How long is too long to wait for commitment?
I have been dating my boyfriend for almost a year now. In the course of our relationship, he has turned from an inexperienced, somewhat boyish and a bit arrogant guy, into a warm, open, nurturing lover and friend. In a way, I feel that I have brought some of it out of him (to which he admits as well), though I know that I have learned a great deal from him, too. Having been married before (for about 4 years), I must say that I am much more serious in this relationship than I was when I was married. My boyfriend has never had a long-term relationship, and I know that I am his first true love. However, as I have become much more mature and ready for a long-term companionship, my boyfriend seems to shy away from the "big" plans. We still do most of our long-term planning (such as buying a condo or continuing education) in single-person terms. So even though for the time being everything seems very stable, I for some reason feel slightly insecure about the long-term prospective. I have brought this issue up with him and he says that he cannot imagine his life without me, yet he cannot make any specific plans before he has all his priorities in order.
Where does my insecurity come from? I have never been dumped or betrayed before. How should I deal with it?
You present a very interesting situation that has several possible outcomes.
You have been a teacher for your boyfriend and he has learned a lot and is grateful for it. One possible outcome would be for the two of you to separate and for him to find a woman he could teach or a woman he could be more of an equal with. Then you could find a partner where you could feel more like an equal or one from whom you could learn.
If you want to make this into a long-term relationship or a marriage, your questions are quite relevant. Your insecurity comes from your accurate perception that he is not yet committed. You might be able to learn a lot about how you can deal with it from John Gray's book, Mars and Venus on a Date. Your concern that you "may become too pushy, which may destroy what we have right now" is right on target. That is the greatest temptation for a woman in your position, and many fall into this trap. You need to get a lot of support from your family, friends, or in therapy, to feel your own strength and independence, and, over time, let him know that you love him and want to be with him in a long term, committed relationship. Let him know that you can accept it if he is not ready for that, but then you will have to move on and seek what you want with someone else. You may need to leave him alone for a while before he can come to the realization that he needs you and he wants to spend his life with you. Often men cannot come to this realization when they feel that a woman is pursuing them. Of course, if you leave him, he may come to the conclusion that he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life with you. If this were the case, you are much better off without him. It takes a lot of courage and support for you to do this, but it is usually best in the long run.
I have worked with two couples over the last two years. In both cases the men were extremely reluctant to make a commitment. As I coached the women to back off and give her man a chance to experience life without her, I coached the men in letting go of his fears and getting in touch with what he wanted. Both men decided to get married! The two couples even asked me to do the wedding, since I am a minister as well as a psychologist!
I wish you the best as you work this out. My greatest hope for you is that you use this as an opportunity for learning and growth, regardless of what happens to the relationship.
John B. Houck
This question was answered by Andy Bernay-Roman, RN, MS, LMHC, NCC, LMT. He is a nationally certified counselor in private psychotherapy practice in South Florida working with individuals, couples, and families with a deep-feeling therapy approach. Andy's medical background as an ICU nurse contributes to his success with clients with difficult medical diagnoses and/or chronic physical conditions. He also serves as head of the Psychological Support Department of West Palm Beach's Hippocrates Health Institute.For more information visit: http://www.deepfeeling.com/