Dear Carolyn: What if you're in a mutually agreed-upon, sexually monogamous relationship and you're not pressuring for a commitment like moving in, engagement, marriage ... but the other person thinks you are? In other words, I'm totally fine with just having a boyfriend for the foreseeable future, but he keeps insisting he knows better than I do what I want, and says, "I'm not ready for what you want," even though I've never actually asked for anything more than what we have now. — Not Ready For Commitment
Answer: Doesn't that drive you nuts? Enough to say, "Stop telling me what I want"? Followed by, "I never asked for anything more"? And then, "In fact, I am not ready for more of a commitment — especially if you actually think you can speak for me"?
If yes, then it's time to see it as a problem that he insists on believing his version of you over yours. That will grow from a nuisance now into a relationship killer when you make a deeper commitment, because it means he's either not listening to you, not respecting you, or so certain he's right about everything that no one's truth can pierce his certainty. Even strong people are moved to self-doubt over time when they are continually negated by a prominent person in their lives. It's a single-ingredient recipe for suffering.
If, on the other hand, his "insisting he knows better than I do what I want" hasn't moved you to state clearly what you actually feel, then it's time to see that as a problem. You speak for you unless you say otherwise. This is a touchstone for all of us. No one healthy will block your path to it.
Dear Carolyn: I'm dating a wonderful man, and things are headed into the marriage territory. But as always, there is one thing tripping me up.
I was single/dating around for a few years before meeting him (as was he), and in that time I established some really great friendships and social activities. Now I feel at a loss for how to balance the two worlds. While I've invited him to participate in my sports clubs or certain classes, I think he feels out of place (when a majority of the participants are female). He has stated that he really doesn't mind staying in and watching TV, but I feel guilty when I head out the door.
Am I overthinking this? I know it could be that I'm just a little more socially driven than he. — Feeling Guilty
If he hasn't objected to your independent social time, then take him at his word, guilt-free.
I'm not saying this because it's just fine to have some of your own activities, though it is — I'm saying this because it's not fine to project your doubts onto him. Listen to what he's saying and respond accordingly.
The issue here isn't the time you spent single or the gender makeup of these activities or the way he entertains himself in your absence. This is a straight-up communication question. (1) Does he say what he means? (2) Do you say what you mean? (3) Do you listen to each other? The only way to find balance within a relationship is to reach "yes" on all three.
Email Carolyn Hax at email@example.com, or chat with her online at noon each Friday at Washingtonpost.com.
Washington Post Writers Group