I’ve been dating “Adam” for about eight months, but I’ve known him for about 15 years — he’s my best friend’s brother. We had a long history of flirting and wanting to be together, which wasn’t possible for a while because we were both in our own relationships. We finally got together over the summer, and for a while, most of our relationship was just wonderful (albeit long distance). He says the right things, is very affectionate, sex is wonderful, I love his family, etc. However, there are a few issues that have become apparent to me recently, and I feel like a real jerk because they were always there, but I didn’t think they’d bother me so much until recently.
Basically, the biggest issue is that I am completing a doctoral degree and he is in his early 30s (four years older than me) and still largely living off of his parents’ money. He has a bachelors degree but works a rather blue collar job (I know that sounds beyond shallow) and makes a so-so hourly wage. I am worried that: (1) I will have to be the provider for the two of us and potential future family; and (2) the difference between our education levels might feel even wider if my career takes off and his stays somewhat stagnant. Again, I’m aware how shallow this sounds, but I think it’s a legitimate concern…
On top of this, my parents (whose input I greatly value, in general) think I’m too good for him and are concerned about his mooching off of his parents, his lack of desirability to “go somewhere” in life, and his intermittent marijuana use. All of these factors, in combination with the fact that I am moving for residency to another part of the country (still not where he lives), has me thinking about what to do with this relationship. And the stakes are, of course, very high. We were completely on the same page a few months ago about being very serious together, so I feel like if we break up, I have lost my 15-year relationship with his mother and sister — who is my best friend — as well the rest of his family who have been like a second family to me. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! — Too Good for Him
You need to separate your relationship with your boyfriend from your relationship with his family (including his sister, your best friend). They may seem like a packaged deal, but the truth is that as much as you “marry into a family,” you’re truly only marrying one person. And while the idea of marrying into a really shitty family may be a deal-breaker for some people, the idea of marrying into a family you love shouldn’t be the push you need to embrace a relationship you have doubts about. Nor should the fear of losing them be an incentive to stay in a relationship that you feel isn’t right.
When you focus solely on your relationship with your boyfriend, you need to decide if your connection is worth trying to work through the issues you have with him and the issues you face as a couple. What if you were the breadwinner is a marriage? What if your boyfriend always worked a blue collar job? What if he never stopped smoking pot? If these are worries you’ve expressed to your boyfriend — and if you haven’t yet, you need to! — and he hasn’t convinced you that these things will change (by proving that he’s working towards changing them), then you need to decide for yourself if they’re deal-breakers. There’s nothing wrong with dumping someone because you’ve realized that issues that didn’t seem so important before are suddenly more glaring as you get more serious and start thinking about a longterm future together. That’s what dating is all about — learning what quirks, flaws and lifestyle choices we can live with happily and which ones we can’t. You aren’t a bad person if you decide that your boyfriend’s lifestyle choices don’t mesh with the future you’ve envisioned for yourself (and he’s certainly not a bad person for making the choices that he has…). You would be bad, however, if you overlooked those feelings for the sole reasons of sparing his feelings and remaining close to his family.
And let’s talk about that family of his. If his sister would seriously turn her back on your because you broke up with her brother after a few months of long distance dating, then she wasn’t much of a best friend to begin with. Has she never had a relationship that didn’t work out? Has she never been interested in a guy – maybe even loved a guy — only to decide that maybe they weren’t quite right for each other after all? Maybe you’re worried that whatever empathy she may have for you in sadly ending a relationship with her brother will be canceled out by the loyalty she feels toward him. Maybe you’re concerned that a 15-year close friendship can’t compete with the loyalty she feels toward her family, and I’m sorry I can’t promise that that won’t happen. But I can promise that if her loyalty to you were that shaky to begin with, then she isn’t a sister-in-law you’d feel comfortable having.
Can you imagine feeling insecure about your position in the family every time you and her brother had a fight or disagreement? Can you imagine spending your married life worrying about whether your in-laws were going to turn on you every time you did something to hurt your husband? Oy vey! Marriage is hard enough without stressing all the time about losing your best friend over a fight with your husband. If you’re going to let your boyfriend’s family be the tipping point in your decision to continue dating him, consider that you’ll always worry if a mis-step in your relationship is going to cost you the love you feel from them. If that isn’t a concrn you want to carry into a marriage, perhaps this is a relationship that has run its course.
*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.