It Seems to Me that "Maybe" Pretty Much Always Means "No"
July 19, 2016 6:53 PM   Subscribe

My (very) new boyfriend told me Friday he isn't sure if he sees himself living with someone or getting married again. Later in the weekend, he backtracked and said he was stressed out about other things, afraid of losing me, and he could be open to it. Is this relationship doomed, or can "not sure" mean something other than "no"?

Long Time/First Time

My boyfriend and I have been dating exclusively for about 4 months. We met in a weekend running club and I asked him out. Almost immediately we were spending 3-4 nights together a week. So far it is the easiest relationship that I have ever been in. We just clicked, and he embodies a lot of characteristics that I desire: smart, driven, successful, funny, social, athletic... and did I mention he's amazing in bed and I find him super hot? Not only that, he treats me incredibly well. He makes me coffee in the mornings and and does my laundry at night (keeper amirite- hah its actually because we run together in the evenings). He is appreciative and generous, calls when he says he will, and makes lots of time for me.

A little background: He is in his mid-40s, he was married and divorced young, has a 23 yr old son. He was in one other long term relationship, which ended a few years ago. I am a woman in my mid-30s, no kids (and no ticking biological clock either) and never married. My most serious relationship ended tragically with the death of my fiance about 5 years ago. For the last few years I have been recovering from that loss, and have only in the past year or so felt ready to move on.

My boyfriend is the one who wants to see me as frequently as we do, he asked for exclusivity, and introduced me to his son when he visited two weeks ago. He's been the one moving the relationship in a serious direction, I haven't been pushing him. Although truthfully, I have been starting to wonder about the future, and early last week I invited him to a family wedding about 5 months from now that would require a plane ticket. He said he was glad I asked and wanted to come.

So imagine my surprise when Friday he sat me down on the verge of tears and told me that he wasn't sure if he had any desire to ever be in a serious relationship again, and wasn't sure he would ever want to marry me or live with me ("or anyone," he added, but of course we all know that means YOU).

First off, I couldn't believe how not freaked out I was during this conversation, since I am usually a ball of anxiety and I do not want to lose the best (still alive) guy I've ever had. I told him that I do eventually want to be married and build a life with someone, but I'm not in a rush to get there. He is the type of person I could see myself with in the long term, but we are only 4 months in and right now where things are is enough.

He said that he was afraid of trying to build a life again, because he had already tried twice, and those failures had been painful. He wanted to know what my expectations from him were, and if I had a timeline. He was very insistent about this timeline question.

When pushed about a timeline, I said, "Well, I guess if we'd been dating a year I'd want things to become more serious." He replied, "That's like 8 months from now! That seems soon!" I was like, "You made me come up with a timeline on the spot!"

The conversation didn't go much further that night. We had a really fun couple of days, ran the race we had registered for together, went out with friends- everything we had planned. For entire weekend he was very physically and emotionally clingy. He said that he was so afraid he was going to lose me. I had some errands to run Saturday and he barely wanted me to leave his side. I was like, "I'm leaving the house not your life!"

On Sunday night I told him that I was confused, that he had said he wasn't sure about a serious relationship and then turned around and acted in the complete opposite way. He told me that there were a lot of things going on in his life outside of the relationship (work trouble, son trouble, money trouble, the usual) that were bringing feelings of uncertainty, and that he was afraid he wouldn't be able to live up to my expectations. He loves the relationship that we have now, but he doesn't know what he wants in the future. He added that I had soothed his worries because I had let him open up to me, and that as the conversation Friday was happening, he realized that there was the real possibility that I was going to leave and that scared him.

I said, I don't have any desire to push for what he doesn't want, but at the same time, I'm not going to just date him forever, and if that time comes I have no problem going out and finding someone else who wants the same things I do. I said that to move forward with him I needed to know if he was open to becoming more serious, if that's the way that things happen. He said he was.

So my question is this: If I do want to eventually get married/build a life with someone should I leave him now? Is this doomed to fail?

Alternately, with his changed tune at the end of the weekend, could this just be him realizing things are getting more serious and having a brief moment of panic? Or was that just telling me what I want to hear so that I don't leave him?

Have you ever been in this kind of situation, where you're in this amazing, fun, easy relationship and your partner freaks out over the seriousness that they've been pushing for? How did it turn out.
posted by foxonisland to Human Relations (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Yup. Bounce. He's spoke the truth and now wants reassurance. He's not ready to commit but wants the security. If he really wants you he'll find a way to become ready.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:10 PM on July 19, 2016 [14 favorites]

Regardless of what he said, you don't act like you can't bear to be apart from someone unless you actually do want to be with them. You say your biological clock isn't ticking, and you're having fun in what has been your easiest relationship, and he certainly seems to care for you - personally I'm not sure why you would consider ending the relationship?

Feeling a bit weird about commitment and the future is nothing unusual, particularly when you have a kid etc. It's also possible that he's saying this to protect himself from the prospect that you may actually be the one to leave him. If everything else is going ok, chalk it up to a small hiccup and move on and don't think anything more about it.
posted by ryanbryan at 7:24 PM on July 19, 2016 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I'd give it more time.

These feelings may be coming up for him now because something is going on in his brain. He may have somethings to process and events from his past to hash before he can make a decision.

I'd give it time, maybe a year or 18 months, providing you are enjoying the relationship. Even if things aren't permanent there isn't any reason not to enjoy the time you have together in the now. If you become uncomfortable or really start yearning for concrete settling, then that is the time for you to evaluate what you want and need.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:31 PM on July 19, 2016 [37 favorites]

Sounds like a brief moment of panic to me.

All people are different, so it's impossible to say he's one thing or he's the other type of thing.
posted by amtho at 7:37 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Four months isn't very long. There's a lot you don't know about each other. I wouldn't make any assumptions from these few conversations. There's this sort of weird idea floating around that any man who wants to marry a woman will decide to do so immediately with no deviations or second thoughts - I think it's from "He's Just Not Into You," which I consider a vile book, as it allows no possibility of different personalities. At this stage in your relationship, he's allowed to be unsure. If you still care about him and are enjoying the relationship, I'd say give it more time. (I'd be more concerned about his fear of losing you - which seems like it could be extreme - but my own personality quirk is a fear of clinginess, so I could be projecting).
posted by FencingGal at 7:44 PM on July 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

I wonder if perhaps he's had some friends say stuff or if he's even just started to worry on his own that you're going to want kids and want to get serious really soon. If you are having a hard time communicating about this and you both like one another, maybe you could do some couples counselling together. I remember that my boyfriend in my late 20s had a couple of roommates who kept telling him that my biological clock was ticking and that I was going to want to pin a great catch like him down. It freaked him out. I imagine that someone in their mid 40s might have some friends saying, "Never married? No kids? 30s? She's gonna want kids, buddy!" Maybe he's worried that his son is approaching the age he was when he got married and had kids and now, with his chance to have some independence, he might be with a woman who wants to go down that path again. Also, he may not really have a framework for advancing a relationship without markers like living together, marriage, kids. Therapy could help.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 7:57 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd give it more time. In fact, I might get a bit freaked out by someone who was planning a life with me after only 4 months. For me, the more important question is one you ask yourself: do you want kids? You say your biological clock isn't ticking, but do you have one? This fellow already has a grown child and I would guess he doesn't wasn't more kids at his age. I could be wrong, but if there's a part of you that really wants a kid (eventually), this doesn't seem like the guy for you. If you're happy to be child-free by your own choice, I'd stick around to see what happens with this. If you do think you want kids, find someone who also wants them and don't waste time.
posted by quince at 8:00 PM on July 19, 2016

If you want kids someday, bounce.

If not, I see no harm in sticking around for a few more months as long as you're having fun and he's treating you really well. It sounds to me like he had a sort of flurry of panic which could dissipate. If he does it again, or refers to it like "hey I told you I wasn't going to marry you", then you'll know he was serious about wanting you to know he can't commit. But one spontaneous episode like that at the 4 month mark, when overall he does treat you well and you guys are getting along great, doesn't need to spell the end of your relationship, I don't think.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:15 PM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: He has a secret.

It could be a collection of "truths" you don't yet know about his family/job/past/whatever - stuff that's just normal living stuff but he feels oddly ashamed of. It could be something very very serious. We don't know.

We do know that he's acting bizarre and his explanation doesn't fit his behavior.

If you think it's something that won't effect you too deeply (losing his house, losing his job might effect you, as an example) than you can ride out his freak storm until whatever it is comes to light. You could just walk now since you don't have too much invested at 4 months.

I vote you quietly back away and let whatever is behind his tearful conversation come to light. Maybe ease off on the 3 to 4 nights per week. It really looks like subconsciously or consciously he was feeling you out, maybe he was going to confess something but chickened out??

His behavior seems less than mature, especially the "I'll never commit again because committing was so painful" spiel. That was total weak sauce to hear from someone you are having fun with!

I would toss him now. You may proceed with caution if you feel up to it. Just know there's trouble under his facade of some type, or so it seems as he was trying to clue you in on some level last Friday.
posted by jbenben at 8:49 PM on July 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I've never wanted kids either. I've stayed with all kinds of people too long because I didn't feel any pressure to have kids. But I should have left them earlier, because kids or not, a person who runs hot and cold or sends mixed messages is a hurtful person to date. And this guy sounds very dramatic, too. I misjudged my own capacity for dealing with dramatic, troubled people and I ended up getting burned out to the point where I have very little patience for emotional labor of any kind. My advice is to take a step back emotionally and take an observing stance toward him. If this sort of dramatic about-face is a pattern, it could very well drain you. He made this hurtful announcement to you, and then seemed like he wanted you to comfort him. It seems like being invited to a wedding triggered this for him. It made him think about marriage. Maybe he thought you were hinting by inviting him to the wedding that you wanted to get married. It also sounds like he might have been reading some sort of relationship book that's very gender polarized. Not MRA stuff, more like John Gray Mars/Venus stuff that assumes all women want kids and marriage and have some sort of timetable and cannot be direct so hint around instead.

I was also very interested in jbenben's response to you. It is quite possible he has something he's ashamed of. Who knows, it could be anything from massive debt to unpredictable erectile dysfunction. But it's better to find out sooner rather than later, regardless of what it might be.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 10:26 PM on July 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

Another vote for "give it more time" and another vote for "moment of panic". And a vote against "he has a secret because this behavior is weird " - I have had similar moments of panic in relationships, when I was just in an odd flashbacky frame of mind, inspired by some old junk from past bad relationships, and I did something weird or interpreted something weird and acted out, and this seems very much like that's what's happening here.

I'd give it more time. A year seems like a very reasonable amount of time for you to want some kind of assurance that "is this...going anywhere?". And by contrast, 4 months is soon - it's still kind of the sex-and-giggling stage.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:35 PM on July 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Whatever his reasons, your boyfriend's behavior seems hyperbolic to me and, personally, that would give me pause. This is a LOT of baggage to be unpacking because you invited him to a wedding. The added bits about how worried he is about your expectations and letting you down are particularly troubling to me. It's the kind of thing people say when they don't trust themselves to do right by a person on some level, a seed of an out in their mind to cling to if they hurt you that let's them feel justified and not wholly lacking in integrity instead of giving your feelings the consideration they deserve. "Why should I feel bad? I warned her. She knew I had doubts."

I have learned to run screaming from people who do this. Time and time again, almost like a broken record, I have found that this sort of thing correlates highly with a lack of clear personal values, life direction and accountability. Put it in his court to figure out his feelings and be clear. This is not your problem to solve.
posted by amycup at 11:41 PM on July 19, 2016 [15 favorites]

3-4 times a week/trips = a lot of time together, the amount a couple who were more established would spend together.
4 months = a really short time to have been dating, comparatively speaking.

It sounds like things have moved really fast for you guys (met the son already!), and the problem with that is the STUFF you do together makes it all feel very established and solid and secure, but the fact that you don't actually know one another very well keeps rearing its scary head. I think probably he has built his time with you to look like you both are very committed, and then he was faced with the reality that it's only been four months, and he panicked.

I can't say i agree or disagree with the suggestion that he has a secret, but i can definitely say you can't KNOW if he does, because it's not been long enough. Ditto loads of other relationshippy stuff, you barely know each other yet. I would say the intense time together is more of a flag than his panic at realising what he was doing/being asked what his long term plan was.

Why did his other relationships not work? From my POV he's in a better position than you - he might die, we all do and you have faced that loss before and will have to again, as we all do, with whoever you spend your life with. Whereas he has a chance to unpack and assess and change his behaviour in how it contributed to his past failed relationships (not saying it was all his fault but it has to have been partially his fault because that's how relationships work, EVEN if his fault was in choosing abusive people to love for example). So whatever his fears are can be addressed in a way yours can't. If he's worried this will fail he needs to figure out why the others did and how that plays into his current situation. From the description of him pushing for deeper connection i wonder if he has a certain "way" a relationship should look in his head and he makes whatever relationship he's in look like that before assessing properly if he's with the right person. I have a friend who does that. Whenever things were looking bad with a guy she'd say, "oh but you can't KNOW until you're living together/engaged/married/have kids what someone's REALLY like" and thus ignored armies of red flags and pushed for the greatest level of connection/embroilment she could before it would all blow up and leave her devastated an shocked and saying "But we LIVED TOGETHER, i thought he was The One!" forgetting yeah you lived together because you found him a new apartment when his lease was up and paid the deposit and furnished it and the only thing he had to do was accept you living there too....
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 1:34 AM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree with everyone counseling patience, and I strongly disagree with anyone who feels they can confidently declare what's going on with this guy and so you should "bounce" or "run screaming" or whatever. It sounds like you really like him, right? And you've had four great months together and one weird weekend? And even then, he was still acting with general consideration and kindness?

People (maybe all people?) are weak or flawed or uncertain or scared in all sorts of ways, for all sorts of reasons. Seems to me that you like him enough to stick around to find out his actual ways/reasons.
posted by snackattack at 1:54 AM on July 20, 2016 [13 favorites]

Yeah, time. No major red flag here for me. I was also at four months completely freaking out about the seriousness of my new relationship that was really awesome and we spent all our time together and the sex was great and oh god I had really wanted to spend some time being single and sorting my head out but this is just too good not to run with and agh what is happening. I didn't want to get married again.

My now-husband was very patient with me, fortunately.
posted by corvine at 2:11 AM on July 20, 2016 [11 favorites]

4 months is fine, people act really weird at this stage, as they have to navigate a really fine line between being vulnerable and being secure. Sometimes they make the wrong choices.

My then-boyfriend (now-husband!) did not invite me to his Christmas with his family after 4 months of dating and being very serious (or so I thought), even though I had asked, gently. I had no one to spend Christmas with, as I was living in a foreign country, so spent it partially alone. To be fair, he did come back after one day with his family to spend the rest of the holiday with me. But it did sting.

There is some very harsh advice here, which I advice you to ignore. Your situation is nowhere close to make or break time.

I agree with everyone counseling patience, and I strongly disagree with anyone who feels they can confidently declare what's going on with this guy and so you should "bounce" or "run screaming" or whatever.

Seconding this.

If everything else is fine, I would say give it some time, up to a year to see how it all pans out.
posted by moiraine at 2:15 AM on July 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There's no pattern of running hot and cold here. There is a moment of being open about insecurity and doubt. I would put this down and re-visit on your own timeline. Like, if after a year you need the relationship to be moving towards cohabiting and he's not there with you, that seems like decision time. This seems like early-relationhip-itis.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:19 AM on July 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

He freaked out and is now compounding it by digging a hole for himself. If you feel like doing a mitzvah you could give him a do-over on the whole week.
posted by ftm at 4:01 AM on July 20, 2016

While I am also one to counsel patience, I want to state, unequivocally, that this:
he's amazing in bed and I find him super hot? Not only that, he treats me incredibly well. He makes me coffee in the mornings and and does my laundry at night (keeper amirite- hah its actually because we run together in the evenings). He is appreciative and generous, calls when he says he will, and makes lots of time for me.
Is not 'incredibly well.' This is the minimum acceptable standard. I don't have time right now to explain each example you gave, but none of this is above and beyond material. This is just adults being decent human beings.

So yes. Time. But also keep your eyes and ears open. Any deterioration from this behavior is not a slip from awesome to normal. And remember, 4 months is still the time period when people are generally trying their best to impress a new partner. Listen very closely to his descriptions of the expectations that were held by his previous partner. There's a small but non zero chance that what he's describing as abuse was actually just regular relationship needs that blew up after a long period of not getting met. Of course, it's also possible that he has been in abusive relationships. We can't know. But really, listen extremely closely to how he responds to your requests and needs that are more complicated than laundry and coffee.
posted by bilabial at 4:07 AM on July 20, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I have two conflicting thoughts on this. The first is that a lot of fledgling relationships have an early push for closeness, followed by the pusher suddenly slamming on the brakes once they realize the relationship is going somewhere. Relationships like that don't often recover. The second thought is that when a person is generally lovely to you and has their shit together, yet has a moment where it all seems to fall away and they're sad and broken and vulnerable, it's often a sign that that person is making a sincere effort and mostly succeeding, but they've got something somewhere that needs fixing, and they haven't had the need or the means to fix it yet. People like that can be great partners, provided they make an effort to keep themselves in working order.

I hope it's the second but it could be the first; the next month or so will give you a clearer picture. If he starts checking out of the relationship, there's nothing you can do but let him go. If he stays in, stay alert for other moments of panic or wavering conviction. When do they happen, how long do they last, how does he recover? Maybe there's some undiagnosed depression or anxiety peeking out, or maybe there's stress from elsewhere in his life spilling over into yours.

Be wary if he leans too much on you emotionally, because that can wear you out, and if you let it go on for too long you'll find yourself in a draining relationship you desperately want to leave but feel obligated to stay in. If he's clingy or needy for long stretches, or to the extent that you can't do normal things like running errands, that's something that he needs to fix for himself if you want a healthy relationship.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:46 AM on July 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This doesn't scream 'automatic dealbreaker' to me, but it DOES scream 'guy who doesn't really understand his own emotional inner life.' Have a feeling, react to the feeling, without thinking about why you're having it or how your reaction will be perceived - like having a strong emotion is the equivalent of putting your hand on a hot stove. A lot of guys are like this, they just never learned how to DEAL.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:53 AM on July 20, 2016 [8 favorites]

You seem to really like him so I would give him a do-over. He said something stupid and acted weird, let it go. If something like this happens again, then consider his emotional immaturity. But it may have just been kind of a brain fart.

Having said that, I will now add my cautionary tale which MAY NOT be true to this guy at all but who knows.

I had a similar dating experience; same type of frequency and intensity as yours. Right around six months my gentleman caller became all teary and wasn't sure he wanted to be in a relationship with me or anyone. He also wanted to know where I thought it was going, etc. It never came up again but I should have paid more attention to his lifestyle.

Over the next year, he moved in with me and my son and immediately became this unemployed, computer-game player dead weight. So I broke up with him.

My point is that I now realize that what he was really trying to express previously was that he loved his single-guy lifestyle where he had no demands placed upon him. He liked being with me, sure, but wanted to somehow ensure that he could be with me AND continue living his frat boy style. His desire for a relationship wasn't as strong as his desire to do his own thing, which is also why his two previous relationships failed.

I'm NOT saying this is true for you, but this is what happened to me.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:00 AM on July 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Give it more time. I was in the same position with my boyfriend, who told me the same thing after 6 months (I even posted an Ask about it!) but he changed his mind after he realised how well we fit together. He told me his fear was that I would smother him like his ex, but the more we spent time at each other's places the more he realised I need my space just as much as he needs his. We still don't live together, but we both know it's in the future.
posted by toerinishuman at 7:17 AM on July 20, 2016

Of course "not sure" can mean something other than "no." At four months, it is kind of reasonable for him to not be sure yet, especially with his history. Four months is kind of soon -- you don't really know him well outside the relationship yet if you are just finding out about all his troubles, even though you're spending so much time together. He seems to have been sneak-attacked by his own feelings, moving fast with introduction to the son, spending lots of time together, but then freaking out when he stepped back and thought about it. (Was it because you initiated a request for committing to something further off than you've been together? Is he only comfortable when he's doing the initiating?)

I agree with the advice about waiting. Given how much you like him and how well and easy things were going otherwise, see where you are in a year. I'd pay more attention to his behavior than his words in the intervening months. Then figure out then if you are still wanting to be with him. After observing, ask yourself whether the freakout was an isolated incident deserving a Mulligan or the tip of the iceberg of him not being in control of his life? Even great partners are entitled to a bad hair day and even some terrible partners are able to keep up a facade for four months. You just don't know yet which he is.
posted by *s at 9:58 AM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey guys! thanks so much for all your responses. Just a couple of quick clarifications

I've always been pretty ambivalent about having children, and my late fiance was not interested in children, so being with someone with no children in the future is something I've already grappled with. No kids has been clear since the beginning of this relationship. On our first date he told me he was definitely not interested in having more kids, and I told him that if no-kids was a deal breakers I'd already be gone.

A couple of people have suggested he has a history of abusive relationships. Just wanted to clarify that I at no point said that in the post, he at no point said that, and I would certainly not describe his relationships as abusive based on what I know of his past.

-jbenben, a secret? I'm intrigued. The money trouble he brought up on Saturday are maybe that.

-Beethoven's Sith- I think you have hit something on the head with the gender polarized relationship outlook. He definitely has some ideas about gender that are more conservative than my own, but he's open to discussions and seeing others point of view.

-bilabial- oh come on, I was just giving a couple of examples for the sake of brevity.

At this point, I'm going to give this a little bit of time. I've backed off from the relationship slightly, and made lots of plans this week to give him a little space to think. Thanks again for all your help (and if some horrifying secret comes to light I'll be sure to update)
posted by foxonisland at 10:42 AM on July 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: So imagine my surprise when Friday he sat me down on the verge of tears and told me that he wasn't sure if he had any desire to ever be in a serious relationship again,

I only kind of skimmed the other answers, but to me this looks like "I am falling in love and I did not expect that and oh shit!" He sat you down to cry about this. You didn't bring up having a future, only to get pushback.

I would probably try to tell him to chill the fuck out, I am not ready to make plans and, dude, start a journal or something. You are totally projecting here. Whatever pressure you are feeling, it is totally from you, not me.

He no doubt "has a secret." BFD.

Watch a few romantic comedies. They universally have drama over "a secret." But, the reality is that there is just stuff you do not know because you have only been together a short time. I have never met a single human being who did not have anxiety about revealing certain things about themselves. That secret might be "I am rich and didn't tell you because gold digging whores are everywhere" or it might be something actually difficult to deal with. Or it might be something some other woman would have trouble with that you will not GAF about at all.

Start with Shrek. It has one of the better "secrets" for romantic comedies.
posted by Michele in California at 11:14 AM on July 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I dunno. I say cut the guy some slack. Has he discussed the extent to which his prior relationships have affected him? Has he sought therapy?

I've had my only real long term adult relationship fail in every horrendous, traumatic ways you can imagine and it's taking me a long time to move past it. I freaked out similarly with someone a few months into dating that I really was becoming attached to, and it was as if I had no control over the push and pull responses I was being sent by my brain. Attachment disorders/anxiety can make someone really wavy in their behaviors toward you, but it doesn't exactly reflect their feelings. It's a lot like "OMG I THINK I LOVE YOU AND I TRUST YOU BUT WAIT NO I DON'T BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME I WON'T LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN HATING YOU IS THE ONLY WAY TO PROTECT MYSELF BEING ALONE IS EASIER." Yeah.

Granted that relationship only last three (very awful) years it's taking me just as many years to heal and forget and to even consider letting anyone get close to me again. Maybe he's still coming off of relationships that lasted longer? It's sad, but sometimes it takes decades depending on the length of the relationship. Sometimes people never actually recover.

And yeah, being on the "got fucked over" end of something that requires a lot of commitment and time and emotional investment can make someone extremely selfish and dismissive of relationships. That doesn't seem to be the case here, more attachment anxiety than anything. I suggest doing some research into adult attachment styles and how they can be altered/influenced by romantic relationships.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:05 PM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

You want to get married. That is important to you. Tell him that. In no uncertain terms. He may be a great guy. There are a lot of great guys. Find the great guy who wants the same things you want.

Period. The End.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:45 PM on July 20, 2016

Four months is REALLY fast. If he WERE talking marriage at this point, that'd be a huge red flag. But he's not, and you're early/mid thirties, and he may very well just have panicked at the idea that by keeping quiet he was wasting your time to find a baby-daddy. If so, good for him (I guess?) for being up front, though, whoa drama!

I guess my advice would be enjoy while it's fun, keep enough of your own life going that you don't fall apart if the relationship does, and pay attention to both what he does and what he says.
posted by instamatic at 1:57 PM on July 20, 2016

He said that he was afraid of trying to build a life again, because he had already tried twice, and those failures had been painful.

I think this is a red flag. Failing twice at something, and not learning any lessons from either of those failures, and then developing strategies for future improvement, is a sign that somebody is either a) stupid or b) lazy. He doesn't sound stupid, so he must be lazy.

On the other hand, four months is basically zero time at all, so enjoy your time together and let things happen naturally.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:20 PM on July 20, 2016

For what it's worth, I dated someone who was coming out of a separation/divorce. She adored me for a long time. There was talk of the future. She adored me until she realized that she needed time to herself and that my face reminded her of all that she had lost, because I was around while she was experiencing a significant loss.

We had a couple of blips in the beginning that I should have paid more attention to. "I'm not sure I can do this" is something I will listen to more closely to if I hear it again in the future.

In your case, I agree that this could be just a bit of panic and may not mean anything, especially at this early stage. Four months really isn't a very long time. However, I think it would be a mistake to forget what this fellow said. Have fun, give him a chance, but listen to your gut if this comes up again.

This talk by Alexandra Redcay about 'selecting' the right relationship has helped me a bit with how I plan to approach future relationships.
posted by analog at 7:48 AM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just wanted to update you all a month later. Since I posted, the dynamic in our relationship deteriorated. He continued to push me away emotionally while telling me that he wanted to be with me and was just afraid.

I felt insecure in the relationship, and his push-pull dynamic wasn't helping. Last night I decided that I needed to end it. Which I did. He told me that he understood, and that he cared very much about me, and was hoping that his desire for a serious relationship would change. But, in the end, he said that wanted me to be around all the time, but didn't actually want to make any space in his life for me.

I'm sad, but really do know I did the right thing. Thanks for all your advice.
posted by foxonisland at 11:39 AM on August 24, 2016 [7 favorites]

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