A Wrinkle In Timing
I'm 25, and work in film and TV. Last year was my first year of consistent employment. I'm producing my first documentary, but I still have a long, brutal climb ahead. My girlfriend of a year is extremely pretty, kind, and smart, and has supported me in every aspect of my career. She's outgoing, great with my friends, and even likes football. In short, she's awesome. I never thought I'd fear commitment, but I keep finding myself on the verge of breaking up with her (for no good reason, mind you). I know I couldn't do any better than her. If I were lucky, I'd do just as well. I love her, and I don't use that word lightly, so why can't I think rationally about this?
-- About To Dump A Keeper
"Fear of Commitment" gets a bad name. Supposedly, you're a jerk or psychologically stunted if you express reluctance about throwing yourself into a relationship, yet nobody will diss you for, say, "Fear of Strolling Down a Dark Alley Through a Gauntlet of Gang Members." Or "Fear of Getting on a Plane with a Guy with a Fuse Sticking Out of His Converse."
Anybody who's given any thought to the picnic in the park in hell that commitment can be should feel at least a little edgy about it. Committing isn't saying "We had fun together today. Let's try to have more fun together tomorrow." You're committing to tomorrow, and next Tuesday, and maybe 3,656 Tuesdays from now. The thing is, you can't promise you'll keep feeling the same way -- you can only do your best to stick it out after you feel stuck. Bit of a buzzkill, huh? Of course, you want to believe everything will be wunnnderful, sex will only get hotter, and yours is one of those rare, timeless love affairs. But, the truthful answer to "Will you still love me tomorrow?" is something along the lines of "Gee, I dunno."
Guys, especially, are made to feel bad if they aren't gung ho to commit, with "Getting Him To 'I Do'" splashed across every other women's magazine, and nary a piece on "Letting Him Do What Works For Him." Men are achievement-oriented, and as a man, you probably have to feel set in who you are and what you do before you can feel ready to settle down with somebody else. And yes, even if that somebody else happens to be a physicist who put herself through MIT as a Victoria's Secret model, took night school classes from the Dalai Lama, and can cross her legs behind her head while predicting the Super Bowl winner down to a 96 percent accuracy on the point spread.
You'd have it easier if only your girlfriend would go a little bridezilla-to-be on you. But, lucky you, if this girl clamors for a ring, it'll probably be fried, battered, and onion. So, what do you do when you get what you want and you can't stop wanting it to go away? Well, you don't hate on yourself for itching to break up, and "for no good reason." Not being ready for a relationship is a great reason. If you end it with her, explain that you're a bit of an unmade bed at the moment, and you need to become somebody before you can become somebody's boyfriend. Or, in guy terms, there's a time for giving a girl drawers in your dresser and keys to your place, and a time to buzz in whatsername from Wednesday.
Having Your Jerk Cut Out For You
"Devastated," the woman whose ex said it was just sex that kept them together, has my sympathy. After a year of talking marriage, my ex dumped me. Then, while I was crying my eyes out, he said I was bad in bed, and he never enjoyed sex with me. How mean is that? I never did anything to deserve it. I will never trust another human being.
So, when the grocery store clerk tells you, yes, the jelly is in Aisle 5, instead of thanking him, you'll scream, "You snake! You liar! You can't fool me with your pretty talk!"? As sadistic as your ex turned out to be, the answer isn't vowing never to trust anyone, but learning who to trust. This takes admitting that your ex didn't get thumped on the head and wake up a horrible person. He was always a horrible person, and there had to be signs. Any guy can talk marriage. It's what he says and does in between that tells you whether he's a good person, or just good at tearing chick-pleasing tips out of Maxim. Sure, look for the best in a man, but look harder for the worst. That's the part that doesn't just slam the door on your relationship, but kicks you down the stairs.