up to be the catalyst for the change you want to see in your life?

Honestly, if you can't have the "Where is this relationship going?" talk without him acting like an adult, how could you have something more serious like "I'm pregnant" or "I have cancer" or "My mom needs to move in with us"?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:14 PM on February 12 [19 favorites]


I'd recently been thinking the same thing of my girlfriend of three years. Ultimately I broke up with her. She refused to answer questions about her future, hardly admitting to herself that such a thing existed, that she was getting older (at 25!), and that someone (me) wanted to share that future together. The entire prospect for her was so overwhelming that she would clam up when I asked her about what would become of us. I made her a genuine offer to be together and she simply couldn't answer.

To boot she had the same problems as you do with your boyfriend. She wasn't pro-active in the least. She accepted and appreciated the love I gave her, but I felt that if I stopped putting in the Herculean effort, the entire relationship would come to a standstill. When I stepped back to rationalize, I realized it wasn't fair. I needed someone who would love me the same as I loved her, who would really want the companionship that I offered. And yet I was still attached to her because I'd always been -- not because of now.

Step back and ask yourself, if you knew everything about your significant other's personality that you know now, and saw a new person on the street imbued with all of those characteristics, would you want to start a relationship with them? If the answer is no, you owe it to yourself to do the painfully sensible thing and end it.
posted by saperlipopette at 11:16 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


Yeah, you're in a relationship with a guy who is nice to you but not serious about you. You're being used. He knows he doesn't love you enough to build a life with you but is benefitting from having you want him.
posted by discopolo at 11:17 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I mean this kindly, I promise...don't you kind of think the reason he's acting like someone who's not super invested in the relationship is that, well, he's not super invested? He doesn't want to move in together, he's leaving the city and has made it pretty clear that you're not coming with, he is doing everything to signal that you are not his wife-to-be, or even live-in-girlfriend-to-be. He has made it clear; but yes, he could make it crystal clear by saying the words, and maybe that's what you need.

So yes, you should ask. Who cares if he thinks it means you want a ring? You kinda do. Like, not a literal ring but I bet if you are super honest with yourself, you would absolutely be FINE with a conversation that ends in a proposal. Own it! It's a fine thing to want!

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?

You can't. The window for that closed long ago; you're already in too deep. When you accept that he thinks of this as temporary, it is gonna hurt like a spiny-backed bastard.

I'm really sorry, it is very very hard when you are ready for something, and the person you love isn't. But he isn't ready, he doesn't know where he wants to live or what he wants to do! You do. You aren't in the same headspace. You don't want the same things. You don't even want the same kind of relationship--you want to be "pursued," he isn't interested in pursuing! Your life will get easier when you stop trying to force this to be something it isn't.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:20 PM on February 12 [18 favorites]


You know what, it's completely and totally normal, dare I say healthy even, for you to want to have a long term relationship. It's completely and totally acceptable if what you actually want is marriage, 2.5 kids and a minivan and a dog and a house in the suburbs, all of the most stereotypical type imaginable, with a white pocket fence, too.

I'm totally serious here- that is a lovely dream to have. It is a lovely, legitimate, dare I even say beautiful? life plan or heart's desire. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever wrong with it. I truly cannot stand the sneering condescension of it displayed by far too many hipper-than-thou types. It is only boring, trite and bourgeois to people who are lucky enough to take it for granted. In my opinion, it is a significant achievement and if you long for it, you should not be ashamed or ironic or fudge about it. If you want the "traditional, uncool, stereotypical" things many people want, many 30-ish women want, those things can be lovely and I just hate to see that trampled on or denigrated or denied.

If you want only part of it that's fine and lovely too. You matter and your dreams and plans matter. Your time matters. Your happiness matters.

If you could just take even a fraction of the effort, compassion, and acceptance you show him and turn it back on yourself.
posted by quincunx at 11:34 PM on February 12 [45 favorites]


I can't 'favourite' quincunx's comment hard enough, by the way. OP, your question (and so many other relationship) questions on here, has such strong undertones of 'How can I ask my boyfriend about my needs without appearing uncool and [gasp] needy?!?'

It's not uncool to want to know if your primary romantic partner envisages some kind of future with you, after a year. I think this modern emphasis on individualism and independence is weighted heavily in favour of commitment-phobic adults who want to keep their options permanently open.
posted by Salamander at 12:10 AM on February 13 [14 favorites]


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.

This stood out to me because he:

-- flipped the script by getting upset (when you were the one with the concern/grievance)
-- went even further on the offensive by saying he does a lot for you (no examples, of course)
-- ended the conversation/shut you up while he was "winning" by saying "sorry" (non-apology)

That's not constructive, and not in some "bad at communicating" way. He might *also* be bad at communicating, but that right there is manipulation. He was "handling" you.

You clean/cook/ego-stroke/nurse/screw/etc for him, so if you threaten to go, he'll throw you a bone to keep you around. But when he said he already feels like he does a lot for you, I think he was saying that this is basically the best you can expect from him. (Who knows why he's hit his wall, but it sounds like he's hit it).

If his "handling" isn't cutting it for you anymore, then I think things have probably run their course. The good news is, when you're broken up and you don't have a second person to clean/cook/ego-stroke/nurse/screw/etc for anymore, you'll probably feel a big (roughly man-sized) burden lift off your shoulders. Or at least I have, in a similar situation.
posted by rue72 at 12:26 AM on February 13 [17 favorites]


But my boyfriend doesn't even want to live together

Move on, friend, move on - he's unwilling to give you what you want or even talk about it.
posted by modernnomad at 12:54 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Refusing to talk about the future of your relationship means that there is no future to your relationship. Bringing up that he is going to move away is him telling you not to expect him to be around long term.

Also, someone who goes and lies down while you do the cleaning is an asshole (absent a medical problem that means he can't stand up or something). Stop being an unpaid housekeeper for this mooch.
posted by medusa at 1:49 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Everything everyone says is true.

I'm happy for you, tho! Girl, get out there and find someone who gives back to you, in the same way you give to them.

THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY, not and ending.

Separately, therapy to learn the skill of having difficult conversations without crying or needing to throw up.

That's not viable as you move into true adulthood. It's working against your better interests.

You might find it easier to talk openly with people who are actually on your team. This guy is not on your team, so don't beat yourself over this guy.

Move on. Move forward!
posted by jbenben at 1:51 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


" 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. "

I agree that he probably does show you caring in other ways....

But stop doing all this stuff.

You're not acting like an awesome girlfriend... you're acting like a dog's body drudge. And that's why you need to dump this guy eventually- not because he is so bad, or isn't serious about you, but because in this particular relationship you really don't sound like you're respecting yourself very much and he is happy to let you act like a servant. Some guys are really lazy like that.

I don't buy that you "enjoy" shoveling his walk, doing all the cooking and then all the dishes.

I do all the cooking and housework around here because my boyfriend is working full time and I am working part time... and like you, I enjoy cooking and fiddling about with the house to make it look nice. But its MY home, I get to enjoy the effort I put in... he also does the dishes... and he would never dream of expecting me to shovel even a single step outside...

But, humans quickly adjust to improvements in their life and cease noticing them. So, occasionally I let the laundry pile up and don't do any cooking so there aren't any yummy snacks when he gets home from work... just so he won't forget how good he actually has it.

data point: my boyfriend is serious about me but when I left him love post its around the house they went completely unappreciated. I expect he would act the same if I made him a craft. I wouldn't necessarily expect your next awesome boyfriend to notice them either.
posted by misspony at 2:59 AM on February 13 [25 favorites]


I have to admit, the list of things you do for your boyfriend sounds pretty overwhelming. Some of them (cooking, dishes, cleaning his place??) are things he should be pulling his weight on anyway, regardless of your relationship status. Others (the little notes, gifts and crafts) seem like they might be a little smothering, depending on how often you do them. If these are once-in-a-while gestures, they're fine and lovely, but if you're leaving him cards and trinkets on a weekly basis, it might feel excessive to him. Especially if you're doing them with the expectation that he'll reciprocate with the same frequency and creativity.

That doesn't change the fact that you deserve to have your needs met and to feel loved. It also doesn't change the fact that a relationship cannot thrive without effective communication, and he doesn't sound like a particularly good communicator. It also has nothing to do with your long-term goals not lining up with his.

On top of that, you both have depression, and it sounds like neither of you are treating it. I sympathize with how difficult it is to get successful treatment. At the same time, depression can make it really hard to be a good partner, in all sorts of ways. It can make you cling too hard to the other person, it can make you pull away from them, it can make you forget that the other person has feelings too, it can make serious conversations feel like catastrophes. You both owe it to yourselves to get whatever treatment you have time and money for: exercise, getting a copy of Feeling Good from the library, whatever. And if you can each manage your depression, you can better manage the relationship together.

He doesn't sound to me like some incurably lazy manipulative DTMFA-worthy bastard, to be honest. He sounds like he's got different priorities, has little experience with long-term relationships, and maybe needs to learn a thing or two. I'm not confident that you guys are compatible in the long run, but I don't think you need to pack your bags right now.

In the meantime, positive reinforcement can go a long way. When he does something that makes you feel loved and appreciated, be effusive in expressing your gratitude. Ask him to help out with the crap he should be helping out with anyway, like cooking and cleaning, and when he does, thank him every time. Don't underestimate the power of the phrase "it makes me feel loved when..."

And if you tend to cry when bringing up serious issues, work around it. Sometimes I have to get the emotions out first, and then I can talk about it. Figure out what you need (to be comforted? to be left alone?) for you to get over that crying hump, and tell him at the beginning, "You know how I tend to cry at certain things. If that happens, I'd like to take a five minute break to settle down, and then I can come back to the conversation."
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:53 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Are you dating my ex? Are you me? Seriously, I have been in your shoes, at around the same age as well. I think first you should be real with your self about what you want. You say: 'I don't want to get engaged, or make similarly binding agreements yet' and also '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'. Don't forget your needs are just as important...do you think your current partner would be willing to make similar compromises to help you live the life you dream of?

Since I have been there, I know you may be reading the comments posted here along the lines of 'he is using you' or 'he is manipulating you' or 'he is not on your team' and thinking that they are too harsh, since you know he is your best friend, he is sweet etc. And here is the thing - your current BF is likely not INTENTIONALLY using or manipulating you. I doubt he wakes up each day thinking how can i manipulate hasna to keep doing my cooking/cleaning/laundry/sexing while at the same time provide the absolute minimum to her. But he is doing it none the less and to be honest why not? I am sure he loves you very much. He gets to be in a relationship with an AWESOME chic who he loves and cooks/cleans/loves/provides companionship/provides affection/arranges her own schedule to accommodate him while at the same time doing NOTHING to make you happy that would require him to rearrange his life or desires.

Finally, I am not depressed but my ex was and it played a role in our relationship. Some depressed people here may take issue with what I am about to say, but I think it was a very real factor in our relationship. Depression is an illness. Depressed people are struggling with a lot of stuff and may not necessarily be equipped to be a solid life partner. They are dealing with a lot of stuff inwardly and may not be willing or even capable of providing the support needed to a partner. They are dealing with an illness, so it can be like it is always about their needs first since they are struggling with the illness. A life partner needs the ability to prioritize you and sometimes they are not capable of doing that. Not to generalize too much - I know many people who are depressed can be great life partners - but depression partnered with other issues and emotional immaturity could be a limiting factor.

1- Do I have realistic expectations of a partner? It's my first relationship, so maybe I'm way off.
YES. You deserve to be in a relationship with someone who does just as much for you as you do for them. This question is actually painful for me to read since I was also in my first long-term relationship. It was hard for me to realize how I needed to be treated and I didn't always see when I was being treated poorly.

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? First, evaluate what you truly want for the future. Do you truly not care about having biological children? Unfortunately women must cognizant of biological realities.

3- Are these really two separate conversations we should be having, or is bringing up both these issues together ok? I think issue #2 is the real issue.

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? You can do it. You have the ability to control how you act. Role play in your head the worst case scenario and go from there: You tell him you love him would like to make some type of commitment, what does he think about that? He could say no, no way never. He could refuse to answer you. He could be evasive with half- or non-answers. In each case you need to be clear to him that is not cutting for you anymore and if he feel that way then it is shame, but you will need to move on.

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. oh honey, you are in way to deep at this point. you need to get real with yourself. why even ask this question if you not willing to move on? You can't change people. He has expressed zero interest in working with you to move to a more serious relationship. However, there is a small chance for you guys because it appears like perhaps you have not clearly articulated to him your desired for a long term commitment (likely due to fear of his response). Before moving on, you do need to make sure you do this. However, when you have this conversation,be prepared for the worst.

6- Any advice you have, I suppose. I wrote a novel above because I have been in your shoes. I wish you all the best. I ended up making a very difficult decision to part ways with my ex who I believed was my soul mate and looking back on it should have ended things sooner. It is so difficult for I think two reasons, being a sweet and somewhat accommodating person and also being in your first real relationship. I hope that it works about for you and your current BF, but if it doesn't don't worry. There are tons of other guys out there, likely some who will treat you better and be on the same page with you regarding future plans and life partnership.
posted by seesom at 5:08 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


TL/DR distillation of your question: I do all kinds of bullshit for my boyfriend, I'm his MAID, I'm willing to do whatever he wants, and when I ask for what I want, he clams up and stutters.

Dude, this man won't give you what you want. What you want is perfectly OKAY to want.

You are in very different places and there is NOTHING you can do or say that will change him, if he doesn't want to change.

So, you should tell him what you want. "I want to be in a relationship where I feel valued, where we are living together and building a future together, do you want to be in that relationship with me, or not?"

He's already told you that he doesn't want to live with you. He means it.

So if he won't discuss it and he won't meet you where you are there's really nothing here for you except for more of the same.

It sucks to break up when you still love someone, but if your needs and desires are being steamrolled in favor of his, at some point you've got to put your big girl panties on and move onto a relationship where you can have EVERYTHING you want.

You can compromise on what part of town you want to live in, but you can't compromise on whether or not you're living together. Stop compromising on the important things in your life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:16 AM on February 13 [10 favorites]


So many people have already said it better. But here's the thing. He doesn't want to TALK about long-term plans like marriage. And he doesn't want to DO commitment type things like move in together. So . . . what's left?
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:36 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


First, read this.

Second, I don't think you should break up with this guy. Not right away. You've put that dumping him isn't an option right there in your answer, anyway, so what good would it do to tell you to do that? You're obviously not ready. Instead, what I think you should do is pick one thing you want out of the relationship: one major life step. From reading your question, and from how long you've been in this relationship, I think it should be moving in together. This is what you do:

You have a conversation in which you tell your boyfriend that you want to move in together. You don't ask him what his feelings are about the subject (because he's made that clear.) You don't try to convince him that moving in together would be a good idea (that's not your job) or try and make him feel guilty about saying no before, or about everything else that's bothering you in the relationship. You just tell him: "Hey, I've been thinking a lot, and I want us to move in together sometime in the next couple of months." He'll say, "Blahblahblahblah no, past girlfriend blah my feelings, blah," and you'll say - without crying, or really getting into the messy ball that is your heart right now, "Oh, that's too bad, because that's what I want, and it's not really negotiable. This is a relationship-ending issue for me."

And then, you see what happens.

Set yourself a deadline - a week, two weeks - for him to come around. Maybe he won't budge, in which case you'll have to stick to your decision and it will be hard, but you'll get through it. More likely, though, he'll throw you some kind of bone, "Ok, but not until my lease is up" or something. And in that time, you have to keep telling him what you want, in unequivocal terms. If you want him to get up and help you with the dishes, tell him. If you want him to cook dinner that night, tell him. And, similarly, you make him crafts and cook him soup when he's sick when you want to, and for no other reason, and as soon as that little seed of resentment starts to grow, stop doing whatever the fuck it is you're doing and go watch some Netflix.

The truth is I don't think this relationship has much of a future. But I do think you need to start demanding what you want in relationships, and what you want is your boyfriend to step up. So before you give up on him, tell him.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:04 AM on February 13 [21 favorites]


"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."
At least consider this: the fact that you are asking us this question sort of shows that you cannot be ok with that. You are not ok with what is happening now.

When you imagine your ideal partner and/or your ideal relationship, what does it look like? Someone who can put in more effort the way you do and can have a conversation with you about the future? Look for that. Plenty of people would be happy to be in such a relationship with you, but maybe not this man.

Maybe get some of the crying out before you have the conversation with him...also make sure you have a list of things to talk about in mind, and if something is too overwhelming it's ok to say hey i need a break to [sit in the bathroom alone] \ [cuddle in bed] before going further. get that idea out there at the start. it's ok to think aloud or journal to organize your thoughts before a conversation like this. works for me anyway.

I think your expectations are reasonable ... but I don't think he's going to want to step up to meet them, because I don't think he sees a future with you but he is enjoying the way you are interacting now (no need for monogamy, no discussion of marriage/moving in together, no pressure on his time outside of a couple sleepovers a week, etc.). This is not a reflection on your quality as a person or as a partner; it's just his interest level. After reading your post I think you would be much happier with someone whose interest level and future-looking seriousness matches your own. Your needs are important to.

I think what Sansom said above: "He gets to be in a relationship with an AWESOME chic who he loves and cooks/cleans/loves/provides companionship/provides affection/arranges her own schedule to accommodate him while at the same time doing NOTHING to make you happy that would require him to rearrange his life or desires"
is pretty spot on.
posted by zdravo at 6:09 AM on February 13


Wow, what a fortunate guy. He gets everything he wants without ever having to take your feelings/wants/needs into consideration. And all he has to do is get a little upset and defensive when you bring up your future together! He loves you...he really does, but are you feeling loved?

This guy is not a complete lost cause. I say that mostly to boost my own self esteem since I was very much like this guy back in my late 20s. Years of therapy, several good books, a loving wife and some maturity has improved me somewhat, but I am still not where all players in my life would like to see me (including myself). He has some serious communication/empathy deficits that are probably due to a multitude of causes including how he was raised and being born male in America.

Here is some advice for him...The Mankind Project helps train men to be emotional beings in ways that most men never got from their childhoods. He is probably a great guy who is going to drive you insane if he doesn't start realizing that he is 30 years old and lacks the skills of an adult.

Here is the question for you...do you really want to spend the next decade pulling this guy into living together, getting married, having kids and then discover that you can't stand it any more? Get this guy on the path to better communication and emotional awareness now or stop seeing him. If he won't change, you need to accept that he is like this or you need to get out now.
posted by BearClaw6 at 6:27 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Let's just say that deep down he really does love you as much as you love him and wants to make you happy and wants to have a future with you, but for some reason he isn't able to show you how he really feels. Even if all that is true, the bottom line is that you're not getting what you want out of the relationship. Anything that dissatisfies you about your partner this early on is only going to get worse and bother you more over time. If you feel like he's not putting enough effort into it now, there is absolutely no reason to believe that 5-10 years from now, if you're still together, he'll be putting more effort into it. That's just really, really unlikely to happen.

If you're not getting what you want from him now, you probably never will. Even if he loves you, even if he wants a future with you, you shouldn't plan a future with someone who can't give you what you want from a relationship. Don't try to convince yourself that you should change your expectations so as to be satisfied with what he can give you. Break up with him and look for someone who can give you what you really want.
posted by Redstart at 6:54 AM on February 13


I'm not going to tell you to DTMFA, although I 'm not optimistic about the future of your relationship or your happiness in this relationship. This guy might love you, but he's getting exactly what he wants without making any sacrifices. He is not going to change and you cannot expect him to change, unless you give him a very strong incentive to change.

Either way, this guy is taking whatever you're doing for him for granted, so even if you're decide to stay with him, you should stop being his maid / mommy.

You have separate apartments, you're not supposed to be doing his cleaning/cooking/whatever. You cooked a meal in his place and he just zones in bed afterwards? You should leave the dishes on the table and join him. His house, he can deal with the dirty dishes after you cooked. You cook at your place and he zones out afterwards? "I cooked, you should do the dishes".

Cleaning his place? No way. If he wants a clean living place, he can clean his own space, get a maid or move in with you and share cleaning responsibilities.

Either way, you should stand up for yourself and focus some of the energy you're putting into his well-being into your own well being. Find a hobby you enjoy for yourself, spend some time focused on your own needs and joys. Stop wasting your time on unappreciated crafts, it's not going to buy his love and respect.
posted by sockpuppetdirect at 7:55 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I just want to jump in and thank everyone for their responses, and also clarify things a bit.

All the things I do for him are things I want to do. It's the way I show I care to people that are important to me. I've always been like this, even going to far as cleaning the room of friends when I went over to visit (as young as 8 or 9). I decorate little cupcakes and bring them in to work, I send notes of appreciation to friends, etc. I think it's important to do a much as we can to take care of people. I know how awesome it feels to come home to a clean home, and so I enjoy giving him that experience. So regardless of who I'm in a relationship with, these are the kinds of things I'm going to do. Some people said "Stop being his maid!". Well, I'm not going to stop showing him I love him, and this is how I do it. I'd just like to receive the same kindness in return, that's all.

DTMFA might be in the future, but right now I feel as though it would be most fair to at least give him a chance to a) decide what he wants, b) communicate that to me, and c) put in the work to see if we can make this last. I love him, and we have a really great time together, so I don't just want to give it up.

As bearclaw mentionned, I think his upbringing might be part of the cause. He never really knew his father, and his mother moved out to go live with her boyfriend (now husband) in the USA when he was a young teenager, leaving him to live alone in between visits.

Your responses have given me a lot to think about, but I guess what I need are actual words to use, a sort of script, maybe. He's coming over late tonight, and I think it'll be a good opportunity to talk. But some suggestions of how to start the conversation, or how to get across what I mean would be helpful.

Thanks guys, keep it coming :)
posted by hasna at 8:37 AM on February 13


It doesn't matter if doing all those things are what you WANT to do, or how YOU personally show love.

In general, when you do way to much stuff for someone, then people will react in different ways, but they generally fall into 3 catagories.

Person A sees that you have started washing their dishes. They say: "Whoa! hold on, its my turn!" and then if you insist on continuing they will at least make an effort to stand there with a dish towel and dry and put away.

Person B sees that you have started washing their dishes. They say: "Whoa! Thanks amazing girlfriend- you're the best!" and they think SCORE! and go take a nap.

In a partnership with person A, you have a team player. Someone who SHARES that value with you. That is who you want to date and be with. NOT person B- because they don't see what you are doing as "showing love" they aren't deep like that...

Person C will tell you that the food wasn't THAT great, his mother makes it better, and the dishes aren't clean enough. You attract Person C by doing way too much shit for them and when you don't stop to keep the balance their inner abuser comes out to play.

Go to therapy and find new ways to show your love!

But I think the best way to go about this convo is what pretentious illiterate suggested! Its assertive and very non-confrontational.
posted by misspony at 9:01 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


The words I used with my boyfriend were "I am in this too deep to want it to be just-for-now. I want this to be for keepsies. If this isn't for keepsies, I need to know that, because it's going to inform my decision-making; if it IS for keepsies, I need to see that reflected in actions and reality." This was about marriage, not living together, but I set him a timeline by which I needed to know an answer; in your case, I'd say "I understand you probably have some thinking to do, but by this time next month, I want an up-or-down answer about us moving in together the month after that. This is a big deal to me and I want to make sure you're on the same page with regards to our relationship."

It may be that what he wants is what I call an "alone-together" relationship, where your partner is the person you reach out to whenever you feel like being with someone, but they aren't a day-by-day, hour-by-hour part of your life. And that's fine! That's a perfectly OK relationship model to have, I know several people who are very, very happy in long-term alone-together relationships. But it's not what you want; you want the "enthusiastic teammate, partner in life" relationship. Which is also fine to want and doesn't make you clingy or weird or needy, it makes you a perfectly normal and fine human being.

He can be a great guy in general and not be a great boyfriend for you if he wants a different kind of relationship than you want. I think that's probably likely, based on what you've written, but he is the only one who can tell you for sure.
posted by KathrynT at 9:06 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


I feel as though it would be most fair to at least give him a chance to a) decide what he wants, b) communicate that to me, and c) put in the work to see if we can make this last.

A) You have described someone who actually does know what he wants. The fact the he doesn't want what you want doesn't make this any less true.

B) He is already communicating what he wants in the relationship to you, even though he may not have ever said "I want _________" directly, in those precise words.

C) The first absolutely necessary precondition for him choosing to put in the work to see if your relationship can last is for him to want what you want in the relationship. But -- see point A -- he doesn't. So "putting in the work" is a nonstarter.

I love him, and we have a really great time together, so I don't just want to give it up.

This is such a terrible bind to be in, and I sympathize on the most visceral level -- because I've been in exactly the same spot (and I'm sure many other people in this thread have, too). But the thing is: love alone is not enough to make a relationship work. We are almost never told this, but it's true. All the love in the world can't make incompatible goals and values and desires be compatible. This is precisely why breaking up hurts so much -- it's not always because we no longer love the person we are breaking up with, but because we do love them. You can love someone and they can still not be the right person for you to be with. This always seems utterly incomprehensible in the moment (again, believe me, I know!), but it is just one of those heartbreaking things.

I am not saying this to tell you to DTMFA, but rather to say that I think you need to consider that loving someone isn't enough of a reason to stay in a relationship where your own essential needs aren't being met. What you want matters. You have the right to honor that, and to be in a relationship where your partner instinctively honors it just as much.
posted by scody at 9:12 AM on February 13 [14 favorites]


Some people said "Stop being his maid!". Well, I'm not going to stop showing him I love him, and this is how I do it. I'd just like to receive the same kindness in return, that's all.

OK, but he won't give it to you. He shows his love and kindness in different ways. Ways that you don't appreciate, or notice, just as he doesn't appreciate, or notice, your gestures. Kind words and physical touch and the like are a valid way of showing love, but not the way you'd prefer to receive it. Housecleaning and cooking and crafts are a valid way of showing love, but it's not the way he'd prefer to receive it. (Though he'll take it, in a pinch, just as you're settling for the physical touch and kind words, in a pinch.)

YOU won't change how YOU do it, why should HE change how HE does it?

You're fine. He's fine. But the two of you should both be dating other people. First relationships are seldom last relationships. And often when they are, they shouldn't be.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:20 AM on February 13 [10 favorites]


"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."

Why are you cooking and cleaning for him, and knocking yourself out to join in his hobbies, and making him gifts and crafts, and leaving him love notes, and shovelling his walk, when he doesn't reciprocate?

"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."

Oh, he does reciprocate, but he's just not reciprocating identically.

Here's the thing, and I know I'm going against what a lot of people have said: why should he? He hasn't asked you to do any of these things, and if someone came over and cooked and cleaned for me with the implication that I ought to go over to their house and clean for them or else I didn't love them, and was probably taking advantage of them? There's just no way I would cooperate with that. How would you like it if he started policing you to make sure you were buying him enough gifts and spending the right amount of money on him because in his eyes, love means parity in gift-giving, and giving him crafts that you made yourself is stingy and embarrassing? Not much, right?

I'm not going to join anybody else in saying that this is a guy who is taking advantage of you because he doesn't clean your house or whatever. This is not like being annoyed by a co-resident who is not pulling his weight to keep your shared space clean.

I don't know if this guy is good enough for you or not, but you're not getting what you want out of the relationship and it seems imbalanced to you. This, I think, is a much truer statement than "lazy slob is taking advantage of you" - even if he is.

My first suggestion, before you do *anything* else, is to stop cleaning things and shovelling his walk and making crafts for him. Cook for him only if and when you're cooking for yourself. Don't knock yourself out to rearrange your schedule to be with him.

In a nutshell: don't continue your relentless pursuit of him, give him a chance to pursue you a little.

Maybe he will or maybe he won't. Give it a couple months and see how he responds. My guess is that you'll have a much clearer view of where you stand by then.
posted by tel3path at 9:26 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I guess what I need are actual words to use, a sort of script, maybe. He's coming over late tonight, and I think it'll be a good opportunity to talk. But some suggestions of how to start the conversation, or how to get across what I mean would be helpful.

Didn't you already have this discussion with him 5-6 months ago? I don't see how you coming to tonight's discussion with a script is going to make things go differently this time around, considering that the substance of the issue hasn't changed.

I think it's important to do a much as we can to take care of people.

That's fine, but this guy doesn't. He has different priorities and/or ways of caring for people. No discussion is going to change that, which you found out the hard way 5-6 months ago.

Personally, I don't think you should ruin your evening together with a discussion that you already know from experience is going to end in tears and no real change. However, if you do decide to discuss this tonight, then make sure that he doesn't throw you off course by using the same tactics he did before: flipping the script, and shutting down the discussion with superficial appeasement. Also, listen to what he's saying and believe what he tells you, even if it's not what you want to hear.

If he tells you something you don't want to hear, it doesn't mean he's not understanding you, it means that you and he are at an impasse. If he says he doesn't want things to change, that he's not going to change in any substantial way, that he's still envisioning his future in another place and not with you, etc -- believe that, accept it, and take it into consideration when deciding whether to stay in the relationship or not. Not everything is necessarily up for negotiation.

most fair to at least give him a chance to a) decide what he wants, b) communicate that to me, and c) put in the work to see if we can make this last.

I think you're conflating your desires and his desires here. You're the one deciding what you want, communicating that to him, and putting it to work to see if you can make the relationship last.
posted by rue72 at 10:07 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I understand the "you're acting like his maid!" protestations much more than most people. I love to do things for people, I've done like every boyfriend I've ever had's dishes and shoveling and vacuuming and laundry and cooking.

So, if you haven't yet, read the 5 love languages. Because it sounds like you may just have a communication mismatch.

If that's all it is, then cool, you guys might be able to work it out if he's willing to put in an effort to show you acts of service love in return.

However, as someone who also speaks that primary love language, it's the hardest one to learn, because for someone who doesn't naturally express love that way, it feels like you're buying someone's appreciation with chores. I know this from extended long drawn out conversations with my ex-boyfriend who thought that showing love was telling me how much he loves me and cuddling, and all I wanted was for him to run a damn vaccuum around the place for me once or twice.

However! even with the possible mismatch of love languages you have, you seem to have some expectations and communication problems as well.

Don't be worried about acting "needy". Needy is not a thing. Everyone has needs, and you just have to find someone who likes yours and doesn't find them to be a pain. But you also need to be realistic, and if someone doesn't talk about your future, I'm sorry, but you don't have one.

Questions like yours really get to me because I definitely acted cool and casual like this with boyfriends for so many years when I was kidding myself. But I wish I could just project my wasted time onto you, and you could move on easily to find someone who is going to show you they love you constantly and do your laundry and give you a drawer at their place immediately and embarrassedly ask you if you want to move in with them sometime way too early in the relationship and accidentally mention marrying you after like 4 months and ask you to change your facebook relationship status and enquire what kind of engagement rings you like. Because there are men out there who absolutely want the same kind of relationship you do, and when you find him instead of trying to "not give up" on what you have, you'll be so much more true to what you actually want.
posted by euphoria066 at 10:21 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Some people said "Stop being his maid!". Well, I'm not going to stop showing him I love him, and this is how I do it. I'd just like to receive the same kindness in return, that's all.

I want to say something like euphoria066 did: The Five Love Languages is a dippy self-help book I read with the plan of making fun of it, and it turned out to be really helpful. Because your boyfriend will quite possibly never give you the same kindness if that's not a way he expresses affection, and he may not be hearing all the love you're pouring out to him because you might be showing it in a way that doesn't make him feel loved.

If you're not on the right wavelength with each other in how you express love and experience feeling loved, it can be demoralizing and irritating. I dated a woman once, for instance, who made every date a romantic dream: hot tubbing with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, a picnic with real china and wine glasses. I didn't feel loved and woo'd. I don't like that kind of stuff. I found it creepy. But I'm sure there are lots of women who would love someone who put that kind of time and energy into planning and carrying out special experiences. And she deserved to be with someone who appreciated what she was doing. She wasn't going to stop being a big sappy romantic, so she needed someone who was looking for that.

My partner and I have been together over 20 years, and we've had to learn the ways that we each feel loved. I like to be taken care of. If he brings me a cup of tea while I'm lounging in my recliner after dinner, or tucks me into bed, that's my thing. I feel secure and cozy and beloved. His best thing is physical connection, primarily but not exclusively through sex. So we try to make sure our relationship is giving us those things.

You need someone who feels loved when you cook for them and put clean sheets on the bed and bake them cookies. And it sounds like you want someone who also shows love through caretaking. This guy may not be able to communicate love in that way. It's a great idea to talk to him about it, because he may just not realize how important it is, and whether he's willing to try to speak your language or not is a great indicator of how worthwhile being in a relationship with him will be. I know my partner and I are very happy together but we didn't sync effortlessly; we had to put some work in.
posted by not that girl at 11:00 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I, like others in this thread, don't have a great feeling about the outcome of this talk.

But I'm not going to write you a novel you may not be ready to or may not even need to read. I'll just try to give some practical advice:

Maybe jot down some notes to help you get your thoughts in order before speaking with him. I think the words you used in your post and response are just fine.

Take slow deep breaths when you feel yourself getting upset.

Don't rush to fill the silence. You want a two-sided conversation.

I read somewhere that you should sip water during emotional situations because supposedly you can't swallow and cry at the same time, but I've never tried it.

I wish you the best.
posted by sm1tten at 11:48 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


As has been mentioned, it sounds like he DOES know what he wants and has told you, just not by explicitly stating it: He does not want to move in with a girlfriend (what? NEVER again? lame answer) and he is planning to move away from you and the city you live in together. Maybe it is out of depression, self-doubt, fear of failing or hurting you if he commits to a more serious relationship for you or simply that he is truly not interested in a serious relationship with you but is avoiding the pain of a tough conversation. So, the goal of talking to him is for YOU to clearly communicate what you want and explain that you need him to clarify what he is thinking about for the future, because it effects you and the decisions you make for your future.

You: Lately I've realized more clearly that I want to start building a relationship that is more serious and more long-term. I know in the past you've said you aren't interested in moving in with a girlfriend and also that you are planning to move away but you haven't mentioned whether you see me as part of this future or not. I'm not in a hurry to get married or commit to staying with someone for the rest of my life, but I want to be able to live with my partner and intertwine my life with them, and I want to do that with you. [Do you want to do this with him?] But, only if you also want to build a future with me. I need to know what you think about that, if there is a future for us beyond this year or after you move.

If he balks or gets sad or doesn't want to talk tonight, explain that you really wish he would talk to you now. If he is only giving vague non-answers, you could say "I understand this is a hard conversation, but I need a more specific answer. Would you consider staying in this city and moving in together within the next year/would you consider moving somewhere else together? I need you to think about it and get back to me by Friday next week."

I'm a cryer too, it sucks because it makes conversations like this really hard if not impossible because most people are afraid to engage with you or make you feel worse. I really think writing notes beforehand will help (and letting yourself cry if possible!). Try to consider all the different outcomes of the conversation and especially meditate on the fact that your relationship might end soon and do what you can to not have an emotional reaction to it (though you don't have much time to work on it this afternoon.)
posted by dahliachewswell at 12:58 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm not going to stop showing him I love him, and this is how I do it. I'd just like to receive the same kindness in return, that's all.

Um, that's really fucked up. I don't WANT you to clean my room and I damn sure don't want to clean YOUR room.

Figure something else out, it's creating an unfair obligation in other people. You think it's love, but what it is actually, is you creating an imbalance in your favor, where you've done more for your friends and loved ones than they've done for you. You get to sit back thinking "I'm so awesome, look at all this cool stuff I do for people, they all OWE me something in return and they'll squirm and feel weird until they come up with it."

After awhile, people will avoid you because no one wants to feel like a mooch, or they'll avoid you because you're breaking the barriers of common decency (don't presume to clean my house.) They may decide that you're a weirdo who does this stuff and while they don't like it, they accept that it's your quirk and let you do it. If they knew you were thinking that you were owed something in return, they'd put a stop to it tout suite.

In love relationships, this is death! If one partner is ALWAYS doing this shit, and the other doesn't, that means he's given up. You're imposing your 'thing' on him, and he's just letting you do it. I'll bet he'd be so relieved if you'd just knock it off. But he loves you, and he figures this is your weirdness and he's accepted it.

You do it, not because it's an impulse of love and light, but because you're insecure, and you think you HAVE to do these things to stay in people's good graces.

Look how defensive you are about it. That tells the whole story.

I'm telling you, because you're not able to pick up on social mores and cues, doing this kind of intimate, over the top thing for your co-workers, friend and boyfriend, is more off-putting than it is adorable.

So MPDG, calm the fuck down. What do you think would happen if you didn't clean his house, cook his meals or any of that other homey shit you do? What could he possibly do for you to match your level of investment in this relationship?

You're putting in 80%, he's putting in 20%. If you scaled back, would you feel better? I'm telling you, 99.99% of people do NOT want to spend that much time and energy in ANY relationship. Not because we don't love each other, but because it's exhausting.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:49 PM on February 13 [19 favorites]


One thing I would add to the script is to tell him that whether the answer is yes, or the answer is no, you would really like to hear it from him in so many words.

It is hard for anyone to find the words to initiate a breakup. It is especially hard for a sweet guy who is your best friend and really doesn't want to hurt you. I don't think he is intentionally manipulating you or stringing you along, but the effect on you is the same as if he was.

Let him know that avoiding the conversation about the future is not a kindness to you, it is confusing you. It is leading you to believe that a future together is a real possibility, so if it isn't, it would be a kindness if he could put that into words for you.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:04 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


All this love languages noise distracts from the main problem: This guy is not that invested in your relationship, isn't committed to you, and doesn't want what you want. Next.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:02 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


"You think it's love, but what it is actually, is you creating an imbalance in your favor, where you've done more for your friends and loved ones than they've done for you. You get to sit back thinking "I'm so awesome, look at all this cool stuff I do for people, they all OWE me something in return and they'll squirm and feel weird until they come up with it."

If you do a lot for a person and they are not doing a lot back, they tend to be the sort of mooch who finds a girl like you and lets her do everything for him. Meanwhile, you are doing all of this to put in Good Girlfriend Coins in the piggy bank, and he should "owe" you by paying up, dammit.

This unfortunately doesn't actually work in human beings. What happens is you feel more and more used and he still never pays up.

I read a quote in the book Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer that went along the lines of "He loves you all he can, but he cannot love you very much." This might be the case here. He may care about you, but he definitely doesn't want to have you in his future after he moves on and away.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:44 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Other people have covered the state of the relationship pretty well so I won't retread thoroughly-worn ground.

In terms of the conversation you have with him, I would start by explaining to him that you find it difficult to talk about these things without crying, but you really want to have the conversation. So that if you start to cry, it doesn't mean you want to stop talking about things, it's just a response that you have. And from your end, you have to mean that. If he doesn't drop the conversation to comfort you when you start to cry, that has to be okay. I get really stressed and upset in relationship conversations too and I've found this works pretty well. The first couple of times it was strange that my tears did not induce comforting, but it was actually kind of a relief, too. Because the conversation is what's really comforting.

Rather than have us give you a script - which will be our words, not yours; our emphasis, not yours - jot down some key points of what you want to say. Bring this with you and explain that you feel like you need to remember to say things, that it's not a list for him, it's a list for you to help your memory which can go fuzzy under emotional stress (or something).

And be a bit relentless in pursuing the main topics on your list. Don't let him weasel out of answers, or apologise for your feelings in order to drop the subject ("I'm sorry you don't feel like I love you" is one of the weaseliest apologies ever - how dare he be sorry for your emotion? He doesn't own them! He doesn't control them!) or misery his way out of them (you can defer and talk about things again, but he doesn't get to avoid things forever if they are important to you).

As for your main points, I think you've already written them in your question.

Good luck with the conversation. I think you both sound like you are nice people, but at different points in your lives and also requiring/giving different things in a relationship. All the love in the world cannot make people change and this is hard to realise, not just in a first relationship but in any and every relationship, but it never stops being true.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:03 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


If you're having a very difficult time finding just the right words to get your boyfriend to tell you *straight up* what he wants in terms of a future with you (or not), it's not because you haven't found the right words yet. It's because he's being squirmy and avoidant. And he is being squirmy and avoidant because he doesn't want what you want but doesn't want to come out and say so. There are no magic words. If he wanted what you wanted, he would just answer the question and it would be easy.

Ask me how I know this.
posted by sunflower16 at 1:11 PM on February 14 [3 favorites]


Also:
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?

I think your wording is fine. I'm female, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I don't think "Do you see us together in 5-10 years?" implies that you want a ring on your finger tomorrow. 5-10 years is a pretty long way out. I think that's a very reasonable question and you can ask it just as you've phrased here. My suspicion is that he will either say, "I don't know", or "I don't want to talk about this" (or he'll clam up and refuse to talk at all - gotta love that). But hopefully I'm wrong and you'll get a legitimate response that gives you some useful information.
posted by sunflower16 at 1:59 PM on February 14


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