Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickies: “I Supported Him When His Father Died, And Now He Won’t Move With Me”

I’m back from vacation (or, as we call it when we travel with young kinds, “a trip”)! Now I get to play catch up on emails and laundry and errands and all that exciting, post-travel fun. Before that, here are a couple quickies as I ease back into the flow of things:

I have been in a relationship for four years. My boyfriend and I have talked excitedly and continuously about getting married and having a life together. However, last year for a good ten months his father became sick, followed by his passing away. I would go with him to visit his dad all the time. I was as supportive as I could be throughout, and I continue to be. Recently, I received a job opportunity that is taking me far from home. I’m really excited about it. My boyfriend, however, doesn’t know what to do. He has been looking for jobs in my new city because he said he wants to follow me, but the other day he said that he doesn’t think he could ever leave his mom (his sibling isn’t the type to help out). I didn’t plan for an out-of-town job, but I don’t want to wait around for a local one or wait for him to figure out what he wants. I feel torn but, at the same time, kind of betrayed. I also feel I’m being unfair and selfish. And I’m starting to wonder if this is going to work. I know he is still grieving, but I need to think of what is healthy for me too. Those ten months were hard. What should I do? — Moving For Dream Job

You know who else those ten months were hard for? Your boyfriend. And his mom, too. And, as you said, it’s not as if his grieving is over. It’s not as if everything goes back to normal now. Life changed for him and he has to re-prioritize some things and think about what his path looks like now. It’s not unreasonable that he considers his mother, a new widow, and thinks about how much he is willing, and wants, to support her (through this life change, through her grief, through this stage in her life when her needs may be greater than ever and her closest support person is gone). And it’s not unreasonable for you to prioritize your needs, too, especially since you’re not yet married and haven’t made that total commitment to another person. This is your time and chance to do what is best for you.

But as you do that, don’t go blaming your boyfriend for not jumping on board 100%. Don’t play that game where you say you gave him trn months of support while he father was sick and dying and now it’s his turn to support you. Supporting a loved one through the grieving process is completely different than uprooting your life and moving with a significant other as she follows her dreams. Apples and oranges, my friend. You didn’t “earn” payback in the form of an unplanned move. Frankly, you didn’t even earn a medal. You did what any loving, supportive person would and should do when her significant other is losing a parent. And, yeah, you are being unfair and selfish if you think that support and love you offered now entitles you to calling the shots on where your relationship should move. You have to decide this together, and if your boyfriend isn’t on board with a move — which is his prerogative, regardless of his reasons (and supporting a suddenly widowed mother is a fair one!) — then you have to decide whether the job is worth leaving your boyfriend for. If it is, move on. But don’t resent your boyfriend for that decision.

I feel funny writing this because I am a firm believer in “if he likes you, you will know,” but I’ve been dating this guy for nine months and we hang out, we have sleepovers once a week or more, and I have met his friends. He promises he likes me and he isn’t looking to date anyone else and would tell me if anything like that crossed his mind (including sex), but when I asked him
why we are not officially dating, he said, “timing.” Of course, to me this is a massive red flag. I asked him to elaborate and he said: “Well, I have roommates and I work sixteen-hour days, I can’t even see or reply to texts from friends and family, and dating isn’t my focus at the moment, but I still really care about you. My question is: Is timing a real thing or an excuse? When we are together, he seems to care about me, but it also seems weird that he knows I’m going to start dating other people since I am not one to wait around and he doesn’t seem that upset about it. I feel like if you like someone, timing shouldn’t matter! Or does timing matter for men? Could it be that he knows I like him and we are acting like we are dating, so he doesn’t need to put a label on it since the chase is gone? — Super Confused

 
Of course timing matters! And it should matter to you, too. Would you fault someone who just got divorced last month for not being ready to start dating seriously? I would hope not! And why? Because, timing. There are just certain times when someone’s focus isn’t or cannot be on starting a new relationship. If this guy is working sixteen hours a day, he’s being honest about not having much time or focus or interest in investing in a committed relationship. And he’s probably being honest that he cares about you. And he probably also enjoys having weekly sleepovers with you without the pressure and responsibility of maintaining a relationship.

Now it’s time for you to be honest, and if that isn’t enough for you, MOA. If what you need is a label and this guy can’t give it to you, honestly YOU are the one who’s fucking yourself over, not him. YOU are the one playing games if you think threatening him with dating other people is going to win him over. Be a grown up and just move on. Or deal with him being a FWB or booty call or whatever it is you are to each other at the moment and quit bellyaching about being played. You’re not being played. He’s told you dating isn’t his focus. Accept that or move on. You say you’re confused, but there’s really nothing confusing about this.

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

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

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

24 comments… add one
  • avatar

    RedRoverRedRover June 13, 2017, 10:08 am

    Both of these have the same answer, really. The guy has told you what they’re willing to do/give. You have to make a decision based on that. If it’s enough for you and you can be happy with that, then fine. If not, move on.

    And LW2, maybe he’s lying about timing and that’s just an excuse. But in the end it doesn’t matter. His answer is still “I’ll not willing to make it official”, no matter what his reason is. If you want it to be official, then this isn’t the guy for you.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster June 13, 2017, 10:10 am

    “…I’m going to start dating other people since I am not one to wait around…”

    Says the woman who’s been waiting around for *nine months*. Look, I’m sure you guys like each other, but 9 months is PLENTY of time to figure out where you stand. And if you’re still FWB and he doesn’t want to be your boyfriend, then it’s well past time for you to MOA.

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  • avatar

    Northern Star June 13, 2017, 10:15 am

    LW 1, if your boyfriend’s decision to stay put is holding you back too much (and that’s understandable—sometimes things just don’t work out), move on—but he’s doing absolutely nothing wrong here when he balks at the idea of moving away from his freshly widowed mother.

    LW 2, I can see why you’re super confused. You contradict yourself in the first paragraph. You say you’ve been dating for nine months, but then you say you’re not “officially” dating. And honestly, I kinda disagree with Wendy—I think someone whose legitimate reasons not to date you are about “timing” wouldn’t bring up “roommates” (???) as a reason not to do so. Regardless, leave this guy behind. He either can’t or won’t be your boyfriend, and the reasons why don’t really matter in the end.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover June 13, 2017, 10:46 am

      Yeah, the roommates comment was weird, which is why I think he’s making excuses. I suspect he just doesn’t want to get more serious with her, but wants to keep her as a casual thing. But like I said, it doesn’t really make a difference what his real reason is. He’s telling her what he is willing to give, and she can take it or leave it.

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      • Copa

        Copa June 13, 2017, 12:04 pm

        Agreed! Timing is a thing, but sounds more like an excuse here.

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  • Guy Friday

    Guy Friday June 13, 2017, 10:38 am

    but it also seems weird that he knows I’m going to start dating other people since I am not one to wait around and he doesn’t seem that upset about it.

    Am I the only one here who DOESN’T find it that weird that he responded that way? He said he can’t make more of a commitment because of timing, you said “OK, well if that’s the case I’m not going to be exclusive but keep seeing you,” and he responded “Well, that’s fair.” I mean, he’s acknowledging that he doesn’t have the right to demand you be exclusive with him if he can’t offer that to you right now, and you’re annoyed by that? I don’t think it’s apathy; I think it’s accepting the consequences of his situation.

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    • avatar

      Northern Star June 13, 2017, 10:55 am

      She thinks it’s weird because she thinks if this guy cared for her, he’d feel bad about her seeing other people.

      I think it’s more likely apathy than “accepting the consequences.” She apparently isn’t asking him for more time or more attention or more texts (reasons given not to be in a relationship, along with the weird-as-crap “I have roommates” excuse), so it really sounds like he just doesn’t care much.

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      • avatar

        Sketchee June 13, 2017, 2:12 pm

        If he cares and can’t do what would make her happy, the The caring thing to do is what he’s doing. She is asking him for more. Not time or attention, but the label if dating when he doesn’t want to dare

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    • avatar

      Ange June 13, 2017, 6:06 pm

      No I thought that was a really mature way to handle it as well. She tried to play the game and get him all jealous and he responded in a way that she didn’t expect so suddenly he’s the bad guy? Nah.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark June 13, 2017, 7:33 pm

        Agreed!

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  • avatar

    Ashley June 13, 2017, 11:45 am

    It sounds like this relationship has run its course. Whether there is a label or not you’ve had a relationship and it’s no longer serving your needs. It’s time to move on. FWB type situations have an expiration date. Yours is well past it.

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  • avatar

    ele4phant June 13, 2017, 12:05 pm

    GG LW1, his Dad just died. He’s adrift, and that’s normal. You pressuring him to move on (and move in with you) isn’t going to be productive. Let him grieve.

    Look, I know its hard to support your partner when their parent is sick and dying. It feels like everything is on hold (and it is), and while you might like that parent, you don’t have the same familial connection, so when they pass you feel readier to move on than your partner will. I do understand your perspective, having been their myself.

    But you have to give them time to move on at their own pace. And unfortunately, there’s no set timer on that. It’s going to take the time it takes. It may reframe all of his priorities, maybe just for a little while or maybe forever. Your time of being the one to give support is not over.

    And relationships aren’t tit-for-tat. Just because you gave him ten months of emotional support doesn’t mean you’ve maxed out and its your turn to demand something from him. You support him because you love him and he needs it.

    Certainly, if the entirety of your relationship is you giving to him, and him only ever taking, maybe you can asses whether he’s a good partner. But losing a partner is an extraordinary experience, and you can’t push him to move on when he’s not ready.

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  • avatar

    csp June 13, 2017, 12:19 pm

    LW1 – I think you should move and see about long distance for awhile. The situation will clarify with space. Frankly, you might move for this job and realize it isn’t all that its cracked up to be. He might realize you are worth the move after some time. I would say that you don’t have to make any major decisions right now and just see how life goes over 6 months.

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    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl June 13, 2017, 12:50 pm

      i agree with you CSP.. it doesn’t sound like they’re ready to get married, he obviously needs more time to grieve and figure things out with his mother. She needs to explore this option and may or may not feel resentment if she turned it down to stay. Just take it as a “hey, i would really like to explore this option, we both have a lot of things up in the air. Lets do long distance for a little bit .. give it a check in timeline”

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    • avatar

      carolann June 13, 2017, 12:57 pm

      THIS^^^^

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark June 13, 2017, 12:20 pm

    As somebody who often HAS worked 16 hours days for weeks and weeks on end, I honestly can’t imagine dealing with a relationship in the midst of that.
    .
    The roommate excuse makes TOTAL sense as the ONLY time he can really routinely see her would be by having her sleep over ALL THE TIME. Something many a roommate rightly finds tedious , annoying, and tiresome.
    .
    He isn’t displaying apathy here. WTF? He is clearly laying out what he can offer right now — FWB — and sincerely accepting her response that it is not enough…

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    • avatar

      carolann June 13, 2017, 12:58 pm

      and THIS^^^^

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom June 13, 2017, 12:47 pm

    LW1 I don’t know why you feel betrayed. You are the one moving away from him. Just because you stood by him during the loss of his dad doesn’t mean he now owes it to you to uproot himself. You seem to think that he owes you something and that you can dictate to him what he will do. The only thing he owes you is to support you as much as possible during your own stressful time. That in no way means live somewhere else far from the current location. In some ways you are the one betraying the relationship because you are the one moving away. You are the one wanting to make a major change and that change only benefits you while hurting him and his mom. A major change needs to be mutually beneficial. At the very least it shouldn’t be detrimental to one partner. Did you consider him and his needs when you applied for this job? Did the two of you discuss what you as a couple would do if you got the job? Did you just assume he owes you so he would have to move?

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  • avatar

    va-in-ny June 13, 2017, 12:57 pm

    LW1 upset me. (Likely because of my sensitivity to dead dad stuff) If the father was sick for 10 months last year and then died, she’s not really giving him much time AT ALL to deal with that very difficult process. I understand how hard it is to deal with a sick parent, but it’s not like you can go, “Wow, that was hard! But, he’s dead now, so we can get on with our lives.”

    I think you’re not being fair to your boyfriend, LW1. Wendy’s advice is spot on. You have to decide what you want. He’s told you where he stands. But please, don’t pile a ton of guilt on top of his already difficult situation. He doesn’t need any sort of reason to believe that he isn’t grieving properly.

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  • avatar

    Findingtheearth June 13, 2017, 1:35 pm

    Lw1: relationships aren’t about keeping score over who supported who more. Let him grieve. But maybe take the job. Family dynamics might change and his mom might find herself a great support group. Or you might realize you want something different.

    Lw2: he told you what he wants. If the roommates make it hard for intimacy can you meet at your place? If he’s working that much and still making regular time for you, he cares. It might be good to discuss how long he has to work that much

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  • avatar

    Dalben June 13, 2017, 2:10 pm

    If you’re going to get married you’re going to form a new family unit and decisions like where to live have to be made based on what is best for your new family as a whole. Helping his mother is one valid reason to stay but even that wasn’t the issue there’d be a lot to consider. Whose career is more of a priority? Do you make more money? Does he? Would either of you plan on stopping or slowing down work if you have kids? Is one of your jobs more geographically based than the other or more difficult to break into in a new area? How big an opportunity is it compared to what your boyfriend would be giving up leaving his current job? Is it something where you’d get a giant pay increase and much better career path whereas he can pretty much find the same job anywhere or would it be more like you get a small pay increase and better title and he’d at best do the same, maybe worse trying to find something in a new area? If he can’t find a job right away would you support the both of you? How does the place your moving to fit with your long term plans (kids? school? housing costs? No kids? Fun environment?) I think it’s more on the person who wants to change where your living to show why it would be better, but that doesn’t automatically mean moving is wrong. For example if you were a Phd getting a rare tenure track offer and he was a pharmacist who could pretty much do the same job anywhere you might say that you can’t pass up this offer since it may not come again and would have a huge effect on the course of your future family whereas his career is not going to be greatly affected by a change of cities. Or if your careers are fairly similar it’s going to be a lot harder to decide whose career to prioritize.

    On the other hand, despite being together for four years and saying you are interested in marriage a some point, you said boyfriend not fiance. So maybe you like each other, but you’re not really ready to commit marriage (or the equivalent commitment since not everybody believes in official marriage these days). Irrespective of the issue of moving you should discuss where your relationship is heading and what kind of plans you have for the future. I don’t know that this is the be all and end all of pre-marriage discussions, but I would have found it very useful in my past to have a list like this one Wendy made just to guide a discussion more to specifics than vague generalities.

    http://dearwendy.com/15-things-every-couple-must-discuss-before-getting-married/

    After four years if you’re not ready to plan a future together as new family (married or not) I’d say, sadly, you should probably break up and find the person who is actually is right for you no matter what city you’re living in.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom June 13, 2017, 4:41 pm

    LW1 I don’t see you and your boyfriend forming a “we” unit rather than you and me. In spite of being together for four years and talking excitedly about marriage the two of you haven’t coalesced into a unit that works together. If you had you would be talking about us and how if I apply for this job how would that affect us and what would you do for a job and how would that affect your mom when she really needs you. I don’t hear any “us” in what you say. If you haven’t formed that cohesive us after four years I’m not sure that you ever will. I think you should take the job and see what happens but I have serious doubts about your relationship going the distance. If you were serious about the two of you spending your lives together you would be seriously trying to find a better job in a location that worked for both of you. You only seem focused on what works best for you and figure he owes you for supporting him through the death of his dad. Yes, it was tough for you but had to be tougher for him. In that kind of balance you would owe it to him to live where he wants to live. Marriage doesn’t work that way. You don’t owe him and he doesn’t owe you. But to make a relationship work long term you have to make joint decisions that meet the needs of both of you. At this point in time your new job doesn’t work for him. You need to decide whether you put greater priority on the job or on the relationship and choose one. I’d choose the job because as I said earlier, I don’t see your relationship lasting. Relationships that are going to last naturally move to an us mentality where you don’t have to be told to consider the needs of both people and find a solution that works for both of you. It just happens and it hasn’t for the two of you.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros June 13, 2017, 5:35 pm

    LW1: I don’t really agree with the implication that you are being selfish. I do think it’s reasonable for him to be torn and to not want to leave. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for you to be disappointed. I think anyone who has experienced loss knows that life continues moving on around you, even while you are grieving. That’s not to say that he has to move on, too, but things happen in life. It doesn’t make you a bad person for parts of your life to be still in motion while his isn’t.

    I think this is where your compatibility might be changing. Previously, you both wanted the same future. Now that his life has changed, he might not. I’d personally take the job and discuss the potential for long-distance and then either see how that goes or not. Even though he’s grieving now doesn’t mean he’s going to change his mind later and want to move.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros June 13, 2017, 5:38 pm

      LW2: I think timing can matter and it can be an excuse at the same time. If you are happy with how things are and you truly just want the label, then I don’t really see why he can’t agree to be in a relationship with you, just with the knowledge that he’s busy and crappy at texting. There’s no checklist that says you have to text a certain number of times a day and have a certain number of hours of free time to be a boyfriend. If you had told him that in order to be in a relationship, XYZ had to happen, and he said, “I can’t fulfill that,” it might be different.

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