Do I wait or do I go?
April 19, 2016 7:37 AM   Subscribe

So a while ago, I asked how to give the relationship talk. I finally did it a little while ago when I felt ready but the answer was essentially that he isn't ready. He recently got out of a mega-long relationship and is worried about repeating that. My question is, do I wait for him?

I'm inclined to believe him but I'm biased. We aren't dating other people, we see each other regularly and we have plans for the near future. I feel like we already are in a relationship but I wanted clarification and a committment for the future.

On one hand, I trust him and I believe he's not just stringing me along. We agreed on exclusivity and we like each other.

But, on the other hand, if he doesn't know now, isn't that a sign that I'm probably not the person for him? I feel like every thing I've ever read or encountered would tell me to drop him because if I was the right person, it wouldn't be a question... Right? Has there ever been a time where waiting worked out?
posted by cyml to Human Relations (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you okay dating for a little while longer? What, to you, is the difference between being in a relationship vs. dating someone who isn't ready to commit yet? Is being in a relationship with anyone more important than being with this person in the state you two are in now?
posted by xingcat at 7:42 AM on April 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sure, waiting works sometimes for some people, but that doesn't mean that it works for you right now. You don't really say here what you want. Do you want to wait and see how things go? Or do you want someone who's enthusiastic about a long-term commitment? Either is fine, just make sure that you're deciding to do something you're comfortable with for yourself, not anyone else.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:46 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it's important to be clear with yourself about what you want, and what needs you have that may/not be met with him. From there, the only question is: does this relationship, such as it is right now, meet your needs? Are you happy spending time together; does the happiness outweigh the anxiety about the future?

My SO and I met when we were both fresh from long-term situations, and we weren't ready to commit until a while after we started dating. But he was always very clear and unequivocal that spending time with me was important to him; I never doubted that he liked/loved me. Eventually we reached a point where it didn't feel right to date other people anymore, and we realized we wanted to spend a lot more time together. Some time after that, we realized we really really wanted to spend time together, like for the rest of our lives, and decided to get married. It's a gradual process, but check in with yourself at points along the way to be sure you're feeling safe and honored.
posted by witchen at 7:47 AM on April 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

In my experience, after a decent get-to-know you period (say, up to three months or up to 20 dates), people who want to date you, but are not ready to commit are more than likely to never want to commit. Lack of enthuasism about a relationship isn't something that can be solved with more time. With my now-husband, we got serious after one month. It was that easy, unlike all the other failures of dating and relationships prior. YMMV.
posted by moiraine at 7:51 AM on April 19, 2016 [32 favorites]

I'm a little confused as to what exactly you guys talked about in your conversation. To me, exclusivity + I like you + we make plans and see each other frequently = a relationship. But maybe not to you/him. I would think carefully about what type of commitment you want from him: Is it I love you? Saying "you're my boyfriend/girlfriend"? A drawer/toothbrush in his apartment? Making plans to go do something 6 months from now? Moving in together? Getting engaged? And then think about the timelines for those things that feel right to you (and how those timelines compare to where you guys actually are at this point in your relationship). There's no right/wrong answer to any of this (although, obviously, if you're, say, expecting engagement on the third date, you're probably going to be disappointed!).
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:56 AM on April 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have a lot of questions about this situation which you may or may not want to answer so let's flowchart this shizzle.

1. Are you on a timescale where you would like to do $LifeEvent within the next few years which requires a committed other?
If yes, then a good solution might be to date other people for a while, and take a bit of space from him to let him figure out his stuff while you keep your options open. If no, proceed.

2. Will it make you anxious to have the question of whether or not he wants to commit to you hanging over you while you continue dating as you are at the moment?
If yes, set a boundary in some way, whether this is giving him a timescale within which you'd like to gain a clearer idea of his position in your life, or setting yourself a private deadline by which, if things have not changed to your satisfaction, you suggest a break or dating other people. Making the issue finite may help to keep a lid on the stressful side of it. If no, proceed.

3. Are you feeling a bit not-great because he is possibly failing to reassure you of how much he is enjoying spending time with you, or perhaps being reluctant to communicate fully about how he is feeling and what he sees in his future ultimately?
If yes then definitely date other people for a while as he might be using your companionship to feel better after a breakup, whilst not really seeing a long-term future for you. Don't stay in a relationship where you're not getting what you need.

If no, stay and sit it out for a bit. See how you feel in a week, a month. Trust your gut. Ask your friends (especially those who have met him). Friends can be pretty good at sussing people out. But stay for as long as you feel happy about being with him, as things are.
posted by greenish at 8:07 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

But, on the other hand, if he doesn't know now, isn't that a sign that I'm probably not the person for him? I feel like every thing I've ever read or encountered would tell me to drop him because if I was the right person, it wouldn't be a question... Right? Has there ever been a time where waiting worked out?

My wife waited for me - however, it was an incredibly stressful process for her.

There was a point where we broke up briefly and she was so crestfallen about how much time she felt she had wasted waiting for someone who wasn't ready. It took her a long time to get over this and to the point where she was not worried I had one foot out the door. I had a lot of stuff I needed to deal with and it was only through her unending patience with me - and her saying unless I dealt with them, she'd not go back down this road again- that I was able to do what needed to be done, and now we're married and it's all wonderful stuff.

The point is - more than a usual relationship, you will be placing a bet on this person that you know them better than they currently know themselves. Before my wife, several people had placed that bet, lost, and were hurt by my inability to commit.

My advice is to think ahead six months - if you are still where you are with this person then, will you feel like you had wasted your time, or will you be happy to have spent six months with this person regardless of where it will go in the future?

If the latter - I'd proceed without worry. Life's short, you never really know what the future holds - if that kind of stuff resonates, you are probably okay to continue dating this person.

If the former - even as someone for whom that bet paid off, I think saying goodbye for awhile and letting him know when he's ready to commit to a relationship with expectations to come find you is a good idea. People tend to avoid their shit unless required to deal with it - and if you're a person for whom he sees a future, he'll do the work he needs to in order to get you back. If not - you've sped the process of finding the right person up by months.
posted by scrittore at 8:09 AM on April 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

He wants to date casually, you don't. Waiting won't change this.

Before you invest too much time, I'd bail saying, "I really want to be in a relationship and I respect that you're not ready for that. I wish you well."

It'll suck for a bit, but if you stay longer and he never gets ready, or if he decides to move on later, it won't hurt less.

People who are excited about you romantically are not intimidated to say they're in a relationship with you. They're not weird about calling you 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend'. You're not proposing marriage or moving in together, you just want to say you're in an exclusive relationship. He's not willing to say that.

Take him at his word, and go find the relationship you want. Don't settle for less.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:12 AM on April 19, 2016 [12 favorites]

Sticking with something that you wish were different than what it is makes sense only if you are in the position of changing the thing into what you want it to be. You are not in that position here.
posted by headnsouth at 8:15 AM on April 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think it's perfectly valid to say "I want to be boyfriend/girlfriend or I don't want to be dating exclusively." It's totally fine if those things go hand-in-hand for you. Otherwise, it can feel a little like someone is putting you on reserve. "I'm not ready to commit, but I want to make sure you don't commit to anyone else while I'm deciding."

If you are interested in a committed relationship, you probably aren't going to get that from this guy anytime soon if ever. It sounds like that's already causing you anxiety. Unless you're very different from most people, that anxiety is only going to increase as your feelings deepen for him. If he's worth that? Sure, stick around. I know that for me, anything that is sure to give me increasing anxiety is very much not worth it. But ymmv, and only you can know that.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:19 AM on April 19, 2016

I'd draw a boundary with him. Something that makes you feel comfortable and confident: if in a month you're not ready to call me your girlfriend, I am moving on.

This isn't an ultimatum. Those are about trying to control someone else's behavior. A boundary is about what *you* will do in a situation. A boundary works the same whether you tell someone about it or not (you'll still leave in a month even if you haven't told him your boundary), whereas an ultimatum only "works" if you tell the other person. Telling someone you care about what your boundaries are helps them make informed decisions about how to interact with you, because they know how you will respond to certain things.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:23 AM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Only you can say... but I see a number of red flags:

* He's in his early 30s, you're in your early-mid 20s.
* He just got out of a long term relationship when you started dating (with someone more age appropriate?).
* He's unwilling to put any labels on your relationship, despite clear indicators of a relationship (exclusivity, etc.).
* He is worried about "repeating" a "mega-long relationship" -- i.e. he actively does not want a serious, long-term relationship.

Honestly, I think there's a good chance that you're the rebound.

It's possible if you give him time he'll decide that he's ready for a serious relationship with you. But I think that's unlikely -- I think it's more likely that at some point in the not too distant future he'll leave you, after you've helped him get over his ex. If you're willing to accept the risk, sure, stick around, but I wouldn't.
posted by crazy with stars at 8:49 AM on April 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

Maybe back off on the exclusivity? There is no need to be in an exclusive relationship until you are both committed to it, if that is what you want. I didn't commit to an exclusive relationship with my partner until 3 months in, and I knew we were on a road to a possible future together (obviously we didn't know for sure, because it might not a have worked out, but it was a goal we both wanted.)

I don't think you should ever shut yourself off from other possibilities just for a 'maybe'. Keep dating him, yes, even have him as your main guy, but also date other people. It will at least keep you feeling more empowered and not at someone else's mercy.
posted by Vaike at 8:54 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

the answer was essentially that he isn't ready

In my experience, that always means "I am not interested in a serious relationship with you specifically."

Hoping that someone will change is just a good recipe for getting hurt later, and worse, rather than sooner. Again, in my experience.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:01 AM on April 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

I have no idea if this is Super Legit Amazing Advice or not, but now that I'm in my mid 30s and in a serious relationship, one thing has begun to dawn on me over the last couple of years.

If someone wants to be with you, they will find a way to be with you.

My fiance is close friends with an ex-boyfriend of mine, part of the same creative scene, and has various life things that make great excuses for why he can't commit right now. And yet he was willing to openly be in a serious relationship with me and was ready to get engaged before I was. There's never been any doubt that what he wanted was to be with me. Unlike alllllll the people I dated before who would cite things like "I wouldn't want people in the scene to get the wrong idea" or "but I'm super stressed about work stuff right now" when it was time to make even the tiniest level of commitment.

Stop wasting your time with this dude who doesn't want the same things you want. Being in an open, named relationship with someone is the tiniest of commitments, and if he's not willing to do even that, he can't possibly want to be with you that badly.
posted by Sara C. at 9:51 AM on April 19, 2016 [11 favorites]

In my experience, that always means "I am not interested in a serious relationship with you specifically."

Yep. Pretty much, don't be too surprised when he's posting photos on IG with the new person he's In A Relationship with in two months after you walk.

Which you should, honestly, because this isn't going to go anywhere.

It's one thing to casually date, it's another thing to Be Exclusive. I've basically never ever seen anything good come from "lets be exclusive but i don't want to call you my boy/girlfriend". It always seems to mean "i want a relationship with a get of jail free card if i get bored and with less responsibility".

Cynical? Maybe, but it's just what i've seen.
posted by emptythought at 9:56 AM on April 19, 2016 [13 favorites]

"In my experience, that always means "I am not interested in a serious relationship with you specifically."

This. Move on.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:12 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Did he say he didn't know, or did he say he wasn't ready? I stuck around for a guy who wasn't ready to say "girlfriend" for like eight months ("I love you" took even longer!), and I mostly didn't doubt my choice and I absolutely 1000% do not regret it. But the important thing there was that we communicated often and well about exactly what our respective needs and hangups and past relationship traumas were. I felt like I had a firm grasp on exactly what he was and wasn't ready for, and why. There wasn't any doubt about how we felt about each other, we were just on different time scales in terms of what pronouncements we felt comfortable making.

But again, this worked for me because I wasn't unsure. You are, so the question is whether you're unsure about his feelings and motivations (in which case, this probably isn't going to work out), or whether you're comfortable being patient with things as they are for now but are unsure whether a relationship is automatically doomed when one party has hang-ups over terminology. In the latter case, I can only speak for myself but in my experience it is not.
posted by babelfish at 10:21 AM on April 19, 2016

Here is my story about staying with someone who wasn't certain where we were going.

TL;DR: I stayed, we're married now, and we're happy and don't have any regrets about that, but it wasn't always easy and I wouldn't recommend it to everyone.
posted by shattersock at 11:05 AM on April 19, 2016

I've stayed in a relationship with someone who "wasn't sure" or "wasn't ready" and it was a disaster. I've also stayed in a relationship with someone who "wasn't sure" and "wasn't ready," and now we live together and shit is mostly awesome.

In my disaster relationship, the key feature in hindsight was an absolute refusal on his part to talk about ANYTHING pertaining to us; exclusivity, future plans, past relationships, nada. He'd never confirm or deny anything, he'd be cagey about his whereabouts (never admitting that he was seeing other people, but never outright lying in a way that I could "catch"...crazymaking). I finally laid it all out on the line and said hey, we're BF/GF or bust, and the whole thing imploded spectacularly.

Looking at your relationship from the outside with limited info, it *looks* more like my current relationship did than like my disaster relationship. Y'all are exclusive and he was comfortable with that, he doesn't (from your telling) seem to be displaying any cagey behavior to suggest that he isn't sticking with the exclusivity arrangement. You spend lots of time together and have forward-thinking plans that presume a continued relationship. None of that is a guarantee, but it definitely paints more of a picture of "we don't agree on terms/one of us is gunshy" than "sketchy rebound."

Obviously YMMV, and obviously your dude could still have the best of intentions but really truly not be right for you, right now, and you might get hurt. Shattersock is right that if you're very invested, it will be pretty hard and unfun to hang in there.

I think you have to remove "what he might do" from the picture entirely and try to work out which option makes you feel peaceful and relieved know, in that spot in your chest where you feel all the things. If what makes you feel more at peace is breaking it off, remember there are no laws against getting back together later, too.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:40 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty radical about all of this, so take my post with a grain of salt. But.......I wouldn't wait. No way, no how. If he really wanted to be together, he would figure his stuff out way before you had to ask. WAY before. If he wanted to be with you, you'd know it. Save your time and go find someone who wants to be with you, and wants to be with you now. Really. You are better than waiting. My philosophy on waiting is this: if a guy makes you wait, it means "I'm just not that interested enough, but I'm too much of a chicken to tell you." His story doesn't matter. His baggage doesn't matter. What matters are his actions, and his actions haven't given you a clear sign that he wants to be with you.

He recently got out of a mega-long relationship
If someone really cares about you, and knows what they want, they don't put you on hold. Ever. Not because of a "mega long relationship" (which is over). They're not "confused." There's no "story." There's nothing other than "I'm not interested." When you want something, really want it, do you want to wait? Of course not! You go out and make it happen, to have the thing you want. No different with love.

When I first met my husband, he was trying the online thing and had another date planned for the following weekend. Him and I met, and he canceled his date with her the day after we met because he knew he wanted to be with me and no one else. The first time we went on a date! He didn't even tell me that story until months later. I knew right away that he was the one for me, because he made it clear to me every single day that I was on his mind, all the time. He still does, six years later. I realize that not all stories go that way, but really.... if a guy is interested and cares about you, he won't make you wait and he shouldn't want to wait, either. Really, you're asking the wrong question - you're asking "should I wait" and really the one on my mind is "why does HE want to wait?"

I've been accused of not being that romantic, being hard-line or whatever, about matters like this. But really... if you think about it.... what's more romantic - dropping everything (including emotional baggage) to be with the person you love, or dragging out some long drawn-out dramatic story about how eventually you ended up together? No! Not cool! You deserve a partner who doesn't make you question whether or not they're interested. You deserve the opposite. I don't even know you, but I know you deserve better than wondering if you should wait around for someone to show you they care about you more than anything else. Why settle?

Go out and find 'em!
posted by onecircleaday at 12:23 PM on April 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

Somewhere on AskMetafilter there's a comment that whenever someone tells you something like "I don't see myself getting married," you should mentally add the words with you. So "I'm not ready for a relationship" becomes "I'm not ready for a relationship with you." Might this guy be ready for a relationship with you someday? Sure. Anything's possible.

I think you should consider a couple of things-- first, why the need to define this as a relationship or as 'boyfriend/girlfriend' four months in? Is there a particular reason you want to do that now? Are you worried about whether this person cares about you? Does the label make you feel more secure? Second, is there a deadline for taking this next step? If so, what is it? How long are you willing to wait? I think it makes sense for you to have a deadline, whether you share that with this man or not. And maybe your deadline is four months, and that's okay too.
posted by tuesdayschild at 12:24 PM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

But, on the other hand, if he doesn't know now, isn't that a sign that I'm probably not the person for him?

I would move away from the "right person" model. There simply is no "right person." There are people who fit some requirements and people who fit others. Think of it like buying a car, not looking for something that fits some expectations structure of how a relationship is "supposed to turn out."

It is hard not to take your priorities and place a mantle of "what is right in a quasi-moral or mystical sense."

The magic is in the everyday encounters, not the this person fits so well for me.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:32 PM on April 19, 2016

If you waited six months and it didn't work would you be bitter/angry? One year? Two years? Take whatever length of time is definitely too long, halve it, and set that as an internal deadline.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:13 PM on April 19, 2016

He isn't ready for a relationship. You are. You should date someone who is, too.

And like others, I suspect that he won't ever be ready to be your boyfriend or in a real relationship with you.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:26 PM on April 19, 2016

(looking at your previous question as well)

Frankly, I'm confused about what you want here... you don't want to "just be dating exclusively", but you aren't talking about wanting to get engaged or something.

If I'd talked with someone about dating exclusively, to me that would mean we were in a relationship. What would it even mean? What would be different if you were "in a relationship" instead of dating exclusively? I would be completely puzzled if someone came to me asking for "the next level" -- it would seem like they wanted to get engaged, or move in, or something -- but it seems like all you want for this next level is to start using a different word?

How would it actually change things between you if you call this a "relationship"? A commitment to the future? How? You don't mention trying for a baby or anything like that, so I'm assuming it's basically a promise to keep dating.

Let's imagine you and he promised to keep dating. You're happy, everything is great. Then you find out something about him that shocks and horrifies you. Maybe he kills a puppy, or insults your grandmother, or has odious political views -- whatever would horrify you. Imagine it happening. Would you leave him? Or would you stay, because you made this commitment to the next level.

You've got not guarantee that he wouldn't leave you for something he finds horrifying. (Whether or not you'd stay) He could leave you for something you think is a trivial reason. Being in a "relationship" won't change that. Even being married won't change that.

He recently got out of a mega-long relationship and is worried about repeating that.

So, he's told you he's worried about repeating being in a mega-long relationship. It sounds like he's saying he doesn't want to be in a long term relationship.
posted by yohko at 10:41 PM on April 20, 2016

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