Unsure about the future, relationship not progressing much. (Long)

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    Ashleigh D

    I am a first time poster here. I posted this over on Reddit, but I have been reading this website recently and love the responses I’ve seen here; so spiritual and positive and I think I need that right now. Sorry for this post’s length, writing things down helped me sort through some feelings and was therapeutic.

    I will start at the beginning. I met my current boyfriend, I will call him Jay, when I was 23. He was 18, fresh out of high school. We were co-workers in a 24 hour convenience store. Although we were attracted to each other, our age and experiences were vastly different. By 23, I had ended a long term relationship with my high school sweet heart, moved out of my parents place to a city half way across the country, graduated art school, and started dabbling in that field (the store job was for extra income). I was completely broke, and I drank too much. Jay lived with his parents, and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. He didn’t have a license and his dad drove him to work every morning. The store was his first job, and he didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up, and therefore put off going to school. He had never had a girlfriend, and hardly touched alcohol. Despite this, we liked each other a lot, and after a year of “will they won’t they” and random hook ups, we finally started dating. We only dated for 11 months, and it was the most intense, passionate but turbulent relationship. I was un-happy with my life during that time; I was in debt from student loans, I didn’t like the industry I was trying to work in, and hated my job at the convenience store. I also lived in a shitty apartment with shitty roommates. I became really clingy to Jay, and put all my problems and insecurities on him and fought with him constantly when I was drunk. I wanted him to move in with me, and I wanted him to travel to meet my family in my home town, we even booked tickets. We were still working together at this point and saw each other almost every day. People warned me that things were going way to fast, but I didn’t care. But I also didn’t know how Jay felt either. I knew he loved me, but he has never been particular communicative with me and he hated confrontation and disappointing people. Plus he was slightly immature, which is completely normal given his age. He thought things were getting too intense, he wasn’t ready to move out of his parents place, and was over whelmed with how clingy I was getting; so he started acting distant and pumping the brakes on the relationship. I was hurt and angry, got really drunk and fought with him, and we broke up. I was totally devastated.

    I decided to fix some things in my life. I went to therapy for a bit to figure out why I was so insecure and used alcohol as a crutch. I quit the store and got a job at a bank, which was stable and good income and I decided to change career paths. I also moved into a better living situation. Six months had passed and I was in a much better place, and all my friends told me that I had grown exponentially. I hadn’t talked to Jay much during the break up, I texted him like an idiot at the beginning but since then we had grown silent. Then I saw him at a mutual friends party. He told me he missed me, and was sick of feeling empty and sad. He told me that when we broke up, he was scared of commitment and wanted some time to feel like he was a kid. He felt like he got that out of his system, and wanted me back. So we started dating again, on November 1st. Almost 4 years ago now.
    I was elated, of course, because I got Jay back. I decided that everything was going to be different this time. I was going to be much more independent this time around, and less clingy. I drank less, and therefore we were going to fight less. I wasn’t going to put any pressure on him, and let the relationship flow naturally. And for awhile, things were really, really good between us. And we were really, really happy.

    But here is the thing; it’s been four years. In four years, I moved out and got my own apartment. I have significantly paid down my student loans, travelled to some places that I have always wanted to go to, and got a much better job at my bank’s head office, which I love. Jay.. hasn’t accomplished much. He still lives at home, still has no license, still hasn’t gone to school, and still works at the convenience store. About 3 years ago, he did apply for school but was wait listed. Which isn’t his fault, but there is little stuff that bugs me. Like, he should be getting into school any day now, but refuses to call the school or inquire into his application. And he hates his job at the store, yet hasn’t applied anywhere else; even though I told him I could get him a job at the bank. Or my friend could get him a job at a warehouse she worked for. Both would be normal hours (not night or weekend shifts) and a little bit better pay. He also lost his wallet like 6 months ago and hasn’t even renewed all his ID, he walks around with his passport everywhere. Also, we only see each other once, maybe twice, a week. Our schedules are different, so it’s hard, but I feel like neither of us put in the effort to spend more time together. We don’t text much either, or talk on the phone. He has met my family, but only when they come to visit me. He has yet to travel with me to see them, even though it’s really important to me. And, finally, he still has little interest in moving out, because he would have to leave his Dad and brother. I should dive into this a bit; his mom left them when he was little. She was having an affair with another man, became pregnant with his child, and left them. His mom is decently in his life now, but I don’t think he has ever truly ever forgiven her. It has also created a bond between his brother, dad and himself that is impossible to shatter and, in my opinion, a little unhealthy. I think they are the only people he has every truly trusted and been happy with. The whole experience has left Jay with some issues; he doesn’t like to talk about his feeling and is very emotionally guarded, he doesn’t communicate well, and I am sure has trust, abandonment and commitment issues.

    I hate just sitting here spear-heading the guy. I obviously love Jay a lot, he makes me laugh and we have so much in common. He is reliable, and trustworthy and would never intentionally hurt anybody, let alone me. He’s friendly and always willing to help out. And we are still insanely attracted to each other, and the sex is great. And the fact that is he is getting excited for school and is taking on more responsibility at the convenience store, shows me he is growing. But the problem is that I’m turning 28 years old in a few months, I have been in a relationship with a guy for 4 years and I feel like I have nothing to show for it. We’ve talked in the past about seeing each other more, or texting more, and things are good for a couple of months but then go back to normal. I want to move in with him, and think about marriage and kids. But he is 24, still waiting to get into school, and it could be another 2-3 years before he graduates and finds a stable job. And the honest truth is, I am getting impatient and exhausted.

    So last month we had “the talk”. I asked him where the relationship was going, and told him my feelings. I told him I was un-satifisied, and un-happy and I wanted things to change. I wanted him to get his license, I wanted him to stay at my place more (since he still lives with his dad), I wanted us to go on dates again or be more social and I wanted him to want to visit my family, even if sucks, but do it for me. It wasn’t really an ultimatium at the time or anything, but I told him these were the things I wanted and wasn’t willing to compromise. He told me that he wasn’t sure he could give me any more commitment then he already was. He said that 4 years ago, we broke up for similar reasons, and things hadn’t really changed for him. He wasn’t cold, though, he was crying as we were talking about this. I think he knows that he is emotionally distant and has issues, and he really does love me but doesn’t know how to change or even if he wants to. So, I told him maybe we could take a little break from each other to think about what we want. I was travelling to Thailand that week for a month so I thought the distance would be good for us. We texted a tiny bit in-between, but not much. And to be honest, when I got back home, I realized that I didn’t even miss him that much. We started seeing each other when I got back, and we went right back to our old routine. He seemed happy, his usual self; but everything felt different for me. Part of me wanted to pursue the relationship, while the other wanted to break it off. Neither of us brought up the conversation we had before my trip, so it felt up in the air.

    Queue the drama. I was being really indecisive with Jay, but decided to let things go as they were and see what happened. But around this time, an old co-worker of mine confessed his feelings for me, we will call him Corey. I had worked with this guy for 2 years, and he works elsewhere now but he knows about the stuff with Jay because I told him while we were drinking at a work event. We bonded over similar experiences, since he was with a girl for over a year that didn’t want a commitment. I often vented to him about my problems with Jay, and he sometimes gave good advice. But I honestly didn’t think about him that way, though, until he told me, and I was genuinely shocked. He’s such a sweet guy and is a lot different than Jay. He’s older and more mature, has his own place, a car, a good job, passions and hobbies that he actively pursues and wants to travel. He is everything that I want out of Jay. We have a lot in common too, and can talk for hours. And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted to him. I told him that things would have to be platonic between us, although I was attracted to him, I would never cheat and still didn’t know what i wanted out of the relationship with Jay. He agreed to be patient, but I know he really likes me, and I am a bit interested in him too. I’m angry at myself for allowing myself to like someone else and the last thing I want is to lead anyone on, this has been leaving me feel a little guilty.

    So I had some thinking to do, and decided this past weekend I was going to break up with Jay. Not for Corey, but for all the other reasons I listed before. I just felt like we wanted different things or at least at a different pace. It was a hard decision to come to, and I kept getting cold feet. I still love Jay and am clinging to this idea of someone he could be. And we spent 4 years together (5 if you include the first 11 months before our break up), and could all that time really so easily come to an end? But ultimately, I decided that I just wasn’t satisfied with the way things are and was sick of waiting for things to change.

    The break up.. didn’t go the way I planned. I met Jay for coffee and we went for a walk and I told him everything I was feeling. He started getting defensive, saying that I want so much out of him and that It was like I wanted him to be a different person. He re-iterated that he didn’t think he could commit to me more than he already was. I told him I wasn’t willing to give him any more time. I tried to make it more about me, a “it’s not you, it’s me” thing, because God knows I haven’t been perfect in this relationship either. Then we brought up the “where is this relationship going” conversation from before my trip. I think both of us interpreted this conversation differently. He thought he would have more time to fix his mistakes, and was going to slowly work on his issues with me. I didn’t know that, because he didn’t communicate that to me. When I came back from my trip, everything felt exactly the same and I thought he was just pretending that conversation didn’t happen. He told me that I should have told him it was a “final warning”. As I said above, at the time it wasn’t an ultimatum; but the fact that nothing changed and nothing was talked about.. made me think that we both didn’t want the same things out of this relationship. I wish he would have told me what he was thinking, but in his defense, I didn’t ask. I was sticking to my guns right until the end, when he completely broke down. I have never, ever, seen him cry like that. It broke my heart. He grabbed me and said he wasn’t ready to give up this relationship and wanted to fight for it. I froze. I didn’t think he would react this way. I was beginning to think he didn’t care much about the relationship given the amount of effort put in, and I certainly didn’t think he would fight for me. It completely stopped me in my tracks. He said he would stay at my place more and spend much more time with me. He could get his license in a month. That he was going to school that April (he didn’t tell me this before) and wanted to give 100% into his studies. My heart and brain and everything was in every direction, and I told him I needed time to think about it.

    So here I am, back at square one. I know he loves me, and he says he is going to fight for our relationship, but I really don’t know anymore. It sucks that he is willing to do these things only after I threatened a break up, I wish he would have wanted to do them on his own. As I have often mentioned, I still love him, and it hurts to walk away from the relationship, and I am hopeful that these changes. It’s going to be a lot of work, but isn’t a good relationship worth fighting for? And he’s so good to me, he would never cheat and is very sweet, I sometimes feel like the commitment and communication issues are so petty, and other people are in far worse relationships and I should count myself lucky. But there is another side of me that doesn’t believe the changes will happen. Plus, it doesn’t change the fact that we aren’t going to live with each other for another 2 years while he is in school, and after school will he really be ready to move out of his dads place and leave his brother behind? Get married and have a kid? What if he wants a 3 year engagement? I sometimes think I would be nagging him and guiding him over every obstacle. And I can’t lie about my curiosity about Corey either.

    I have to see Jay in a couple of days, because I told him I needed to think about things. And at this time, I really don’t know what to say. I can honestly say that my heart and brain are battling it out, and it’s draining. My heart says to stay and give him another chance, while my head says to cut the cord. I know I need to make a decision and stick with it. If I stay, we have to work on our issues and I have to be patient. I have to cut all attraction to Corey, and stop venting about our problems to him. If I leave, I need to break Jay’s heart, deal with my own broken heart, and move on. And I cannot contact Jay, or regret my decision, or want him back.

    So, as I said in the beginning, my head is a mess. I am torn and confused and conflicted. Typing this all out makes me feel a little better, and anyone’s first impressions might give me some clarity too. So please share your thoughts and experiences. Thanks!


    Dear Oaktree –

    I’m sincerely sorry to hear that you are going through this. While I’m a guy, I can relate on many levels – and with you both.

    As is often the case in these cathartic posts on Tiny Buddha, one sentence jumped out from the rest:

    “It sucks that he is willing to do these things only after I threatened a break up, I wish he would have wanted to do them on his own.”

    This was your heart speaking. You weren’t recounting something to us readers. You were truly reflecting how you feel.

    I believe that some of the anxiety you’re feeling is that this has been going on for far too long – and you simply don’t know how to end it. While Jay sounds like a wonderful guy and he may have baggage (we all have baggage), he’s at a vastly different level of maturity as you. That’s not his fault. And that’s not your fault. Sure, you can have great sex, laugh, and spend fun times together. But so do many teens – and Jay is stuck in his teen years. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t get him to mature any faster to catch up with you.

    I once heard someone far smater than me say most marriages fail because, “The wife has high expectations and wants her new husband to grow into someone she hopes he someday will become — while the new husband wants his bride to stay as young and beautiful as she is on her wedding day.” Both fail.

    I’m usually a proponent of telling people to “work at it” and “hang in there.” But in your case I think you know what to do – a clean break. You are still young, single and don’t have any children between the two of you to make you stay. You’re even theorizing it in your head. From the job to the license to meeting your family, he has had his chance many times over. Only when you’re taking him to “the very edge” is he saying everything you want to hear. Again, that’s immaturity. And, aside from the drama and tears, that’s simply messing with you, sister. You deserve better than this. You deserve a man.

    If you choose to break with him, then give yourself the healing “gift” of time. A month. Two months. Maybe three (after the holidays, which are always super tough). Don’t drink! And don’t see Corey. Really. Just spend time with yourself – and good girlfriends. Take another trip. (I suggest Sorrento, Italy – but that’s just me.) You are a different person for knowing and being with Jay. Reflect on the positive that came out of it – because there are positives. But it wasn’t meant to be long-term. Get to know yourself again! And value yourself. I’m sure you were positive for Jay, too. Should he meet someone down the road, he may be all the wiser and more mature for her. If anything, you gave him a great gift. But you are not responsible for him.

    And then, when you finally feel peace, call Corey. He sounds like a great man.

    Keep us posted. Peace to you today.


    Ashleigh D

    Dear Ninja,

    Thank you for taking the time to reply, you had a very thoughtful response and I appreciate it. I had often thought that the anxiety around the break up revolved around the time spent in the relationship, and the fear of hurting him. But I also thinking that dragging it out, because I don’t know how to end it, is only going to cause problems down the road.

    It’s nice to hear someone say I need a Man, I have often felt frustrated with Jay and think it to myself “I want to date a MAN!” and then I feel guilty and selfish for doing so. I know I deserve happiness, but I still can’t help but feel awful for hurting him.

    But some of your points are really powerful, and what I needed to hear.

    Thank you again!


    You bet. I’m glad to hear that what I said resonated. You sound like a very decent and caring person. Few people would care so much and take things this far. But it is time to be a little “healthy selfish” and think about Oaktree for now.

    It’s time to move on – and forward.

    Be strong. You will need strength as Jay will most likely be emotional and things may again take a twist as you talk. But I promise you, he will be fine.

    Please keep me posted.

    Have a wonderful evening. I hope your Wednesday is filled with peace.



    Dear oaktree:

    You write well, clearly. I like your clarity. I am going to place myself in your shoes, best I can and write the following using first person, whatever comes to my mind:

    If I stay with Jay, I have to change my expectations of what a relationship should be, what a man should be like, depart from social convention and adapt the following thinking: I need to be the dominant party to the relationship, the main bread winner of the family I hope to have. I have to be dominant not in an overbearing way, but as one leading the way. Because if I want to go someplace, I have to lead the way. My boyfriend and husband to be, if it is Jay, is going to take his time. He doesn’t handle pressure well. I have to be very gentle and patient with him. I have to adjust my expectations of him. And I have to help him along.

    And once I commit to him, I have to let go of what a man should be like and what a woman should be like in a relationship. Jay and I will make our own story, our own unique love and life story.

    If I leave Jay and get together with Corey… will I be able to forget Jay? Will it be fair to Corey, to not have my heart fully with him?


    Ashleigh D

    Hey Antia,

    Thank you for your input. I never really thought about it that way; about our relationship being unconventional. It’s not that I am particularly attached to a conventional relationship, and I have always been fairly independent and have no problem being dominant or the bread winner. So this was an interesting perspective on how I should view our potential relationship. However, if I am being truly honest, I am not sure I possess the patience to be able to guide him along forever. I am afraid of becoming vindictive and resentful. I know I would have to alter my expectations, and if I an un-able to, then it isn’t fair to Jay. But you’ve given me food for thought.

    Also, it really isn’t about Corey. I feel like I should have clarified a bit more in my post. While I am interested in him, I am very aware that it could just be a crush or infatuation that may shortly fade. I also could be looking for qualities Jay lacks in other men. Even if I walk away from Jay, I don’t think I would actively pursue a relationship right away (as Ninja said above, I need time). But it was nice to know that there are guys out there who are on the same maturity level as me, and I am unsure if that is what I crave right now.

    I still need to sort out more of my feelings, so thank you for your thoughtful response!


    Dear oaktree:

    You are welcome. It is something for you, and only you, to figure out and choose. It is your life, after all, no should- here, I believe. If you are comfortable enough with being the dominant one, leading the way etc. then you may be content with Jay. If you are not comfortable with this role, then continuing with Jay is not a good idea for you.

    Jay reads like a decent guy, not abusive and quite honest about who he is and what you can expect from him. So it really is, a matter of your preference, of the kind of life you want to live as a wife and a future mother. If anger and resentment will be the result of living with him, obviously, it will not be a good life, not for you, not for Jay and not for your future children, if you do have them.

    I understand about Corey, you make sense and, again, I am impressed with your clarity of thinking. I understand that you need time. Post anytime.


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