Af­ter years of drift­ing, don’t ex­pect him to change

Austin American-Statesman - - TVTONIGHT - Tell Me About It is writ­ten by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. Her col­umn ap­pears on Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day. E-mail her at tellme@ wash­post.com.

Dear Carolyn: I have been with my boyfriend for seven years. We be­gan dat­ing be­cause I asked him out. I was the first to say, “I love you.” I was the one, af­ter two years, who brought up mov­ing in to­gether. He had no chil­dren and wanted a child, but I am the one who brought up chil­dren: My daugh­ters were adults when my boyfriend and I had our child. In seven years, I seem to have been the only one mak­ing de­ci­sions about our fu­ture.

So I refuse to bring up mar­riage. I wanted it to come from him, I needed him to want it and I waited very pa­tiently. I find my­self be­com­ing very bit­ter that this man ob­vi­ously does not want to marry me. I know he would if it be­came an is­sue.

I do not want to break up my fam­ily. I want to be in a re­la­tion­ship know­ing the other in­tends to spend the rest of his life with me. We split ex­penses. He has a fi­nan­cial cush­ion; I strug­gle pay­check to pay­check. I was a sin­gle young mother; he lived with his mother for the ma­jor­ity of his life and has man­aged to in­vest and save.

It is not about the money, though I do feel as if we are two sep­a­rate is­lands. I feel so

lonely. I feel like I would be hap­pier with­out him, but what cost would my child pay for my hap­pi­ness? My boyfriend and I rarely ar­gue and get along quite well. Our child is happy and con­tent. It is only me who is mis­er­able.

Dear T.: I get why you’re mis­er­able, and why you pin­point your boyfriend’s fail­ure to merge your “sep­a­rate is­lands” as the source of your mis­ery.

But I also can ar­gue that you’ve brought mis­ery upon your­self.

You say your boyfriend didn’t put any moves on you, didn’t vol­un­teer I-love-you’s, didn’t pine to live with you, didn’t take the ini­tia­tive to have a child and didn’t even leave his mother’s nest to go out and feather his own.

So how, ex­actly, did he be­come some­one in your mind who would ini­ti­ate any­thing?

— T.

You hitched your life to In­er­tia Man, a body who stays put — wher­ever that hap­pens to be — un­less and un­til some ex­ter­nal force de­flects him some­where else. You’ve been that out­side force.

Again — I can see why some­one might tire in that role. But you also seem sur­prised and hurt by his (in)ac­tions, when his be­hav­ior looks from here to have been com­pletely pre­dictable. And if it’s a re­flec­tion on you, then it’s not show­ing you any­thing less flat­ter­ing than what you’ve seen in the past seven years.

He is who he is. Ex­pect­ing him to trans­form into a man of pro-ac­tion seems about as re­al­is­tic as ex­pect­ing him to sprout feath­ers and quack the na­tional an­them.

Be­fore you im­plode with bit­ter­ness — and with the help of good coun­sel­ing if that’s what it takes — please con­sider ac­cept­ing your boyfriend for who he is. He might not love you the way you want, but ap­par­ently he’ll live the way you want, pro­vided you spell it all out.

cAroLYN hAX

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