I was his first online date (eHarmony) and he never expected to find someone like me right away. He thought he would date for a few years before he found a “good one.” I have not met his boys yet, and he has no idea when I will. He also has not told me he loves me. He does not want to meet my parents. He feels that by meeting my parents, saying he loves me, and my meeting his boys, he has to propose in the next week. I feel it’s just the next step to take in our relationship. I know he is into me, and he tells me everything except “I love you.” He initiates contact and makes most plans and pays for everything. He wants to spoil me because that’s what his ex-wife expected, but I just want to be with him.
He is still very close to his ex in-laws — very close … uncomfortably close for me. I have told him this, and he is spending less time with them. However, he continues to stress that they are the only solid family he has had in his life for the past 20 years, and they have been good to him. One of the boys is having a birthday in August that I will not be a part of, but all of the ex-family will. He wants to see his boys on their birthdays, but that means dinner with the ex-wife and in-laws.
His ex-nephew is getting married in September out-of-state. He told me I would not be going with him because his boys will be there. But so will the whole ex-family and his ex-wife. I already have anxiety building, and he knows this. But he is still going without me. No one in the ex-family knows about me. They have their suspicions, but he has never confirmed them. He says it is none of their business. He is a very, very private person. I sometimes feel like a dirty little secret. I have met his one and only friend. He says he and his ex lived in a cocoon their whole marriage. They never went out, and they only associated with her family. We have plans all the time with my friends, and he loves all the adult time and things that we do together.
I want to stay with him because we are so great together and I know our future would be amazing, but is he ever going to get over the hump and let me meet the boys and become a part of his life that he is keeping separate from me? And when will he be able to verbalize he loves me? He has broken down in tears in front of me discussing how much his ex hurt him. And he knows he is the one with the issues. I’m not asking for a ring (right now) or to move in together, I am just asking to continue to move forward and strengthen the relationship. He says we are good and solid and are going to be just fine. I just want to push him over that hump, or ledge, so he can feel love again and let his worlds merge together. My heart says one thing; my mind is worrying about another. What do I do? — Dirty Little Secret
Well, you and your boyfriend do have one thing in common: you’re both living in a fantasy world. His fantasy is that the two of you continue your no-commitment, pseudo-relationship indefinitely so that he can have the benefit of your company without the pressure of investing himself and risk getting hurt like he was before. Your fantasy is that you have a boyfriend you can imagine a great future with. The truth is, you have no idea what your boyfriend’s life is like NOW, let alone what it may be like shared with you one day. How can you begin to imagine a real life with this man if you’ve never met his kids and have no idea what kind of effect they’d have on you and your relationship? How can you have a clue what a future with him would be like if you don’t know where his relationship with his ex in-laws is going and how you might fit into that dynamic? How can you “know” your future together would be “amazing” when there are so many shifting and uncertain variables (Does he want more kids? Will he have to pay alimony forever? If so, how will that affect your life together? Will his former in-laws always be part of his life? How will you fit into that dynamic? Are you willing to marry someone who will forever be so closely tied to his ex?)?
You don’t know that your future together would be amazing. You have no idea what it would be like, and the fact that you say you’d like to marry this guy without having a sense of what his life is like shows you either have an immature view of married life, or you’re so desperate to find your husband you’ve convinced yourself that this guy, who has so many unresolved issues he cries when discussing his ex-wife, is the one for you. Either way, this doesn’t spell “happy ending.”
Put the brakes on imagining your future together and, instead, deal with the present. Decide how important it is for you to have a relationship vs. how important it is for you to have a relationship with THIS GUY. If it’s truly a relationship you want and the sooner the better, MOA. It sounds like this guy has a while to go before he’ll be ready for the kind of commitment you’re looking for. But if you feel a true connection to this man and you’re willing to invest the serious time and patience necessary to wait around indefinitely while he sorts his shit out, then, by all means, hang around. But understand that the answer to your questions about when your boyfriend is going to profess his love and introduce you to his family and move on from his past is: “maybe never.” And unfortunately, short of breaking up with him and hoping that losing you will propel him through his grief a little faster, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
He’s on his own timetable here, and understandably so. He has a lot of “baggage,” as you say, and there’s lots and lots of unpacking to do before he’ll have the emotional space for the kind of relationship you want with him. It sucks, and I’m sure it feels unfair. But that’s life. Sometimes we meet the right person at the wrong time. Sometimes we fall in love with someone who isn’t emotionally available. Sometimes, the right person falls in love with us before we’re ready to open our hearts to him or her. This is what makes finding a long-term/ life partner so difficult. It’s not enough to find someone you click with and really like and are attracted to and share common values and goals and interests with. You have to be ready for that person at the exact same time that that person is ready for you. It’s almost like catching lightning in a bottle, which is why, when it does happen, it’s so very special.
But it just doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happened for you with him. Not now. Maybe never. If that seems like too indefinite an amount of time for you to continue investing yourself with no pay-off in sight — and certainly no happy ending guaranteed — I’d suggest you MOA now and make yourself available to someone who is ready for you.