I’ve been dating a guy for going on five months. He owns his own business (inherited from the family) and works about 80+ hours a week. It works out because I am living in a town about two hours away until May, and am only able to come home every other weekend. We talk on the phone every day, have met each other’s families and friends, tell each other we care about one other, talk about personal and painful issues, are monogamous, etc. However, when I attempted to have the ‘relationship’ conversation with him, he came back with the typical guy response of “Why do we need a label?”
He has said that he doesn’t think that it’s fair to me to be to be boyfriend/girlfriend until work slows down (i.e. him hiring more people, getting home at a decent hour, having more time). He also says that he can’t give me an exact time as to when this will happen and that he doesn’t want me to be with anyone else, but if I happen to meet someone then he will understand. I get that his company is a priority, but what I don’t understand is how what we have is not already a relationship. I think of him as my boyfriend, and am not interested in anyone else. Sometimes I wonder if this is a way for him to have a physical and emotional relationship without any actual commitment. So you think this is a way for him to not have an obligation to me, or is what he says the truth? If we already do everything that couples do and act like a couple, why is saying we are a couple such a big deal? — Wants a Label
Exactly. Why is saying you’re a couple a big deal if you already “talk on the phone every day, have met each other’s families and friends, tell each other you care about one other, talk about personal and painful issues, are monogamous, etc.”? What is the label of “girlfriend” going to give you that you don’t already have? A sense of security? Well, given your boyfriend’s work schedule as well as the fact that you currently live two hours apart and will for at least the next five months, security isn’t something you’re going to have for a while anyway, regardless of whatever title you have.
This man has been honest about what he can give you right now and that includes just about everything but a commitment. Apparently, he’ll even give you monogamy. But he won’t give you a commitment and he can’t tell you when or if that will change. Rather than force or coerce him into something he’s basically said he doesn’t want right now and rather than try to figure out if he’s being honest about his reason for not wanting it — and frankly, working 80+ hours a week and living two hours apart sounds like enough of a reason to avoid commitment for the time being — decide for yourself if you can accept the terms of this agreement. If you can’t, then MOA. If you can, then relax, quit worrying about labels and enjoy the company of this person you say you like so much.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.
lk December 1, 2011, 3:02 pm
Ah! Thank you! Perfect : )
CG December 1, 2011, 3:04 pm
Carolynasaurus December 1, 2011, 3:08 pm
I don’t know if I agree. I’m kind of torn. On the one hand, he’s been very upfront with you about how his life is right now. BUT, on the other hand, if a guy likes you, he will make an effort to be with you, and at five months in, I don’t think asking to be called his girlfriend is out of line. If he likes you enough and you are already basically his girlfriend, what’s the harm in calling you it?
I’d buy this guy’s story if you hadn’t brought up that he’s ok with you seeing other people. Maybe I’m projecting on this one, but I kind of think people who are ok with people they are dating seeing other people are the type of people who are ok with seeing other people. You may be ‘monogamous’, but I’d be real quick to have a conversation with him as to how he defines it.
Something seems off with this guy and I just can’t put my finger on it. Be careful.
silver_dragon_girl December 1, 2011, 3:11 pm
I agree. My first thought was that he’s back-burnering her while he gets his life together, then he’ll dump her when he thinks he’s ready for a “real” girlfriend. But I can also see where he might be telling the truth with good intentions. I dunno. I need more info. :/
cporoski December 1, 2011, 3:26 pm
totally agree. If he is working 80 hours, he is not going out and meeting people. So he has her to be there for him now. This is a convienence thing for him. If he were head over heels, the title would be no big deal.
Tinywormhole December 1, 2011, 3:34 pm
I totally agree. If he were head over heels he would not be ok with the idea of her meeting someone else.
bagge72 December 1, 2011, 3:40 pm
He definitely could be meeting people at work though. And if this is a restaurant he is meeting lots of people, who are sometimes drunk, and like to hook up with the owner.
kali December 1, 2011, 4:33 pm
Depends what the boyfriend’s business is.
My ex met plenty of people and chatted up all kinds of women at our restaurant. I didn’t work there on a regular basis so his 80 to 100 hour weeks had plenty of opportunities for socializing.
cporoski December 2, 2011, 6:56 am
my point was that he is fine with monogomy but not the title. That just seems silly so I believe it means that he is too busy to meet anyone else.
CatsMeow December 1, 2011, 6:04 pm
I like “back-burner” as a verb. He’s “back-burnering” her. Ha!
Budj December 1, 2011, 3:14 pm
I took that as he wants it to stay where it is until he has more time to give her and understands if she meets someone else to go have a relationship with if he takes too long….
A lot of the time the label of girl friend comes with more time expectations….although what the LW listed already sounds like a committed LDR. I’m kind of scratching my head as to why he doesn’t just roll with the label as long as the LW knows not to expect much forward progression until his family business is running more without him.
Carolynasaurus December 1, 2011, 3:22 pm
I can see that. The problem I have is that, from my experience, you would never tell someone that if you truly cared about them. To me, saying you’re monogamous kind of trumps this statement. I think there’s a clear line between ‘monogamous and exclusive’ and ‘it’s ok if you leave me for someone better for you right now’ .
Budj December 1, 2011, 3:36 pm
If she is ok with taking it slow and doing her own thing while he gets his life in order (I wouldn’t want a girl friend if I was working 80 hours either) then this could work – if she isn’t happy then she needs to figure that out and MOA.
Jay December 1, 2011, 3:42 pm
I don’t see the effort made on his part. She basically comes into his life over the weekends and working 80 hours doesn’t leave much time to find another girl. That’s what I get from the story.
BecBoo84 December 1, 2011, 4:02 pm
As the wife of someone who sometimes works 80+ hours a week, I think his reasons could definitely be legit. That works out to about 12 hours days, seven days a week. I can completely understand why he would be weary of making a complete commitment to a girlfriend when he already has such a strong commitment to his job. It takes a lot of commitment to make it work with someone who works so much, especially once kids come along.
Kate B December 1, 2011, 10:27 pm
This is a good point, but if he really wanted to be with her, he could make time for her. I had a boyfriend once who worked like this. When we were talking about getting more serious with each other, I asked if he would have time for me. He answered that he would make time, and he did. But, I am also a person who doesn’t mind being on my own. In spite of his demanding job and him moving, we still saw each other a lot. Basically, she had to decide if she can live with what he is offering.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com December 1, 2011, 4:50 pm
silver_dragon_girl December 1, 2011, 3:09 pm
I think you nailed it when you said it’s a way for him to have a physical and emotional relationship without any actual commitment. I do agree with Wendy- why do you need the label if you agree that it’s just a label? But I also think that he’s hedging because he doesn’t WANT a girlfriend right now. The dude is dealing with a LOT- work, work, work, it sounds like- he might feel like adding a “girlfriend” to the mix is more than he can handle, regardless of whether or not that title would actually change anything. What you do, knowing that, is up to you. You could stay with him for another 6 months and see if he makes any progress towards commitment, or you could MOA.
Personally, if everything else was good in the relationship, I’d probably stay to see where it went. But that’s me. I could also understand wanting to move on, and wanting to be with someone who can make you a higher priority than this guy can right now.
caitie_didn't December 1, 2011, 8:04 pm
Yup. A label is just a label, but at the same time, some people (myself included) feel more secure or comfortable in a relationship with that verbal acknowledgment. The LW needs to decide if she’s okay with not having it- and if she’s not, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Personally, I’m of the school of “someone who wants to be your boyfriend will be your boyfriend” and I’d agree that he might be using her as a placeholder.
Skyblossom December 1, 2011, 3:24 pm
I think if he wanted you to be his girlfriend he’d make you his girlfriend. Lots of people are busy and long distance and still manage to commit to each other. I think he’s being honest about not wanting a girlfriend and you have to decide if that works for you.
MissDre December 1, 2011, 3:42 pm
I should have read your comment before I posted. I pretty much said the same thing.
theattack December 1, 2011, 3:45 pm
I don’t think he is being honest about it. He’s putting it back on the LW basically saying “Well it’s not fair for you to have a bf as busy as me.” That’s not owning up and being honest. That’s avoiding the truth that he doesn’t want her to be his girlfriend.
LK December 1, 2011, 3:59 pm
At least in my experience, whenever a guy didn’t want to put a “label” on a relationship is because he really wanted a part time girlfriend; this is a great deal for a guy – he gets a to talk to all the emotional and physical support of having a girlfriend, but he gets out of having to deal with the responsibility of a commitment. I totally support taking a while to get into a relationship (I take about 3 months myself) but if at five months the guy I was dating was telling me that I’m free to pursue other people if they peak my interest, I would take this that he’s really not to concerned about holding on to me. A guy who truly wants to be with you doesn’t want you to keep your options open.. and who’s to say that he’s not applying the same standard to himself??
theattack December 1, 2011, 4:14 pm
Yup, I agree with you.
cporoski December 2, 2011, 7:02 am
I hope the LW is reading this because you are so right. I dated a guy three different times over the years and it was always just because we were lonely and he was hot. It was never more then that though one time I thought it might. But We could not have expectations of each other and then it had to end.
Steph December 1, 2011, 3:30 pm
I really do feel like if someone loves you and wants to be with you then they will make time to make sure you know that. If putting a label on it is what it takes for you to feel ok, then what is the problem? My first thought was that he is comfortable where he is, with not commitment. I can NOT imagine someone I love telling me they understand if I leave them because I’m too busy. That doesn’t scream love to me. Sounds like the LW is way more invested in this relationship than he is.
bagge72 December 1, 2011, 3:33 pm
This is a tough one. I can see how he doesn’t want you to feel like you are chained down to him when he can’t give you his all right now, but the thing that I don’t understand is that when you tell him that you don’t want to see other people, and that you are perfectly happy with the situation why he doesn’t then say that he would like to be BF and GF. The only thing I can think of is that he really isn’t ready for a commitment, and is keeping his options open, because if he really did feel like you were the one for him right now, and he saw how much you cared for him he would want to use those labels. Unless he is just against using them all together. I personally think that it is easier to deal with such long hours if you know you have somebody who loves you, and is there for you, and can help you through them. Somebody you can complain to when you get home who will just listen without judging… Or he also could have had bad experiences with old girlfriends who once they became official starting demanding that he not work so much, and that he spend more time with them even though he told them from the beginning that he couldn’t.
Budj December 1, 2011, 3:37 pm
I have a sneaking suspicion that he thinks the status quo won’t be enough for the LW if he puts the label on the relationship.
bagge72 December 1, 2011, 3:43 pm
Yeah I’m guessing he has run into that before, and he knows how it ends unfortunately, and that can really be tough for somebody trying to run their own business.
Jay December 1, 2011, 3:38 pm
Just a remark: This isn’t a “typical guy”‘s response. It is a typical person’s response (guy or girl) when they don’t want anything more than casual.
Nadine December 1, 2011, 8:05 pm
I’m glad someone else picked up on that!
MissDre December 1, 2011, 3:41 pm
Didn’t we all once say that if a guy wants you to be his girlfriend, he’ll make you his girlfriend? So, why the sudden change of heart? Maybe this guy likes her, just not enough to actually commit to her.
There was a time when my bf was working 16 hours a day, 6 days a week and could hardly make it through dinner without falling asleep, but guess what… he still called me his girlfriend. If he wants it, there’s no reason why it can’t happen. So we’re back to where we started… if a man wants you to be his girlfriend, he’ll make you his girlfriend.
Jay December 1, 2011, 3:43 pm
You know it girl!
LK December 1, 2011, 5:49 pm
Totally agree. My boyfriend and I began the relationship knowing we’d be going into a very uncertain future (long distance, long hours for a few years to come) and he still called me his girlfriend.
theattack December 1, 2011, 3:42 pm
Labels ARE important. It’s how we make sense of the world. If you’re looking for a real relationship, there is no point in being with someone who will not admit that that’s what it is, even if it meets all the criteria. Sorry, Wendy, I do not agree with you on this.
First of all, he’s trying to decide what is best for you. IMO, you need to tell him that it’s not his place to decide what you want. Only you can make decisions like whether or not you want to be with him while his life is still so busy. You should tell him that, while you appreciate him considering this for you, that part of the bargain is up for you to decide. Which leads me to….
His decision to make is whether or not he wants to be with you. Let him know that this is the only thing he gets to decide here. If he doesn’t want to be with you right now, he needs to own up to it and admit that rather than placing the blame on something he is assuming you want/don’t want.
He is placing you on the backburner because he doesn’t know if he wants to be committed to you full-time. That may be because he doesn’t want to give up his time traveling to see you or being obligated to talk on the phone, etc, if something changes and he needs that time for his business. Or it could be that you’re just something fun for him right now until he meets someone else. The fact that he suggested you meeting other people really supports that.
If you are looking for an actual adult relationship, you will not find it here unless his opinion changes very quickly. It’s possible that he’s actually trying to look out for you, but it’s pretty unlikely that that is his only reason here. Confront him about this. If he changes his mind, go for it. If not, you will have to consider whether you want to put forth this effort with a man who won’t even claim you for what you are. Are you looking for fun, or are you looking for a relationship?
MissDre December 1, 2011, 3:43 pm
PFG-SCR December 1, 2011, 3:51 pm
I agree with the overall point of your comment, but not this part: “First of all, he’s trying to decide what is best for you.” He’s not deciding what is best for her – he’s deciding what’s best for him (in his mind). It’s not an altruistic thing he’s doing for her – he’s being selfish or deceitful, IMO.
theattack December 1, 2011, 3:53 pm
oh, I agree with you. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. What I meant was that he was using “what’s best for her” as an excuse instead of just admitting that he didn’t want to be with her. I believe he’s being a bit of a wimp about it, and that, yes, he’s being deceitful.
PFG-SCR December 1, 2011, 3:58 pm
I assumed that, but I wanted the LW to not be confused that just because he’s using words (“it’s not fair to you”) that imply he’s looking out for _her_ best interests, he’s really looking out for his own.
TMSC December 1, 2011, 4:15 pm
really really like. had a friend once whose LDR tried to break up with her by saying he was doing it because the long distance wasn’t fair to her and wasn’t giving her what she needed. She looked him in the eye and said “I reject that. I am the one that decides what’s best for me. So why are you really breaking up with me?” It was years ago and I’ve never forgotten it.
*HmC* December 1, 2011, 4:59 pm
And also, what’s with a guy that will be monogamous but so scared of the “girlfriend” word? Isn’t that what a girlfriend is? Is he somehow setting himself up to not have to break up since she was never a “girlfriend”? Honestly in my experience, anyone who gets so caught up in AVOIDING a label (and avoiding is what he’s doing if they’re monogamous and have been dating for 5 MONTHS) is just not boyfriend material, for whatever reason.
There are lots of good guys out there that actively want, and will make time for, the right girl.
caitie_didn't December 1, 2011, 8:06 pm
vizslalvr December 1, 2011, 3:42 pm
Let’s be real – a label is important to the vast majority of people out there. It helps us describe, both to ourselves and others, what our place in this other person’s life is.
Feel free to stick around in case he suddenly decides that your feelings on the matter are important enough for him to change his mind. I wouldn’t hold my breath. If a person is really and truly interested in you and committed to you, calling you their “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” is not going to be a big deal for them in 99/100 situations. And, to me, this does not sound like that 1/100 situations – it sounds, as you said, like a guy who wants “a way for him to have a physical and emotional relationship without any actual commitment.”
vizslalvr December 1, 2011, 3:48 pm
And, sorry, I just wanted to add something. There are always going to be times in each of our lives where we are crazy-busy, crazy-stressed, and have shifting and competing priorities. Those are the times you need to really hone in on when evaluating a relationship and NOT make excuses for the other person – because if he isn’t able to give you what you want, which is the seemingly innocuous label of “girlfriend,” now … how is he going to react when you have other wants or needs later on? If there is a later on, which, again – I wouldn’t hold my breath.
mcminnem December 1, 2011, 6:11 pm
I agree with you – while it’s true that some people are weird about words, it this case it just shouldn’t be a big deal. They’re already doing all the things that make people boyfriend/girlfriend. I would be tempted, next time he says “why do we need to put a label on it?” to answer with “why do we need to NOT put a label on it?” What’s his reasoning? If you’ve reassured him that nothing is going to change in terms of your expectations, it shouldn’t matter that you’d like that label. Just for convenience, if nothing else!
Personally, my boyfriend asked if I would mind if he called me his girlfriend after our second date. (We’d known each other online for a while.) His reasoning was “people are starting to ask me about you, and “this girl I’m seeing” doesn’t sound serious enough.” He wanted to be able to talk about me in a way that made it clear to other people where we stood. It didn’t actually change anything about our expectations or the way we treated each other.
I’d be tempted to say that he’s avoiding the label for the same reason my boyfriend wanted to use it…other people will interpret it a certain way. Right now, he can answer “Isn’t your girlfriend…blah blah blah” with “she’s not actually my girlfriend…” Hm.
The solution, by the by, isn’t to force him to call you his girlfriend. It’s to find someone else who wants to.
SpyGlassez December 3, 2011, 3:53 am
My BF asked me on our first date if he could call me his girlfriend. We’d known one another for about 2 months beforehand, in a different social setting, and had spent a fair amount of time talking and getting to know one another. At the time I lived about an hour away and he was going back to school. We made it work. If a guy wants to date you, he’ll date you.
PFG-SCR December 1, 2011, 3:48 pm
“He has said that he doesn’t think that it’s fair to me to be to be boyfriend/girlfriend until work slows down (i.e. him hiring more people, getting home at a decent hour, having more time).”
Unless there is something missing from your letter, you’re not asking him for anything that will take more time – it’s just a word to label what you believe your relationship is. So, either he thinks your expectations will change if you are officially his girlfriend, or you believe the relationship to be something more than he does.
Christy December 1, 2011, 5:22 pm
I think he’s probably worried that she’ll want even more from him once she gets the title of “girlfriend”. I don’t think it’s about his level of commitment–he’s already seeing her on weekends and they talk on the phone everyday. Aren’t we always saying on this site that if someone wants to be with you, they’ll be with you? He’s being with her. He’s even agreed to be monogamous. That’s commitment.
It’s a stereotype that guys don’t like to talk about relationship status, but the LW does need to sit down with him and find out why he’s so nervous about the label. And be sympathetic. Labels are powerful, as people have pointed out, and maybe he’s worried that his “girlfriend” will turn into someone who starts implementing the 9 Ways to Get Him to Propose!
Flake December 1, 2011, 3:49 pm
Ok, here’s what I think… If you have been going out for 5 months, and only see each other every other weekend, that means that you’ve only met about 10 or 12 times. That could be a little early to insist on a label for a relationship. What I personally find a little strange is the fact that he would understand if you met someone else. To me it says that he would expect you to understand if he met someone else as well. So, I would do what people here advise pretty often. He says that he doesn’t know when he will be able to give you more attention. So you set a deadline for yourself. Let’s say, you give this relationship another 6 months or a year, and if by then it still doesn’t satisfy you, then you move on.
P. S. I still think that that is not a good sign. There are men supporting families and working 80-hour weeks. Maybe he is being honest, and maybe I am just a little bit jaded, but I think more often then not, when a guy says something like that it is simply because he doesn’t think you are worth the effort required to maintain a relationship. I would back off, and take his advice and try to meet someone else.
callmehobo December 1, 2011, 3:49 pm
His plate is pretty full, but I am always wary of people of who use the line “I totally understand if you want to leave blah, blah, blah.” To me, it reeks of an out; like, “Baby, I know we’ve been exclusive for 3 years and I’m not ready for a commitment, but I TOLD you that you could leave any time….”
If you really like this guy, and want to give it a shot, then give yourself a deadline (NOT HIM. I REPEAT-THIS IS NOT A DEADLINE FOR HIM) of how long you want to be in this relationship without having the girlfriend label. For example- “If he doesn’t want to be exclusive in six months, I’m out”, or “If we aren’t exclusive within 4 weeks of me relocating, I’m out”. But if you DO give yourself a deadline- stick to it. No wishy-washy- “Well, I think he’s coming around so I’ll tack on an extra two months….”
This way you can give it a chance in case he is super busy, and just not ready to commit to you immediately, or (worst case scenario) you don’t get stuck in we’re-just-dating purgatory.
FireStar December 1, 2011, 3:54 pm
Just remember that labels are only labels and there are no guarantees in life. You can as easily break up with a girlfriend as you can with some girl you were seeing.
vizslalvr December 1, 2011, 4:02 pm
So why not just call the woman his girlfriend and get it over with… ?
… because labels are more than labels. While it may not be any harder as far as speaking the words of “I don’t want to see you anymore,” it is certainly different emotionally to break up with a girlfriend or be broken up with by a boyfriend than some person you were seeing.
FireStar December 1, 2011, 4:11 pm
I think it turns on the nature of the relationship more than the label. If this person is someone who knows my hopes and dreams then that would potentially be devastating to break up versus someone I go to the movies with or talk to in my down time. The real question is how invested are the parties – if she is the one always traveling to him and sees and talks to him at his convenience then that is her real problem. It sounds like she wants a label to solidify things when he is not on the same page.
GingerLaine December 1, 2011, 4:02 pm
“Sometimes I wonder if this is a way for him to have a physical and emotional relationship without any actual commitment.”
And I’ll agree with others who say that he’s being honest about it. I don’t think what he’s doing is necessarily a BAD thing. I’m not gonna call the guy names or anything. I think we all know how sometimes you’re just lonely. It’s nice to know that you have someone in your life romantically, even if they aren’t exactly a significant other. He likes having you in his life. He just won’t call you a significant other. Maybe because he’s too busy to be the boyfriend he wants to be. Maybe he doesn’t really want a girlfriend & likes that you’re not nearby & immediately available so he only has to make time for you on a very limited basis. Maybe he’s a robot and is incapable of human emotion.
I don’t think it really matters what the reason is. Are you willing to accept the circumstances? And without any sort of time frame, I think he’s asking a lot. What if in May, he’s still working 80 hours/week? What if between now & then, he randomly meets some available woman, feels crazy chemistry with her (enough that he doesn’t want to work 80 hours/week), and decides to pursue a relationship with her just before you can move back? (I don’t believe either of those is a very far-fetched possibility.) Someone said that if you’re willing to let things play out & see where it goes, it might all work out. And maybe it will. But if it doesn’t, will you be able to forgive yourself for having wasted time with someone who was unwilling to commit to you all this time while you pinned your hopes on him?
We discussed this here with the girl who was wondering about dating, but let me say it again. Don’t let yourself get into a situation where you look back & find that you were fawning, blubbering, and chasing after someone who wasn’t willing to do the same for you. I’m not saying that’s what you ARE doing, just don’t let that be how it ends up. Let preserving your self-respect be your primary goal here, not getting what you want at all costs. It’s good that he isn’t totally monopolizing you by refusing to commit & telling you that he doesn’t want you to see anyone else either. Just don’t let yourself get into a situation where you’re waiting on him, making time for him, and committing yourself to him without getting the same in return. You may discover that while you were waiting, he was living, and it’ll just be one more example of you getting the short end of the stick.
Christy December 1, 2011, 5:25 pm
This is a good point. If they’re putting equal amounts of effort and devotion into the relationship, then the label doesn’t matter all that much. But if she’s waiting around for him and not getting much in return, that’s a problem.
Nina December 1, 2011, 4:28 pm
That’s one way to look at it, but I disagree. If he is willing to have all the bells and whistles of a committed, monogamous relationship then why not label it? She’s not asking for a marriage proposal-she’s just asking for all of her time, effort, and feelings not to be in vain.
If a man tells you he “can’t, won’t, isn’t ready etc etc…” listen to him! I wouldn’t stick around, waiting for things to change. I am a firm believer that if he really likes you, really cares about you, he would want to call you his girlfriend after 5 months. Anything less won’t be satisfying. Why should she be the one to settle and agree with his feelings?
Budj December 1, 2011, 4:40 pm
“Why should she be the one to settle and agree with his feelings?”
“he doesn’t want me to be with anyone else, but if I happen to meet someone then he will understand”.
He is basically saying this is what I have to offer right now / the foreseeable future and if you aren’t happy with it I understand if you want to pursue something else with someone else…she then writes in because she isn’t happy, yet he gave her a drama free out. I do agree his claimed altruism is selfishly motivated – but it could also have her interests at heart too…it isn’t mutually exclusive.
*HmC* December 1, 2011, 4:51 pm
If a guy ever tells you that if you “happen to meet someone then he will understand”, he does not see a future with you.
I typically avoid such generalizations, but with all my experience with dating, relationships, and guys in general, I cannot possibly fathom a man telling a woman the above if he actually pictured having a real relationship with her at any point. Sounds to me like he likes you enough, or likes the attention you provide, to NOT dump you. Is that enough for you? He doesn’t like you enough to commit to you, and if a commitment is what you want, he’s not your guy. Maybe it’s also timing, for him. But the ‘why’ doesn’t really matter here. Five months is plenty long enough to call someone your girlfriend if a girlfriend is actually what you want.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com December 1, 2011, 4:55 pm
I might be having a cynical day but I have to call it as I see it.
The reason that his statements don’t seem to make sense is that:
They DON’T make sense. If he’s ok with all of these other things, he should have no problem calling it a relationship. And if work is making it difficult to fill your needs, his worries about keeping you around should prompt him to offer more reassurances, not less.
There is something OFF here in my opinion. And the fact that there is distance involved makes me even more suspicious. I’m not suggesting anything sinister like him leading a double life but it does strike me as someone making excuses, someone who wants to keep their options open.
Maybe he’ll come around. Maybe he’s squeamish about the commitment because of the distance or his limited availability. But really it doesn’t matter.
I think when you find yourself having to really stretch to find logical explanations for his contradictions, that’s a bad sign. Whether you choose to wait it out or not is your call, but be clear that the ideal is two people making equal efforts to clear the obstacles in their life to be together. That’s not what you have here, at least not right now.
Mainer December 1, 2011, 5:18 pm
The explanation is actually rather simple. He has committed himself to her, nothing suggests he hasn’t. Monogamous = committed to one partner. But, if she becomes his girlfriend, she automatically is justified in getting upset with him for small things, like forgetting to call, text, send flowers, make a trip down to see her rather than waiting for her to come up, or whatever. The dude is busy with work and life, trying to get his shit straight. Even though a label is just a label, it tacks on a bunch of obligations. Obligations that don’t really matter, but are still expected. He made it clear he doesn’t want to commit to *those obligations*. It is not that he doesn’t want to commit to *her*, but rather he doesn’t want to commit to the small, insignificant little nuances a woman expects in a boyfriend. It says nothing about how he feels about her or whether or not he wants to be with her, it just adds a perceived stress. One more thing he has to keep on his mind all the time. Even if you tell him not to worry about it and things are going to go on like they have for the past 5 months, they won’t. He can’t turn off that part of his brain that knows giving you attention is no longer an option, it’s a requirement.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com December 1, 2011, 5:24 pm
It’s a fair interpretation, I’ll give you that!
It’s just not what my instinct and experience tell me. Of course, of course, we only get a fraction of the story in these letters so it’s anybody’s guess. I’m going on the fact that I have seen similar stories play out countless times where there are contradictions in the commitment statements, coupled with the distance and long work hours, and usually they’ve ended with a fizzle when the girl pushed for clarity or when the guy faded out.
I do hope I’m wrong though, for what that’s worth.
Mainer December 1, 2011, 5:31 pm
Yeah, can totally play out either way. The gamble is in whether his intentions are nobel. We are only seeing a sliver of the pie, but it appears they are (based from the letter). But the bitter aftertaste of this sort of mindset, however, is that if he doesn’t want you on his mind all the time, you’re not. So if you decide to walk away he’s not exactly going to put up a fight. Or on the flip side, if you push him too much he won’t think twice about walking away either. Right now it seems like a comfortable relationship for him, one he is committed to. But if you try to tweak his psyche on how he views the relationship, he’s no longer comfortable.
theattack December 1, 2011, 5:34 pm
Even if that is true, which is very possible, does that somehow make it acceptable? IMO, after a certain amount of time has passed, you have to decide to either take all of it (the obligations as well as the fun stuff) or let go of all of it (the fun stuff as well as the obligations). Five months is long enough that he should have a definitive decision made. Making a decision somewhere in the middle is selfish. It’s a cop-out that’s unfair to the other person in any relationship. It’s even less fair with long-distance because it places all of the work on the other person. Work that becomes increasingly necessary to maintain the “relationship” as the two grow closer together. And as they grow closer, he gets more used to putting in no effort in order to have her. Even if they do close this gap, I’m betting he won’t suddenly jump to be the not-quite-boyfriend of the year.
atraditionalist December 1, 2011, 6:16 pm
I get flowers from men I’m just dating and not in a relationship with. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean all of a sudden he has to give me all these presents and talk to me all the time. I firmly believe that men will show you when they are into you and if you’re not seeing it it’s because it’s not there. Furthermore, if you don’t want to commit to those obligations it’s usually because YOU DON’T PLAN ON DOING THEM and don’t want someone to get disappointed in your when you don’t. Again if a guy ain’t showing you his interest (texting, calling etc) it’s because it’s not there
atraditionalist December 1, 2011, 6:18 pm
By the way that was meant as a reply to the first comment in this little sub-convo – not to you theattack
PFG-SCR December 1, 2011, 6:01 pm
First of all, not every woman expects flowers, cards, unicorns and rainbows from the men in their lives…don’t assume that what one woman wanted is representative of all women. Every woman and every relationship is unique, and the best way to know what she wants is to communicate with her. It’s this over-thinking in one’s head (referring to your comment) that is causing the issue you imply is so simple and obvious. As far as we know, she isn’t expecting anything more than she has now…but, she just wants to introduced as his “girlfriend”.
“He can’t turn off that part of his brain that knows giving you attention is no longer an option, it’s a requirement.”
He should never view giving her attention as a chore. If he does, then she’s clearly not the right person for him, or he needs to calibrate his male brain. And truly, that just seems symptomatic of a fear of commitment.
theattack December 1, 2011, 6:06 pm
Excellent points. Also, I would just like to say that my boyfriend and I both lead very busy lives (he’s an attorney with a big caseload, and I’m a full-time student with thousands of pages of reading and papers to write every week, plus a full-time internship), and we are long-distance. We make time for each other, even if we lose a little bit of sleep doing it. And there are some weeks when we are just too busy to talk. Reasonable people understand that their SOs sometimes have other obligations. Assuming that the LW is reasonable, his “obligation” to her shouldn’t change much. He should have some cushion room for when his life is too crazy.
Mainer December 1, 2011, 6:46 pm
I never claimed every woman expects those things. But would it be safe to assume that most guys *think* they do? They’ve been dating five months, long distance. He is suppose to have her “figured out?” I used the phrase “perceived stress” above, and I was careful to word it that way. I’m not saying his hesitation or issues are rooted in logic or reality, or that any of the stuff I am saying he may be worrying about will actually happen. I’m saying he probably *thinks* they will. If he’s not ready to give 100%, he’s not ready to do it. And it is for *that* reason that he is hesitant to add the label. Now, it very well may be as simple as just adding the label, something she needs to give her the go-ahead to update her Facebook. But given the newness of this relationship, I’m inclined to think he is under the impression she wants more from him, something packaged in with the label. Notice how he asked why they even needed it? He thinks there is a hidden agenda. Is there? Probably not. But she has to convince him of that.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com December 2, 2011, 9:53 am
lol at a man giving a woman “unicorns”!
LK December 1, 2011, 6:01 pm
I disagree. Essentially what you’re saying is that the LW is on her best behavior right now, but as soon as she gets the GF label she’s going to become nagging and clingy. I have a yet to meet a single GF that began complaining that the guy doesn’t send her flowers or text her enough when he didn’t do this before they got into a relationship. Usually, girls complain about this because in the beginning of a relationship the guy showers her with attention, becomes complacent and stops, not because she’s all of a sudden the GF. The LW seems to understand the situation pretty well and if she’s representing her requests properly, I don’t see how her asking for a GF label after five months translates her into wanting all of his free time, text, calls and flowers all of a sudden. Sane women just don’t do that.
Also, if the LW was super needy, I doubt that such a busy guy would be in a non-relationship relationship with her for five months.
Mainer December 1, 2011, 6:52 pm
“Essentially what you’re saying is that the LW is on her best behavior right now, but as soon as she gets the GF label she’s going to become nagging and clingy.”
No, that is absolutely not what I am saying. I’m saying he may feel obligated to do those things whether or not she is asking for them. I know 9 out of 10 (okay, maybe closer to 7 out of 10) women don’t care about stuff like that, but most guys think they do. It has nothing to do with whether or not she will change – she likely won’t. But he may feel the need to change now that he is all of a sudden a boyfriend. Maybe the fear he has of changing won’t come from her, it will come from him. And he’s not ready to do that.
LK December 1, 2011, 11:38 pm
Okay, I guess I misunderstood your original post. Valid point taken. But if he does assume that, which is a pretty unreasonable assumption, to me that screams communication issues or holding on to baggage, so he’s probably not that great of a potential boyfriend anyway. At least to me, an interested guy would say – “you know that I’m very busy and can’t provide x, y, z because of my situation but I would still love to have you all to myself as my gf”.
Foxxdye December 1, 2011, 8:10 pm
Finally someone says what I’ve been thinking! The other commenters may be right, and he could be being shady about something, but your explanation is, I feel, quite likely. Especially if he’s perhaps had a bad past experience of that nature.
Tracey December 1, 2011, 5:09 pm
If we already do everything that couples do and act like a couple, why is saying we are a couple such a big deal?
Because it’s a big deal to him. His actions and words have told you that he is not interested in the traditional label as framework for your relationship. Now you have to choose what you want.
Questions for you to ponder on your own:
Do you enjoy the relationship as it stands right now? If no, what do you want from yourself and from him to make the relationship more satisfying? If yes, can you be happy with this status quo for the foreseeable future?
Are you moving closer to where he is because it fits your life plan or only because you want to be close to him?
What happens if (or when) you land in your new town, his schedule changes (for better or worse), and he still does not want to give you the “girlfriend” label?
What is his reaction when you call him your “boyfriend”? What is the reaction of his friends?
What happens if, when you settle into your new home, he says his schedule will not give him more time to see you or, worse case scenario, he does not want to continue with the relationship?
Have you told him you do not want to see other people and that you consider this relationship exclusive, or have you just assumed that this is what he wants because it’s what you want?
Why is a label so important to you – in general and specifically from him? Have you told him why at a time in a conversation when it (and you) are not so emotionally charged? If yes, what was his response? If no, why not?
Answer these questions for yourself honestly and thoroughly, then share these same questions with him. Once you do, I think you will find the solution to your problem. Good luck.
PS: If you are moving solely to be closer to him, you need to answer these questions before you pack bags and rent a moving van.
Tracey December 1, 2011, 5:16 pm
Personally, it sounds to me like he likes the status quo – seeing you when he sees you, giving you permission to see others, not having the label – because the status quo is meeting his needs. He does not want a “girlfriend,” but he wants to see you when it’s convenient and he knows he can stall because of the distance. My hunch is that he’ll pull away, instigate a break-up or somehow you’ll find out there’s someone else in the picture the closer you get to moving day. I’ll admit I’m being cynical here, but in my experience, if you’re in a committed, monogamous relationship, labels tend not to be a problem on either side – especially if it’s an LDR. I sure hope I’m wrong for your sake, but it’s time to ask some hard but fair questions and, “Why do we need a label?” is not a thorough enough answer.
Landygirl December 1, 2011, 5:12 pm
I don’t know LW, I just don’t know. First you need to be clear about what you want out of a relationship. What do you want from a partner, what do you want to give a partner, etc. Once you are clear about what you need, approach him and tell him exactly what is going on with you and what your expectations are. He will either re-think his opinion or stand firm about not wanting a label. In either case, you’ll get the answer you were looking for.
While I’m sure he is consumed by his work, he probably isn’t being totally honest with you about what he wants.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com December 1, 2011, 5:25 pm
Agree! In fact, we wrote nearly the same thing!
SherBear December 1, 2011, 5:41 pm
I was just recently in a simular situation – I had been dating a guy for 6 months, we were monogamous, talked to him every day and saw him 3-4 times a week, but he refused to commit. I was okay with this at 3 months but at 6 you need to get your shit together. So I told him that the situation wasn’t working out for me and left. He couldn’t even go an entire week without me and he begged me to take him back (and even shed a couple tears, I had NEVER seen him cry). Apparently it was an issue (or really a non-issue) that I was not even aware of that was holding him back from committing and he spent the entire week discussing it/stressing over it with friends, family and co-workers. That was a month ago and things have been better than ever and our communication is fantastic. We will still be two independent people (we already decided on spending NYE seperate as I want to get super dressed up and go to a pricey bar and he wants to go to a laid back house party) but we are definetly together. Basically you have to be honest with yourself about what you need and if he can’t give it to you then it’s time to MOA.
Kerrycontrary December 1, 2011, 5:47 pm
Sorry. But this guy won’t call you his girlfriend because he doesn’t want to call you his girlfriend. and he “understands” if you meet someone else. What guy that is in a proper relationship with a woman “understands” if they meet someone else. Most couples are saying “I love you” around the 4-6 month mark. You can’t even get him to commit. MOA. Sorry if this is harsh but you need to hear the truth.
Kerrycontrary December 1, 2011, 5:48 pm
Oh, and in addition, sticking around longer will NOT make him see how wonderful you are or what a great girlfriend you could be. He’s had enough time for that. Find someone who isn’t afraid of the “G” word.
atraditionalist December 1, 2011, 6:11 pm
CatsMeow December 1, 2011, 6:01 pm
Hmm. Putting myself in the guy’s shoes, I think that after 5 months of long-distance, seeing each other twice a month, AND with me being extremely busy, I might also hesitate to slap a label on something. It’s all in the circumstances.
Also, people define things differently. I was seeing a therapist when I got together with my boyfriend, and I remember telling her that we talked about being “boyfriend & girlfriend” and she immediately wanted clarification. She said, find out what that means to him and make sure you’re on the same page.
Some of us here are saying, hey, since you’re already acting like you’re in a relationship then why can’t he just call you his girlfriend? But of course, it goes both ways; if you’re already for all intents and purposes IN a relationship, then who cares what you call it? That’s why I think that for HIM, calling you his girlfriend implies MORE than what you currently have together. I think you should find out what that “more” is, and why he doesn’t perceive himself to be ready to give it.
atraditionalist December 1, 2011, 6:10 pm
This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: DON’T MAKE SOMEONE A PRIORITY WHEN YOU ARE JUST AN OPTION. Right now you are a backburner girl. Don’t wait for some guy. It’s been 5 months!! That’s long enough by now for him to have figured out if he sees this going somewhere. If he’s truly too busy to have a girlfriend then don’t just wait until he is ready – because right now you sound ready to have a boyfriend.
You can still have the phone calls, occasionally see him etc. but I would start looking for other guys, not turning them down for dates because someone is not quite sure where he is at yet. Just let him know that you want a relationship with someone and if he cannot give it then you are going to start dating again. If he happens to be ready to become bf gf one day and you are still not in a relationship with someone else then go for it. But until then quit driving up to see him on the weekends hoping that he’ll change his mind. Get on with your life.
Ani December 1, 2011, 6:51 pm
“But until then quit driving up to see him on the weekends hoping that he’ll change his mind. Get on with your life.”
I’ll never understand why people put in 80-90% of the effort in a relationship when the split is supposed to be 50-50.
Betty Boop December 1, 2011, 9:20 pm
How about you have a conversation, with him, about what he feels the labels of boyfriend and girlfriend mean versus what you think they mean and see if you can meet in the middle. It’s only been 5 months, that’s not very long and for some people those labels imply a level of commitment that you haven’t necessarily reached yet. Talk to him, don’t just assume you understand the problem. However, if you don’t like the answer, you don’t get to harp on the question. Have the conversation, assimilate the information and decide if you are willing to accept his terms. If you’re hoping/thinking that things may change in the future, set yourself a personal deadline and MOA if it’s not met. No emotional blackmail, no ultimatums, just decide and accept what is best for you emotionally. It’s hard when you’re upset to not push the issue, but it won’t change his mind.
sobriquet December 1, 2011, 10:04 pm
This letter makes me so sad. I know what it feels like to be in a seemingly great relationship, only to find out the guy didn’t care if I stuck around or not. It’s confusing as hell! And this dude’s excuse is a wee bit infuriating. It’s not “fair” to you to be his girlfriend because he’s so busy right now? If he truly believed that, he would break it off right now, because it’s definitely not fair for him to string you along until he feels ready for a commitment.
The only way I would be cool with his reasoning to not put a label on it is if he’s afraid you will suddenly have completely different expectations of him once you officially become his girlfriend. I would ask him about it if I were you. Only you can know if he’s really giving you what you need and whether or not he’s worth waiting around for.
pamplemousse December 1, 2011, 10:24 pm
Maybe he is/will remain monogamous, but it really sounds like he’s keeping his options open. Then, if he starts seeing someone else, he can use the “but we weren’t dating” line, and feel less guilty. If he says he’s fine with you finding someone else, you can bet he is looking himself.
bittergaymark December 2, 2011, 1:15 am
The real reason he’s avoided giving you the label thus far is that all too often women become nagging harpies once they hear those magic words. No, seriously. I can hear it now. “I’m your girlfriend! Why don’t you spend more time with me? Why don’t you make more time for me? Waahhhhhh!” Look, he’s being honest. He wants to take it slow. Let him. Seriously, it’s all so petty to even worry about this. So very 8th grade.
Budj December 2, 2011, 9:59 am
This. For whatever reason something changes in the relationship when the label girl friend is added a lot of the time…if things were truly going to be the status quo or at least similar to the status quo he may accept the label.
Ktfran December 2, 2011, 10:32 am
I’m so happy there are a few voices of reason on here. You two, Mainer and Wendy answered perfectly I think.
As adults, I don’t understand why relationships need to be labeled. It is very high school. Heck, even when I have “boyfriends”, I don’t introduce them as such. I say this is so and so. People can infer what they want. I think the real tell is the exclusive talk. And this LW and her bf had that talk. They’re exclusive. Let things progress naturally. I’m not a boy, but I can honestly see how this is the preferred route . . . instead of forcing things. Even as a girl, forcing things would drive me away.
Carolynasaurus December 2, 2011, 10:41 am
I disagree. The title of ‘girlfriend’ should equal more respect, not responsibility. She seems very upfront in understanding his situation right now and is not interested in changing it. And after five months together, long distance where she’s been putting in the effort, she deserves his respect enough to be called his girlfriend. Yes, it may give her the right to be a little more naggy if he fails to call her back, but that’s something he should expect after five months with someone, regardless if he mans up and call her his girlfriend or not.
To me, he’s being very 8th grade. “You can act like my girlfriend and I’ll act like your boyfriend but you can’t be my girlfriend because you’re not popular enough/your boobs aren’t big enough/my friends would make fun of me…”
twiglet December 4, 2011, 5:24 pm
BGM, you react very negatively to generalisation about men.Why then do you feel fine about making negative generalisations about women?
Calle December 2, 2011, 3:00 am
I find it more than a little weird that the guy has introduced LW to his family and friends and yet refuses to call her his girlfriend. Most people I know only introduce someone they are serious about to their family or occasionally if it is a new (but committed) relationship. This guy is neither committed nor the LW’s boyfriend. I agree with what previous posters have said––he wants a part time girlfriend. Someone to get his parents and friends to stop setting him up with people and emotional and physical comfort. He needs to either tell her straight up that he can be her boyfriend but that he simply can’t make that much time for her or to let her go. The whole thing about labels sounds like something out of the playbook by a girl I’m friends with who is definitely not into monogamous relationships. The fact that he also said he understands if she meets another guy…Well, I highly doubt this relationship is monogamous on his side. I wonder if he wants his friends and family to think he is the settling down, nice type guy but in reality is not into traditional relationship and just doesn’t have the balls to come out and admit it to either LW or his friends. I don’t really buy the labels are meaningless argument.
Fabelle December 2, 2011, 11:38 am
Did he elaborate at all, or did he really just say “Why do we need a label?” Because I find that people who drop the term “label” when avoiding being called your boyfriend/girlfriend are doing it to make you feel petty and demanding. Yes, there’s something a little high school about “Do you want to be…MY OFFICIAL GIRLFRIEND” but most adults in relationships will come to this agreement of terms somehow. If he’s getting bent out of shape about it, there’s something more going on– otherwise he’d be like “Oh, sure you’re my girlfriend.” I don’t know what the “something more” is– it could be what others have suggested (he thinks you’ll expect more of him), or something more unseemly. Either way, I feel like he’s setting you up to never ask again because otherwise you’d be coming off as some pedestrian-thinker who thinks everything must have LABELS. If he’s not yet comfortable calling you a girlfriend, even though you’re exclusive, then he should explain what he thinks it would mean for you to become one.
niki December 2, 2011, 11:48 am
“It’s not fair to you that I’m so busy”= I’m not that into you, but I’m trying to make it look like I’m sacrificing for your happiness.
“If you meet someone else I completely understand”= If I meet someone else I expect you to understand and I won’t be heartbroken if you leave me.
“monogamous”= You’re the only girl I’m currently sleeping with.
“why do we need a label”= I’m not into you enough to call you my girlfriend. And, if someone asks if I have a girlfriend I can legitimally say no.
twiglet December 4, 2011, 8:26 am
he’s keeping his options open.And he wants to be able to get out guilt-free if something better comes along. You sound like a level-headed sensible woman, I can’t see any reason for him to fear you turning into a high maintenance GF all of a sudden. Tell him how this is making you feel, give him one last chance to be completely honest- but DON’T move house while he is taking your relationship so lightly.
Cucumber November 3, 2012, 11:35 pm
The answer is that he does not want to stop you from finding someone who you could be with at his expense, he knows he is working long hours that will not give you much of a relationship, and his remedy is to give you freedom to meet and date someone without expecting that you wouldn’t.
However this makes him slightly emotionally unavailable because it is an expectation in the back of his mind that you could end up seeing someone else, and actually the fact that he has asked you to be monogomous is an indication of what he would prefer, at least he has the maturity to tell you that is what you would need to do to ‘win’.
So the real question you should be asking yourself if he is unwilling to commit is whether you can be with a man who in the back of his mind expects that you will move on without him, and therefor has not emotionally invested in you 100%.
All a commitment is, is basically an agreement to 100% emotional investment in a partner not much different from what a marriage asks, so yes the label of girlfriend or boyfriend is important.