Our beautiful friend Olivia is wondering if she needs more patience, or if she just needs to move on. Read on for her story:
I'm 24 and have been dating my boyfriend, who is 25, for 2 years now.
When I first met him, he had never really dated or been in a long term relationship. His reasoning was that he just never had the interest or the time to invest. Our first year of dating we rushed into things, moved in together and found that it was quite different then we had assumed.
He's thoughtful, but it seems to be in all the wrong ways. He will tell me I'm beautiful a million times a day, yet refuses to acknowledge things like when I state that we should go out and do something romantic or exciting. I've always tried to lead by example; I've even just taken myself out on dates thinking that it may click.
He tells me that he doesn't understand what I want, I am being too needy. The biggest problem is lack of responsibility. A year ago, we had a very intense falling out which led to us moving out of our beautiful apartment. The falling out was a concoction of him not having a job, me getting too angry. It was more or less a severe lack of understanding and responsibility on both ends.
We both moved in with family and began to work on things. About 3 months of working on things and he started to come stay with me. It's been a year now, and we live with my parents. I am 24... I should not be living with my parents with my boyfriend of 2 years! Constantly I remind him that we are adults, we need to do something about this.
I once got as far as setting myself up with roommates and when I told him of this, he threatened to leave me because that was appropriate.
There always seems to be something, his car breaks down, he loses his job, he needs to pay debt and when the money issues go away it turns into, "Well you just get too angry about everything. I don't know if we should live together." But we do live together!
I am angry because I've patiently waited over a year, I've saved the money, I've looked around, I've found him new jobs and I've supported him in every aspect thus far in fear that will think I am not being sensitive enough. I love him. I love him with all of my heart, he loves me but he just can't grow up. He's sensitive, but I feel like he is taking advantage of me.
Do I need to have more patience? Do I need to move on?
I don't want these past 2 years of hard work to be for nothing. Staying and leaving both feel equally terrible.
I hear you. You love this guy, you just want things to be different! This is really difficult, because it sounds to me like he loves you, like he wants to be with you, too, but he's got these issues that are huge for him - and you. Have you heard of the term enabler? Because my first thought as I was reading your email, is that this guy has got it so good with you. You find him jobs, you save up money, you find a place for both of you, you take him in when things aren't working out for him, he's basically got it made with you.
He doesn't really have any reason to grow up, because other than you getting angry with him sometimes for not growing up and doing some of this work himself - which is completely understandable - he has got everything he could ever want with you. You are the perfect complement to him. Whatever he lacks, you make up for it.
You are more than patient, more than understanding, more than the perfect girlfriend to him. And yes, you've invested a lot of time and energy in this relationship and in him, so of course the thought of giving it up feels awful, and yet, the thought of living another two years like this is probably not what you have in mind either.
It really comes down to you. And what you can and can't live with. What a deal breaker is to you, and whether or not you're going to be ok continuing to live like this indefinitely if nothing changes on his end.
Because he doesn't have a whole lot of reason to change or motivation to do anything different when you keep taking care of things for him.
But on the other hand, if he knows how you feel, and you've communicated this with him, then he does know you're not happy living like this and you want to see some changes. The question is this: Is he capable of making the changes you want to see in him? Is he able to grow up and become more responsible, more of the man you want him to be?
Only you know what he's worth to you, what the relationship is worth to you the way it is, not the way you want it to be. So you have to decide what living like this with him versus not living like this without him is worth to you. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can stop doing all the things you do for him to see if he picks up the slack and see what that looks like. You can keep showing him by your actions what you are and are not willing to put up with. And if you decide that you really can't do this while still living at your parents' house with him, then you can ask him to leave and just go back to dating him to see what that looks like and feels like to both of you.
Maybe he just wants someone to take care of him and the responsibilities of life - if that's really what he's looking for, can you live with that? Sometimes love looks different than how we pictured it. Only you know what you can and can't live with.
But whatever you decide, Oliva, know that if this relationship is meant to be, it will be. But only if both of you are on the same page and want the same thing and are willing to do what it takes to make this work.
I hope this gives you some things to think about. It's tough when you love someone and yet there's a big "but" that goes with those words. You do know deep in your heart what the answer is here, and sometimes, the answers come simply by focusing back on you and your life and letting him fade into the distance so that what he does or doesn't do doesn't matter as much. Sometimes, we just need to keep living our own life and doing the things that make us happy, and the answers come to us when we least expect it.
Do you have any other ideas, advice or encouragement for Olivia? Tell us in the comments!