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Auntie SparkNotes: He’s More Committed Than I Am

Dear Auntie,

I’ve been dating this guy for about six months. He’s supportive of me, and loving, and respectful, and we’re great friends. We’ve known each other for 10 years, so we know each other pretty well. We’re supportive, we communicate well, we get along with each others friends—it’s great. It’s long distance, but we see each other about every other weekend.

He’s dated quite a bit and a few of his relationships have ended abruptly. This has made him insecure. It’s usually been a timing issue (so there’s no sketchy reason for them ending it). I try to reaffirm that yes, I like him, and I’m not playing games.

Here’s the issue: he’s on a way more committed level than I am and it scares me. He offered to give me one of his credit cards (which I didn’t accept), he wants to pay for groceries, and if it was up to him we would be engaged by now. He just shows love by taking care of people. Always has. I’ve communicated that I’m not ready for marriage, and won’t be for at least another year, and he’s cool with that. I don’t know why, but his intense level of commitment is scary. I brought this up with him and it just made him insecure. I’ve told him that I’m not playing games, but now it feels like I’ve been leading him on because he is so committed and I can’t reciprocate. I genuinely care about this guy. What do I do? How do I talk to him about this?

You mean, more than you already have? Because in that case, Sparkler, I think the question is less “how” and more “why”—as in, why do you feel compelled to keep stating for the record a relationship fact already in evidence? Your boyfriend knows you need time to catch up on the commitment front, and you say he’s cool with it. What would you hope to accomplish by continuing to bring it up, especially when it makes him insecure (as it would most people, for what it’s worth)? Is it actually necessary to continually remind him for the record that you’re nowhere near as invested in the relationship as he is?

That’s an honest question, of course, because if your boyfriend were claiming to be cool with this but also simultaneously pressuring you about it in a distinctly non-cool way, then you might have a very good reason for wanting to re-open that line of discussion! But based on your letter, it sounds like he’s okay with the disparity in your relative levels of commitment—and more to the point, it sounds like the person struggling with it is you. You see how invested he is, and how comparatively invested you aren’t, and it makes you uncomfortable. Which is fine, and even understandable, but it is also your problem to cope with. You can’t talk or shame him out of his commitment to you; his feelings are what they are. And knowing what they are, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s right to continue in this relationship. You say you feel like you’re leading him on; are you? When you say you won’t be ready for marriage for at least a year, is it because you do actually do anticipate being ready sometime after that? Are you and your boyfriend on the same track, bound for the same destination, and enjoying the ride despite traveling at two separate speeds commitment-wise? Or is the problem less that you’re not there yet, and more that you never will be?

Your answers to these questions will help guide you toward what your next move should be. And even if this is purely a question of time that your boyfriend is perfectly content to give you, you’ll still need to decide whether the amount of time in question is something you can be comfortable with—and you may still conclude that the discrepancy between your respective readiness schedules is too great to make it work without you feeling pressured or him feeling resentful. Yours wouldn’t be the first relationship to unravel because the love was there but the timing was wrong.

Of course, yours also wouldn’t be the first relationship to work out just fine when one person was happy to slow their roll and move only as fast as the other was comfortably with. And what side of the line you fall on comes down to a lot of things: emotional health, maturity, patience, a tolerance for uncertainty, and the confidence to enjoy another person’s company in the moment for its own sake. If you and your boyfriend both possess those qualities, perhaps there’s hope for you! If not, then… well, perhaps not, although some of these things can be developed. But for you, the next step is to consider your own feelings—and maybe to ask your boyfriend about his—and make your choices accordingly. I wish you lots of luck.

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