Q. I met a guy 10 months ago at a concert and we’ve been dating since. I’m a college student graduating soon. He’s an on-and-off community college student who’s had a bunch of jobs and is still trying to figure things out. He loves me a lot. I feel similarly. I’m starting to make my post-grad plans. And lately, I cannot seem to relax around him. I feel guilty, partly because I feel that the version of the life I’m building is incompatible with his. Which may not be true.
I’m on a faster timeline, he’s taking his time. Which is OK. But it’s sad. I’ve broken up with him before; we got into an argument about why he wasn’t doing his homework. In retrospect, it was stupid. Our breakup lasted all of six days. But now, as many times as I tell him that I’m concerned about his pacing, he’s not really doing anything. He’s been making lists in notebooks. I’ve tried to help him but it’s a sensitive subject for the both of us.
He hasn’t had an easy life, and he works hard on himself. He’s deeply in touch with his feelings, he makes a huge effort to understand me, and he is incredibly supportive. Even as I make my post-grad plans, he is encouraging me applying for jobs across the country. He thinks “we’ll figure it out.” But it’s sad because the pragmatist in me doesn’t see this working out. I don’t know what to do. It doesn’t help that my parents hate him.
I CAN’T RELAX
A. Let the pragmatist in you take the wheel. Actually, let all parts of you take the wheel, because it sounds like you know what has to happen here (a breakup).
It is sad. He sounds wonderful.
But you know what’s not great? Feeling like you’re not enough. Having a partner look at you with disappointment, even though you’re doing your best and learning about yourself.
I know you want to help this man, but he’s not asking you to reshape him. He’s figuring things out at a pace that feels right to him. Why would you want to mess with that?
Breaking up after a fight about homework made you feel awful, but letting go because you’re too different — and want very different things — could feel OK (despite sadness). It would be better for you and him. Appreciate the support he’s given you and return the favor by telling him you want to focus on your future. Give him a bunch of compliments and explain that this hasn’t been an easy decision.
This is a great time to be single. Even if you were dating someone just like you, you might want to take next steps without having to think about anyone else. Follow your gut and focus on yourself.
I was really hoping this letter was going to be about someone tearing up the carpet as he paced back and forth.
^My first thought was the letter was going to be about two runners squabbling about their marathon training.
This is a great relationship for now, but not for the future. Don’t feel guilty about wanting more from yourself and life than he does.
There is more than one pace, more than one path in life. I know this is really hard to understand when you’ve been on a single trajectory since kindergarten. It was like this for me. I spent the entirety of my school years being told that college is IT. I didn’t understand that there were other options and I, like you, judged others for taking different paths.
You’re not a pragmatist, you’re a realist. And the “we’ll figure it out” is just him acknowledging that the relationship already has a yet to be determined expiration date. Everyone ... your parents, him, probably your friends, know this.
My college boyfriend was a sweet, wonderful young man. But it was clear we were on different trajectories in life. I felt awful breaking up with him, but we went on to live entirely different lives. If the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s very painful.
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