Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend and I have been together for five-plus years (we are in our 50s). We have both been married before, he multiple times, and I have two elementary-age children. I have wanted to get married for the last two years, but he is not ready. We have been together to counseling – his idea, because he is worried that he hasn’t gone into his previous marriages with open eyes.
Nothing came up. He just doesn’t think he’s ready because he has been married most of his adult life. He says he does see us married at some point.
After five years I am stressed trying to maintain this relationship, raise two young boys alone, maintain a household, work a demanding full-time job, nurture my female relationships, not to mention have some downtime for myself.
He is very supportive and will do anything to make things easier on me. However, I am starting to get resentful and find myself pulling away, and I told him recently I need more time for my own life. I am tired of being disappointed after every special occasion that we have when he doesn’t pop the question. – Five-plus years and counting
Why why why are you still counting?
He has been married “multiple times” and wants to breathe before getting married again.
Let’s say you follow through on your plan to distance yourself from this man. Everything else on your list will remain the same: the boys, the household, the demanding job, the female friendships, the quest for downtime. It’ll just be without your boyfriend’s companionship. If that’s appealing to you, then please do break up. If instead you’d miss his companionship, then why don’t you just take him at his word and accept that “boyfriend” is all he is?
Don’t break up or press further for more. Instead, make one simple, albeit painful, mental adjustment: Walk into your next romantic occasion with the absolute certainty that he isn’t going to propose to you. Not to take the pressure off him, but yourself. His limited role has been your reality for some time, so the only change is that you’d be living it truthfully. If you find you don’t want him as-is, then walk away.
Dear Carolyn: I finished graduate school last year and have been working as a researcher since last May. I had gotten a job offer in a cool city from a collaborator who really wanted to work with me. The pay was equal to what I make now, but it would have been a really fun and fascinating position. I turned it down to be with my boyfriend. I know I am responsible for my own decisions, but I am starting to really, really resent my boyfriend. I’m so bored at my current job, and honestly, I just want to figure out my life, by myself, without the stress of a relationship.
At the same time I worry about being alone forever (I’m 28). – Graduate degree, looking for a job and stressed
Please open your job search to include any city that holds the promise of more interesting work. You’d be under no obligation to take a job you got; think of it as acquiring options. Line up something real, and see if you’d still choose what you have – job, town, man.