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When He's Not Ready to Settle Down

Dear Philippa,

My boyfriend and I have been so close and shared an incredible relationship. But for some reason I just don't get, he's told me he's attracted to some other woman and wants to date her. He doesn't want to stop seeing me, but he knows that wouldn't be fair. Should I wait for him to come back?

�Jasmine, Culver City, CA


Dear Jasmine,

I was watching a rerun of the old Mary Tyler Moore Show the other night. Mary plays a single woman who dates a lot. For the first time we the viewers think she has met the man of her dreams. She thinks about him day and night and misses him when they're not together. He is immensely affectionate with her in private and in public. She calls her best friend in the middle of the night and confesses that she's in love with this guy. We flash forward to where Mary arrives with flowers at his house one day unannounced. She finds him with some woman he has just met. It seems while he thinks Mary is the best thing that ever happened to him he just has this thing about wanting to date a lot of women. But maybe he can change, he says lightly. And Mary, a 1970's, not quite emancipated woman, falls into his arms and the romantic dream continues.

"Good grief Mary, he's been cheating on you," I said to myself. Or had he, I wondered? There's nothing wrong with someone wanting to date more than one person at a time if those are the mutually agreed upon ground rules. I think Mary did what many of us do when we fall for someone. We assume that this is a mutually exclusive relationship. We assume monogamy. Most of the time we don't empower ourselves. We don't establish what we want in a relationship and make sure we are with someone who wants the same things. Then we act surprised and hurt when we find out that the other person isn't playing by our rules.

It seems that most of us start dating without being clear about what our needs are. If you want an exclusive, monogamous relationship with someone then look for someone who has the same intentions. Of course, you don't know right away if you want to have an exclusive relationship with someone, which is why I recommend dating several people while you are discovering what you want. And if you are someone, who isn't looking for an exclusive relationship, be honest with yourself and the people you date. There are men and women out there who are looking for that kind of arrangement too.

We can feel hurt when we feel the ground rules of our relationship are changed without warning or agreement. But you didn't mention that you and your boyfriend had a commitment to see each other exclusively. It's hard for us romantics to accept, but some people can share loving feelings and incredible intimacy but still like variety in their love lives. I can understand how you are hurting because he doesn't want just you anymore. I don't believe your boyfriend's behavior negates the feelings he had for you. It seems like you both want different things and it's time for of you to move on with your live.

I'm speaking from a lot of personal experience with (and rivers of tears from) the same kind of experience you are going through. Someday soon you are going to meet a wonderful guy with whom you can have the kind of closeness and love you deserve. This next time, however, you will establish that you are both on the same path before you give your heart and share your soul.




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