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Carolyn Hax: Expect break up after separation

Dear Carolyn: I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 51/2 years, and we’ve been living together for most of that. He moved across the country to be with me, and a year ago I returned the favor. I realized I had been taking some frustrations out on him lately, so I wrote him a letter apologizing and telling him I’d be more supportive.

This led to a conversation that surprised me: He said he feels like at our age (25) he should know if he wants to marry me, and he’s still not sure. Also he wants to live independently, which he feels he hasn’t done yet because we’ve been sharing bills and responsibilities.

He’s not ready to break up, but he’s pessimistic about our long-term chances. But he loves me and wants to give it a chance because I’m willing to work on things. We are thinking about having him move out but continuing to date. Is this a good idea, or am I kidding myself that this relationship has a chance? – S.

Whatever his feelings are for you, neither of you can ignore his yearning to live on his own. For one thing, it’s an empowering thing to do at least once. And, living alone is one of those needs that doesn’t just pass when ignored, but instead becomes a what-if – or, worse, an if-only.

Even if he were optimistic about your long-term future, he’d still be a something you love that you need to set free.

Since his feelings for you are diminished, that only makes the move-out argument more compelling. You want a mate who feels drawn to you, not stuck with you.

Once the torture of household-stuff separation is behind them, people often find themselves miraculously “ready to break up”; I doubt he’ll do anything other than move out and not look back. Still, even the wishful-thinking scenario starts with his moving out. That’s the one where he lives enough life without you to recognize that he prefers it with you.

The latter is OK to hope for, as long as the former is what you expect.

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