Our beautiful friend Adriana has a boyfriend who isn't sure what he wants, and says he wants to scale things back. They're currently in a long distance relationship that she's afraid is turning is turning into a long distance friends with benefits.
Here's her email:
My boyfriend moved a couple hours away for a new job and the original plan was that I would move down there as well (though we wouldn't be moving in together).
A few weeks ago, he mentioned that he was conflicted because he cares about me a lot and "thinks he's falling in love with me". But also wants to use this new move/job/change to focus on himself and focus on his career.
He said he wasn't sure about me moving down because if I was only moving down to be with him and "had expectations" about continuing our relationship and how things would be, then I probably shouldn't move. But if I was moving down there for myself and we could hang out when it was convenient, he'd be happy with that.
He said he saw this new job as a chance to start over and he wants to focus on his career and he was moving away from all of his old friends that "held him back" and he wanted some time to himself to focus on his own goals.
I understandably got upset and I feel like our relationship is already over. I had planned to have something more long term with him and it's breaking my heart.
I told him we needed to talk about "us" because he wasn't very clear with me on what he wanted from us in the future, if anything, when we had discussed this before. I told him this has been occupying my head since he first brought it up and it has left rocks in my stomach all week.
I asked him if he wanted a LDR with me, as he said he didn't want to break up, but didn't think it would be a good idea to move down there only for him.
He said we should "scale back" our relationship, so that we are still in contact and can visit each other but there won't be any expectations of calling one another every night (since neither of us are phone talkers) or any expectations of us taking turns commuting every weekend to see one another.
He elaborated on what he had told me before - that he wanted to focus on himself and "getting his shit together" because he feels like he is a 28-y-o f***-up for having so much student debt and not ever having really been passionate about any of his previous jobs. He said he doesn't want to be accountable to anyone but himself down there, so he can focus on his new career and learning new languages and getting back into shape and a bunch of other stuff he said he had found so many excuses to neglect.
He said that he doesn't want any other relationship because he said it would never work out with anyone else. He said the reason he loves our relationship so much is that we both went into it without expectations and "I-don't-do-relationships" type of people and somehow things just progressed into us having serious feelings for each other but without smothering each other.
I told him I had changed in that regard, because I had come to want more from the relationship and to see him more. I said going back is like a slap in the face, and I don't think I can do it. I can't just turn off feelings for him and just have us be what amounts to, IMO, casual long-distance FWBs.
He said he always wants me in his life and it would hurt him badly to lose contact with me, but said it also wasn't fair to expect me to wait around for him to get his life together.
He said he wished he could tell me things will all work out the way I want them to, but he didn't want to make promises he wasn't sure he could keep.
I was (and still am) confused and emotionally exhausted. I ended up spending the night with him, and I think he thinks by default, that I am willing to accept his terms for our (non)relationship.
I don't know what to do. I guess I want to try every last thing (even this "scaled-back" version of our relationship) because I cannot imagine the thought of not having him in my life.
Am I being a complete fool for wanting to try this even though it seems our paths are diverging?
Now I am so unsure about what to do.... 🙁
Do you think this means it's over between us?
How difficult it is for us to understand someone who says he doesn't know what he wants. Someone who is content to let things unfold, to see where things will go, as long as there are no expectations about how these same things will be.
He has you, he knows what he has with you, and so of course you can't understand why there can be any question of why he doesn't know and isn't sure and yet, by everything you say here, this has him and his own issues written all over it.
I'm going to pull from your email the parts that reveal so much about where he's at and why this is all about him making his own life a priority, so that you can see as clearly for yourself why he can't give you anything more than this casual non-committal response. It can be so hard for us to see this when we really don't want to believe what he's saying, but when it's in our best interest to.
He said he "thinks" he's falling in love with you. He doesn't know. You know.
He said "he wants to wants to use this new move/job/change to focus on himself and focus on his career." He's placed a priority on figuring out what he really wants in life and what he wants to do with his life.
He said he doesn't want you to move down if you're "only moving down to be with him and 'had expectations' about continuing your relationship".
But why else would you make this kind of move?
Why would you move to a place where you don't know anyone else, where you don't have a job or any other real reason to move - except for him? And more importantly, how could he possibly expect that you would find those terms agreeable to you, when clearly, hanging out when it's "convenient" has everything to do with when he finds it convenient on his terms and schedule, and doesn't include what you want and need.
He said you should "scale back" your relationship with very clear terms - his terms once again - so that he can keep you hanging on, still without any "expectations" of either "calling one another every night" or - just to be sure he's completely absolved of any responsibility here - any "expectations of us taking turns commuting every weekend to see one another."
He wants to make sure he "didn't make promises he wasn't sure he could keep."
He has made a point to make it perfectly clear to you that what this is really about is him focusing on himself - and only himself. He's telling you in so many words that he feels like he's not good enough, that he has so much to prove, that he wants to finally get his life together, that he wants to become everything he feels he isn't.
You can't save him, you can't be the one who changes all this for him; this is something he has to do for himself.
And so that there is no doubt in your mind that this is solely your decision and because he wants to make sure you understand he has no responsibility for the terms or outcomes of this significant decision for you, he adds that you "probably shouldn't move."
It's pretty clear that unless you can meet all these terms, there's little ambiguity on his part; he doesn't want you to move.
I know that's so hard to hear, and I know you want to find a different meaning to all of this, but there is so much here that makes this all so clear from an outside perspective which we never, ever have when we're in the midst of the longing, the wanting it to be so much more.
Your beautiful heart and soul matter here, Adriana.
What you want matters. What you have to give someone who's right there on the same page as you, matters.
You say you planned to have something more long term with him and it's breaking your heart - of course it is. Because we make these assumptions; we assume that it's the same for him as it is for us without looking through objective eyes of reality, but instead those beautiful eyes behind those rose-colored glasses that make anyone and anything seem like we want it to be.
Don't exchange those qualities for anything in the world, Adriana, this beautiful ability you have to see through this person who can't give you what you understandably are looking for. Don't compromise what you want and what you don't unless you can be honest with yourself and agree to someone else's terms without losing yourself in the process.
How many of us have been there, convincing ourselves we could do this until we finally could lie to ourselves no more. Don't get started down that path without knowing what you're signing up for.
It doesn't get better, it only gets worse.
It's one thing to discover now that he's not there and doesn't know when or if he'll ever get there. It's a whole other thing to convince yourself you can live on someone else's terms waiting and hoping and pretending he's getting closer all the time when deep down you always know the truth.
You're emotionally exhausted because inside you know what's going on here. Deep down in that beautiful heart of yours, you know he wants to be free to change his life around on his own terms, to find his own way, to do what he needs to do to prove whatever he needs to prove to himself, to his family, to his friends, to whoever he feels the need to prove himself to.
You're not a fool for wanting to try to do whatever you can to make this work, Adriana, to try to make this into what you so want it to be. But he's telling you as clearly as he can what he needs. And you've told him what you need. And nothing has changed with his answer. So you know where he stands.
Now it's your turn.
Where do you stand? This isn't about there being anything wrong with you or you not being enough. It's about you being true to yourself.
I know you can't imagine the idea of him not being in your life, but try to imagine what life will be like living on the terms he's clearly drawn up for you.
Can you agree to that and still live with yourself?
You can't be the only one willing to make this work, Adriana. If it's meant to be, no time or space will be able to keep the two of you apart. But that willingness to be together and do what it takes to make that happen can't come from a place of ambiguity, Adriana. It takes two people on the same page, willing to do whatever it takes, in whatever time and place that happens to be.
I hope this helps.
What do you think? Do you have any other words advice or encouragement for our beautiful friend Adriana? Please tell her your thoughts and share your stories with her here in the comments.