Q: I’m a 34-year-old woman, dating a 27-year-old guy for three months. We have a great time together, but he’s balking at making an official commitment, meaning he doesn’t want to call us boyfriend and girlfriend. He says he feels we have long-term potential and doesn’t want to date anyone else, but needs time to be sure about us so he doesn’t get hurt again (as he did by his last girlfriend, whom he felt sure was “the one”). That makes sense, but the other day, he told me he loves me. How can he feel that way and still not consider us boyfriend/girlfriend? I’m in my 30s, and my friends are getting married, and I get down on myself sometimes for being single. Am I selling myself short by waiting?
— On Hold
A: An impulsive relationship is something to have with a pack of mini-cupcakes in the supermarket checkout line. If they aren’t all they seemed to be, you’ll probably complain a little — that you wasted 79 cents, not the “best years of your life” and the last of your viable eggs.
Okay, it’s a little weird that a guy who blurts out “I love you” is squeamish about the B- and G-words, but keep in mind that the last woman he gave his heart to slammed it in the hurt locker. Also, people hate to fail and resist having their failures formalized. If he doesn’t call you his girlfriend, maybe those won’t be real tears you’ll cry if you break up, and he won’t have screwed up another relationship; he’ll just have dated somebody awhile and moved on. But, even if he is driven by fear, his insistence on taking it slow is a good thing: It suggests he learns from his mistakes (an important quality to have in a B-word) and means he won’t be that guy who calls you his girlfriend pronto and then treats you more and more like some woman he passed on his way to the men’s room at the corner bar.
Because you can’t know how long his holding-back period will last until he stops holding back, you can start to think the worst — that he’s just toying with you or, even worse, that you’ll have a mortgage and three kids together and he’ll still be introducing you as “my lady friend.” To allay your fears, mark a deadline in your head — perhaps two or three months from now — to see whether the relationship’s progressed to a point you’re more comfortable with and to bail if it hasn’t. During that time, try not to be so goal-focused that you forget to look critically at how compatible you two actually are and explore your own motivations. For any “official commitment” to last, you have to want him, specifically. It can’t just be that he’s your last chance to experience having everyone turn and gasp as you walk down the aisle — that is, unless you’re in such a rush to get to church one Sunday that you put on stockings but forget to follow up by putting on pants.
Q: Every woman I’ve ever had a relationship with has freaked over my friendships with other women. Even a relationship with someone I really loved ended because she couldn’t stand my talking to and occasionally meeting up with female friends. There’s nothing romantic going on with any of these friends, nor do I have any interest in anything ever happening, but explaining that is always hopeless.
A: “Love is all you need,” lied the Beatles. Sure, it might start out seeming that way. You meet that special someone, butterflies whirl, Disney woodland animals break into song, and you fall into bed and see no one but each other for three to six months. Eventually, however, you start to long for contact with other humans — not because your scruples are on the blink but because you’ve heard all of each other’s most hilarious stories at least twice.
Most couples keep sexytime activities on the restricted list, but there will be many other interests you share with friends and not each other. Hanging with these friends doesn’t threaten your relationship; it enhances it, making you more interesting to each other because you aren’t each other’s sole mental, social, and emotional watering hole. It takes a secure woman to understand this — one who needs you because she loves you and not because she skipped over building a self and is using you to cover up the empty slot. A secure woman accepts that there’s always a risk you’ll leave her but understands that the best way to guarantee you will is to make you feel bonded to her — like a fly writhing out its last remaining hours on a strip of flypaper.— here — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code)