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Carolyn Hax: She can’t quit; he’s afraid to commit

Hi, Carolyn: I’m a 50-year-old divorced woman with a great son and a wonderful job. I should be really happy, but my boyfriend, 58, is a self-described commitment-phobe who keeps breaking up with me because he “can’t do this” – that is, be in an otherwise great relationship. The last time it happened, we didn’t talk for three weeks, then he came back saying how much he loved and missed me and knew he wanted to be with me. Being an optimist or a fool, I got back into the relationship.

Now, four weeks later, I feel like he’s getting antsy again.

I really want a future with him, but I know that not being able to talk about our relationship is a problem. – Unsure

He may not be great at articulating his feelings, but I’ll argue he’s an effective communicator: His consistent actions and unsatisfying words are telling you exactly who he is.

Everything he has said and done says it’s time you made peace with his otherwise-greatness.

The most straightforward way is to accept that, for you to feel satisfied, you need deeper intimacy and steadier companionship than he can or will provide, and to break up with him.

That’s not the only way, though, because there isn’t one kind of relationship that works for everyone.

You can, for example, accept this guy as a date, not a mate.

You can also read your own letter, and appreciate exactly how much control of your well-being you’ve relinquished to someone else: You “should” be really happy?

It’s such an easy trap, believing you’d be happy if only X would be a certain way. However, it’s always worthwhile to take the more difficult route, of admitting “I’m in my own way.” If you’re not sure how, here’s a hint: Look to whatever it is you can’t bear to face.

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