I'm in love with a girl who just isn't sure -- should I wait around?

I'm crazy about her, but she wants to explore before she settles down.

By Cary Tennis
Published November 25, 2004 12:49AM (UTC)
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Dear Reader,

Just a quick note to let you know that while every month is Masculinity Month as far as I'm concerned, the Salon series of articles on the topic has been pushed forward a few weeks. Stay tuned. If you were thinking of submitting a question on the topic, there's still time.

Dear Cary,

My ex-girlfriend and I have known each other for six years. We started dating about three years ago. There were ups and downs, but she made me happier than I ever thought another person could. Then about three months ago she decided that it'd be good if we started dating other people. She had the thought that we couldn't really know if we wanted to get married and spend our lives together if we didn't know what else was out there, and that we both needed to get a better grasp of who we are as individuals before committing ourselves to each other. I opposed the idea for a while but finally conceded.

I've gone on a number of dates with five other girls since. I've had fun doing it but I find that by the third of fourth outing I realize that she (the new girl) isn't what I really want. Several of them have become friends, but I have little interest in them romantically. My ex and I talk and hang out about two times a week. She says she is still very interested in me and she loves me, and I believe that wholly. She just wants this time to be free and live her life without restrictions or commitment.

I'm doing my best to be her friend. You know: Take it easy, not talk about the relationship or push things to be overly romantic, but that feels so shallow to me. I know what my feelings are and they are much deeper and more powerful than friendship feelings. She hates it when I talk about the situation we are in because she is so uncertain of her needs and desires. A resolution seems far away. Despite the hellish time that this has been, I still love her entirely and want to spend my life and beyond with her.

So my question is this, Cary: What do I do? The way I see it, I have two real options: I can keep on keeping on with how things are now and wait for her to decide what she truly wants from me. Or I can break ties completely, go and live a life without her in it, and if she ever comes back I can welcome her.


Dear Waiting,

I favor the second of the two options. While you do not want to foreclose on the possibility that one day you will end up together, it seems sensible to take some steps meanwhile to make your own life more comfortable and less harrowing. The ticklish part is that it's not clear whether she is sincere. She may genuinely believe that this is the sensible thing to do -- to explore thoroughly before committing. Or she may simply be trying to let you down easily. She may even be enjoying a little manipulative power. If she is sincere, she should understand your position and see the fairness of it. If she is trying to let you down easily, or find a way out, then she should welcome your decision. Only if she is exercising selfish power over you should she object to your decision to absent yourself. If she objects, then you must demand an answer of her. She has no standing to object to your moving on if she cannot give you an answer.

There is one other possibility: She may indeed be madly in love with you and just be acting foolishly. If that is the case, when faced with the possibility of losing you, she will throw herself at your feet, proclaim herself a foolish, foolish woman in love, and you will live happily ever after.

In all of these cases, the option of telling her that you are going to remove yourself improves the situation. It brings a resolution closer.

Moving closer to some kind of conclusion, any kind of conclusion, is the best you can do when you have so little to go on. If she were to tell you her conditions, that would be different: See that mountain? Take it down, rock by rock, and my heart will be yours. But she's given you no contest to win, no fortune to find. In such a case, your only option is to withdraw and force the situation to some kind of conclusion.

By the way: Is this by any chance a pattern with you? Are you always the one who waits, instead of the one who is waited for? Were you the child who sits at the window and waits for Daddy's train? Are you the one they called the good one, who didn't need attention because he could wait patiently for food while the others cried and pounded their fists -- and got fed?

If so, you may gain one more thing by refusing to wait. You may break the habit of playing second fiddle, of placing others first, of denying yourself what others take for granted: The right to choose what you want, and leave what you don't.

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