Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My girlfriend and I were together for about four years. I loved her but I had some immaturity issues. She asked me this year if we were going to get married soon. I told her I could see it happening in two to four years, but don’t feel any immediate desire for things to change between us.
She cried (through multiple conversations) and then broke up with me.
I feel like there’s now a huge hole in my life. This is the first time in years I have not spent several days a week with her. I really miss her.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
I think it would be cruel to stay in the relationship if we have such different goals, but I would like something in between friendship and a relationship. I don’t just mean friends with benefits, but for her to continue being a major figure in my life somehow. Can you see any way this could happen?
You mean, everything you want for zero personal sacrifice? Not without magic beans.
She apparently isn’t keen right now to (charitably speaking) indulge your indecision on what she means to you or to (less charitably) be at your disposal while you keep your options open.
You can care about someone deeply without feeling ready for permanence, and breaking up hurts. But she isn’t giving you a get-out-of-commitment-free card to ease the former, and there’s no such thing as a get-out-of-pain-free card for the latter. So, you just have to hurt for a while and, when you’re ready, reshape your life without her at its center.
I know I sound unsympathetic, but I’m not entirely so. Figuring out who you want to be, where, and with whom, is a deceptively emotional process. It’s going to involve some disappointment and direction changes, including sometimes flat-out losses.
Please figure out why you felt you needed more time. There’s a story in your hesitation, and understanding it is your new priority. Good luck.
Re: Va.: No, you don’t see it happening in two to four years. You have no idea where you’ll be then. All you can say is that you don’t see it happening now. At best you were stalling her; at worst, you were telling her she’s a placeholder while you wait for the real woman of your dreams. Either way you need to realize how deceitful and manipulative that “two to four years” must have seemed to her.
Re: Va.: My now-husband and I were in the same place almost 30 years ago. We had dated for several years and I was ready to move toward getting married. I asked him when he’d be ready and he said five to 10 years. So I left. We didn’t see or speak for a year. I went to law school and he went to grad school. He eventually wrote me a letter and said he was ready for a commitment to marry, which we eventually did.
The point is, we both needed the year apart to mature and be ready for that commitment. I am so grateful he was honest with me. Even if he had not come back to me, it was the right thing to do.
Good stuff, thanks.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.