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Question: Did I Just Waste 10 Yrs. in a Relationship?

Here’s a letter from a reader:

I read your article, “How Long is Too Long to Stay in a Relationship that is Not Moving Forward?” It was a very interesting read, and I feel like I could relate to it a little too much.

My boyfriend and I met in 2002 during our freshman year of college. We did not start dating until the summer of 2003. We spent our entire sophomore year in a relationship, until he decided to enlist in the navy after our second year of college. My boyfriend put college on hold for 5 years, and we made the decision to keep our relationship going. He was deployed many times and stationed overseas . It was quite a sacrifice, but we made it happen.

My boyfriend eventually returned to civilian life and continued his college education. He graduated last winter, and ended up with no job. This is where it gets difficult. My boyfriend is waiting for a civil servant job. He is currently doing part-time work in the interim.

After 10 years of a relationship I feel he should make a commitment. Friends and family are quickly passing us up, and we have been dating the LONGEST. We have been engaging in frequent arguments over commitment. My parents and I believe we could be engaged to get the ball rolling, but my boyfriend does not want to be engaged and/or get married without having a permanent career.

I understand all of this, but I just feel he is being very selfish, or making an excuse to prolong on a commitment. According to my boyfriend , “we are committed…we have been committed.” Why can’t there be some compromise? Why can’t we have an extended engagement? At least something to make our family and friends…and most important, me, recognize that we are committed and ready to move to the next level.

We do live together now as well. We moved in last year. Although this is quite a step in the right direction, its just not enough for me. I never thought I would be put in such a position. Am I wasting my time? Did I just waste 10 years of my life?

Response
Under normal circumstances I’d tell you to cut your losses, lick your wounds and move on. But your situation isn’t so clear cut. A man’s desire to have a job and support his family is responsible and commendable. I’m guessing that he’s waiting for a specific job in the civil service that is difficult to get and requires being on a waiting list until an opening arises. So the guy has a dream, also not a bad thing.

Now it’s not like he’s just some kind of slacker unwilling to work hard and commit. I mean, he enlisted and spent five years in the military during wartime and then finished college. So, he’s got some pretty strong values and a real work ethic.

The question is, should a couple marry if the man is unemployed? In my opinion, if the situation is relatively temporary (which in this economy can be a pretty long time) and you can make ends meet, then I think you should get married. But that’s just my opinion. Many men and women disagree, and they have a valid argument to do so. Your boyfriend is obviously in this camp.

The idea of being engaged indefinitely just doesn’t make sense to me. Engagement should last only as long as it takes to plan a wedding and get married. The first thing an engaged couple should do is set a date. If he’s not prepared to do that, then I agree with him about the resistance to engagement.

If you feel that living together is enough of a sign of commitment for you and that he will marry you when he gets his job, then you should consider staying with him if you think he’s your Mr. Right. If you’re not sure he’ll ever be ready and you need a tangible sign of commitment like engagement, then you should move on.

Will you have “wasted 10 years” if you move on now? I wouldn’t look at it as a waste, but if that’s how you choose to view it, do you want to waste even more time? Eleven years? Fifteen? The choice is yours.

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