Q. My boyfriend (of more than 3½ years) and I are at a crossroads in our lives. We’re both in a master’s program, and up until now we’ve been very serious and committed to our relationship. However, last week he brought up that we don’t know where we’ll be working when we’re done with this program, and he doesn’t know whether he wants us to stay together if we end up in different cities.
I am ready for a long-distance romance, but he cannot see himself doing that and finds it irrational to think that a few visits back and forth would be sufficient to sustain a relationship. Our program ends in September, and we know we’ll continue our relationship until then and take it from there depending on our job situations.
I love my boyfriend and am willing to commit to this. He says he loves me, too, but wants to be reasonable. Maybe he is having commitment issues because he is 24 and I am 26.
I need you to tell me how to approach this situation so that if we do end up splitting up, I will be more mentally and emotionally prepared for it.
A. What I am hearing is that you want an ironclad agreement that nothing will change, when, in fact, you have no idea what will change. It would be helpful for you to remember that even when couples in your situation “take the pledge,” things sometimes fall apart anyway.
You sound anxious to get him to sign on the dotted line, but his approach sounds like the more mature one. The song that is playing in my head right now is “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun.” If you two are meant to be, absence will confirm that fact. If I were you, I would end any discussions of agreements in the event that you should wind up in different cities.
Q. I am going with a lovely man, a widower, and he has asked me to marry him. We’re really perfect for each other. We are most often together, either at his house or mine. Because his house is the larger, he wants me to move in with him. The only hitch in this situation is that his house is loaded with pictures of his late wife.
I always feel overwhelmed by the photos of her in almost every room. I have never felt it was my place to suggest he “retire” some of the photographs, so I’ve said nothing. I would not, however, consider living in his shrine. The wild card here is that he is a widower who carries great guilt. She was ill for quite some time, and when she died, he was out of the country on business. I am unsure what to do about any of this. What say you?
A. I suspect the disproportionate photographic presence of the late wife has a great deal to do with this man’s guilt. He has clearly told you of his self-reproach. Now he needs to tell a therapist, because professional help is needed to understand that he did not willfully absent himself at the time of her death; it is just something that happened.
I would tell him the pictures are not just a problem for you, but that you believe, from his confession, they bespeak a problem for him, as well. I would also recommend you sell both houses and buy a new one together. And I offer you something from my own playbook: My husband’s beloved first wife died very young. It was my idea to add her picture to our family wall. Good luck.