Dear Wanda and Wayne,
My boyfriend "Bill" and I are at a crossroads and I need advice. We started dating six months ago. I am in my early 30s and have had a few LTRs and lived with one boyfriend for a couple of years. Bill has never been with anyone for more than a year. He's never lived with anyone. From the start he's said he needs to take this slow because commitment scares him and his track record has been to pull away when things get serious. I am OK with going slow because I really care about him. In fact, I love him -- but we hadn't said it to each other yet. I was hoping Valentine's Day would be the day.
Well, he didn't say it. And actually, the night wasn't really special at all. We went to a somewhat generic chain restaurant and we talked about regular stuff (work, how our days were) and by the time dessert came, I couldn't stand it. I told him, "I love you." And he just smiled at me and said, "Aw babe, that's awesome." What's with that!? When we finally got back to my apartment, I basically just freaked out. I told him I've waited six months to hear those words and he couldn't even man up and say them. He got mad and told me he couldn't say it until he was ready. I said if he isn't ready after six months, he probably won't be. He says he needs more time.
More time? It's been six months! I can't decide whether to stay with him or cut my losses. Help?
-- Signed, Unloved
Wanda says: Love is so confusing and saying "I love you" can be even more befuddling. Coming to the realization that you love someone is a huge deal -- and we don't all necessarily get to that point at the same speed. Once you've realized you feel it, saying it out loud sets the stage for rejection and utter vulnerability.
You've been a very patient girlfriend. In fact, it sounds like there's been very little compromise, as you've played by Bill's rules, at his pace, and hoped that he would come around. Bill, meanwhile, is happily hanging out in his own comfort zone, and I have a feeling he'll stay there until you pull him out of it.
This isn't even about love: it's about committing to a future and to the next phase of your relationship. Six months is a reasonable time to hang out, go on dates, get to know each other and determine whether you care about someone enough to go on to the next step. You're ready. Bill is balking. If you really believe in a potential future with him, sit him down and explain that you want to see this relationship continue to deepen and grow.
Wayne says: Whoa, ladies -- pump your brakes!
Could Bill have spelled it out any clearer for you? He moves slow. Commitment freaks him out. He backs off when things get serious. And here you are jumping around, making loud noises, expecting Valentine's Day fireworks and breaking out "I love yous." You're really frustrated that he wasn't ready for any of it? Have you listened to him at any point during these six months?
Why do you have to attach timetables to a relationship? If he doesn't reply to your charming text within an hour, it's totally over. If he doesn't call you within 48 hours of the first date, it's totally over. If he wants to have sex before the third date, it's totally over. If he doesn't say "I love you" within six months, it's totally over. If he doesn't want to move in together after a year, it's totally over. If he doesn't propose within two years, it's totally over. Tick, tock, tick, tock -- BOOM!
We're all on our own journeys in life and love. Bill has been completely honest about how fast he's willing to move, yet you keep pushing him. I'm surprised you haven't scared him off already, honestly, but he's still with you. Even after all your pressure and unnecessary freak-outs. Isn't that a pretty good indicator that he more than likes you? You really need it in words to validate it?
Your sanity is up to you, sister -- you can either chill like Bill or start channeling all that frustrated energy you're projecting onto him into finding someone who is on the fast track to forever, just like you.
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