Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Don’t Know If I See a Future with My Boyfriend”

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I’m in a new-ish relationship and I’m finding that my feelings of doubt about the future are starting to sap all the fun out of it. A few-bullet points of context:

* I’m 26 and, although this is my fifth significant other, it’s the first where there’s no major life-step (college graduation, etc.) or personality trait that seems likely to give the relationship a natural endpoint.

* I’ve never been good at calling anyone my boyfriend, and I’ve never been good at integrating SOs into my friend group.

* I met my SO almost 1.5 years ago but only started dating four months ago. He has had a crush on me the whole time we’ve known each other. He’s made it very clear that he really cares about me and wants this to be a long-term investment.

* I have literally ZERO substantive complaints about my SO. When we first started dating, I was SO happy. We went exclusive pretty soon, per his request, since we had known each other over a year. He also dropped the L word only a few weeks into our relationship.

Since the upgrade to “boyfriend,” though, I’ve no longer felt head over heels. I’m still happy and enjoying his company, but I’m feeling anxious. I am becoming more critical about things. Tiny things like that he doesn’t like to read as much as I do and vague things like, “Is this person my match?” I’ve shared my fears with my SO and he’s super understanding and supportive.

Back in August, I asked if we could backpedal a bit. He was respectful of my request that we tone it down. There has been much more space, and no more L-words, although we’re still exclusive. I have felt a little less anxious since then. Still, I find myself torn between wanting to backpedal more and not-wanting to lose my SO.

Sometimes I’ll have these crystalline moments where I realize that I could not ask for more kindness in a partner. But those moments are buffered by times where I feel overwhelmed by the idea that this might be the LAST person I ever date and what if I’m choosing wrong? I am scared that there’s a person I wouldn’t have these doubts with and that I need to find him!

It’s only been four months; I want the happy feeling back and less of this anxiety. I realize there are no easy answers, but any guidance is appreciated! Please help! — Feeling Anxious About No Endpoint

I think you’re confused about what the word “boyfriend” means. It simply means the person you are exclusively dating. It doesn’t mean the guy you’re going to marry or move in with or be buried next to. Even “love” doesn’t mean those things. Somehow, because this is the first time you’ve had a relationship that doesn’t have a looming endpoint on the horizon, you’ve convinced yourself that you either need to commit now or get out. But you don’t. You can just keep on enjoying the relationship without worrying about where it’s headed.

Of course, it may be that your boyfriend is putting pressure on you to move faster than you are ready to or interested in moving. And if that’s the case and you’ve already told him to slow down and he has and you’re still feeling anxious, then this may be a case of you simply being over it. Four months is around the time someone might feel like moving on if the match isn’t a great one. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that your boyfriend isn’t great. He could be a wonderful guy but not the right wonderful guy for you. Or he could even be a wonderful guy for you but not right now.

Honestly, if you’re only four months in and already wishing you could get back the happy feeling you had “in the beginning,” that doesn’t bode well. Four months in IS the beginning. If your doubts are sapping all the fun out of the relationship, what’s the point in staying in it? Out of fear that you’ll never find someone else? I’d say having five boyfriends by 26 is a strong indication that you’re good at finding boyfriends and you’ll find another again.

If you’re feeling anxious that this relationship has no endpoint, maybe it’s time you gave it one. It could be exactly the antidote you need.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

30 comments… add one
  • katie

    katie October 22, 2013, 3:11 pm

    to me, this seems more of a general life problem then a problem with this particular boyfriend. you say that all your past relationships have had end-dates- why is that? college graduation is not a “normal” end date for a relationship, id say. a lot of people go past college graduation with their SOs. so, why did you feel ok in those relationships? why did you feel safe having an end date? and now, what is it exactly about the future you see as so scary- is it marriage? kids? living in one place forever? only having sex with one person forever?

    figure this stuff out, and then go on with your life. if you decide you dont want to get married, dont, and find partners who dont want to either. if you dont want to have kids, dont… ect. you can structure your life in endless ways, so structure it in whatever way you want!

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      kerrycontrary October 22, 2013, 4:10 pm

      I saw the end point more of a “oh we graduated from college and got jobs in different cities so we broke up” and a “I taught English abroad for a year and I knew this was just a fling” or “I know I’m only in this city for 6 months”. Some people can stay together during these major life changes, but it’s not really weird if they don’t. Maybe the LW is freaked out that she’s “settled” in her life now, so any guy she dates has the potential to be long-term (even if he doesn’t have to be).

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      • katie

        katie October 22, 2013, 4:26 pm

        i guess i get those, but if this is a pattern with her, and then coupled with her anxiety now, i think its an issue for her. maybe she doesnt even know about it yet, but…. its telling that she has had objectively “easy” relationships with end dates and now is freaking out about the settling down thing.

        i think that this will happen to her until she figures out whatever issue that is.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle October 22, 2013, 3:14 pm

    Was this posted purposely, or is it an accidental early post? (Just because I don’t want to get invested if it was meant to go up tomorrow, haha)

    I read the beginning though. & it sounds like uncannily like… me? I’ve always been terrible about feeling like/calling someone my S/O, & I ALSO suck at integrating my S/O into my friend group.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest October 22, 2013, 3:19 pm

      Haha, don’t want to get invested if its going to be taken down til tomorrow 🙂

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  • avatar

    TECH October 22, 2013, 3:25 pm

    I think this letter is just a combination of “I’m scared of growing up” and “I’m just not that into my boyfriend.” I think sometimes when you get into your mid/late twenties you realize that relationships are starting to get a little more serious — you’re not in the “hooking up” college days where it was all about having fun. Now you have to be more of an “adult” and it’s a little scary.
    But that’s really not a big deal. It sounds like this LW just isn’t that into her boyfriend, even though she says she has zero complaints. Sometimes a person can be good on paper but just not a good match for you.

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  • avatar

    sophronisba October 22, 2013, 3:38 pm

    For some reason, my mind is taking me to what the guy’s side of this story must sound like: “Been crazy about this girl for a long time, finally she’s mine, I was so excited I blurted out the L word too soon and now she’s asked me to back off and give her space, which I have tried my best to do, but she seems so doubtful and it hurts that that happy, close feeling we had just a few months ago is gone..”
    Yah. LW, if choosing him is more joy-sucking for you than losing him, maybe you should be generous and let this good guy go while you figure things out?

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    • avatar

      cdobbs October 22, 2013, 3:55 pm

      you just stated perfectly what i was thinking sophronisba

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  • avatar

    SasLinna October 22, 2013, 3:54 pm

    I’m sorry but this sounds like a MOA situation to me. Your description of the situation contains a lot of fear: Instead of expanding your horizon this relationship makes you feel trapped. That’s not what happy feels like. Also, I’m always wary when someone’s reasons for being in a relationship are mostly negative: Like, there’s nothing to complain about, or there might not be a better option. This means your brain is trying to find reasons to complain, and is evaluating the possibility of other options.

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary October 22, 2013, 4:08 pm

    I just don’t think the LW is that into her boyfriend romantically. I mean maybe they had a great friendship and he’s nice and he’s good looking, but that doesn’t mean you have to be in love with him. Sometimes its just not there.

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  • avatar

    sarolabelle October 22, 2013, 4:19 pm

    why is she dating people? The point of dating is to find out what qualities you like in someone and if you mesh well for the long haul. If you don’t mesh well or there is something you don’t like then MOA. If you mesh well and are having fun then keep dating.

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    • katie

      katie October 22, 2013, 4:24 pm

      “long haul” isnt everyone’s goal, and that is perfectly fine.

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    • iwannatalktosampson

      iwannatalktosampson October 22, 2013, 4:48 pm

      Yeah I thought the point of dating was to go on dates and have fun and not worry about the future. Or is that just my current goal in dating? Who knows. Maybe I’m doing it wrong.

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      • avatar

        TECH October 22, 2013, 4:55 pm

        I guess with the boyfriend throwing L bombs all over the place it becomes a pretty serious long term investment. I guess I can’t blame the LW for feeling anxious. She obviously doesn’t love him back.

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      sarolabelle October 24, 2013, 5:46 pm

      I dated with no other goal in mind than to find the man I want to marry and have a family with.

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  • avatar

    bethany October 22, 2013, 4:34 pm

    I think you need to break up with him. 4 months is way too soon to be cooling off like that. I mean, yeah, there are days where I wish my husband would just leave me alone, so I can watch TV, eat cheese and drink wine alone, but those moments are rare, and they certainly weren’t happening after dating for 4 months.

    Having “no complaints” about someone isn’t a good reason to be their girlfriend. You’re wasting this guy’s time. He’s obviously looking for a relationship, and I don’t think you can give that to him.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle October 22, 2013, 4:47 pm

    Okay now that I read in full— I agree with everybody that it doesn’t sound like you’re so into this guy. For whatever reason though, you’re wondering if those feelings are legit? Maybe you internalized the “time to settle” thing, & so part of you views his rush to exclusivity, his desire to say “I love you” as good things? But those are only good things if that’s what YOU want— & it sounds like you don’t. Not yet, anyway. There’s nothing wrong with that. Dating SHOULD be fun, it shouldn’t get totally serious right away. This guy had a crush on you for a while, so his timeline for relationship milestones (expressing commitment, saying I love you) are probably on a fast track. Therefore… it’s not YOUR anxieties that are sapping the fun out of everything, it’s just that you guys are in different places.

    So, I dunno, do you keep him at a distance when he so wants to be close? Or just let him go? Personally, I’d say to let him go.

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  • landygirl

    landygirl October 22, 2013, 5:02 pm

    Try therapy. If you think every relationship has an expiration date then there is something deeper going on here.

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      TECH October 22, 2013, 5:04 pm

      Well, in defense of the LW, most relationships do have natural endpoints. All relationships end, either through breakup or death. Yeah, I know, that’s a depressing thought.

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      • landygirl

        landygirl October 22, 2013, 5:26 pm

        Sure but not one you plan for in advance.

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        Christy October 22, 2013, 7:29 pm

        Naw man, it’s not depressing. It’s reassuring if you’re worrying about relationships ending. I personally think it’s a great way of thinking. Like, if you’re afraid of being alone, well, odds are you’ll be alone some day, or else you’ll die before your partner, and then they’ll be alone.

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  • avatar

    AKchic October 22, 2013, 5:06 pm

    Does anyone else think that this guy seems to have been invested in this relationship longer than she has been? It would explain why he dropped the L-bomb 4 months into the actual relationship. To him, they’ve been “together” for longer, but officially dating for 4 months. He’s carried a torch for her possibly 1.5 years!

    Does this mean he should be dropping the L-bomb? Not really. It slipped out and he panicked. Now she’s anxious. I just wanted to give a little bit of a perspective here.

    I think she should let him go. She isn’t happy in the relationship. He may not be doing anything “wrong”, but she isn’t happy. He could be smothering her because his timeline is different than hers. Or, they just don’t mesh well as a couple. There’s no shame in not meshing well. That’s one of the reasons why we date, to figure out our compatibility.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo October 22, 2013, 5:15 pm

    Like so many people, the LW is making this relationship an objective instead of a relationship. Like so many, she is obsessed with whether he is “the one,” and whether she’ll be missing something better, which is wrong-headed. 4 months in, just enjoy it. If you are not enjoying it, end it now for his sake, because he is in love with you. You don’t have to have a good reason or a “substantive complaint.” If you don’t want to be in a relationship, don’t be. But maybe you shouldn’t be in a relationship at all until you know that’s what you want and you are prepared to treat your guy like a 3D human instead of an imperfect match for your “the one” scorecard. Sorry, LW, I know you’re not a bad person, but i think you have some wrong ideas, and as a “guy commenter,” all I can feel in this letter is the guy’s impending broken heart. So break it as gently as you can.

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet October 22, 2013, 5:20 pm

    I think he dropped the L word too soon and it freaked you out. That’s normal. I think everything else is just you reading too much into it. Like, you’re trying to figure out all the reasons why you don’t like this great guy, when the answer is probably simply that he moved way too fast for you. You really can’t go back once you move too fast. Even taking more space and cooling it on the language doesn’t erase the fact that you KNOW he’s in love with you and wants a long-term future together.

    Also, it’s totally normal to be really into somebody for a few weeks and then suddenly feel “meh” about them. Sometimes it’s just the thrill of all the hormones at the very beginning. I experienced it once in a really big way when I was 21. We were SO INTO EACH OTHER for a week and saw each other every day and spent all our time together because he had to leave for 3 weeks. The kiss goodbye at the airport, you guys. It was intense and so ridiculous that we felt that way after a WEEK. We kept in contact while he was gone and picking him up at the airport was equally intense, but a few weeks after he got back? Nothing. Nada. It faded. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just the hormones were no longer driving it and I realized he wasn’t what I wanted. Had we declared ourselves official and said “I love you” and all that other stuff, I’m sure it would have had a much more complicated end.

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  • avatar

    Sara October 22, 2013, 5:55 pm

    (1) If you are not in a place where you want a long-term relationship, that’s OK. You aren’t a bad person for not wanting a long-term relationship.
    (2) I’m a little concerned about your statement that maybe there’s someone out there who, when you meet him, will erase all your doubts about long-term relationships. This might be true, but it might not be true, too. I think it’s normal to have some doubts about such a big commitment, even if entering into such a commitment is the right decision. For me, love is not the absence of all doubt.

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  • avatar

    Essie October 22, 2013, 7:08 pm

    Good lord, girl. Chill. 🙂

    You’re way overthinking this. Way. To the point where you’re sucking all the happiness out of the relationship. Stop over-analyzing your every thought and emotion. Just BE in the relationship.

    Do you enjoy his company? Yes? Good. Then just enjoy the time you spend with him and stop obsessing about What It All Means.

    Four months is way to soon to know what the future will bring in this relationship. That will become clear as time goes by, and on its own schedule.

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  • avatar

    BreezyAM October 22, 2013, 7:35 pm

    Way too much thinking.

    Life would go a lot better for people if they would just date, continue to date if they like having sex and drinking together (or whatever people do who don’t drink or have sex) and stop dating if they don’t.

    I swear, there’s really absolutely nothing else ot think about. If this guy was making her knees turn to jello every time they were in bed she would not be writing this letter I tell you what.

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  • avatar

    MJ October 22, 2013, 8:37 pm

    If you like him, keep dating him.

    After the first few months, the newness wears off. That’s normal. And sometimes, when the newness is gone, anxiety can set in. You have plenty of people here telling you that that is a bad thing, and you should probably end it.

    But, if you are generally an overthink-y sort of person, who worries about things in advance of them actually happening, and if maybe you have some ideas about what love “should” be (head over heels, doubt-free, blissful) then I would treat this as anxiety, not a death knell for your relationship. I had plenty of worries early on in my relationship, because it was the first one with a good guy, and the first one with the potential to be real and serious. Now we are married, and I would’ve missed out on this wonderful and beloved person if I had given in to my four month anxiety.

    There is no need to settle for a man who doesn’t do it for you, but make sure your expectations of what “IT” is are reasonable before you go ditching an awesome dude for what else might be out there.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna October 23, 2013, 4:22 am

      This is a good point. What’s really tricky though is that overthinking/anxiety can go both ways: For some people it leads them to prematurely end relationships, for others it does the exact opposite. There are people who will not end a relationship even though it’s clear they’re not happy because they overanalyze their “reasons” for wanting to leave, to the point that it paralyzes action. This can go on for months or years. I think this is what happens more when it’s a person with an anxious-clingy attachment style than an avoidant style, while a person with an avoidant attachment style might be more likely to run for the hills at the first sight of trouble and miss out on lasting relationships as a result. There is some evidence for an avoidant style in the letter – like saying that she isn’t good at calling someone her boyfriend. But there’s also some evidence for a more anxious-clingy style, like that she’s probably almost constantly been in relationships if she’s already had 5 SO’s at her age, and the fact that she doesn’t think of being independent/single if she broke up with this guy but is already thinking about finding the next one. Tl;dr: It’s pretty hard to tell if LW’s anxiety is preventing her from staying or from leaving.

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  • avatar

    Lucy October 23, 2013, 12:24 pm

    There is way too much judging and criticizing and not enough being present going on in your head, LW. Take a deep breath and stop trying to decide every minute of every day whether this is the guy for you. It might help if you tell yourself “I’m going to enjoy the next six months, and then I’ll decide whether I want to stay with him another six months.”

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