Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I’ve been seeing this guy for four months now — basically all summer. We started off very casual, but we’ve gotten closer and spend more time together. We stay at each other’s houses, so we know each other’s roommates. We’ve met each other’s friends, and I introduced him to my sister. By my read, this is trending serious.
So when I suggested the other day that I wanted him to meet my parents, since we’re together, he seemed surprised. He said, and I quote, “We aren’t technically together.” I was pretty stunned. I took a minute to recover myself so that I didn’t say something I would regret later, then shared that in my perspective, we aren’t seeing other people, it’s been a few months, so I consider him my boyfriend.
He said we’re young (mid-20s), he’s “not into labels,” and he “adores” me but wants to take things slow, and not to read into it, because our generation “doesn’t really date” anyway.
Well, I date! At least I want to date. I’m blaming myself because I did go home with him the first night, so maybe we were doomed to be casual only? I don’t know, but I really like this guy and I want to get him to take us more seriously. I didn’t even dare ask him if he was seeing other people. Do you think he is? What can I do?
The thing about communicating expectations in a relationship is, it isn’t really something that instantly works the second you decide to start doing it. Several months in, you’re just now sharing what you want from him. No doubt he was surprised; from his perspective, it probably came out of left field. One minute you’re fun and carefree with no requests for commitment, and the next, you’re suggesting he meet the parents. See the problem?
This doesn’t mean he isn’t trending serious, as you hope. But you probably shocked the heck out of him and he was doing a bit of backpedaling and spinning trying to figure out how to not completely piss you off while, at the same time, not committing to something he hadn’t pondered and signed on for.
People also tend to imagine the worst-case or most severe scenarios. Your label of “boyfriend” simply means you want him to get to know people close to you and not sleep with other women; he hears it, and he might think it means giving up nights with his pals, moving in together and getting a puppy. See the difference?
Give the conversation some space. Revisit it soon. Soften your approach but stick to your guns as you clarify what you want: that this relationship is heading in a direction that’s more advanced than just Friends With Benefits. Be prepared for him to dig in and not be down, and if that’s the case, be equally prepared to pull up stakes and move on.
Well, that didn’t exactly go as planned, did it? No point in beating yourself up over it, though, or over the things you did (jump right into bed with him) and things you didn’t say (I ain’t your hollerback girl) over the summer. The focus now should be on the fact that summer fun is ending and you two need to figure out what’s happening moving forward.
So make a plan (no more surprises!), sit down with him and have The Talk: What are you guys really doing? Where are you guys going? What do you each want out of this relationship? By planning this out a few days in advance, you both will have an opportunity to get your thoughts together before talking. But don’t put it off — letting this slide for a week or longer will only increase the anxiety and tension.
Commit to having an honest conversation about who you are, what he means to you, and what you want from him and this relationship. And be prepared and open to listening to him express himself. Hopefully you two can find agreement across the board. If not, at least maybe you can find some compromise; you can slow things down a little, he can speed things up a little.
But if he ultimately digs his heels in on his stance of not attaching labels and commitment to the people he’s sleeping with, tell him you’re happy to provide him with a label: your ex. It will be tough but it must be done — he isn’t changing anytime soon.