Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Great Boyfriend - But I Don't Want to Settle Down!"

Dear Dr. Love

I'm 20 years old in my second relationship. In my past I have struggled with over 50 shallow crushes. I would obsess over a guy and fantasize until reality set in and I realized it would not work.

The relationship I am in right now is the only time I have ever gotten to know a guy first before developing feelings for him.

"Jake" is everything I could want in a guy. He is incredibly loyal, genuine, trustworthy, understanding, considerate, and affectionate. This is his first relationship and he's still figuring out how to be a good b/f. We have very similar backgrounds and beliefs. I know this relationship can go somewhere far. We have amazingly open communication compared to other relationships.

However, it is becoming serious really quickly. We have been dating for over 3 months, 2 of those have been spent long distance with little communication because of his location. While we have been apart, I have been receiving a lot of unwanted attention from males because I am attractive and a swing dancer. I love to dance and did not go looking for other romantic involvements. I have dealt with all but one of these advancements.

One of these guys "Matt" is incredibly attractive and shares similar beliefs. He is a really genuine, caring person which contrasts the other shallow crushes of my past. And he has feelings for me. But I am in a relationship!

I will go back to school for one more year so I will be with Jake during that time. There is no way things could ever work out with Matt because of the distance unless I go to grad school near him. How can I even be entertaining these thoughts?

I know I am getting afraid of commitment with Jake even though I do really like him and I know this relationship is substantial. He is so trusting of me though, should I share my feelings towards Matt at the risk of hurting Jake?

I am nowhere ready to be married. I will be in grad school for 6 years after graduation. Jake will still have one more year at school. I am just not sure if I am ready to settle down for good without really playing the field. But I know if I were to go back into the field, I'd only want to be in a relationship again.

It's really nice to have the stability, but I feel so guilty about my attraction toward Matt.

Is it possible to maintain a friendship with Matt? I really don't know him well but I am intrigued by his personality. He represents all of those shallow past crushes that were unobtained.

I have a tendency to be flighty, and I want to make things work out with Jake because it is so good for both of us, but to be serious at 20 without thinking of marriage until at least 4 more years?

It scares me but I don't want to run away from a good thing only to regret it later.

This is so selfish of me. I can't get Matt out of my mind but I don't want to lead him on and hurt him also...


Let me start out by saying that twenty is way to young to settle down and make a decision about marriage but it is not too young to have a serious boyfriend.

Actually, many intelligent and educated young women such as yourself have several "serious" boyfriends before they actually decided to get married. I think it is progress on your part that you actually have met someone like Jake who has intrigued you sufficiently to want to settle down at least temporarily.

On the other hand, your attraction to "Matt" should also tell you that you are not in the least ready for a permanent commitment.

One of the things that I found interesting was your description of your fifty short term "crushes". I think that is not unusual but it leads me to wonder how you feel about long term relationships in general. We usually grow up forming these kinds of decisions on the way our parents' relationship was handled.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1) Do I come from an intact family?
2) How did my father and mother interact with each other?
3) Did I perceive my parents marriage as happy, or did they basically seem like being together was kind of a drag?

You seem to be very fearful of any kind of personal commitment and describe yourself as flighty. I wonder if you feel that if someone got to know you better, maybe they would find you wanting.

Basically, in examining why people are so scared of getting closer, we have to look at basic self-esteem, early childhood issues, maturity, and overall readiness to decide on a life partner.

Since I know nothing of your early childhood, based on what you have told me, I assume that while you may be getting ready to actually have a real boyfriend, you wonder how you could be so attracted to someone else.

Actually, this is quite common but in your situation, I think that something about "settling down" just terrifies you.

Since you are going to be in school next year with Jake, it is a perfect time to settle into having a steady boyfriend and to enjoy the security that this brings without necessarily deciding on marriage. At twenty, that is a scary thought. You can just enjoy the good feelings and tell yourself that you are far from ready to even think about marriage. And that is absolutely true.

Just because you like or even love one guy, this doesn't stop us from feeling attracted to other guys, especially cute flirtatious ones like Matt.

I think that, really, you just love the attention and you think that by only being with one guy, you will have to give this up. This is also not true. Attention from the opposite sex is always fun, and just because we make a commitment doesn't mean we have to stop interacting with everyone else.

Above all, stop worrying about this. Enjoy the male attention you get. That's really fun. When you start the semester with Jake, just see how it goes and don't worry about marriage and the future. That freaks everybody out.

You will know what to do when you a truly ready emotionally. Right now, you aren't but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the present. That's where all the fun is anyway.

Thanks for your letter and keep me posted.


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