Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’m Afraid He’s Going to Break My Heart”

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I’ve been with my boyfriend for eight months. I’m his first serious girlfriend, but things have been wonderful. I’ve never met a guy so smart and funny and full of ambition. And on top of that he does so many things to show he cares about me and thinks about me. Being with him has been different from anything else and I know that I love him. However, we still don’t say we love each other. I’ve thought about telling him, but recently he told me he doesn’t know if he can see a future with me. I asked him why he felt that way and he said that he doesn’t know. I asked him if he wanted to break up and he said no. Any attempt I make at getting more answers doesn’t get me very far. He says he doesn’t know how to feel because I’m his first girlfriend and he’s confused. I asked him if we could work this out and he says he thinks we can; that makes me confused. I’m trying to give him time, but I’m 23 and I don’t want to spend my 20s with someone who’s going to break my heart later. But then again I love him, and I don’t want to mess up something that could be the best thing that ever happened to me. — Scared of a Broken Heart

So . . .you found someone you’re crazy about who shows you in many ways that he cares about you, but you’re thinking about breaking up with him because he can’t guarantee you, at eight months in, that he sees a future with you? What’s the rush in planning your future? It sounds like your present is just fine. Why not hang out and enjoy yourself and see where things go? You’re 23 — you have lots of years yet to settle down and start a family if that’s what you want. And if it’s not what you want, and your only concern here is a broken heart, well, I have news for you: You can get a broken heart even after someone tells you he loves you! You can get a broken heart even after someone says he sees a future with you, even after he marries you, even after you have kids together. There is no safeguard against getting your heart broken aside from never never dating anyone or never falling in love or never letting yourself feel the joy of being cared for and wanted and desired. The risk of a broken heart is the price we pay for the chance at romantic happiness, however fleeting that happiness may be (and sometimes it isn’t fleeting–sometimes it actually lasts).

If your boyfriend is as wonderful as you say and he shows you in multiple ways that he cares, I would try to relax and enjoy this time with him. He’s probably moving a little more cautiously because you’re his first girlfriend and because he may feel some pressure from you to jump ahead before he’s ready. He may not be able to see a future with you for no other reason than he simply doesn’t look that far in advance. He may not be able to see a future with you because he doesn’t know what kind of future he even wants, with you or without you. I’m guessing he’s as young, if not younger, than you are. You’re his first girlfriend. Can you imagine how psyched he probably is just to be in a relationship? Let him — and yourself — enjoy this moment, here, right now. If, say, in four or five months, you’re still feeling anxious about not knowing whether he loves you or sees a future with you, you can check in with him again. But if fear of the unknown, with its possibility of a broken heart, is your only reason for wanting out of this relationship at this time, I think you’d be ending it prematurely . . . and probably not really saving yourself from that broken heart anyway.

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

15 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Ale August 4, 2016, 1:22 pm

    I disagree with Wendy’s advice. I think, for my own experience, that when someone tells tyou they don’t see a future with you, even at 8 months, you need to believe them.
    I had a boyfriend who, at around 9 months dating, told me that he didn’t see a future with me, but he cared and showed me he cared and I stayed, enjoying the present. It went on for seven years, only to find out at the seven year mark, that he still didn’t see a future with me and wanted to be alone. I was his first girlfriend also.
    It was really painful to wait for him to change his mind.
    I also think that you shouldn’t feel like you’re forcing someone to be with you. If he is confused or scared (which I think are ALWAYS bullshit excuses), then leave him alone to solve his confussion and solve his issues. If he is indeed confused, the he shouldn’t be seeing anyone and you should be with someone who genuinely wants to be with you.

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      csp August 5, 2016, 8:44 am

      I agree with you. I mean, Why would he bring that up to her?

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  • avatar

    Ron August 4, 2016, 2:53 pm

    I’m somewhere between Wendy and Ale. I think there’s a huge difference between 8 months with your first gf and basically 8 years — just as there’s a huge difference between ending the relationship immediately when the guy says he doesn’t think he sees a future and hanging on for a long 7 years to see if he changes his mind.

    If LW is enjoying dating this guy, loves him already, and feels that she is being treated very well by him, then I don’t see a problem giving this another half year at age 23 and then re-evaluating.

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      bondgirl August 4, 2016, 3:00 pm

      I’m with you Ron. I think somewhere between another 6-12 months is fair in determining whether a future together can be seen. At that point though, if the bf has the same answer, then it’s time to move on.

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    • bagge72

      bagge72 August 5, 2016, 7:29 am

      I think the problem is that most of the time, another half of a year very easily turns to 7 years, because people hold on to this hope that it’s going to happen, and after 14 months, she might feel like she is stuck in this relationship, because he treats her great, but in the end she wants to get married and he doesn’t.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. August 4, 2016, 3:28 pm

    Repeat after me: Just because you date someone, doesn’t mean you have to marry them. Sheesh. What is the rush? My brother did this. He’s only dated three women in his life and he married two of them.

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    • avatar

      Ale August 5, 2016, 10:07 am

      It says that she is his first gf, but not that he is her first bf. Maybe her heart has been broken before, and she doesn’t want to go through that again, at least not if she can prevent it.

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  • avatar

    T August 4, 2016, 4:16 pm

    I disagree with the advice as well. At any age, at any stage in the relationship, I don’t think someone comes out and specifically says they don’t see a future in the relationship unless they are seriously questioning whether they want to be in it. My guess is that this guy is tepid about the LW, realized that it’s getting to that stage where he should feel in love, but just isn’t. It doesn’t matter if someone is the greatest ever at playing the boyfriend role – if they aren’t crazy about you, they’re not a great boyfriend for you.

    I think the LW is now faced with the unfortunate choice of either breaking up with him (because for whatever reason, he is not super into this, but is not ready or willing to be the one to break it off now), or waiting it out and seeing if things either turn around or he breaks up with her (and hopefully setting a deadline for herself for how long she will just wait and see, lest she end up in a lukewarm relationship forever because he’s passive and won’t break it off).

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    • avatar

      Ron August 4, 2016, 6:57 pm

      I’m not totally sure it means that with a youngish guy on his first relationship. Also don’t know how the conversation began and progressed. It may just be too much, too soon for him. They need to talk more about this. Perhaps more positive questions like ‘how can we improve our relationship’ won’t be as threatening. He sounds defensive. It may be as simple as he never expected (or wanted?) his first serious relationship to become permanent and even though things are going very well between them, he is unsure whether he needs experience with more than just seriously dating her. We had a letter from a young college woman a few days back who thought her relationship was going well and really liked the guy, but was feeling like she should break it off, because she hadn’t planned to limit herself to one guy for the rest of her life that early in her life and wanted additional, broader dating experience. This bf may be the male equivalent, although, as I recall, nobody thought college woman’s relationship would/should continue.

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      • avatar

        T August 5, 2016, 4:47 pm

        I worry that questions like the above could start a pattern where she feels she needs to jump through hoops and somehow be “better” in order to win his love. Having one time been a girl that age, I think that’s a pretty common pitfall. And even if it’s that he’s crazy about her, but isn’t sure he wants his first relationship to end up being so serious, would that change anything? That would still mean he’s questioning the relationship. And she would still be left waiting around for the other shoe to drop, as at any point down the road he could still likely decide he wants his chance at other experiences. My feeling is that she should at least distance herself and see if he comes to her and wants more.

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  • avatar

    Brise August 4, 2016, 5:30 pm

    Don’t ask him anymore anything and refocus on yourself. You shouldn’t give him more signs of dependence. Don’t fall in this trap to be the one who loves him to bits and waits that he perhaps has an epiphany. Just be yourself, keep dating him if you feel like, and focus on your own career/life/friends. He shouldn’t feel that he can take you for granted. In other terms, de-invest a bit, be lukewarm with him, don’t reward such a setback, take some distance and start looking elsewhere, start imagining a happy life without him. He is perhaps great, but not that great as a partner, for while at least, is he?

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    • avatar

      csp August 5, 2016, 8:49 am

      This is a great answer! Take a small step back and start getting more to do outside the relationship. Things will define themselves better after this.

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  • avatar

    saneinca August 4, 2016, 10:58 pm

    LW, it all depends on if you want Mr. Right forever or Mr. Right for now.

    If you think you are going to fall even further in love with a person who would not even consider the possibility of building a relationship with you ( and may be he wants to play the field and see if he can do better than you as a partner), then yes, I would say it is better to break up now. But if you are only having fun for the moment and have no intention of making him your future partner, carry on as long as it lasts.

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  • avatar

    Baccalieu August 5, 2016, 12:23 pm

    Context. Context. Context. The people who are saying she should break up with him are assuming that he made that comment out of the blue, which would be a concern, but she give us no idea how the comment came about. For example, if he made the comment because she asked him, then that is a whole different situation. Also, T and Ale, you are misquoting him: he didn’t say that he didn’t see a future with her, he said he didn’t know. (I suppose depending on the context that could be the same as a negative, e.g.. “I don’t know if I agree with you” is usually just a softer way of saying “I don’t agree with you”, but all we know is that he said “I don’t know if I see a future with you” and there is no reason to assume that he meant “I don’t think I see a future with you” and not the literal meaning of the words. Again, We need some context.) For a 23-year-old (assuming he’s her age) to not yet know if his current girlfriend of only eight months is “the one” is pretty normal and actually pretty sensible. So I agree with Wendy: there is absolutely no reason to dump him unless she is determined that she wants to get married very soon and since she is only 23 why would she be in such a hurry.

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    • avatar

      T August 5, 2016, 4:31 pm

      On the other hand, I think those that are in favor of her staying with him are twisting the words “a future.” To me, “the one” you want to marry right away is not the literal meaning of the words “a future.” I feel like saying you’re not sure you see a future is communicating that you are not sure you see this lasting long term at all (as in, you could also see breaking up very soon – aka no future). The only context we have is that he hasn’t told her he loves her, which does not exactly help.

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