Endless grief

I've been in a relationship for more than two years with a serial dater who is now showing me the "serial" part and it's driving me crazy.

By Cary Tennis

Published September 5, 2003 7:28PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I've been in a 2 1/2-year relationship with a self-proclaimed serial dater, and I'm beginning to feel the "serial" part of her that causes ex-boyfriends endless grief.

This is the longest relationship either of us has had (she's 24, I'm 27), and while we were in the same city we managed to have a "normal" relationship, even though occasionally she would profess a fear/inability to commit to a long-term relationship. Some periods she would lovingly gaze at me and never want to be without me, other times she would be captivated by her dreams (mostly about career and travel) and look at a long-term relationship as something that would hold her back. She flip-flops when thinking of having kids and how it would negatively affect her career (we're nowhere near to getting married, though we've talked about it at length).

We've had our share of fights and lows in the relationship, but I always seem to be willing to work through these issues. She is sometimes willing to work through them but lately her attitude seems to have changed. She recently moved to her hometown where she got her dream job, and it seems she's had a lessening desire to be in the relationship and work things out (we both acknowledge the relationship needs an overhaul). I asked her if she wanted to break up, and she wasn't sure, and still isn't (though she'd been thinking about it for some time). I would like to work things out, but I'm not about to do it unconditionally. All I ask of her is an attitude change. Am I having the right attitude? Is that too much or too little to ask? I don't even know what questions I should be asking myself or her. All I know is my heart wants to stay and work on the relationship, but I can't handle a one-way street.

Needing to Know What You Think

Dear Needing to Know,

I think you should end it. If she doesn't know what she wants, she's going to drive you nuts. You obviously do know what you want. You'll be much better off with a woman who's willing to commit.

If she were even trying hard, that would be one thing. But she's not even trying. I want you to end it. If you don't, you'll put all this work into it and it will still fail. She's not into you. She's just looking for something better before she drops you. If you wait around until she drops you, it will be more painful because you'll feel the sting of rejection; not only that, but you'll view these months of waiting around as wasted time. You won't even be able to tell yourself that you learned a lot; you've already learned everything you're going to learn in this relationship.

It's not going to work until both of you want it, and she obviously doesn't want it. She moved to another city, for heaven's sake! That's not a positive direction. That's not a way of saying, Hey, I think we're gonna make it, baby!

You'll know when it's right. This isn't right. You know it's not right. If it were right, you wouldn't be writing to me. If it were right, you'd feel right. You'd feel proud, secure, happy. Instead, I'll bet you feel the way one feels when talking to someone at a party whose eyes wander blankly and restlessly past your shoulder, searching the room for somebody who sparkles a little brighter than you do, who's taller, richer, funnier, smarter and better-looking than you are. It's infuriating. Who needs it? Salvage your pride and say goodbye to her. You'll do fine on your own.

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Cary Tennis

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