Q: I read with great interest the column “Does He Love Me?” in Between The Lines (March 26). I have been “dating” a guy for close to eight years now. We started dating when he was in a committed “monogamous” partnership of nine years (turns out, they both were cheating behind the other’s back). At the time, I was married to a woman for 22 years and had three daughters all in middle or high school. So our “beginning” was tumultuous. After he split with his partner, he pushed me to leave my wife and kids, come out and become his partner. It took about a year to separate from my wife and for my kids to adjust to this new “dad.” Many friends have said, “You and your ex-wife had the best divorce of anyone I’ve every known.” Quite honestly, we focused our energies on doing it right for the kids and ourselves. She is a great friend whom I love dearly. My boyfriend and I lived separately due to the drama of my life changes.
At the three-year mark of our relationship, and with my lease expiring, we began having discussions of moving in together. We talked about what that would look like and we dreamt of our future together. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but our relationship seemed to really struggle at the beginning of these discussions. We split up assuming that was the end. I began dating again, as did he. After six months apart, however, I longed for him, as I had never stopped loving him. We reunited at a horrific time for him – his mom was dying – but we took it slow, and three years later, we are still committed to one another. Or so I thought. It was important to me that he was truly allowing me to return to his life as his lover and not just another person to help during this trying time.
During the past 1 or 2 years, I have asked that he express interest in moving in together and becoming committed partners and perhaps have a commitment ceremony. My current lease expires soon; he asked about the expiration and whether now was the time to move in together. I have consistently told him that I don’t have to have a specific date/time for moving in together, but I need to know that is the direction our relationship is heading. And while I appreciate that some partners don’t reside together, I have this need to. During this period, I have been at his home more than at my apartment. In fact, from January to mid-February, I stayed only two days at my apartment.
Well, we’re in the same boat again. He’s not sure what to do. Not sure the time is right. He’s not sure how we’d get along if we lived together (seems like me we’ve been doing that). Have we really talked things through? Do we know how things would work out? Who would pay the bills? How would we split the chores?
I do appreciate all of his concerns, and I remember 28 years ago having some of the similar thoughts when I got married. But if we hadn’t talked them out in advance, we worked them out as they arose. I firmly believe (probably naively) that if you truly love the other person, you commit to working through issues that arise through the commitment. We have returned to couples counseling, which seems to be of little or no help to me. I listen to him complain that I’m not like his former partner (yes, the one he left and the one he cheated on!) and how he longs to return to a partnership like that one.
Increasingly I feel like the mistress waiting for the married man to leave his wife … which is pretty horrible! If he is never going to commit to me, I wish he’d have the balls to let me go. I feel very sad and depressed over our situation and very angry at myself for letting my heart lead me. Like “Disillusioned” wrote, I thought I found the love of my life. I do love my boyfriend and want to be partners in every aspect of our lives. Isn’t eight years of dating enough to know that you’re compatible as partners? Increasingly I worry that I’m selling myself short and being used. Thoughts?
A: It sounds like it’s time for you to let your head rule over your heart or one day you’ll wake up to realize how many years you have lost not having the committed relationship you want – though it sounds like that awakening has started. I have no doubt that you have feelings for him, and he for you, but he is unable to commit to you – or anyone else for that matter – for whatever reason. It’s not about him having the “balls” to let you go; it’s got to be about you having the balls to let him go. His issue is not being able to commit and you need to understand why you have stuck around so long. I suggest you find a therapist to help you grieve the loss of your fantasy of a commitment with him, and help you find out why you hung in there so long. It’s more than just about “loving” him.