I was dating this guy for about two years and I wanted to become his girlfriend, but he kept telling me that he wanted to wait until he got a full-time job because he wanted to take care of me, but we were doing boyfriend-girlfriend stuff anyway. I didn’t understand, so I told him I loved him and wanted to go further. He stood his ground until I said I’m dating other people; then he was hurt and wanted to be my boyfriend, but I felt I was forcing him, so I walked away, even though I love him. I want to be with him, but I just felt like I was forcing him. We didn’t talk for a while and I dated, but I want him. What do I do? —Anonymous
I’m proud of you for walking away. Many women get caught up in seemingly never-ending gray areas in which they are committed to an uncommitted situation and will stay because of the time invested. You gave him two years to get himself together and commit, which is far longer than you should have. Strangers meet and get married in less time.
But alas, you did what you thought was best at the time. I respect that. But don’t ever wait that long for a guy to call you his girlfriend again. Two years is more like a wait time for marriage, and some—not me—might even call that excessive.
I know you miss him, but as much as you want to be with your former flame, I don’t suggest you try to rekindle a situation—not a relationship. The truth is, he didn’t commit because he didn’t want to. I get why he would want to have a job; relationships—and just living—cost money. It’s incredibly hard to focus on a relationship when you’re broke and your main concern is paying your bills. Not having a full-time job is a valid concern.
But again, if he wanted to commit, he would. (I can’t say that enough.) He was without a full-time job, but he was interested in you enough to stick around for two years and accept and enjoy the benefits of a relationship. It’s not as if he said, “I have to focus; no distractions while I get my finances together,” which would have been the right thing to do. Full-time job or not, if he had the time and made the effort to act as if he was in a relationship over the course of two years, he should have committed to actually being in one.
Is his lack of a job an excuse for not committing to you? Maybe, maybe not. But whether it is or isn’t, the fact remains, he doesn’t want to commit. He’s said that in his words and his actions. Please, listen. It will save you a lot of heartache. Until he’s able to find full-time work, there’s no real chance of your having a relationship with him. Let that dream go.
I’d suggest you pause on dating for a while and take time to mourn this situation and move on. There wasn’t a commitment, but you emotionally invested in it like a relationship, and you’re treating it as if it was a breakup. You need time to heal yourself and your heart.
While you’re healing, make an evaluation of the role you played in this two-year situation, because it’s not all on him. He played in a gray area, but you did, too. He told you up front that he wouldn’t commit without a job. That isn’t a difficult concept. You understood what he said, and you hoped that if you stuck around and proved yourself to him, he would eventually change his mind. I understand the rationale. I’ve done it, too. But it doesn’t work.
Understand this: When you stayed instead of saying, “Well, call me if the job comes through and you’re still interested,” your actions said to him that you were OK with how things were.
Also, by playing the role of a girlfriend for two years and cutting off your dating options without the title, you showed him that you don’t require a commitment to give and receive the benefits of a relationship. You thought he would change his mind; he thought you were cool with how things were. And why wouldn’t he? You were still around and committed without an actual commitment. Now, when he realized you weren’t happy without a commitment, should he have walked away? Yes. You should have, too. You both carry the weight for that.
When you have healed and are ready to jump back into dating, take the lesson you’ve learned from this experience with you. If you want a commitment, express that up front. If he can’t offer one in a reasonable amount of time, move on. And if you’re not committed, always keep dating. Never put all your eggs in a basket you can’t even claim.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley 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: “How Can I Start a Family-Dinner Tradition When My In-Laws Hate My Cooking?”