Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“We’ve Been Together for Eight Years and She Still Won’t Commit”

When I first got involved with this gorgeous woman, “Jane,” we decided that we were staying “not committed.” We agreed that neither of us was looking for anything serious. Back then, we were both in our twenties and it seemed a good idea to not rush into anything. However, it’s been eight years now and we even live together, but she refuses to put a label on our “relationship” or to discuss our future together (the possibility of marriage, kids, etc). Even as we moved in together, almost five years ago, it wasn’t something we discussed. It just happened because she was sharing an apartment with a friend of hers and when her friend got engaged, she asked Jane to move out so the fiancé could move in. And since we were already spending so much time together, we decided to move her things into my place while she looked for another place.

At that point, I was ready for us to live together and I tried to talk to Jane about us starting a life together, but she dismissed the idea saying that it was a temporary arrangement until she found a new place. As weeks and months passed by and we both became comfortable living with each other, I believe she stopped looking for a place but we never discussed or acknowledged it. However, she still brings it up from time to time, occasionally saying something like “tomorrow I’ll be looking at this new place my colleague told me about.” I suppose it’s just her way to keep reminding herself that it’s all “temporary,” especially when we buy new furniture together like normal couples do.

She’s always holding back on me. Everything I know about her past or her childhood are things I learned from her aunt who raised her. She has never told me anything herself. She actually argued with her aunt and asked her to stop telling me things. The only time I can recall that she allowed herself to be vulnerable with me was when she told me she was being sexually harassed at work by her manager, and I think I overreacted because I confronted her harrasser and threatened him. She ended up filing a complaint against him along with other female colleagues, and he was fired. But I worried for a while that she would never tell me anything else because of the way I acted.

I loved her so much. I still do. She is insanely attractive and smart, and we are very sexually compatible. We also get along very well. I believe we are a great couple. I’ve always tried to protect her from herself and to always be there for her. Things often get tough and there have been times I thought of just walking out on her, but I stayed because I knew she needed me. However, it’s taking a heavy toll on me emotionally and I’ve started to think that she probably doesn’t love me and I’m not sure if my love is enough to keep us together anymore. I’m on the verge of leaving her for good this time. What do you think? — Mr. Max

I think there are a lot of issues in your relationship keeping you from being committed to one another, and your perception of her lack of love for you isn’t even in the top five issues. It may not even be in the top ten. Frankly, it’s probably not even a reality that she doesn’t love you. I would suspect she probably loves you more than she’s loved anyone, but who knows. You sure don’t because you don’t ever talk to her about your feelings and what’s going on between you.

Instead of a lack of love, what is a much, much bigger problem between you is a lack of communication. You each have been so passive in this relationship of eight years, so afraid of disrupting the status quo and losing what you share. Even now, you’re on the verge of “leaving her for good this time” instead of being on the verge of, I don’t know, TALKING to her about how you’re feeling. Afraid of losing her without your say, you’ll take losing her with your say, as if those are the only options: either you leave her or she leaves you. But what if there’s another option? What is there’s an option to actually be truthful and authentic and vulnerable with each other and that openness leads to actively working on your relationship together which leads to a closer, more committed bond? It could happen.

It’s not going to happen though if you continue seeing and treating Jane as some delicate creature that needs saving. Throughout your letter, you objectify her in so many ways: you mention her looks more than once, and as the first qualifier for her (“When I first got involved with this gorgeous woman”); you talk about “protecting her from herself” and trying to play hero when she confided in you — for the first time, it seems — about being harassed at work. No wonder she doesn’t open up about her childhood and past! You have never given her credit for being a strong, independent woman capable of taking care of herself, protecting herself, loving herself. Your description of her and of your dynamic paints her as the needy one, with you always on the side, there for her whenever she needs you. But you say nothing about your need for her, which I suspect is probably as great if not greater.

Look, most women who are as needy as you seem to think Jane is don’t go to the effort to remain as unattached as Jane has. They are more than eager to commit, to lock it in. She has always kept you at arm’s length, even while moving in with you and buying furniture, as if to say, “I DON’T need you. I’m here because it’s convenient and it’s comfortable.” I wonder, if you would simply acknowledge how independent and strong she is — as something you admire even — how she might soften. If her strength and independence ceased being something she felt compelled to prove to you — because you finally tell her, “I see you. I see that in you,” she might actually let some of the walls down a bit and let you see a lot more. Well, it’s worth a try.

If you can handle being committed to someone who loves you for you and if you can love her for her, and you can dismiss the narrative and the dynamic you’ve imagined of your being the protector and her being the damsel in distress, which seems unsupported by reality and by her, you’ll have the best chance of actually building a real relationship with Jane. But first you have to suck it up and talk to her about all of this. You have to be vulnerable if you want Jane to be vulnerable with you. If you are not willing to do that — if you aren’t willing to say, “Jane, I fucking love you, I’ve always loved you, I feel lost at the idea of not sharing my life with you. I want you and I need you to commit to this, to us,” then you don’t deserve her. She may say no. If that’s a risk you can’t stomach enough to even take, you aren’t as strong and mighty as you think you are.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

17 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite November 13, 2018, 10:37 am

    WWS, lack of commitment isn’t even close to the main issue. Trust people when they tell you who they are and trust when they don’t. It’s been 8 years of ambiguity and the two of you don’t seem truly together at all.

    Jane doesn’t trust you and I’m not sure she should. The two of you discuss nothing that would be expected of a couple. All you’ve shared here also demonstrates how you’ve crossed her boundaries. It’s not right to be actively getting information out of her aunt (who also can’t respect her boundaries apparently) that she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing with you. During her only vulnerable moment, you took her story and made it yours. Inserted yourself where you had no place. You could’ve gotten her fired, ruined her reputation, and exposed her to ridicule, but that doesn’t seem to have mattered to you. Your threats could’ve had a horrible impact on her complaint that she was seemingly forced to make after you exposed her trauma before she was ready.

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  • avatar

    Northern Star November 13, 2018, 11:07 am

    Meh, switch the genders, and you’ve just got a garden-variety commitment-phobe. Maybe it has to do with losing her parents at a young age (her aunt raised her?).

    She’s made it clear that she wants nothing to do with a relationship. Who knows if she “loves” you—all you know is that you’re convenient. You’re not going to have a marriage and children with someone who can’t even drum up the courage to admit her live-in partner is her damn boyfriend, for God’s sake. Accept that what you have right now is the most she can give you, or ask her to leave.

    I gather from you saying she “refuses” to talk about your relationship that you’ve tried. If you haven’t, you’re just as much of a coward as she is.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom November 13, 2018, 11:20 am

    When someone refuses to put a label on the relationship they are refusing to get committed. You have what you are going to get with Jane. She wanted the not committed relationship and that is all she is willing to have. If you want marriage and kids I think you need to leave, I can’t even say breakup, and move on and find someone else who wants what you want.

    I think it is worth telling her that you need to move on if she doesn’t want commitment. I’d be very wary of her agreeing to commitment without any timelines for things like engagement and marriage and kids. Often when someone doesn’t want commitment but doesn’t want to lose the relationship they will agree to something like getting engaged and then refuse to set a wedding date and everything continues as before except that the relationship is a little more “official” than before but it never proceeds to marriage.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark November 13, 2018, 1:02 pm

    Did Wendy and I read the same letter?
    .
    MOA LW, you are dating a user. End of story. She. Is. Using. You. Yes. Sometimes, it’s really that simple.
    .
    Sorry, Wendy! But the idea that telling your lover (after five long years of crashing at his place!) “Oh! That this week you are casually looking at apartment…” (one that you have no intention of taking!) The presented theory that this is somehow some feeble attempt at being seen as a strong and independant woman by a terrible partner who objectifies her by mentioning her looks twice is a rambling letter is just laugh out loud hilarious.

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    • avatar

      Ale November 13, 2018, 1:20 pm

      Yeah, I think the same as BGM. You can be an independent strong woman and still be able to put a name to what you have with someone.
      Anyways, the most important issue here is that LW is not getting what LW wants. LW wants a commitmment with someone who isn’t ready after 8 years and can’t even be bothered to talk about it. This is pretty much dead.

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  • avatar

    Essie November 13, 2018, 1:44 pm

    I know you’re looking for advice on the relationship, but I can’t get past my own reaction to the way you intervened in the situation at her job. I can’t for the life of me imagine why she didn’t move out on the spot and never speak to you again. Inertia, not wanting the bother of a move, the rent was cheap so she could put up with having you in her presence to save some money, who knows.

    I think you broke the relationship permanently with that little stunt, because you showed her that she could never trust you. You may have been a boyfriend at that point, but emotionally, she shifted you to roommate and sex buddy status because you betrayed her trust.

    This is advice for future relationships, because this one may be unrecoverable. Do not EVER, EVER, EVER do anything like that again. It’s not supportive. It’s not chivalrous. It’s not riding to the rescue like a white knight. It’s offensive, insulting, degrading, humiliating, stupid, and a betrayal in every way.

    And if a partner, friend, whatever, doesn’t share parts of her life with you, IT’S BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THEM. It is absolutely her right to decide what she shares with you. Don’t you dare go to family members behind her back and pry secrets out of them.

    And you feel like you need to “protect her from herself?” The fucking nerve.

    Leave the woman alone, and spend some time working on yourself before you date again.

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    • avatar

      Northern Star November 13, 2018, 1:58 pm

      By “Leave the woman alone,” you mean kick her out of the apartment, right? I would love to know if “gorgeous Jane” is paying rent at all…

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark November 13, 2018, 2:01 pm

        I’d say — No.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros November 13, 2018, 3:39 pm

        What in the letter indicated she wasn’t?

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      • avatar

        Northern Star November 13, 2018, 4:20 pm

        “And since we were already spending so much time together, we decided to move her things into my place while she looked for another place.”

        1. She moved into his place. 2. She keeps saying it’s temporary, 3. He doesn’t want to scare her off in any way, and 4. He sees himself as her protector.

        Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t point to “she insists on paying her fair share of the rent.”

        I just think it’s absurd to paint this woman as some sort of victim. She could take her crap and be gone at ANY TIME, no consequences, if she doesn’t like how he handles things.

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  • avatar

    Beth Hannah November 13, 2018, 2:08 pm

    How can you be in love with someone who has barely shared their life with you? It sounds like you are keeping a checklist when you describe her and aren’t very interested in actually building a relationship with her.

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  • avatar

    Smalls November 13, 2018, 2:35 pm

    While I absolutely do think you need to stop being so passive in this relationship, and I think “protecting her from herself” and your reaction to the situation at her job are decidedly out of line, I also think your relationship is convenient for her and she doesn’t want much more from you than sex, a place to live, and companionship. If she did want marriage or kids–or even a title–you’d have it after 8 years. I don’t see how this relationship will turn into what you want it to be, with this dynamic.

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  • CurlyQue

    CurlyQue November 13, 2018, 2:41 pm

    I think two things can be true at once. Your girlfriend has commitment issues and this relationship probably isn’t going to go further than it has AND your narrative about “protecting her from herself” and constantly being needed is problematic.

    LW, i suggest if you want to make a last attempt at this relationship you have a sit down conversation and state the future you would like to have, while also stating how you now realize your past behavior/narrative wasn’t ideal (if you believe this) and see what she says. If she’s still not ready to move further then it’s time to break up and she needs to move out. The End. Going forward keep an eye out for the red flags you saw re her commitment so you don’t find yourself spending 8 years with the wrong person again. Also, work on yourself and why you feel a relationship involves saving the woman “from herself” i’ve never thought that in any relationship towards a boyfriend and don’t understand why you think that’s part of a healthy relationship.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros November 13, 2018, 3:37 pm

    I think that you’ve repeatedly made a lot of choices that are not in your best interest. If you and your girlfriend agree not to be serious, don’t carry out a years-long relationship that includes moving in together if she hasn’t indicated that she’s changed her mind. You even acknowledge that you moved in for practical reasons. I suspect that you saw that she wasn’t really committed to you, but you were hoping that if you ignored it, she’d either come around or the issue would just go away. That’s not how things work. You’ve had evidence for the past eight years that she can’t or won’t commit in the ways that you want her to. You should have broken up a lot time ago.

    You list all the ways that she kept you at a distance, like not sharing details of her life and not being willing to talk about the future. The bigger issue is that you saw her avoiding these topics and did nothing. You clearly know these things are important, but you just put up with that distance for eight years?

    Also, yes, your framework of protecting her from herself and threatening her harasser are extremely misguided. I suspect that you’ve used your “protector” status as a way to convince yourself that she’s so damaged that her behavior simply means you need to love her more, not that you are incompatible as a couple. R

    Move on. This relationship is several years past its expiration date.

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  • avatar

    Ange November 13, 2018, 4:21 pm

    It honestly feels like you’re both conducting your own version of the relationship and both those versions are so disparate as to be nonsensical.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse November 13, 2018, 5:10 pm

    It kind of seems like you’ve been fine with the relationship as it is. You’ve tried to talk about future things, she’s shot you down and you have continued on. So she probably assumes you’re fine with things going the way they have for the last eight years, because it seems as though you’re not really complaining or even voicing your real feelings. Everything she’s done seems pretty in line with what you agreed upon so many years ago. If you’re unhappy, it’s up to you to do something about it. IE talk to her like the two adults you are. If she won’t agree that she’s you’re gf, or her vision of your future doesn’t look the same, you need to do some deep thinking about this relationship.

    Not everyone wants a marriage and kids. Some people don’t like fantasizing about their future. There’s millions and millions of people out there, and it takes all kinds. If she’s not your person, that’s okay.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 November 13, 2018, 10:02 pm

    I think you should leave her. You may love her, but you want different things in this relationship. When someone tells you that they won’t commit to you, believe them.

    Seriously. This is what I’d say if a person wanted kids and the partner did not. It’s what I’d say if a person wanted marriage and the partner did not. There are other people you could love. Look for someone who has the same goals as you.

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