Dear Wendy: Defining A Relationship’s Status

I met Tim in February of this year when he was visiting friends in New York (he lives in Massachusetts) and we hit it off right away. Almost immediately after he headed back home, we started communicating every other day and soon began taking turns visiting each other. We have lots of mutual friends, so it was very easy for us in the beginning. The kicker was he was just getting out of a 4 year live-in relationship (she ended things with him 2 months prior to our meeting), but since I really liked him, I thought “the worst thing that could happen is that I end up with a friend.” Fast forward 8 months: Things are all good — our families each know about us, I’ve met his sister, we’ve both met lots of each other’s friends.

Sounds great right? Wrong. My problem is that we still haven’t had a talk about our status… not that it REALLY matters because we both know that we aren’t seeing anyone else and I think it’s basically assumed that we are in a relationship. But, part of me is almost afraid to bring it up because I fear that part of him is still pretty hurt by his past relationship… and I can’t help but wonder if he moved on to me too quickly and if having this talk will scare him. Maybe he likes the distance because it’s allowing him time to do his own thing and move on, but still have someone? So… I’m confused. I don’t want to mess this up, but at the same time – I want to know! I’m not even sure how to bring up the talk with him. Every time I’ve tried to, I chicken out because I think about having to drive all the way back home with potentially bad news. What do I do? — Status Quo

You may think you’re afraid “the talk” will scare him off, but it sounds to me you’re a little afraid the talk might scare you. After all, you may discover your fears about Tim are founded. Maybe he really is dating you because the distance allows him some space to “do his own thing and move on” from his previous relationship. Maybe he got so used to being part of a couple that he’s afraid to be alone and being with you means he doesn’t have to be. But maybe he actually really likes you for you and hasn’t given his previous relationship much thought since things started getting more serious with you. Maybe he hasn’t brought up “the talk” because in his mind there’s no need to — you communicate every day, see each other regularly, and neither one of you dates anyone else. If it sounds like a relationship, it must be a relationship, right?

But if it’s a relationship, you certainly deserve to feel secure in it with the knowledge that you’re both on the same page, and the only way to do that is by having a frank discussion with Tim. It’s time to ask not only where things stand with you, but whether he has any unresolved feelings/issues with his ex-girlfriend. Before he can truly commit to you, his heart needs to be free of the clutter from his previous relationship. Once you feel secure about your role in Tim’s life — and that may not happen overnight, as he may still need time to process his breakup — you need to have a discussion about the future of your relationship. LDRs can be successful, but not without an end date on the horizon. How long will you continue living in separate cities? Is one of you willing to move to be with the other? If these questions seem too intense or “scary” for someone who was living with someone else less than a year ago, you need to ask yourself how long you’re willing to wait until he’s ready to discuss them. Everyone deserves a partner who is equally invested in the relationship — the sooner you learn whether Tim’s as invested as you, the sooner you can move on with the rest of your life (whether that includes him or not). And if you’re afraid of driving back home with potentially bad news, have the talk one weekend when he’s visiting you, problem solved!

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at [email protected]