Since we started dating, the problem is that I feel like a failure. I live at home with my parents in the same hometown as hers (but she goes to school over 1000 miles away). I have a full-time job – a ‘real’ job too, but it’s not the type of job I was hoping for after college. I’ve started to work my way up, and am enrolled in grad school part-time, but it’s still not satisfying me. The reason I live at home is because I can’t really afford to move out while paying for school loans, other bills, and going to grad school at the same time. My work is going to reimburse me for school, but not until I graduate, which will be a while at the rate I’m going. That also means that I have to stay at my current workplace for a while if I want the reimbursement.
I work for a company that is one of the most hated companies right now, but I have to like it, so I don’t talk negatively about it too much. My girlfriend tries not to speak poorly of it, but she still does. Meanwhile, she has it all going for her and she’s only a junior in college. She has been getting several 4.0s recently, she’s highly involved in her school with leadership programs, she has many great accomplishments on her resume already, and already has an internship with a very top company lined up for the summer. I’m definitely proud of her and happy for her, but it makes me feel like a failure on the other end.
Not only will my girlfriend not be home this summer due to her internship, but I just feel like I can’t measure up to her, which makes our relationship suffer. Maybe it’s just a problem I have with myself, but I feel that the constant comparisons between us are too hard on our relationship. I’ve been so lost recently that I told her I wanted a break to figure things out, but she is upset and doesn’t understand why I need time, and to be honest, I don’t know what to do with her. I love her a lot and she is someone I want to be with for a long time, but I’m not sure if I can handle all of her successes while I feel like a failure in the meantime. The economy sucked when I got out of college and it still sucks, especially in my field. Am I being too selfish for not wanting to be with her because I don’t feel worthy enough? — Feeling Like a Failure
Pay attention to the first sentence of your second paragraph, which sums up your whole letter pretty succinctly: “The problem is that I feel like a failure.” This problem has nothing to do with your girlfriend. It is truly about you and your perception of yourself. You feel like a failure and you are projecting those feelings onto your girlfriend. If you think you’re a failure, then you imagine she must think you’re a failure, too. But nothing in your letter indicates that that’s the case. In fact, in four paragraphs you actually say very little about your relationship with your girlfriend. You say you love her and you’re proud of her, but that you “don’t know what to do with her.” We know nothing about what you do together, how often you see her, or how she makes you feel. And I suspect that’s because you can think of very little except how you compare to her.
The truth is, taking a break from your relationship isn’t going to solve anything, because your issue isn’t with your relationship; it’s with you. You’re not going to feel any less like a failure simply by taking a break from your girlfriend. If anything, you’re going to feel like more of a failure because you couldn’t even manage to hang on to the great girlfriend who loves you.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to hang on to her simply by staying with her, though, either. A young woman like that needs someone who is secure in himself and can handle the success of the woman he’s dating. Because she may have many more achievements … or she, like you, may find the current economy unkind to her upon graduation. Either way, it’s not going to be in her best interest to have a boyfriend who welcomes her failures and fears her success.
If you really care about this person, you should consider setting her free. And then, instead of focusing on what a failure you are, you can focus on what you’re doing right — how you’re taking the reigns of your life and choosing a new path before settling too soon for one you’re unhappy on. It can take decades for some people to figure out they need a career change. It sounds like you figured it out quickly. And you managed to find a way for someone else to pay for your graduate degree. That seems like a pretty good success to me. But until you can see yourself that way, you won’t be any good to any woman. And the strong women of today need guys who can handle them, not ones who shy away in intimidation of their achievements.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow me on Twitter.