Shortcuts: “How Can I Ask My Boyfriend for a Commitment?”

It’s time again for Shortcuts. For every question, I’ll give my advice in just a few sentences because sometimes the answer to a person’s question is so obvious and the need to hear it so great that being as clear and frank as possible is simply the best way to go.

My boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for about a year and a half. We’ve talked about marriage and children in the future, yet he still hasn’t asked me to be his girlfriend. I’ve met his family and he’s met mine as well. I feel silly even asking this because I know how it sounds, but how do I tread lightly about telling him I need a commitment from him? I love him, but I love myself more; I can’t wait on his beck and call for ever! Please Help!! — Ready to Commit

After a year and a half, there’s no reason to “tread lightly” about what you want. Just say to him: “Hey, we’re boyfriend and girlfriend, right?” He probably already thinks you are but didn’t realize he had to officially ask you to be his girlfriend like he did back in middle school. If, however, he doesn’t think you’re his girlfriend and actually doesn’t want that, then it’s probably time to cut your losses and MOA.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for two years now. We live in different states and see each other about every two to three months. He just recently took me to meet his parents. But we have been getting into small arguments here and there and saying things out of anger to each other. He told me we should take a pause to focus on our careers. Am I wrong to think it is over? — Taking a Pause

“Let’s take a pause” sounds a lot like “let’s take a break,” which is just a passive way of saying, “Let’s break up.” Sorry. But If you aren’t sure, you should probably just ask him: “Just to be clear, are we broken up now?” And if he says yes, just think of all the fun things you can do with the time and money you won’t have to spend visiting him anymore.

I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 1 year and 4 months. The relationship started off very well and he gave me tons of attention in a way my ex never had. Then a year ago, his father died just four months into our relationship, and things have since changed between us. We argue a lot, and during the December holidays he suggested that we go on a break. I refused, suggesting that we work on our problems together instead. He agreed, and we continued with the relationship until this week when he finally decided that we go on a break. I agreed since I can’t force him to be with me whilst he fails to express his love the way I want him to express it. We haven’t discussed his father at all because I feel it is his choice to bring it up when he’s ready. I really like him and want to stick this out, but my insecurities are telling me that this break will lead to a break up or maybe he’ll find someone else. — Can’t Force Him to Love Me

As I said above, “let’s take a break” is just a passive way of telling someone you want to break up, and your boyfriend has said it now twice. He doesn’t want to be with you anymore. I doubt his father’s death has a thing to do with it. People’s feelings change. It happens. And it’s probably why he’s “failing” at expressing his love the way you want him to express it — because he doesn’t feel it anymore. Which is why he broke up with you. Twice now. Time to MOA.


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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.


  1. LW3, you were with your BF when his father died, stayed with him for a year after that, and you never even asked the dude how he’s doing because “it is his choice to bring it up” and you complain that “he fails to express his love the way I want him to express it”? How exactly would that be, besides much much better than you do?
    I hate it when bad things happen and everyone looks the other way expecting the person who’s feeling terrible to be the one to address them. It’s generally not about their privacy, but about how uncomfortable other people are dealing with tragedies. What’s so fucking taboo about saying “are you all right? do you miss your dad a lot?” How do you go A YEAR without saying it unless you’re specifically avoiding it? This relationship was obviously made of plastic, MOA.

    1. I’ll remember “this relationship was obviously made of plastic”. New DW saying.

    2. I’m with you on addressing bad things. I don’t like to badger people to open up if they legitimately don’t want to but seriously – when you love or care for somebody then you at least let them know you’re WILLING to listen to them. Maybe her (ex) boyfriend isn’t the type to ask for an ear because he doesn’t like feeling needy, but if she opened the door just a crack maybe he would have walked through it.

      Love “This relationship was obviously made of plastic.” On the mark.

    3. My boyfriend lost several good friends when they were all 18 (car accident). This was YEARS before we even started going out, but when he reminisces about them, I let him know it’s okay to open up, and I ask him, “Do you miss him?” or “You think he would have liked this show?”, stuff like that. It was scary the first time because I didn’t know how he’d react, but I’m glad that I let him know he can talk about those things with me.

  2. I’ll place a $100 bet that LW1 and her boyfriend are exclusively dating and truly are, gasp, boyfriend and girlfriend. I feel like this little mystery could have been solved long ago if the LW had said something light like Wendy suggested. Sometimes, you don’t need the big discussions.

    I’ll also place a $100 bet on both LW2 and LW3 that, as Wendy said, you’re dating super passive-agressive dudes. Especially LW2. I would totally MOA.

    1. I’ve said it before, most guys are just clueless that they need to ask or nervous themselves. LW1 just have the conversation already

  3. Avatar photo LlamaPajamas says:

    I initially thought I was too annoyed to comment, but I’ve changed my mind.

    LW2: You’ve been together for two years and you’re just now getting into occasional small arguments and saying things to each other out of anger? How long have you been long distance? It sounds like your relationship is a little superficial if it can’t withstand a little natural disagreement.
    LW3: You had 4 good months then HE LOST HIS DAD and now he doesn’t give you the attention you initially liked so much and you won’t let him break up with you? Please give this poor guy a break and just end it. My fiancé and I had been together for 6 months (we’d just gotten engaged, which I know is really fast) when we found out that my dad has stage IV cancer. It was a game changer but totally confirmed that we’re a great team and he’s as committed to my family as he is to me (he sends my parents short little “thinking of you” emails on my dad’s chemo session mornings, which makes me melt). If you can’t help your boyfriend with what he needs right now, please leave him alone.

    Wow, I’m grumpy today.

  4. zanderbomb says:

    LW1- How does he introduce you to people? I mean, when he took you to meet his parents was he just like, “Hey here’s a girl?”

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      You just reminded me I had a dream last night that my DW name was “A Person.” I like it.

      1. I had a dream the other night that my friends were trying on these pretty sundresses but the dresses were actually evil and anyone who put them on would turn into a ghoul. Then Banano bought a ratty old couch and we sat on it and watched TV and that cured us. I just wanted to share.

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        Haha, Peter said I was acting like a ghost this morning, whatever that means.

      3. In his dream or in real life?

  5. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    LW1- You’ve spent 18 months together and never had this conversation?? Just bite the bullet and bring it up lady!

    LW2 and 3- Just MOA. These guys have made their opinions clear, and there is way too much forcing of these relationships. You both will find someone who actually wants to be with you.

  6. Painted_lady says:

    “I agreed since I can’t force him to be with me whilst he fails to express his love the way I want him to express it.”

    Just the first half of that sentence. You can’t force him to be with you. Full stop. Quit trying to.

    1. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

      yeah and to add to that LW3: why would you want to “force” someone to be with you who doesn’t even make you happy as he does not express his love to you in a way that you want?? I mean just reread your letter and find someone who you don’t have to force and who you know, actually loves you.

    2. Ugh, the second part of that sentence: “whilst he fails to express his love the way I want him to express it” made me cringe.

  7. LW1: I agree with the above question: How does he introduce you to people? His friend? Just your first name? Did you establish sexual exclusivity? If you’re talking marriage, I’m hoping you did. My guess is he’s going to be very surprised to find out you aren’t his girlfriend when you bring this up. And if you do bring it up and he doesn’t think of you as his girlfriend? MOA

    LW2: No, you aren’t wrong for thinking its over. He wants it to be over.

    LW3: He’s allowed to break up with you, you know.

  8. LW1: don’t be passive and just ask. My husband and I never had a conversation. We decided to date exclusively but people would ask “is that your girlfriend?” and he would say yes. I’m surprised that you don’t have any indication by now. You even call him your boyfriend in your letter. You say you love him so have you ever told him? Has he told you? There seems to be a major lack of communication if you don’t know where you stand by now.

    LW2 and LW3: you’re both with guys who are hesitant to break it off for whatever reason and have been trying to let you down easy. And you think there’s hope because they haven’t specifically said it’s over for good. Just MOA. Don’t waste time on someone who has indecision and doesn’t have the guts to break it off.

    1. @Mylaray that’s a good point re:LW1. Has he never had to introduce you to anyone? What does he say, this is ‘Susie’ my friend? How would you introduce your SO to people continually over 18 months without indicating one way or another…

      That said, it’s too late to be looking for verbal hints in his conversations with others. Clearly you need to have a direct conversation about this since it has bothered you enough to write in to Wendy.

  9. LW3 your relationship w/ your boyfriend was “perfect” for the first 4 months and then his father passed away and the last year has been difficult correct? The death of an SO’s parent can be VERY HARD on a relationship. Especially one without a very solid foundation. A foundation that you didn’t have a lot of time to build in those 4 months.

    My mother passed away in October and my relationship with my boyfriend (which was almost 3 yrs at the time, and one i would’ve deemed very solid) really suffered and almost ended. It’s hard to focus on healing/grieving while also nurturing a relationship. I (and possibly your boyfriend) needed my SO to drop their normal expectations for me (attention, lots of smiles/happiness) and just be there FOR ME, and also be ok with the relationship being one sided (at least for a while).

    I imagine that that would’ve been very hard to do if he was expected to continue nurturing a brand new relationship, and if your expectations for him didn’t change. I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt, but the fact that it sounds like you never brought up his father’s passing and if your expectations for him never changed it may have come off as if you just expected life to go on as normal, which is really not a fair expectation.

    This has kind of gotten long and rambly. His father’s passing may have been something that you guys would’ve been able to get past if it had happened later in your relationship, i don’t know, but the point is is that you didn’t have that time and the relationship seems to have run its course. You should definitely respect his request to “take a break” and use that time to find somebody that is ready to give you what you need now (and not be one sided). **Of course my advice is focused on the father’s passing and how that may have influenced your relationship. If you think your relationship issues stem differently then ignore my advice as necessary.

    1. Yeah I think the father dying may not be as much of a ‘non issue’ as Wendy insinuated. I am actually concerned for when my father in law eventually passes away, and I’ve been with my husband for 7 years. Some people do not take death well, especially of a parent. IF you, LW3, compounded the issue by also not talking with him about it as you state, the rift is partially your fault.

      Another thing is, death makes people think about and re-evaluate their lives and what they want out of them. Maybe the death of a close family member led your bf to realize he shouldnt be wasting time with someone who he did not see longterm potential with (unfortunately you LW3). MOA for your sake and his…

  10. LW1: I wouldn’t be so harsh on her about being confused. Yes, you should probably figure it out sooner rather than later, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s smart enough to notice whether her boyfriend refers to her as his girlfriend or not (regardless of the asking) and whether he has committed to her (since she refers to commitment, not just the title of girlfriend). I think if you are made to believe that your boyfriend doesn’t think of you as his girlfriend, it might also be him, not just you.

    LW2: Even if he says you aren’t broken up, I personally adhere to a broken-up or nothing rule, in which I would never go on a break, because they make more drama.

    LW3: Sometimes when someone goes through something like a loss, it can screw up a young relationship because you miss out on all the happy, exciting feelings that you normally get early on, and then it can be hard to build a relationship without that. I’d also reconsider your policy of not talking about concerns that a partner might have unless they bring them up first because if my boyfriend never mentioned a parent I had lost, then I’d assume they were a dick and didn’t care. You don’t have to pry, but it doesn’t hurt to show some interest in their life and feelings.

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