On shaking things up.

Dear Coquette,

My boyfriend and I have been dating for about four years, the first three of which were long distance. When we started dating, I lived with two other roommates and had just begun therapy to try to deal with my mom’s diagnosis that she had a terminal illness — Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since that time, I lived alone for a year and a half, and then lived with my parents (to help take care of my mom) for a year and a half. After my mom passed away in August, I decided to make the move and attend a grad school that was closer to his home than mine.

So I am 25, and now in a three-year grad program in a decent-sized city and living alone again. My boyfriend works full time and lives with his best friend a few miles outside the city.

When I made plans to move, we both agreed that moving in together immediately might not be the most logical decision. We wanted to make sure we were giving ourselves enough time to adjust to a non-long-distance relationship. To go from different houses in different cities to the same house in the same city seemed unfair to both of us.

We’d also discussed that my boyfriend should live on his own for a little while before we move in together. (He is 26 and has never lived on his own. He is certainly financially able to rent on his own, or to even buy a home.)

He has tentatively decided that he would like to live with his best friend for another year. They also work at the same place, which is approximately 2 miles from where they live.

We got into a bit of an argument when he informed me of this decision. He said that he feels like I’ll only be happy when we’re living together and I’m trying to push him into something he doesn’t want to do.

I am usually a relatively calm person. I can certainly be emotional, but it usually takes some provoking. Well, consider me provoked. 

Am I just being a whiny foot-tapping baby, waiting impatiently, as he seems to think? Or am I right to feel a little misunderstood and neglected? 

At least be honest with yourself, sweetheart. You’re not upset about being misunderstood and neglected. You’re angry because you were bamboozled — hoodwinked by a man-child who’s too much of a wuss to break up with a girl whose mom just died of a horrible disease. 

I can read between the lines, so don’t try and tell me you wouldn’t have been perfectly happy moving in with your boyfriend immediately. All that talk about it being unfair to both of you is just how he sold it, and naturally, you rationalized his foot-dragging. Part of that rationalization included your boyfriend living on his own for a while, and now that he’s refusing to end the post-college roommate phase, you’re starting to catch a whiff of what he was shoveling.

He wasn’t taking it slow. He was stalling, and you don’t want to admit it to yourself. It’s understandable. You’ve made plans, and after a rough few years, you feel entitled to those plans coming to fruition. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works.

Your boyfriend is sitting pretty, and he doesn’t want things to change. He’s carved out a decent little life for himself, and he’s in no hurry to end his extended adolescence. Why should he? You’re not going anywhere, not for at least another couple years.  

I’m not suggesting that he had secret evil plans or anything. Far from it. Quite frankly, this is typical behavior for a dude in his mid-20s. He may very well love you with all his heart, but he’s still stringing you along, and I guarantee you’ll need a crowbar and a sharp set of manipulation skills to scrape him out of the single life. 

The frustration you’re feeling is the creeping realization that you’re not in control of the relationship. You feel cheated out of your romantic fate. You feel stuck. Thing is, you’re not. You can do whatever the hell you want. You can even break up with him.  

No, I’m not suggesting that you do. I’m just making you read the words so the thought passes through your brain. You need to know you have options. You need to get brave. You’re battling four years of lukewarm long-distance inertia, and it’s time to shake things up. What to do is up to you, but something needs to change.


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