Dear Dr Victoria, I really need some advice about what to do about my boyfriend - that age old "commitment problem".
We've been going out for over 4 years and we get on well and have fun together. We're both currently renting separate places, and we've both been putting money aside for a house. We've never really discussed future plans, we do tend to both avoid that kind of talk, but I always assumed that this saved money would be going towards the same house. The other day I found out that he'd applied for affordable housing on his own, only he put just his details on the application which proves he’s really planning on buying a house by himself.
This felt like a kick in the face to me and when I brought it up by asking if he had factored me into his future plans he said it was an awkward question and he'd never thought about it. He went on to say that he's in no rush to settle down but that doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't want to settle down with me "eventually".
Now we're not kids, he's 28 and by the time he buys this house he'll be into his 30s and it's really making me think that I'm wasting my time with him. Surely after 4 years he must have thought about where we're going and he clearly doesn't see me in his future plans.
My question is, should I just call it a day now with him? Or am I being unreasonable to think that after 4 years we should be going down the path of buying a house together and not two separate houses?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
You're not being unreasonable but I'm not even going to try and slag your boyfriend off. He's doing what he thinks is right for him. His actions don't make him a bad person. He's just looking after his own interests.
So let's try and stick to the facts and work out whether you can find some sort of solution to the current problems, rather than try to point the finger of blame at your boyfriend.
You say that you haven't tended to talk about the future of the relationship and that's partly down to you, as well as your boyfriend being reluctant to discuss it. You're making a lot of assumptions when you conclude that his actions clearly mean that he doesn't see his future with you. It also seems like you've been quite hasty to conclude that you may as well end the relationship if he goes ahead with this.
First accept some responsibility for the current situation. If you'd been saying all along that you'd wanted to buy a place together in the next year or so and that you wanted to get married one day, perhaps in the next couple of years then you'd have every right to be a bit disappointed and dejected that your boyfriend has decided to go off and buy a place on his own without discussing it with you first. As it stands, I'm not at all sure that you have made your hopes and intentions clear to him. But either way, you're right, it would have been nice for him to at least mention it all to you and ask you what you thought. Or perhaps that was what he was doing recently. There's a big difference between your boyfriend saying he is thinking of doing something and telling you afterwards that he has already put a deposit down. Maybe give him the benefit of the doubt and let him explain. It might even be that he was hoping you'd live there with him one day but in the meantime, he's being proactive and sorting something now.
The real answer to your dilemma, as is so often the case, is to talk to your boyfriend to find out what his reasoning is and where he sees things going in the future. Maybe it's also time for you to be honest with him yourself. If you want to get married to him in the next couple of years, you need to diplomatically tell him that. Avoid ultimatums but do tell him that's what you'd really like and ask him if he can see that realistically happening.
Lastly, before you have all this out with him, be honest with yourself first. What is the real reason why neither of you tend to talk about the future of the relationship? Does it just come down to feeling awkward saying what you want. Or is it a fear of putting yourself in a vulnerable position if you tell someone how you feel and you then run the risk of your feelings not being reciprocated? Or deep down are you really unsure if your boyfriend is the right man for you? The best course of action is will depend on the . If it's the latter – you don't really see a future with him anyway – then this is your exit strategy. You can tell him that he hasn't considered you in his future plans and what you want is commitment and marriage and you end the relationship. But if what you want is commitment and marriage and your boyfriend is the one you want these things with then the sooner you find out where you stand, the better. He might not be able to give you everything you want right now but the least you should be looking for is a “maybe” and a rough idea of the likely time-scale. For example, maybe in the next couple of years.
He's unlikely to start saying that he can't see a future with you at all (unless he actually wants to end the relationship immediately) but what he might say is something like “I don't believe in marriage” or “we don't have to live together to have a relationship” or “I like living on my own because I like my own space”. Any of these comments would not be a good sign that he's seriously thinking about long-term commitment with you. I'm not suggesting you end a relationship of four years just on the basis of one of these comments, but you certainly shouldn't ignore it if he's saying things like that. You need to clarify it with him and find out where you stand.
It might very well be that he's enjoying having you in his life but feels under no pressure to move things along. He likes having you around but he likes his single lifestyle too. When you've been dating for 4 years and you're getting close to 30, you want more than “I might want to settle down eventually”. If this is genuinely the best you're going to get out of him right now then perhaps he needs to see the consequences of this. Your description of his response when you first asked him where is saw things going sounded like he was very laid-back and unphased by it all. Perhaps he hadn't considered that his failure to be proactive in the relationship might mean that you leave him. Perhaps he generally used to having his own way and not having to consider others.
If you're not prepared to carry on as you have been, perhaps for the next 3 or 4 years, maybe more, then tell him so, but be prepared that it might not go your way. And don't threaten to leave if he won't do what you want. If it comes to that, give him every chance first by telling him, in a reasonable manner, what you want and if he still won't budge then you can end the relationship as a last resort but don't tell him that's what you're going to do until you get to that stage – otherwise it's just manipulation. Similarly, if you do end the relationship and he decides afterwards that he's made a dreadful mistake, he knows where to find you, but don't tell him that as you need to behave in an adult manner and not play games with him. He needs to be free to make his own decisions without threats or coercion.
Lastly, consider if you would prefer to keep the relationship going as it is with the uncertainty that it may never lead to marriage or would you prefer to be single and meet someone else? This also brings its own uncertainty but at least you're clear about what you want now so you wouldn't let a relationship go on for 4 years without some discussion about the future.