My boyfriend act as if we're merely casually dating
December 31, 2009 5:05 AM   Subscribe

How long does it take for a person to consider themselves part of a unit in a relationship?

My boyfriend of little over a year is a warm, kind, lovely person, extremely considerate of my feelings and just basically really nice. I love him very much, but I need more... commitment. I'm not talking about marriage or engagement, but just acting as a unit rather than two people who spend time with each other when it's convenient. For example, we haven't met each other's parents, we don't take or plan holidays together, we meet each other when it's convenient for him. He doesn't plan things around me, rather, spending time with me is a filler for his free time. (He does, however, indulge my wishes for a phone call every day).

We were studying in the same place when this relationship started. I have since moved to another place about 9 hours drive away for work about two months ago.

So it's now a LDR, and we're constantly having these talks/ arguments/ discussions around the same exact topic, and frankly, we're both really tired of it. It's always on the same topic, and he says I expect too much, and I wish he would plan things with me.

Basically, we have talked about it at length, and I wish I could understand his perceptive a little more. How long does it take for someone who's really private and introverted to accept me as a part in his life?
posted by moiraine to Human Relations (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Everyone is different. In my last relationship it took about a week to go from being two individuals to a partnership. But that is because we both wanted it.

You can't force him to prioritise you, you can choose to accept it or move on.
posted by saucysault at 5:18 AM on December 31, 2009

When I saw the question "How long does it take for a person to consider themselves part of a unit in a relationship?" I assumed this was a new relationship, you were over-anxious, and I was going to say "anywhere from two to six months."

I am pretty laissez-faire about the pace of relationships but the situation you're describing after a YEAR does not sound right to me. Making plans that include you instead of slotting you into convenient leftover time is not expecting too much of him.

I don't think this is a question of timing. I think that as upsetting as it would be to face, you are in a relationship, but he is casually dating. And that's more about where you are in your life stages and who you are as people than about something that's wrong with either of you.

Part of being a grown-up in relationships is realising that love is not enough. You may love this person very much, but that in and of itself is not a good enough reason to stay in a relationship that fundamentally cannot give you what you want. I would make the painful break and move on to dating people who match your relationship aspirations - in other words, adults.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:23 AM on December 31, 2009 [19 favorites]

I think you're asking the wrong question by asking how long it will take for things to change to how you want them. Whatever has been going on for a whole year is probably a good indication of how they will continue to be.

The fact that he's introverted has nothing to do with it.

It sounds like you're deeply dissatisfied with the relationship but hoping you can find a rationalization to make you feel better about it (he's very introverted, things will change soon, etc.). Sounds like it's time to admit that you really are experiencing exactly what it's like to be in a relationship with him. Considering that you have been open in communicating with him about this and haven't gotten anywhere, you probably just need to decide whether this is good enough for you or if you want to move on.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:29 AM on December 31, 2009 [6 favorites]

There's no set timeline for how long it takes people to start thinking in terms of "us" and becoming a natural part of each other's lives. Some people get right into the groove and for others the feelings take time to grow.

In your case, things are still on a pretty casual basis after a year. Which is a reasonable amount of time for things to get serious if they are ever going to. So I'm thinking maybe your boyfriend just isn't, and may never be, that serious about you. It sounds like you just finished school, so I'm guessing you two are probably in your early to mid-twenties. He may not be ready to settle down with anyone, or you may just not be the one who does it for him.

You've talked about it with him ad nauseum so I don't know what else there is for you to try. You can't make someone love you — in fact, pressuring someone to take the relationship to the next level is a surefire way to sabotage things. If you have other problems in the relationship that might be making your boyfriend reluctant to escalate things with you, then you can work on those things. You might try to just accept the relationship as it is, as fun and not very serious and good enough for the time being. But I think really you two want different things out of this relationship and that you're going to end up breaking up. I'm sorry — I've been there and I know it sucks.
posted by orange swan at 5:32 AM on December 31, 2009

I agree w/DarlingBri. This does not sound like a problem that waiting will cure. Neither does it seem likely that his introversion has much to do with it. Rather, it sounds like you and your boyfriend don't want the same sort of relationship.
posted by jon1270 at 5:34 AM on December 31, 2009

He's the only one who will know how long this will take. Even if everyone here told you, "It takes exactly X days/months/years," that does nothing to change him. I'm sorry, but he's told you that you "expect too much," which I would interpret as a sign that this will take a very long time for him. Knowing that you want more, he's saying no to that, and is saying he wants a relationship of convenience.

Having said that, only you know how long you are willing to be in a relationship of convenience. I think that's what you need to define, because he doesn't sound like he's going to change anytime soon.
posted by Houstonian at 5:34 AM on December 31, 2009

Basically, we have talked about it at length, and I wish I could understand his perceptive a little more. How long does it take for someone who's really private and introverted to accept me as a part in his life?

Sigh. Being private and introverted is an excuse. You can be private, introverted, and still be intimated and committed to one person. He enjoys hanging out with you. He doesn't enjoy being intimated and in a committed relationship with you. That kinds sucks.

He wants to casually date you and you're letting him. It seems you've talked about this a lot and he hasn't changed. In fact, you're trying to change to fit his mindset. You wanting a committed relationship isn't a bad thing - you wanting a relationship that moves forward isn't a bad thing. There is nothing wrong in you wanting the things you want - planning, moving forward, meeting each other's parents, etc. All of these are healthy things that people do in a relationship. And even if you weren't doing these things, there are still ways for him, and you, to show that you are committed in this relationship. He feels that the one phone call a day is enough to show he's into you. You've realized that you want more. He doesn't want to do more. That's a sign that you should dump him, move on, and accept that relationship compatibility is a big part of being a couple that works.
posted by Stynxno at 5:44 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This differs for everyone, but a year in, there should be a little more planning as a couple than you have described here. It's not that I think by one year you should have met each other's parents, take shared vacations, spend holidays together, and plan all free time around each other, but it should be a discussion to do at least one of those things, and not one that's like pulling teeth. From what you've described, you feel neglected and unimportant, and that you are someone he is happy to spend time with, when it's convenient. It's that "when it's convenient" that smarts. Something will have to shift in him to change that dynamic, and discussing/arguing about it constantly will not achieve that.

You're in an LDR now, which takes a lot of effort and planning to do successfully. You are exclusive now, right? Maybe you should consider relaxing that provision. I have found on occasion that being allowed to see other people often doesn't actually result in dating others, but releases some of the pressure that can weigh a relationship down. Keep in mind if you go that route, you have to be okay with the idea that he may take someone else out, and he needs to be okay with you doing that, too.

Regardless of how you handle exclusiivity, if you're truly committed to this relationship and not ready to walk away, then step back and let him pick up the slack a bit. Fill your time with getting to know your new city and other interests, and see how involved he actually becomes. He may find that when you're not around when he expects you to be that he really misses you, that he does not like the whole "when it's convenient" dynamic when the shoe is on the other foot, and empathetic experiences are often times the most successful in communicating why something is amiss and needs to be addressed. This may not happen, he may totally drop the ball, and the two of you could grow further apart, but the upside is that if you've been filling your time with new people, places, and things, you'll have built a whole life that doesn't hinge on him, and you won't be investing time and energy in a relationship that is stalled and not what you really want or need.
posted by katemcd at 5:59 AM on December 31, 2009 [8 favorites]

How long of being in a relationship would it take for you to feel committed enough to move back to where he lives?

In other words, neither of you is demonstrating commitment with your actions. His focus is on the rest of his life, and you have moved nine hours away. My guess is that at a gut level, neither of you is feeling the chemistry, and that lack of connection is showing up in your actions.

And that's the way it has to be -- you feel a connection, and you take the actions (planning dates, moving to the same place, introducing each other to embarrassing relatives) that build a relationship. You seem to be wanting to magically reverse this -- to get the actions of commitment without having a genuinely strong connection first, and that will never work, as you are discovering.

I'm not saying you should immediately kick his ass to the curb -- I'm saying that a relationship without chemistry isn't much of a relationship, and there are better ways to spend your life.
posted by Forktine at 6:03 AM on December 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

How long are you willing to wait for things to change?

For me a year would be too long to be with someone without meeting their parents. That's what stood the most for me from your post. Of course, every relationship is different. That's why none of us can give you a real answer. You know what you want and need, and, as you said, he knows this, too. The time frame you need to figure out is how much more time you are willing to invest in a relationship that isn't meeting your needs.
posted by marimeko at 6:05 AM on December 31, 2009

Sorry (hit publish too soon).

Introversion isn't necessairly a factor. Extroverts can be just as at-arms-length as your boyfriend, and introverts (I'm one!) can be the opposite. Again, it's more about what you want than what he's doing at this point.
posted by marimeko at 6:14 AM on December 31, 2009

Best answer: How long does it take for someone who's really private and introverted to accept me as a part in his life?

As long as it takes, grasshopper. There is no timeline. There's no research, no studies you can point to that say "AHA! By now you should have assimilated me into your life!"

Accept it for what it is, or find someone who can give you the commitment you need. I'm not advocating for DTMFA already, far from it, but the most valuable thing I learned from a failed marriage is that some people aren't ever going to be able to give you what you need no matter how much you love them and that getting these met is important, and sometimes - sometimes - you have to sacrifice an otherwise happy relationship to satisfy those needs so that you can be truly at peace instead of just content.

For your own sanity - stop talking about it. Accept it, or move on. (AIAMO?)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:17 AM on December 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

As a veteran of a LDR which worked through 4 years of study (the only one in my social sphere which did), I can say with certainty that without serious commitment from both sides, you're only going to get farther apart. As Katemcd says above, without major planning centred around spending (ugh) "quality time" together it's just not going to happen. All the usual provisos that every individual and relationship is different apply, but it's definitely not right you only meet when it suits him, and only when he's "got nothing better to do".

The rest I'm just nthing. Whilst I can see you think a great deal of him, I think he's clearly not as considerate and loving as you're saying. You aren't "asking too much" to expect his courtesy or consideration, and reading what you've said alone, I don't think he's ever going to commit to you as part of a serious relationship unless there's some very big changes in the dynamic. Being private and introverted aren't a good excuses for being inconsiderate and expecting you to just accept it.

I hope things work out and you can both get onto a more even footing, but I do think after a year there are few adult couples who are mutually respectful and serious about one another who don't see themselves as a unit/both plan their time around one another in some respect.
posted by tzb at 6:18 AM on December 31, 2009

With all gentleness and kindness, you know you deserve better and he's not the one, right? There are nice, caring guys who will put you first and live in your city, not nine hours away. His behavior is not going to improve, particularly given that you live so far off.

This relationship is not going to work long term unless you decide that being put second (third? fourth?) by a kind, but emotionally and geographically distant SO is what you want/deserve.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:40 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

You're mad that he won't commit while you moved 9 hours away? If he was distant when you lived in the same area, did you think that would improve when you moved 9 hours from him? Is there a tentative plan for being in the same general vicinity any time soon?
posted by crankylex at 7:04 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

It sneaks up on you, especially when time passes so amicably. My partner seemed surprised when I complained that we'd forsaken certain milestones. It didn't occur to him that these experiences were an important part of knitting our worlds together. It was me who urged him to resolve a decade-long grudge and come out to his father, because I felt that meeting and knowing each other's families was important -- otherwise it just felt like we had nothing but the present moment, no significant presence in each other's lives.

Basically, when it occurs to you that it's important TO YOU for something to happen, you need to bring it up and advocate for the idea. Sounds like you've already reached that point. You can court him and lay traps for him all you want, but dealing with his resistance and reluctance the whole way has got to be KILLER on your self esteem -- you shouldn't have to convince anyone to go through the motions of loving you.

The cold truth about a LDR is that it takes effort, and if you're not feeling it from his side, all you should have to do is say so. If he's unwilling or incapable of making a compromise that at least hints at more to look forward to in the future, then your incentive for waiting around is... what exactly? Even if you have no plans to leave him, he needs to know that his unwillingness to explore these possibilities is essentially anti-relationship.
posted by hermitosis at 7:33 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree that "He doesn't plan around me" and "I moved nine hours away" don't go together.

I'm a little unclear about what exactly it is that you want. I honestly don't know what it would mean to "plan around" someone 9 hours away. You realize that you removed yourself from his daily life, right?

I understand wanting to visit or take a vacation together sometimes. Maybe that is something that you could work on arranging (yes you -- your role here can be more than just being disappointed and reminding him that he hasn't arranged it all yet.)

But to insist that he talk to you constantly, or plan around you (your phonecalls?) when he can go out for groceries (or whatever) in order for you to feel "like part of a unit" even though you moved away, is unreasonable and frankly sounds very needy. I am guessing that your constant "talks/arguments/discussions" are quite baffling to him.
posted by fritley at 7:40 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your boyfriend is causally dating you. He's been causally dating you for a year. He will causally date you as long as you allow it or until he finds someone else.

I'm sorry if you're looking for a different relationship. but he's either not ready or not interested. Either way, it's better for you to move along after a year than after 5 years. You're young and in a new place, start enjoying the local flavor.
posted by 26.2 at 8:20 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I honestly don't know what it would mean to "plan around" someone 9 hours away.

Really? I know lots of people in long-distance relationships, including several in long-distance marriages. They do things like plan to spend their holidays together, travel to see each other whenever either has the opportunity, and attend each other's important family functions together.

It sounds like the OP's boyfriend isn't interested in doing any of that, which indicates they're not on the same page about what they want in relationships in general, or in this relationship in particular. So I'm with everyone else who's suggested gently that this Probably Isn't Going to Work Out.

But the OP didn't de facto break up with him by moving away for a job--that's often necessary, especially in this tough economy, and it doesn't need to mean the end of a relationship. It does, however, seem to spell the end of this relationship.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:33 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your responses so far. I just wanted to point out that the moving-to-another city thing was necessary. We both are just finished studying in a highly-specialized profession -- it's not like working in a bookstore. And, being inexperienced, we had no say about where we wanted jobs to be, unless we were willing to spend anywhere from 9 to 12 months unemployed.
posted by moiraine at 9:36 AM on December 31, 2009

I just wanted to point out that the moving-to-another city thing was necessary.

I got that.

However, your boyfriend apparently isn't good at long-distance relationships. So unless one of you moves, it seems like this relationship has come to the end of its road.

Breaking up when there's still some good in the relationship is hard, but it's easier than staying in the relationship until you both hate each other because the differences are insuperable. Neither of you is doing this wrong, but you're doing it so differently from each other that I don't see how this could end well.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:53 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Hey, darling, I was thinking of getting together with my parents this Easter, wanna come?"

"So, I was thinking of going to NYC for a week this summer. Interested?"

What are his responses? Is it that he doesn't initiate, or that he's opposed to these ideas?

I don't think this has anything to do with introversion (my partner is an introvert and was thinking in partnership terms by the end of our first date, for example), but it might have something to do with planner/take-it-as-it-comes personality differences.
posted by heatherann at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

we meet each other when it's convenient for him. He doesn't plan things around me, rather, spending time with me is a filler for his free time.

When I read that he hasn't introduced you to his family, he first thing I thought was "he's married" followed by "he's cheating on you" followed by "he's just not that into you"
posted by kathrineg at 1:27 PM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm with hetherann on this & fritley on this one; speaking as a take-it-as-it-comes personality type, a phone call every day is planning around you. Are you planning things (whatever that means) around him? You say that he's a warm, kind, lovely person, extremely considerate of my feelings, but I'll bet he's not a mind-reader.

I also think it's unrealistic to expect more attentiveness when you're much less available -- why does it bother you now (vs. 2 months ago) that you haven't met each others parents? Why, for that matter, is it his, rather than your, shortcoming that you haven't met each others parents?

It really sounds like the two of you have vastly different notions of what it means to be a couple, and how that's demonstrated. I wouldn't hash that out over the phone, though -- for the daily phone calls, I'd talk about the stuff you talked about when you were in close proximity (you know, enjoyable chats and other normal stuff).
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 8:57 PM on December 31, 2009

Response by poster: Another question: Is there really such thing as a take-it-as-it comes personality? Or does is this a Sign of disinterest?

As a somewhat overanxious planner, it really bugs me that there are people who do things the last minute. Yeah, I have suggested summer plans, and he has said (very sincerely), "I'll try". But when I press him further about it, saying that I need firm dates, so I can plan plane tickets and holidays, he just doesn't want to commit. He has stated before he's the last minute planning type, but...

I guess I am really completely unable to understand his point of view. If he was really excited and wanted to see me, won't he really try to think about holidays and dates?

Tuesday After Lunch: He refuses to let me meet his parents. And he refuses to meet mine (which is somewhat understandable, considering my parents live a 10 hour flight away).

I also just wanted to point otu that that I have been very proactive about making plans happen, and I'm probably the more assertive one in this relationship.
posted by moiraine at 3:34 AM on January 1, 2010

He refuses to let me meet his parents. And he refuses to meet mine

This would be a HUGE RED FLAG for me. Take-it-as-it-comes or not, that sounds really sketchy.
posted by crankylex at 7:13 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a take-it-as-it-comes personality to some extent. It does exist. Obviously, when things are important to my partner I make the effort to commit as necessary, and follow through. It's not my top preference, but it's not that big of a deal.

You take this relationship much more seriously than he does. I think he's trying to communicate that to you. Are you listening?
posted by kathrineg at 11:57 AM on January 1, 2010

Honey, from everything you've said, even in your follow-ups, you make this relationship a priority and he does not. You can spin that, slice it and dice it any way you want, but I think that is really the heart of the matter.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:03 PM on January 1, 2010

"You expect too much" is a very, very, very, VERY common way of saying "You expect more than I want to give you."

He doesn't want commit to a trip with you. Why? Because he is keeping his options open in case something better comes up. That is literally the reason why. He is anticipating something better than spending time with you becoming available. Is that the kind of relationship you want to be in?

No amount of time will make him love you more or want to be with you more. NO AMOUNT OF TIME. There is nothing you can say. There are no tricks.

Your relationship is only going to get worse from here. If you compromise now, you'll be compromising until the very end, and then you'll be x years older.

Please start making yourself available to other guys.
posted by thebazilist at 9:04 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

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