Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared April 15, 2005.
My boyfriend and I have been together for the past two and a half years and our relationship is really stable and comfortable. He’s a great guy and I can count on him to be there for me no matter what; he’ll forgive me for anything because he really wants us to stay together.
But lately I’ve been wanting a bit more excitement rather than stability in my life. Plus, he’s not very social, so he makes me feel guilty when I spend time with my other friends and not him.
I’m 21, so I have the rest of my life to settle down and start a family — he’s the type of guy I would do that with — but right now I just want to have fun and see other people, even if they don’t have the long-term potential he has.
We’ve always said we would remain friends even if we broke up, and I want to keep in touch with him, but how can I tell him I’m unhappy without hurting his feelings? And should I stop seeing him altogether or remain in sporadic contact? I have a feeling that will lead to us getting back together because that’s what’s happened in the past.
— Bored in Boston
I can’t think of anyone who has less “long-term potential” than someone who bores you.
Wait, not true. Someone who makes you feel guilty for being yourself — now there’s an even less appealing choice for the long haul.
Unless your goal in life is to resent your husband, hate your life and screw up your kids, please don’t confuse being ready to settle down and start a family with marrying the first guy you’re certain won’t leave you.
Read your own question, please. The only good thing you have to say about this relationship is that you can do anything and not get dumped, and that is not a good thing.
For one, it suggests you like him as a sure thing more than you like him as a person, and the dearth of affection supports that. Where’s the part about his bad jokes, his warmth, his cute bald spot shaped like Wisconsin? And, even if you do feel this kind of highly personal affection, I’m not certain he does. Otherwise, there’d be limits on his forgiveness.
A person who’d tolerate anything to keep the relationship together is in love with the relationship, not with the partner in question.
He’s hanging on with all he’s got, too: He guilts you for seeing friends, he’s not social, you’re tiptoeing around his feelings, you’ve tried but failed to break up, you’ve promised you’ll always be friends. Manipulation in five acts.
You’re 21, so you have the rest of your life to figure out for yourself that your choices aren’t limited to “party” or “suffocate.” But a suggestion to help lessen mistakes on the way: If you ever feel you ought to get out but you can’t, that’s a blazing red sign that you must.
— Washington Post Writers Group