DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been seeing this guy since last October. We spend almost every day together, he came to Christmas with my family, and we recently crossed the “I love you” bridge. For some reason, he’s not wanting to commit. We basically are in a relationship right now, but the idea of putting a label on it makes him uncomfortable. He says that he’s just not ready to take that step, but it confuses me because it literally wouldn’t change anything except for how we introduce each other. I still have to say “This is my friend _______” when I bring him around new people.
All of my friends are telling me that I need to tell him to man up and acknowledge that we’re dating, but I’m not sure how that would go. He’s kind of like a little wild animal. If you move too fast, he gets skittish. I also think he’s got a case of FOMO. The idea of being exclusive, even though we pretty much are due to how much time we spend together, makes him nervous. Please, I’d really like some outside perspective. I’m head over heels for him and he’s wonderful to me. I just want to know if I’m overlooking something or deluding myself.
-Caught in Limbo
DEAR CAUGHT IN LIMBO: Have you asked him why he’s uncomfortable with having the Defining The Relationship talk, CiL? You say it’s a case of FOMO, but has he expressed in words, that he’s got this nagging fear surrounding exclusivity? Or is it something you’re just assuming because it seems to fit?
The best thing you can do is have a sit-down with him – making it clear that you’re not pressuring him into anything or that he needs to decide things now – and walk through what it is he thinks a label would do to your relationship vs. what you see happening.
It may be that he’s worried that making your relationship Facebook official (or what-have-you) will lead to pressure to kick it to the next level after that and he’ll need to start shopping for a ring. Or maybe you’re right and he sees keeping things label-free as a way of having the “option” of playing the field, even if he has no intention of doing so. Some people feel as though they need to have the possibility available to them as a “just in case”, like a dry drunk keeping a bottle of vodka in the freezer. If that’s the case… well, you’re going to have to decide whether you’re ok with his feeling like he needs to be able to keep one foot out the door as an emotional safety blanket.
(I don’t think I’d be cool with that personally… but I’ve also made the “500 Days of Summer” mistake of not listening when a woman I was seeing told me that she didn’t want a boyfriend.)
As it is, the only way to know is if the two of you sit down and hash out exactly what the issue is.
And who knows. Maybe he really is like the dating equivalent of a deer and a loud noise about being boyfriend and girlfriend will send him fleeing to the hills. If that’s the case, then you are going to have to decide about how you feel about labels. Are you willing to sit there, patiently, until he feels comfortable enough to step into it himself? Or is this going to be a dealbreaker?
I can’t answer that one for you. It’s going to have to be up to you CiL.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: First off, thank you for your column; I really enjoy it. Long time reader and you’re the only dating adviser I’ve come across that I agree with 100%.
I am currently in a long term relationship with a great girl. She has many guy friends whom I’ve met. She shares just about everything with me. She and I both were in long marriages that ended up being nasty divorces. I have repaired my relationship with my son’s mother, but it took a lot of work on both of us to get there. My girlfriend envies that and hopes one day she can have the same with her children’s father. Unfortunately, he is a narcissist with a lot of money, and I don’t see it happening. Otherwise, I support her and listen to her in every situation, don’t offer a way to fix, unless she asks me what I thought about it.
Back to the original question. She met a guy 4 years ago, 2 dates, no connection. Decided better off friends. Didn’t even kiss. Said she considered him a best friend, since he was there for her through the nasty divorce. He knows about me and our relationship. He began texting her a lot. Even calling on some mornings at 6:30 AM while I am having an adult sleepover at her house. She assured me that it’s nothing. She says she asked him to chill out. To me, I think it’s disrespectful to her and to our relationship for him to contact her while we are together. Fast forward, he had recently dated a friend of mine and was mean to her. I told my GF and she confronted him and he denied even knowing the girl. I showed the proof from my friend. He still denied. Two weeks later, he finally came clean. This really ticked my GF off. And she said she was going to be more cautious with her friendship with him.
I haven’t heard much about him after that. Then this past weekend, I was pairing her phone with her new vehicle at her request. While doing so he was texting her, and my curious self decided to look and they had been texting all weekend. Nothing flirty or anything, just conversing. But it seemed like it was times that I had stepped away, as we were together all weekend. Kind of like trying to keep me from knowing (in my mind at least) This made me sick to my stomach. She said I was reading too much into it. If you meet him you would see he’s not that bad of a friend. He was my best friend for over 4 years etc.
I, of course am ok and have met many of her guy friends. Not this one. And I would probably be ok if she would have alerted me that she has reconciled the friendship. I spoke with many of my female friends, and they also think it’s disrespectful to me, her, and our relationship, but that’s all on her to handle.
My problem is I don’t handle people that lie well, especially people that are given an opportunity to come clean, and especially when it’s done to someone I care about.
To me it looks like she is hiding this from me at the cost of not hurting my feelings. He’s asked her out for drinks. She didn’t respond. But she has told me she does miss hanging out with him, but is very cautious of the friendship, and if she wants to go out and have drinks with a guy friend, she should be able to.
I know this has triggered some of my past insecurities. And i of course do not want to ruin this relationship.
What are your thoughts, or advice
Out Of Line?
DEAR OUT OF LINE: Before I get too into this, OOL: dude sounds a little sketchy. I don’t think he’s trying to be Mr. Steal Yo Girl, but he doesn’t seem like the greatest of dudes either – what with the treating your friend like s
t and lying about it and all. So I don’t blame you about not being cool with the guy.
At the same time however: you do have to trust your girlfriend to manage her own affairs and handle her own friendships. Yeah, it’s a little uncool that she didn’t give you the heads up that she’s rekindling a friendship with him, it ultimately is her business. You’re her boyfriend, not her agent or manager; she doesn’t have to run everything she does through you first. Relationships aren’t depositions; she doesn’t need to tell you every single thing that goes on, especially if it could end up causing unnecessary drama. Keeping it on the down-low in order to avoid a fight that, ultimately, is unnecessary isn’t that big of a crime.
Look at the big picture here: she’s keeping pretty solid boundaries with this guy. She’s called him out when he’s stepped over the line, she’s taking things with care and she’s not going behind your back to hang out with him. That, I think, is the bigger takeaway here. She has a right to friends of her choice. And if this guy where toxic or actively trying to f
k her – instead of just being kind of a dick – then you’d be in a better position to draw a line. Right now though? I think you’re creating problems where they don’t need to exist. I think you need to trust your girlfriend’s judgement and ability to maintain boundaries around him. Making a fuss over things is far more likely to cause problems than fix them.
Plus: if he’s as much of a dick as he sounds? That friendship’ll self-destruct on it’s own.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org