Cold feet--just a phase?
March 6, 2006 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Can I talk my boyfriend out of cold feet? Should I even try?

We've been together for eight years, two of those in a long-distance relationship. For almost a year, we've been planning to move in together and marry when I return to the West Coast.

That return was supposed to be about four weeks from today. I was just days from giving notice at my job and buying a one-way plane ticket when my boyfriend called and said he's not sure he can "do this"--meaning cohabitation, marriage, lifelong commitment. He wants some time to think (which is fine with me, provided it's not too extended a period of time) and claims to not be interested in anyone else. He says it's not me--he told me he loves me and called me "the perfect girlfriend"--but that the problem is entirely his own qualms about commitment.

So what do I do? I'd like to hold on to my dignity, but I'm not ready to walk away from this relationship.

Can anyone offer some insight? Suggestions? Is there any hope for my relationship?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry, but if he is not ready after 8 years, he is not ever going to be "ready". You've been strung along enough. While you may not be ready to walk away just yet, it may be in your best interests to prepare for that eventuality.
posted by scottymac at 7:25 AM on March 6, 2006

I disagree with scottymac. I think that it's perfectly natural to feel a bit freaked out facing a big commitment. He's got to face it and come to a decision rather than string you along though.
posted by handee at 7:29 AM on March 6, 2006

I've been in this situation before. I lived apart from my boyfriend for so long that it was hard to remember what it was like to be around each other all the time. So much of our relationship was based on waiting and pining that after a while it seemed like it would go on being that way forever. It's a real change to go from seeing each other occasionally to seeing each other constantly. I was really sacred to have my boyfriend move in, but now I can't imagine being without him.

Don't quit your job just yet or move. Just go out there for a while and let him get used to you being there. Apply no pressure. If he is still too scared to change his lifestyle for you then walk away. However, he might remember how great it is for you to be around and warm to the idea of you staying permanently. It's amazing how just smelling each other after a long time can change things.
posted by Alison at 7:57 AM on March 6, 2006

Look on the bright side; at least he told you Before you quit your job and bought the one way fare. It would be a LOT worse for someone to do the old switcheroo after a formal commitment is made. Your life is still relatively intact. And BTW, 8 yrs is far too long. Find someone who's sure of their feelings for you within a reasonable amt of time and then go for it.
posted by GoodJob! at 8:03 AM on March 6, 2006

Personally, I don't believe in qualms -- he either wants to be with you or he doesn't, and it sounds like he doesn't and doesn't know how to tell you. Me, I'd say something along the lines of, "fine, nice knowin' ya, dumbass," and go be crushed and angry for a long time. But, I admit to being a little too cynical and black-and-white about these things, and I think Alison's answer is probably the better way for you to go, given what you've said in your question about not being ready to walk away just yet.
posted by JanetLand at 8:07 AM on March 6, 2006

For all it is worth, I felt much the same way before my wife (then fiance) moved here. We had known each other for several years and dated seriously for a year when I had to move to the other side of the country. It took nearly a year for her to settle things back home (she had a condo to sell plus a few other things), and just before she arrived I kinda freaked out a little bit. I never said anything to her because I knew I was just freaking out for no good reason. But all the same, when I came face to face with the impending reality of going from living by myself for many years to cohabitating it was difficult to handle.

And honestly, it did take quite a while after she moved in for us to work it out. We were both used to living alone, and we had gotten used to only seeing each other occasionally and communicating mostly via telephone and email. I love her like crazy, and unless she is lying to me she feels the same way, but moving in after being separated for so long was definitely a challenge.

So I guess I'd say don't throw in the towel quite yet, he's probably just freaking out a little bit. I like Alison's advice. Go visit him for a while and see how it goes. It may help him remember just why he loves you so much in the first place and wants to be with you. (Or not, I guess, but I wouldn't dwell on that.)
posted by Lokheed at 8:09 AM on March 6, 2006

How come Alison's the only one giving good advice? You may need some time to rekindle a relationship that's been a collier's ember for two years, and it may be close to starting over. But hey, if you've dated him for eight years, there must be something decent about him.
posted by klangklangston at 8:11 AM on March 6, 2006

(Oi. Sorry Lokheed).
posted by klangklangston at 8:12 AM on March 6, 2006

I can't give any good advice 'cept to give it the ol' college try. My girlfriend, who I was friends with long-distance for over ten years and I recently got together (About 3 months ago), and I moved to be close to her a month ago. Now I'm feeling like a fool because we broke up after a month ... the "Ohmigod[he/she]ishere" heebiejeebies never wore off. Just be prepared for that to happen, I guess.
posted by SpecialK at 8:28 AM on March 6, 2006

Yes, go visit. Don't do any talking out of, just do visiting and loving.
posted by OmieWise at 8:29 AM on March 6, 2006

I'd say go and visit him for a while, maybe a week or two and see how he feels.
posted by delmoi at 8:38 AM on March 6, 2006

It seems like too big of a change to move in together after not being around each other for a couple of years. Would you be willing to move out there but into an apartment of your own? That would give you time to establish your own life in a new town and give you and your SO time to learn how to be a couple again.
posted by lunalaguna at 9:40 AM on March 6, 2006

Well, perhaps it depends on your ages as well. If you are in your early or mid-30's you don't have too many more years before you should be having kids, assuming you want them (without increased risk during pregnancy).

After 8 years, I would seriously be looking elsewhere. But give him another chance or two. Drop some hints, but don't yet give him an ultimatum. If he's too blind to see that his lack of commitment is hurting you then perhaps he's not the one for you.
posted by camworld at 10:33 AM on March 6, 2006

Another vote for going to visit. Go spend two weeks just being with him (no pressure) and see how it feels for both of you.

It's possible to wrap yourself in all sorts of knots when dealing with "what ifs". Give him something real to reference.
posted by tkolar at 10:51 AM on March 6, 2006

When I did this with my last boyfriend (moved long-distance to live with him), we had the telephone call officially deciding that was the plan, I hung up the phone and thought, "Freak out in one week." We talked during that week, but I didn't mention the move except when he brought it up. Seven days later, he calls saying he spent the entire week freaking out, to the point of flirting with another girl at a party (who had the same name as me, which I thought was in extremely bad taste!), but all that led him to believe that he did in fact want to be with me and he was good now.

I think the freak out is normal. You may just give him some time and space to work through some things, and then maybe start talking with the assumption that the freak-out is valid -- as lunalaguna suggests, maybe ask if he's worried about cohabitating and how would he feel about separate residences, or just try to break down where the freak out's coming from and how you both can amend the plan to take those things into consideration.

If you give him some time to come to his own conclusions about what's bothering him, and then don't try to ignore his concerns, he may in fact realize his concerns have no basis in reality. (Or, you may at least find a compromise that works for you both.)
posted by occhiblu at 10:57 AM on March 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Get off his back. At the same time, live for yourself, and do what is right for you. Date other people while he makes up his mind, for example.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:00 AM on March 6, 2006

Visit for a a week/month and see a couples counselor with him. You owe yourself and him that much at least.
posted by plinth at 11:27 AM on March 6, 2006

You should try, but not by indulging his nonsense.

A man capable of being a good husband and father has no problem with commitment to a woman he knows, and loves, as well as an 8-year-boyfriend would. Absence makes his heart grow fonder, not more ambivalent.

If you stick with him under present terms, you either end up with someone who either doesn't really love you, or who does love you but lacks the emotional and practical characteristics which translate love into a working household partnership.

This doesn't mean walking away without a word. This means rejecting what he's put on the table in no uncertain terms. The world's full of overgrown adolescents who need to be drop-kicked into reality, but who do just fine once that kick's been administered.

There's every chance that he'll think hard about this, and realize that the life of a grown up man beats the life of a childish beta male in every way imaginable (short of unlimited video game playing). If he still can't do it, given the chance, it means he very much isn't for you.
posted by MattD at 11:38 AM on March 6, 2006

Do the visit thing. If that works out okay, move in and put marriage on the backburner. Revisit marriage plans when/if you're both comfortable with the idea.
posted by deborah at 12:55 PM on March 6, 2006

It sounds like you two need to take this slowly. Visit, maybe talk about getting your own place in the city/town he lives in instead of moving in with him right away. I say give it a chance.
posted by matildaben at 12:58 PM on March 6, 2006

I don't get it. 8 years is "too long" for what? She doesn't say that he was ambivalent the whole time.

He's freaking out in a completely normal way. It's a big change, and he's probably terrified that he's going to screw it up. Go visit.
posted by desuetude at 1:08 PM on March 6, 2006

I'd say give him a week and a bit of space. Talk about it again, and suggest a week or two visit. If he says no to that, you need to reconsider your options. If this lasts longer then a month, let him know you're going to start dating other men.

The key thing here, is that it's been 8 years. He should have already thought about this quite a lot, and hopefully it's like other people have said, just a quick week or two freak out. If it's longer then that, then he has some other issues and it's best that you not spend anymore time on him.
posted by Phynix at 2:01 PM on March 6, 2006

Go visit. Be warned, he might just be involved with someone else.
posted by cellphone at 3:09 PM on March 6, 2006

I think you could also let him know that it's okay that he's having a freak out, and that it's normal and natural. You could even tell him you have had moments when you freaked about it (if that's true). My significant other said sort fo this same thing to me, and it really relaxed me. I felt like I wasnt alone and I wasn't a freak or a horrible person. We're married now. Gay and illegally, but we freak out too, even if it's not sanctioned by man or God.
posted by joaniemcchicken at 10:14 PM on March 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

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