* 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.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.