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Ryan LCSW, Relationships
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 872
Experience:  Professional therapist
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Boyfriend Commitment

Customer Question

I'm 25 and have been dating my boyfriend for nearly two years. We have a loving and wonderful relationship and really enjoy the time we spend together. An issue that emerged early on is that I was looking for a serious, committed and long-term relationship when we met, and he is unsure of what he wants and was dating more casually. This issue emerged a few months into our relationship when he panicked about defining the relationship and went into this chorus of "I don't know what I want/I don't know what I'm doing," but he came back repentant a couple of days later apologizing for his panic and saying he wanted to keep seeing me. I expressed that I had felt blindsided and hurt by this, but didn't want to punish him, and we continued dating. Everything went smoothly and continued to build for months -- we committed to an exclusive thing that's on Facebook on all that -- when back in January he again had a bit of a panic. He was experiencing some pretty severe depression and again expressed that he wasn't sure what he wanted. This was very difficult, and I was worried we'd break up, but he talked to friends and realized that the relationship makes him happy and that he's depressed and dissatisfied with a lot of things that don't have anything to do with the relationship, so he decided to stay with it and start going to therapy. He was saying things like, "I just want to quit everything and this is something I could quit," which to me is classic depression (I've struggled with depression in the past) and was not really an indicator that the relationship wasn't working. It took me a while to recover from our near break-up, and I felt very insecure and scared. But things returned to normal, we planned and went on a week-long vacation and both had a great time,I was his date to a big family event, etc. Then, this weekend, we got into another conversation along the same lines. He told me that he loves me, has no complaints about the relationship and is happy with me, but is still not sure what he wants, afraid of commitment and not sure if he wants to move in together or get more serious (he correctly senses that I want this). He has only been in one other relationship, and it was for seven years, and he has a fear of missing out. The thing is that he's like this in all areas of his life -- things have come to him easily, and he is afraid to commit to them and own them as his choices. For instance, he got a great job at NASA right out of undergrad. He literally said, "I wasn't looking for a lifelong career, I just fell into this, but I really love it and could see myself there for a long time. But then part of me thinks I should try new things just because I'm young and should see what's out there. But I'm happy where I am." I pointed out that this is literally the same thing he is saying about me and our relationship. He has also been putting off finishing his Masters degree, which has become a source of huge stress and anxiety for him even though all he has left to do is write a paper. I also asked him what about living together sounded good to him, and what sounded not good. He said he had never thought about it that way. I told him that I felt he was afraid to commit in multiple areas of his life and that concepts like commitment are getting in the way of his day-to-day happiness, and that he's not viewing his choices in concrete, actual terms of what would affect his life. Through our conversation, I believe that he is genuinely conflicted about what he wants and not merely putting off telling me what I don't want to hear -- I offered him many chances to say what he felt. This is a big year for him -- he'll be getting his Master's, has started going to therapy and his best friend who he lives with is getting married and moving out next June. I love him and want things to work out -- our day-to-day relationship is fantastic, and there's a lot of love and something really special there. We don't talk about the future or these commitment issues often. But the uncertainty about where thing are going is difficult for me -- I don't need marriage or engagement on a specific or fast timeline, but would like to know that it's headed in a more serious direction, and he knows that I feel this way. Should I give him more time to come around? Is it possible that his therapy and the other major life events of growing up that are happening for him this year will make a difference, and I should be patient and show that I'm a loving partner? Or am I wasting my time on him and should find someone who's a little more grown up and ready for the type of commitment I'm looking for? I've heard arguments in both directions and feel heartsick and sad, but I don't know what the smart thing to do is. Part of me wants to give him this year to sort things out, but I don't want to delay the inevitable and waste my time. I am a special person who definitely deserves someone who feels lucky to be with me. I really love him.

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Ryan LCSW replied 4 years ago.
Thanks for your question. My name is Ryan and I have over 10 years of experience helping people with relationship problems.

I can understand your frustration and this is a tough decision to make. In a lot of ways the practical advice that your friends and family have been giving you is on target, and as frustrating as that may be, there may not be a way to make a decision that you will feel 100% confident about.

One of the most important things to consider in a decision like this is how you think Alex feels about you. From what you described, it doesn't sound like the love between the two of you is the problem, but it is more about the direction of the relationship. If you get the sense from Alex that he feels as strongly about you as you do towards him, then that is a very special thing that would seem hard to give up on at this point, and it may be worth hanging in there a little longer to see what happens. This is especially true due to the life changes that he will be experiencing in the near future which does have the potential to change his perspective or at least cause him to do enough thinking that he will be able to give you a more solid answer about where he sees your relationship headed.

At the same time, if your instincts are telling you that he is not as serious about this relationship as you are, then that may be an indication that it is time to consider moving on. In general, if the love is there, things have a tendency to work themselves out in the long run, so I think it is fair to weigh your decision heavily on that factor. I definitely wish you the best with all of this, and if there's anything else I can do to help please let me know.

Expert:  Ryan LCSW replied 4 years ago.
Hi, I saw that you received my answer but I never heard back from you, so I hope that I was able to help you out. If there's anything else I can do to help please let me know, otherwise if you wouldn't mind leaving me a positive review it would be much appreciated. Thanks,