I have been with my boyfriend for over a year and we have lived together almost that long. The relationship moved fast, we have known each other since college and stayed in touch on and off. He was not boyfriend material back then because he was a bit of a player and could not be trusted, but now we’re both 28 and, finally, last year we decided to start a relationship. Things began over phone/text because we lived four hours apart. He was super sweet and said very romantic things which I completely fell for… At the time he had two jobs and seemed to be a hard-working guy with lots of friends. He did not have a great job, but at the time I was like who cares, everyone takes their own path to their goals in life. He entered the army last fall to help him finance finishing college and went to boot camp in GA. He lasted a month, decided it was not for him and moved in with me. This is when I feel like the truth came out … he went from having two jobs and working hard to being unemployed for months, spending most of what money he had on movies, and buying drinks for friends when we went out. Eventually got a job and now he pays cable, electric bills. While we do get along and have stuff in common, I find myself questioning his basic character and ability to man up and face problems without running from them. If I were 24, I would probably have already broken up with him. At 28, I feel like I may end up alone if I do not find some kind of relationship … Help! — Bummed in Boston
Why in the world would you want to be with some aimless loser of a guy who totally mooches off you and seems to have very little in the way of redeeming qualities? What could possibly have changed in the last four years that would make you think this is an acceptable choice in a partner for you? I don’t care if you were 58 and tired of being alone: a crappy relationship is no substitute for a good one, and it’s certainly no better than being single.
You don’t need me to tell you that being alone is better than being in a lonely relationship. Just look at your own experience for evidence of that. Can you honestly say that you’re happier with your dope of a boyfriend than you were when you were single and not supporting a grown man-child? When you think about your future, what seems like a better option: remaining single until the right guy comes along who treats you well and is an equal in your relationship, or staying with a guy whose biggest accomplishment is kicking in a few bucks every few months for cable? Do you really need an advice columnist to tell you which option only an idiot would choose?
And since when did 28 become the verge of Old Maid-hood? You’re young. You’re in Boston! Lots and lots of single 20- (and 30- and 40-) somethings live in Boston. I suspect you have poor self-esteem and that this isn’t so much about lack of viable options as it is about you thinking you don’t deserve a good man and a happy relationship. Well, you do. You deserve someone who not only says sweet and romantic things to you, but shows you love and respect through his actions, too. I want you to make a list of the characteristics that are most important for you to find in a man. When you’re done, take a good long look at the list. Circle anything you are not willing to compromise on. The person you spend the rest of your life with should possess every quality you’ve circled on your list — if he doesn’t, you’re just setting yourself up for a life of unhappiness. Committing to someone who falls short means giving up the chance of finding someone who doesn’t. Remember: you deserve to have what’s important to you.
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.