Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi Carolyn: I’ve known a man for about three years now. When I met him, he was very immature and generally a jerk to almost everyone, including my friends, who all still dislike him. I dated him briefly and broke up with him.
Over the years, I’ve seen him grow up and become more mature, but there are still some aspects of his personality that I really disagree with — mostly, how he treats other people who are not me. Recently we’ve reached out and are slowly growing a relationship.
However, he has a tendency to pressure me to commit to things that I’m not willing to do, because while he is certain that I’m the person he wants, I am not so sure he is the person I want, and would prefer to avoid serious commitment for a while longer.
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This past weekend he basically “took a bullet” for me — he heroically caught me when I fell in a dangerous situation, and as a result his nose got sliced up and required an ER visit. I was completely unharmed thanks to him and took him to the hospital, where he suffered greatly during stitches due to his fear of needles.
Since he saved me from what would have surely been a broken ankle, I feel like a terrible person for yet again turning down his pressures to move in with him or spend more time with him. Am I a bad person to not make a sacrifice of my own (values, that is) in parallel to his physical one?
Yikes. You are never under any obligation to offer yourself up romantically in exchange for something somebody did. Wow.
I was already leaning toward what I presume is your friends’ take on this guy — immature, jerk, avoid — because you said “he has a tendency to pressure me to commit to things that I’m not willing to do.” Why? Because that is the deal-breaker of all deal-breakers in a person.
It’s disrespectful of you and of your right to run your own life — and what people have to offer in a relationship is irrelevant unless they clear that basic “respects me as a human” hurdle.
Please let’s agree at least on that.
So I see this guy as a bad idea already, and then you point out that he expects you to set aside your doubts and move in with him — because he got hurt breaking your fall? I’m in the “I can’t even” zone.
I hate it when an answer becomes six paragraphs of Please Get Therapy please, but, oh my goodness, boundaries! So here’s a book to go with my therapy recommendation: “Life Skills for Adult Children,” by Janet Woititz and Alan Garner, is crystal clear on what boundaries are and why you need them. Immediately.
They might actually save you from a much bigger danger than a broken ankle; people like this guy, and/or your tendency to rationalize and capitulate to same, promise discomfort at best and at worst pose a risk of abuse.
I strongly suspect your friends will give you all the support you want in getting away from this one.
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