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Parallax - Advice            January 29, 2001

  Break up or make up?

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My boyfriend (of a year) and I broke up this summer and for the past four months we've been hanging out and hooking up. He keeps vacillating, saying he doesn't want to be with anyone else, but at the same time he doesn't want a relationship. This emotional roller coaster is really hard for me. I love him and I know that he loves me (we've talked about marriage), but I think he is overwhelmed by his emotions for me. He was sexually abused as a child, and I think this contributes to his commitment issues. What can I do? I want him in my life but I want him to realize that I'm not going to be there forever unless he commits to me.

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Her view:

Dear Ringless,

Sounds tough. I admire your persistence. It's a very hard thing to be with someone who tells you 'but I don't want a serious relationship,' especially if you love them.

I'm sure my esteemed colleague will tell you to hang around indefinitely and give him time to find himself. I don't agree. I think you should have a clear conversation with him. Tell him you're stuck - you have these tremendous feelings, but he holds back the relationship. Tell him you recognize he has some things to sort out and (because you care enough) you'll allow him that time. Then set a time period that's reasonable. If by that point he has still reached no conclusion, it's time for you to move on. You'll have to decide how much time is appropriate, but don't leave it open-ended.

And if you need to move on, go quickly. Don't turn the whole affair into a painful evolution - make a swift break.

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His view:

Dear Ringless,

It sometimes gets to me, when a otherwise perfectly sane person says, 'this emotional roller coaster is really hard for me,' but they still can't figure out what to do. I guess you just need someone else to spell it out.

About four months ago, your boyfriend and you moved into the very fancy 'Limbo Hotel.' Ever since, he seems to be 'vacillating' (i.e., enjoying himself) while your state of mind barrels through some pretty convoluted and over-analyzed non-commitment theories.

Clearly this transition period has not worked and it is time to try something new. I suggest you check out of the 'Limbo Hotel' and find another man to keep you busy for a few weeks, while your ex sorts out his true feelings for you.

Who knows if this will work, but you can at least try. At this point, you don't appear to have much to lose.

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