Should I leave him?
November 7, 2012 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Should I leave him? I've been dating someone for five months. In the beginning, he asked that we take it slow; he'd been out of a very long relationship for about a year and a half. I said I'd be happy to take it slow if he was open to the possibility of a committed relationship eventually.

We're happy together; we see each other several times a week, share many interests, make each other laugh, support each other through tough times at work, and have great conversations and great sex. Neither of us is dating anyone else. He's kind, funny, smart, and charming. He treats me with consideration and respect. But my feelings are far ahead of his; I want to know that things are going somewhere. I'm 33, he's 34.

In my previous relationships, I've almost always been the person on the other sideā€”the one who's been hesitant to commit. There have been times I've stayed in a relationship even though I knew it wasn't something I wanted long-term. I felt indecisive and let things drag on. I've wondered if he's in the same position. I've asked him to tell me if he ever feels that things definitely aren't going to last. I think he's telling the truth when he says he doesn't know what he really wants.

Since I want a committed relationship, is it time to leave? Everything else is so good between us. I know he's gone through a difficult period adjusting from his breakup, but I wonder what the chances are that things will change.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I think you need to be up front with him one last time. Tell him you love being with him, but you really want a committed relationship and you would like it to be with him. If he says he's not sure or he can't, then you have to end things as you're really on different paths at different speeds.

It's not wrong to want a commitment. You can only state what you want and need. If he can't or won't provide it...then as good as you two are with each other, it's best if you move on.
posted by inturnaround at 1:22 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Two things:

1) It's always OK to ask for what you want. If it's important to you have the label of committed, tell him but be prepared to leave if you don't get the answer you want.

2) What do you mean by "committed"? If you're both not seeing anyone else, what difference would the label of "committed" mean? Committed couples can and do break up all the time, so what you are seeking may be a distinction without a difference.
posted by modernnomad at 1:23 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

You are me a few months ago. Almost exactly.

I advise you to get out now, before it gets to where it will be more painful. I wish I had done so. It sounds like the timeline is just not right for him, as it wasn't for the person was with. A timeline cannot be sped up. I would advise you to break it off now, and maybe if it is meant to be, sometime in the future when he is more ready, you'll find each other again.
posted by millipede at 1:24 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Go look at my AskMes from January. I was in a similar position, and basically told my guy if it wasn't going anywhere, I didn't want to waste my time. He committed, we dated for a few months, and then he "fell out of love" with me. Now, I absolutely don't regret the relationship because it was great and we are still good friends. But I think if I were in your position, I would have ended things because you don't seem willing for that kind of thing to happen.

But you'll never get what you don't ask for. Have a conversation, tell him where you're at, and if he's not where you want him to be, realize that he probably won't be anytime soon.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:28 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I dated a man who had recently come out of a traumatic long-term relationship when we started seeing each other, and he asked me to take things slow. After three months, instead of moving toward commitment, he began moving the opposite direction. Eventually he just started ignoring me and that was that. He came back six months later to ask for a second chance and when I said I wanted to be in a committed relationship, he called things off.

You are entitled to your feelings, and if you want a commitment, that's completely okay. For me, a commitment meant that we were boyfriend/girlfriend. My ex told me that he was not seeing other people and was committed to us, but he refused to use those words, and that was a dealbreaker for me with no clear timeline. It's up to you if you want to stay, but I think you need to be prepared for the possibility that this situation could continue for several more months or even longer.
posted by anotheraccount at 1:29 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are things good or are they passionate? I'm not getting a passionate vibe from your post.

And what kind of commitment are you looking for? Do you just want to be with the same guy for a long time or are you thinking marriage and kids? Have you asked him not about "how committed do you think you'll be?" and more specifically "I love you and I think I want to marry you and make babies, are you in?"

If your relationship doesn't feel passionate then I don't think you're going to get a guy who is unsure about commitment to go the further step and marry you and make babies.

I think you should ask for what you want. Think about it specifically. Ask for it. And if things aren't passionate between you, you might see if you can turn the heat up a bit -- see how hot things can get with this guy. If you can't get beyond a gentle simmer, might be best to cut bait anyway.
posted by amanda at 1:32 PM on November 7, 2012

My cousin sat down on the first date with her future husband and said, "I'm not interested in dating for fun. I want to be married and start a family. I have no idea if you're the right guy, but I need to know that you want to be married and start a family too, other wise, let's not waste each other's time."

As I said, he's now her husband and they have two really cute kids.

If you had put your agenda up front when you sat down with your boyfriend, what would he have said? Be honest.

I recommend saying exactly what you want, and when you want it tonight.

"If we're going to keep seeing each other I need to know that you want marriage and a family (or whatever it is that you want) and that we're working towards that. If you honestly don't know now, I think it's best we part ways, because while I think you're the bees knees, I want what I want."

"Committment" is too vague. Say exactly what you want.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:33 PM on November 7, 2012 [34 favorites]

I believe in never making someone a priority who treats you as an option. He's going to have very little incentive to commit if you're signalling to him that you'll stick around regardless, and you may even be undermining yourself by not backing up something you tell him is important to you with a consequence.

You could either leave, or let him know that it's time to shit or get off the pot.

I also disagree that simply not seeing anyone else vs. being committed is a distinction without a difference. On the one hand, you have a situation that may just be accidental and could conceivably change at any time without the person doing the changing having to admit that they wronged someone they were intimate with.

Commitment means telling the person you've been sleeping and growing close to that they're important, that they can rely on you, that there are boundaries you are willing to enforce with other potential romantic partners to protect what you have with them, that you want a future with them and not just a present.
posted by alphanerd at 1:37 PM on November 7, 2012 [18 favorites]

Guys who commit commit. Guys who aren't sure are waiting to see if someone better comes along.
posted by discopolo at 1:38 PM on November 7, 2012 [19 favorites]

I agree with inturnaround. Five months seems long enough for him to decide; for him to still say he's not sure what he wants sounds to me like he could be using you and keeping his eyes open for something better. So yeah, tell him one last time that you really want a committed relationship and you need to break it off if he's not in the same place.
posted by Eicats at 1:39 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, what do you want. Do you want sexual exclusivity? Do you want to live together? Do you want to explore the possibility of marriage?

"Committed relationship" isn't specific. Ask for what you want. If you don't get it, you're already not getting it, so you've lost nothing. It's not like not asking will make it any more likely that you'll get what you want.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:40 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

This happened to me recently. With the guy in question, he had previously been in an "uncommitted relationship" for about nine months.

I'm happier that we broke it off much earlier than that when I said, straight up, that I wanted a relationship, and wasn't willing to be strung along for nine months. Then he couldn't get away fast enough! I was hurt, but not as much as I would have been if I had spent months, years in this kind of non-relationship relationship.

If you know what you want, and he isn't willing to give it to you, then don't stick around. He is telling you pretty clearly that he is emotionally unavailable.
posted by so much modern time at 1:45 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Define what commitment means, in practical terms. If that is different from what you have, discuss it. Otherwise, giving the time he has asked you for, secure in the knowledge that you have an exclusive relationship that is going well.
posted by ellF at 1:55 PM on November 7, 2012

I've asked him to tell me if he ever feels that things definitely aren't going to last.
Oh, honey.

You're a ball of emotion for this guy, and yet you know he's not a mess over you too and that's breaking your heart. There are a few guys out there who are slow to get attached. Maybe yours is one of them, maybe not. Mine was - it took persistence and patience.

Either way, five months is about the right time to have the "how are we doing and do we have a future together?" conversation. If he responds positively, great - work on moving the relationship forward. If he's anything less than positive, well...
posted by ergo at 1:56 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think he's telling the truth when he says he doesn't know what he really wants.

Maybe he needs some time and space on his own to figure that out. At 34 -- yeah, he should know that shacking-up/marriage/kids are realistic expectations for anyone his age he's dating.

I myself wouldn't bother with one last heart-to-heart. That would do what, postpone the inevitable by a month, make it unpleasant for everyone in the meantime?

Trust your gut, move on.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

5 months isn't too long to get yourself back to where you were when this clusterfck started. I would do it now before it gets too painful.

If you're really that torn, I would agree with the others-- be upfront with him about what it is you want ie, no wishy-washyness and an actual committed relationship and from the sounds of it, maybe a domestic committed relationship?

Just don't play second fiddle to someone who doesn't really know what they want. You're wasting the time you could have finding someone who is willing to give you what you want.

I know it's been said, but it just sounds like he's not that into you.
posted by camylanded at 2:03 PM on November 7, 2012

Adding to the chorus. From experience, yes, if someone's just out of something (even 1.5 years out) and vocalizes that he is not ready for whatever reason, he is probably not going to commit. Feel free to also check my previous AskMes for an example.

If I were in your shoes, this person wouldn't last 15 minutes with me unless I were looking for nothing but casual sex. (Which incidentally is totally fine if that's what you want.) I've been burned before, though.

If you haven't been burned enough to know that this is going nowhere, then yeah, have a heart-to-heart with him and tell him what you are looking for. The danger is that if you say, "I want XYZ," a person whose heart is not in it will sometimes try to provide XYZ. That will drag things on longer. There may be some comings and goings, some ons and offs, some, "I like you but am not sure what I want," even months from now, etc. However sometimes you have to go through all that to get your exit if you are not experienced.
posted by kellybird at 2:13 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's nothing wrong with wanting a committed enduring relationship, and everything right with being up-front about it. Fundamentally, if that's what you want, then every person you date is a mutual audition to see if it's a good fit. The thing to understand is that you don't really have as much time as you might think, especially if you think you might want a family some day. It's easy to stay in something happy but uncommitted, because up to a certain age we're all used to the idea of breaking up only if we're unhappy and it's clear things aren't working. What's valuable, I think, is to set some reasonable and finite timelines for reaching a decision and make those known to your partner. And then, if the relationship isn't moving in the direction you want it to go by the end of that time, you start looking elsewhere. When Mrs. slkinsey and I started dating, I had somewhat recently got out of a long term but uncommitted relationship, and I had discovered that I wanted a committed enduring relationship and marriage. So one of the things I said more or less up front was that if we were still dating in a year but things didn't seem to be moving in the direction of us wanting to get married, I was going to look elsewhere because life it too short and I had already done a decade of uncommitted. Two days ago we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary.
posted by slkinsey at 2:22 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of my BFFs was with a guy for six years, they lived together and all, and she assumed they were getting married. She lost her job and asked if they could get married just for health insurance, no wedding necessary, whatever, and he asked her to leave.

So she came and stayed on my couch and cried a lot, but got it together and found a job and a nice apartment and started dating this other guy. Well, he didn't believe in marriage and she decided that was OK, even though he was a citizen of another country and eventually it would be complicated for one of them if they stayed together without marriage, whether they stayed here or moved there, but she loved him and he said he wanted to be together forever, etc.

Then he got a job on the other coast and so she packed up and moved out there with him and started training for a new career and everything, and then he quit his job because he was depressed and so she paid all the bills and did all the housework and drove him to his therapy appointments and all. Then he started to feel better and took up a new and expensive hobby which filled their apartment with equipment she was helping to pay for. But since he wasn't a US citizen and had quit the job for which he had a visa, he was looking at deportation and she was all ::::stress:::: and then finally he said, "Meh, I'm moving back to my home country, gonna live with my mum, have a nice life."

So she packed her stuff and drove it across the country and lived on my couch for a bit. And found two part-time jobs in her new field and an apartment and started dating.

And she met this guy who was super sweet and really cute and they had a ton in common and had a great time dating. But he was leery of getting too serious, and explained it was partly because his parents' very contentious divorce had been really painful for him (which was also the case for guy #1; guy #2's dad had committed suicide, so he had some tough stuff to deal with as well).

And my husband, who is incredibly blunt and who loves this woman like she was his little sister, said to her, "You need to tell him that you can't stay with him forever if he doesn't want what you want. Give it six months, not six years like you did with Guy 1 and Guy 2."

So after six months, she said, "I want to get married and have a child. If you don't see that happening for us, I'm going to need to move on."

They are happily married and have an adorable son. Guy 3 is a fantastic, attentive husband.

And it may not surprise you to hear that both Guy 1 and Guy 2 are also married, and that Guy 1 has two kids.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:25 PM on November 7, 2012 [24 favorites]

He doesn't know what he really wants--I'm sorry, there is no good answer here. There just isn't. Guys who don't know what they want are sort of the worst in that sense because there's nothing wrong with them and they might be great guys but it's still a shitty heartbreaking kind of ambivalence.

I don't know. I personally would default to breaking it off because I just can't deal with this kind of guy anymore, I've reached my limit in terms of patience. It sounds like that's where you're at, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's also nothing wrong with being practical about your age and deciding that a lot of people around your age are starting to settle down and have families (depending on where you live) and you'd like to be part of that cohort. If now's the time and you don't have a lot of time to waste, end it.

Good luck, and I'm very sorry.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:14 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Some have touched on the idea that odds are iffy that he's really feeling it, based on the limited information here... I would submit that you may be wishy-washier over him than you think. It sounds like he's very nice on paper, and like he's a wonderful friend, and that's about it. He may be in the same place -- everything technically right with the relationship, but without the toe-curling happy generated by relationships that are worth the effort it takes to turn them into something of substance that will endure. It's nice that he's so nice, but if there was a notable problem with him or the relationship, would you want to bust your bum to fix it, or would you be relieved to have an end to the indecision?
posted by kmennie at 4:31 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've asked him to tell me if he ever feels that things definitely aren't going to last.

This isn't the same as telling him you want a commitment from him. This is saying, It's all good, no pressure.

If you want him to commit, explain that to him. If he's not in that place, then move on.
posted by heyjude at 5:05 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think he's telling the truth when he says he doesn't know what he really wants.

It's not something people really lie about. When you know what you want, you tend to act on it.
posted by Miko at 8:14 PM on November 7, 2012

I've asked him to tell me if he ever feels that things definitely aren't going to last.

So if he hasn't said that it's not going to last, he is sort of saying things are good? you are in a very vague situation. I see a lot of people here are saying to cut your losses and run, but maybe it's too soon to know? 5 months isn't a lot of time in a relationship, there is no "way you are supposed to be" at that point; some people are getting engaged, some people still haven't told their closest friends. If you are enjoying yourself, give it more time. It sounds like you would really like to hear something nice from him right now, and that's totally understandable, but should you cut him off from ever expressing that nice thing, just because he isn't saying it just when you want him to?

Everything else is so good between us
that does mean something. enjoy it! tell yourself that you will ask these questions again in another 6 months, and let yourself have a nice time with this decent guy.

My dude was very skittish at the beginning of our relationship, but he couldn't be more committed now. It's been 10 years and we are so close. at 5 months? pfft, I knew, he didn't. it happens.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:51 AM on November 8, 2012

At five months, had my wife asked for a "commitment", I would have ended the relationship and seen her as "too much, too soon." Things are good? Cool. That's not wasted time (which is a bizarre concept -- is not the point to find a partner with whom you share good times and interests, and enjoy each other's company, all of which you say you have?)

Unless "commitment" means "have a chat about exclusivity and long-term plans, for rough coordination", I agree with 5_13_23_42_69_666.
posted by ellF at 5:22 AM on November 8, 2012

Honestly I kinda agree that it might be too fast EXCEPT the whole "I don't know what I want" thing to me, is just a huge, flashing neon sign that you're about to get fucked around, albeit inadvertently.

Pretty much every time I've heard that phrase (from a 30-something guy) it has led to heartbreak (usually them finding someone else they're really into and getting married like 6 months later after a long dragged-out asymmetrical relationship).
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:42 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't really know what you mean by "commitment," although I do generally think that five months is a good check-in point. But what really stands out to me is that he's telling you he doesn't know what he wants. That really pops off the screen, and it makes me think that things aren't going to change... until this relationship ends and he meets someone else. I'm with young rope-rider, albeit from the opposite gender perspective: every time I've "I don't know what I want," it's lead to heartbreak.

And look, he's been out of his previous long relationship for two years now. If that's not enough time for him to get over it and be ready for a real/committed relationship (whatever that means here), another half a year isn't going to make a difference. Do you want to be with this guy for another six months (a year in all) and still not know where you stand or have the commitment you need? No.

I suspect it's time to have a heart to heart, and you need to be prepared to leave.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:48 AM on November 8, 2012

Tough one, tough one. I can offer a perspective from someone who made the request for commitment, was denied, and is still (probably ill-advisedly) hanging on: it won't feel the same. I'm still thinking I made the right choice, but it doesn't feel nearly as hopeful or quite as fun as it used to. I'm closed off in a way I wasn't before.

In my case though, the dude specifically does want to retain his freedom to continue some other, complicated involvements. (For someone who claimed he "wasn't looking" for anyone else...he sure found a lot of anyone elses.) So there's an added sting there, which it seems like you won't really have to deal with in your case.

The thing is, once you have the real heart-to-heart the bell can't be unrung. However ready you think you need to be for a "no", you need to be ten times more ready.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:50 AM on November 8, 2012

Yeah, "I don't know what I want" 99% of the time means "I do know what I want, and I'm pretty sure you ain't it."
posted by modernnomad at 1:05 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Or perhaps more accurately, "I do know what I want, I'm pretty sure you ain't it, but until that something else comes along I can at least have a bit of fun with you."
posted by modernnomad at 2:35 PM on November 8, 2012

For what it's worth, we at MetaFilter often say that when someone tells you something about themselves, you should believe it; "I don't know what I want" and "I was in a traumatic breakup less than half a year ago" can mean just that, rather than the cynical read that this guy is playing you.
posted by ellF at 1:02 PM on November 9, 2012

Yeah, to be clear I don't think this guy is playing you on purpose and I've never seen this be done on purpose or because the guy was being careless. In fact it is usually the opposite, they want to give it a chance, the woman is really nice and kind and they don't want to hurt her, it's pretty much okay and they think it could possibly work...but then it doesn't and it's a lot of time wasted and a lot of heartbreak. But I don't know, because maybe he isn't that guy and just needs more time! Then again, it seems like your instincts are telling you it's not going to work, and if so, you know more about the situation than we do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:06 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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