My girlfriend is 29, working at a call center, in school for her bachelor’s degree and living with her parents. Sadly, she’s a late bloomer. While I wish she was more established, I’m OK. My mother, though, thinks I’m settling. I love my girl, but my circle includes doctors, attorneys, public relations executives, MBAs, etc. I don’t think my girlfriend fits in. Is it wrong to explore options? —Anonymous
It’s not wrong or right to explore other options, as long as you break up with her and don’t cheat on her. If you’re in a relationship and not satisfied, by all means, go find what makes you happy.
But before you do that, you need to figure out what you want and what matters to you, which I’m not sure you are clear about just yet. You wrote that you didn’t care that your girlfriend is a “late bloomer,” but then you quickly added what your mother thinks about her and how your girlfriend doesn’t fit in with your friends. Does your mom and what looks good in your circle matter more than your love for your woman? Maybe so. But be honest about that and don’t blame your girlfriend because you value your mother’s opinion and care more about your friends than you do the person you’re with.
It really sounds as if you’re more interested in a good look than a good woman. If that’s what’s more important to you, so be it. But take ownership of that and don’t put your girlfriend down for not meeting your new expectations. It’s not as if she’s a slouch. She’s working, at least part time, and in school. She’s 29 and making the sacrifice—because it’s a rare American adult who really wants to live at home with his or her parents and under their rules—in order to get where she wants to be in the future. You seem unwilling to wait or support her while she’s putting in the effort to build herself up. That’s your choice. But be mindful not to blame her for that, as if she’s done something wrong here.
I’ll also warn you to be careful what you ask for. There are good people with sexy jobs, and you can find a great woman with a more alluring job title that will impress your friends and mother. But do know that good people at any station in life are hard to come by. Replacing your girlfriend with someone else you fall in love with is entirely possible, but it won’t be as simple as you think, mostly because, well, to be frank, your mom is too involved in your relationships and you seem insecure about your place in the world.
That professional woman who has it all together? She’s not going to deal very long with a guy who comes to her with “Well, my mama thinks … ” That gets old real quick. And whatever new woman you find, if you keep the outlook about her having to fit in with your friends, she’s never going to live up to what you want in the long run. They’re going to move up in their careers. What if she doesn’t move up as fast? Does she go by the wayside, too?
And what if she’s a high-powered attorney who gets burned out and wants to try something less demanding? Does she get dismissed, too? What if the new woman outearns and has more degrees than everyone in your circle, but your mom and friends still don’t like her? Does she go, too?
What we’re really talking about is your insecurities. You want a girlfriend with some “oomph” because it makes you think you’re hotter and will compensate for your own perceived deficits. But your insecurities are going to mess up not just the good thing you have going but also the good people, if you can find them, to come.
You say you love this woman? Then, if you don’t think she’s good enough, do her a favor and free her up for someone who acknowledges the effort she’s putting in to improve her future and doesn’t judge her beginning by someone else’s finish. Let her be available to someone who will support her and be a cheerleader for what she’s trying to accomplish instead of looking down on her for not being where his friends are or for not getting his mother’s approval. If you fell for her, I’m going to assume that she brings some great personal qualities to the table. I’m sure there are many men who would love to have a good woman who demonstrates that she has some hustle and ambition.
Or you could just acknowledge that you got caught up for a minute and were focusing on the wrong things. In that case, tell her you love her and she’s doing a good job.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as 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.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “Leaving a Great Guy to Get Back With a Bad Ex Just Isn’t a Good Move”