Dr. Reality Steve
I’ve been dating my boyfriend close to a year. Up until very recently, things have been going great. I’m not sure if what we’re going through is just a normal shift that occurs over time, or if something else is going on. I can be extremely sensitive to things so I’m hoping an outside opinion will help put things into perspective.
Just to give you some background on us, my boyfriend is nearly 8 years younger than me (he is in his late 20’s, I am in my 30’s) and I am his first serious relationship. He did date a few people casually in the past but they were pretty short and unhealthy relationships where he was cheated on and treated terribly. I’ve had more relationship experience, I’ve been in a few serious long-term ones and was married at one point. Most of my previous relationships were also pretty toxic, I’ve been cheated on and abused. Before my boyfriend and I met I had been single for a few years in an effort to heal and break the cycle. He also had been single for a few years as well, for the same reason. When we met he fell crazy hard and so I did I.
Moving on to present day, things had been going really well as we were in I guess what you would call the honeymoon phase. He’s always been extremely affectionate and supportive and very open with me and we’ve discussed future plans, his family considers me part of theirs, he is proactive in making sure we spend time with each other and that I’m not always the one paying for everything, and I do all of the same for him. For the first time I think we both experienced what it’s like to be in a healthy relationship where we treat each other with mutual respect.
However despite all of this, I have noticed lately what seems to be shift in our relationship. It’s not one of those tangible things that I can readily pinpoint to a specific time. Texts, while no less affectionate when they occur, are less frequent. Conversations about the future still occur, but it feels like there is some hesitation now. We had discussed moving in together but that has been put on hold due to financial reasons (he is in the process of switching careers to branching out on his own, which I know is scary and stressful). Now when we talk about it, it’s in “maybe, eventually” terms as opposed to the “I cannot wait until” mode he was in before. I’m not in any rush and fine with things taking their time so he can figure out what he needs to, but it’s a little disconcerting.
I have asked him point blank if things were okay and how he was with everything, in the context of our one-year anniversary coming up. He said he just gets moody sometimes and is stressed about things but he is still very happy. I have no reason not to believe him, but my flags are up. I guess I can pinpoint two things. The other day, he was scrolling through his social media and says “oh wow, she’s pretty” when a random photo of a girl popped up on his feed. Okay, I understand it’s human nature to still notice attractive people and I’m not completely insecure, but I could not help giving him the side-eye when he explained in a matter of fact way that he still finds other people attractive even though he thinks I’m beautiful and loves me. And somehow our families came up in conversation and he made a comment that even though he loves me his family will always be his #1 priority. Which I don’t have a family but I can understand that. But that is such a change from him telling me that “he loves me more than anything and I am the most important thing in his life”. I don’t begrudge him making family priority or having eyes, but both of these things are just such a departure from how he was even just a few weeks ago.
So I guess the bottom line is, I realize that sometimes people get comfortable after awhile and let their guard down and I know that his career switch is weighing on his mind. I don’t expect to be #1 all the time or that it’s all about me. I just know that I’m getting different vibes now. It might be in my head, I don’t want to ignore my gut but I also don’t want to overreact and create a self-fulfilling prophesy. I’ve been in self-preservation mode these last few days, so I’ve been pulling back a little and always answering his texts and making things light and positive, but I feel like I’m slowly dying inside. I’m doing everything I can to focus on my own life in anticipation that he’s going to pull away completely, because it has happened to me before. It sucks.
Thank you for listening to my novel, I wish brevity was my strength.
Long time reader and site fan.
Comment: I think you’re handling it correctly. It’s still early. He’s not doing anything crazy, yet, but you have your guard up. That’s all you can do. Maybe once his career gets going, things will go back to normal. We all go through ruts in a relationship. This could be one of those. Or, it could be the beginning of the end. It’s honestly too early to tell. Have some things you told me raised red flags? Sure. But you’ve acknowledged those already.
I think complacency sets in in a lot of relationships. Are things the same in the first three months of a relationship than they are 5-10 years down the line? Very rarely. Doesn’t mean the person doesn’t care about you just as much, but once you become comfortable and realize this is the person you’re gonna be with, both people usually understand that there’s no chase involved anymore and get complacent. Sometimes taking the other one for granted. Not the healthiest thing, but we know it happens. It’s just a matter if you’re able to fight through it. You are past the honeymoon phase, and it looks like his complacency is starting to set in. I’d wait it out a little while longer, then have a talk about where things are. You’ve been married, he hasn’t. Does he want to? Does he want kids? Do YOU want kids? All stuff that needs to be talked about. Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but it could something as simple as that. Maybe he’s not as serious as you, and it’s better to find that out sooner or later. I think you’re probably at a 3 on a scale of 1-10 right now, with 1 being “everything is great” and 10 being “we are never ever ever getting back together.” So wait it out a bit, but if things don’t improve, you might wanna have a talk with him about your future.
I know that this probably won’t make it into your column this week but maybe you can use it for next week. This isn’t a specific question about a particular situation but more of a curious one about your opinion on something. What is your take on online dating/dating apps? I feel like that is the direction that dating is taking, and that honestly disappoints me quite a bit. Call me old school, but I think there is something to be said about meeting someone in person and having a connection with them in real life, rather than from computer to computer or phone to phone.
I feel like people (especially those in the younger generation) have gotten so lazy and unwilling to meet people the old school way, and the whole online dating/dating app thing has become the only option if you want to have any chance as a single person who is trying to date. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with online dating; it’s just not something that I have chosen to pursue. I did have tinder for a hot minute in college, but I think we all know that people don’t typically use tinder to find someone to date seriously or get into a relationship with. I’m 25, and so many of my friends tell me that they think that I need to get into online dating. My most serious relationship ended about 10 months ago, and I have done a little bit of dating here and there. It just hasn’t been a top priority for me (I’ve been working on my career and trying to become truly independent).
Just curious to hear your take on the whole online dating thing – I really respect your opinion and I feel like you offer really great perspective.
Sorry this was so long!
Comment: Online dating is strictly a personal preference. Some live by it, some can’t stand it. I haven’t done online dating since 2008, and I don’t see myself doing it either. It’s just not for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s not for you.
I agree in that with the digital world we live in, dating has completely changed from when I grew up. I mean, I’m 16 years older than you. My prime dating years we didn’t have any of this stuff. It was strictly if you were interested in someone, you had to call them. Texting wasn’t a thing. Social media wasn’t a thing. So you either met up in person or you called and talked to them for hours getting to know them. In that aspect, it’s completely different.
But dating ultimately comes down to the same thing – do you connect? No matter what way the origin of the relationship happens, once you meet in person, do you like each other enough to keep seeing the other one? Yes, I understand that in online dating, once they’re done going out with you, then they have numerous other options to choose from, but so do you. I’ve never been a serial dater, which is why I’m not huge on online dating, but can it work? Sure. It makes your quantity much higher, but doesn’t necessarily make your quality better. But everyone’s situation is different. You could sign up for a dating site tomorrow, connect with some guy, meet up, and completely fall for each other and then you guys only want to see each other. Or, you could go on 20 dates and not find the right guy. Online dating just gives you options now that you wouldn’t have had before, but it still comes down to if luck comes your way. I’m not going to tell you not to try it just because I don’t. Just know what you’re getting into if you do. There will probably be some ghosting, probably be some guy you really thought the date went well, and then it just fades after that. Not because there’s anything wrong with you, but because he found the BBD (bigger, better deal). That’s my biggest issue with it. Some people just like always looking for something better. There’s really no explanation for it, just know it happens. Good luck.
I work with my best friend. We met at work a couple years ago and are two peas in a pod. However, recently at work she has gotten really lazy and I have had to pick up the slack. It’s driving me insane but I have been afraid to say anything to her because I don’t want it to cause a problem in our friendship and because she has a lot of personal stuff going on. Along with working full time I am working on two Masters degrees right now so I can’t really keep picking up her slack. Should I talk to her about it? If so, how should I do it?
Comment: Not a ton to go off of here, but, I guess it all depends on exactly what level it’s driving you to insanity. Is it affecting your school work? Keeping you longer hours at work that are unnecessary? Affecting YOUR performance at work? If any of those are yes, then I’d say you have to bring it up.
However, you mentioned she has a lot of personal stuff going on. Without knowing what that is, it’s tough to say when and where you should speak up. I guess it would all depend on the severity of her personal problems. Obviously you wouldn’t want to kick her when she’s down, so you have to tread carefully. On other hand, if your work is being affected, or it’s causing problems in your every day to day living, saying nothing isn’t going to change anything. I think there’s a way to approach it by not coming down on whatever personal problems she has, but also being supportive. Something like, “Look, I know you’ve got a lot going on right now, but I’ve had to pick up a lot of your work and it’s setting me back a little bit. I’m willing to help you in any way I can, just let me know what I can do for you to help alleviate your workload.” She shouldn’t be offended by something like that.
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