How do you summon the strength to end a relationship with a guy when you are really into him, but you can see that it won't go to the altar? It's great for now, but I can't see myself with him long term. Every time I try to say something, I chicken out! Help! —L.E.
I'm actually not of the belief that every man you date should one day be your boyfriend, or every boyfriend should be on the husband track. Constantly searching for "the One," as if he's some superhero arriving to rescue single women from themselves, is exhausting and robs you of having amazing experiences to learn and grow.
Sometimes you just want to enjoy people for a reason or a season. If you and your partner aren't discussing marriage, he's likely not all that sure about forever-and-ever, either. And there's nothing wrong with that.
You sound as if you're with him because, for now, you want to be and you enjoy his company — not because you don't feel you can do better and he's the security blanket keeping you from the cold, single world. That would be a problem, and we'd be having a long discussion about self-esteem and putting on your big-girl pants.
It seems that you're in a relationship for one of the right reasons, which is genuinely liking your partner. Because of an occupational hazard, I don't come across that reason too often. (Most people don't contact a life coach to say how great things are going.)
Do me a favor, though, and check in with your man to make sure he's on the same page as you. Don't tell him you don't see a future with him, but ask him where he sees you two going, if anywhere. If he's pretty much "Uh, I dunno" about it, then you're in the clear and you can take the relationship for what it is, since you clearly don't want to leave it.
If, however, he's talking about staying together for a lifetime and you're thinking, "Until I get bored," then you're going to have to break it off sooner rather than later. There's never a magical right time to say the equivalent of, "You know what you thought this was? It isn't that." There's only the moment where you decide to do it and it gets done. Welcome to adulthood. It ain't always the fun it was promised to be.
Years ago I was in similar shoes. I was dating a lovely older man who adored me. I enjoyed being with him because he was funny, kind and thoughtful. At one point I did see a future with him, but I was more caught up in what I thought I was supposed to do — get married — than what I really wanted to do. I wasn't quite sure what that was, but it wasn't getting married, at least not to him.
For the first year or so, he and I never had "forever talks." We just sort of hung out and enjoyed each other. But at the 18-month mark, when he started talking about plans down the line, I kept my mouth shut about what I could foresee — or not — about our future together. I told myself that it was all talk, that it didn't mean anything, really, if there was no ring — or that if he really wanted to know, he'd ask and not assume.
The truth was, I had a good thing; and when the stakes involved in keeping it changed, I wanted to keep riding it out without really getting on board. There's no way around it: I was using him. Admittedly, it was childish. At 24, I was barely grown but I was also selfish, which I can't excuse away at any age.
I finally told him what I really thought one evening after we'd spent the day putting together the guest list for our wedding. It wasn't easy, but if I'd dragged it out any further, I probably would have been confessing at the altar.
He yelled at me (for the first time) and scared the crap out of me. Then he yelled some more because he was offended that after all the time we'd spent together, I seemed scared that he would hurt me. That memory dulls in comparison to the look on his face when he left my apartment for the last time.
I spent years waiting for that karma to circle back around like a clichéd boomerang — and trust me, it did. But that's another story for another day.
Oh, and in case you're worried about what happened to him, he's happily married to a woman who adores him, and they have a child now. He's fine.
Good luck in your relationship, and since you can, avoid my mistakes and do the right thing, if and when necessary.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.