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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Need advice STAT: My boyfriend wants time to find a reason to commit...WTF?

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Author Topic: Need advice STAT: My boyfriend wants time to find a reason to commit...WTF?
jazzberry
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Hello, fellow Scarleteens. I'm a new poster and otherwise lurker here, but I'm looking to get more involved.

That's not my story.

My story stretches back almost a year ago when I made friends with a guy in one of my classes. We kept in touch after the semester ended, and the next semester, we grew even closer as "friends", shifting into a mutually exclusive relationship for the past 5 months. He was the first to say "I love you", and after a few weeks to think it over, I said it back--not from pressure, but because I felt the same way. We cared about each other, were supportive of each other, and all the other

Then he left for 6 weeks on a work-study program, and we kept in touch, but now that he's returned, things are strange between us.

He had gone off with a clear vision of everything in his life--his studies, his career path, and his relationship. Now his dreams of for work have been dashed, and he told me that now he needs to rethink everything and find a reason to continue whatever path he takes. Unfortunately, "everything" includes our relationship.

He doesn't want to break up, but he doesn't feel the same way as he did before leaving for the program. He wants some time to find a "meaning" or "reason" for him to make a commitment to the relationship, where he wouldn't feel pressured into staying or want to bolt. He felt ready and willing to commit before he left, hell, even during the training on the program. It was when he got out to working and realized "this isn't for me" that he grew distant.

We're both somewhat socially awkward, but while I want to push myself to be more of a social butterfly, he insists that he is a loner at heart. Yet he told me in a letter during his work-study program that he felt he couldn't connect with anyone there. When I pointed out that he was contradicting himself, he wasn't too pleased, but even he knows that he has to get out there and be with people.

So right now we're still at least friends, if not in a tenuous friendship. He suggested starting the romantic relationship over completely, but I have my doubts about that--it sounds like a cop-out to me.

Clearly he's immature if he can't handle "everything", much less grow up and relate to people, but he doesn't need to shut off and away in order to recalculate his life. I know that 5 months may be considered too little for a "real" relationship, but I want to be optimistic about this. I don't want to break up with him, but I'm really confused by his indecisiveness.

Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated. (NOTE: I'm not looking to "fix" him or the relationship; he needs to fix his own damn self and the relationship needs to be a two-way street.)

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SilverLining
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Hi there Jazzberry and welcome to Scarleteen! Glad to hear you want to become active and involved in the community. [Smile] Looking forward to seeing your posts and thoughts.

Well, what it sounds like to me that he either wants more space or something alone those lines. However have you asked him what's the cause of all this? Did something happen while he's away other than realizing he wants to change career.

I, only being 15, am not too sure about the career and such decisions but I do understand that realizing your not 100% about a career you were going into and second guessing it. Trying to figure out my own life plan to be able to support the family I'll someday have is an annoyance. But I'm not sure how that connects to wanting to start over and reanalyze your relationship.

Have you tried asking him about it? How much have you talked to him about this and have you told him your opinion on it? (IE: Telling him that you don't mind him rethinking other things but you do want to continue the relationship with him.)

Again, I would like to welcome you to Scarleteen. [Smile]

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SilverLining 2012

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jazzberry
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Hi SilverLining,

I asked him about what caused his need for more space, and so far what he's told me is that he needs to reconsider everything because things didn't work out when he was away/his long-term life plans have been destroyed. I've told him my opinion on it--that he can still figure out where to redirect his life *with* me in the picture, and that I'm there for him as a friend or a girlfriend.

The more I'd want to talk, the more restless and uncomfortable he'd get, because it seems that he's fallen out of love with me--or at least doesn't feel the passion of the "honeymoon phase". We used to say "I love you" on a regular basis; he hasn't said it in almost a month, which was around the "halfway mark" during his program away. He doesn't like drama or conflict in his life, and as the self-styled loner, often tries to solve his problems by running away or shutting down. Right now, I'm keeping my distance as much for my sake as well as for his.

Ironically, when I met up with him to talk things over, he was freshly shaved, wearing cologne, and put on a shirt I was especially fond of on him--all the grooming he normally did when we were in a solid/stable relationship. When we were "just friends" he was never as careful with his appearance...I am so damn confused by his confusion!

[ 08-08-2011, 06:22 PM: Message edited by: jazzberry ]

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SilverLining
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Okay. Well, the next thing I would have suggested to give him some space. Maybe it is maybe just that they honeymoon phase might be over for him. I see that no way that you shouldn't act kindly and as his girlfriend however, afterall, you still are right? He might be reconsidering whatever he wants because something didn't go the way he wanted. You still care for him don't you? However a loner he may be, you are still with him and you should be there to support him if you both do end up talking, just letting him know that you are there for him if he does need someone to talk to.

What are more your feelings on this whole situation?

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SilverLining 2012

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jazzberry
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Right now all I'm feeling is that he needs to sort his feelings out and not string me along in the process. He is completely confused with what to do with his life in general, and doesn't want to reach out to *anybody* for guidance or support.

If he really does love me and wants to be with me, that's fine, but he needs to grow up a little. If not...then I can honestly say he's got a lot more growing up to do than I initially thought.

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SilverLining
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Well it honestly sounds like you know what you want to do [Smile] please do feel free to post anything else you want to talk about. It sounds good to let him sort out his feelings though, although if he does try opening up to you and asking for your opinion or such I suspect you'll talk it out with him cause although you think he needs to grow up a bit, I'm sure you care about him.

I hope you both the best and I hope he figures out what he wants.

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SilverLining 2012

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jazzberry
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I hope he figures out what he wants too--but knowing him, he won't want to talk for a while. So in the meantime and otherwise, I'm just doing what I always do: live.

I will admit that if anyone can give me some answers as to his behaviour, I'd greatly appreciate it. Guys? Girls? Genderqueer folks? I'd love to hear from some other people and get their opinions as well.

[ 08-08-2011, 07:11 PM: Message edited by: jazzberry ]

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SilverLining
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Well, you've already heard my thoughts. I believe it might just be stress. Finding out the career you were planning to go into isn't what you want anymore and now having to rethink your decisions is undoubtedly stressful. I mean, I'm just in high school, one to two years left: choosing what you want to do when your unsure is very time consuming and tiring no doubt.

The thing I don't understand though, even with that happening: why reconsider your relationship? And that's the point that is currently escaping me. I think this is mostly because if I try putting myself in his shoes, from the information provided, I'd want my girlfriend to stay in my life so I have someone there for me and someone to trust when I'm unsure. However that's me and I'm sure he has his reasons too.

Sorry if I couldnt manage to offer you anymore comfort with the situation. Once again: I hope you both all the best and that everything will be sorted out. [Smile]

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SilverLining 2012

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jazzberry
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Well, I've had a night to sleep on it, and now I'm having dreams scaring me about him. I promised myself I wouldn't get so emotional about this, but I can't help the fact that I do--or did--love him and am worried for his sake.

I dreamed that he had some blog/tumblr-type account and had written an entry saying "Just told girlfriend of 3 weeks that I need some space. Hope she doesn't hate me." Under it he posted a comment "I meant 3 MONTHS, not 3 weeks. Whoops." A friend had written a response saying "Nice break-up, bro!", to which he wrote "That's not what I said..." The dream suddenly fast-forwards to 3 weeks later, where I find out he's met someone new at a party that "a friend made him go to" but hadn't technically broken things off with me or told me he wanted that.

I don't want any dream analysis; I can do that for myself quite well. I know it's displaying my fears that this is his cowardly code for a break-up, that he now thinks he didn't care at all, and that he will go out, meet someone else, and fall for them without removing me from the picture for good. At least I know he doesn't keep any blogs or tumblr-type accounts, just email and instant messaging. I'm relieved to see that we're still "friends" online--he hasn't deleted me from that, though he probably won't message me.

What still bothers me from when I saw him yesterday and learned of all this is twofold:
1) He's said that now that the medical work didn't work out, he wants to enlist in the military. My worry is based on several friends' experience in the military: they said you don't have to think about what to do with anything there because they give you orders and you have to blindly follow them. It bothers me that subconsciously he feels that he needs to be ordered around to give his life a purpose, rather than think things through clearly.
2) When he said he couldn't really make it work right now, he stated it as "I can't do the whole 'courtship' thing." I don't want to be "courted" or "romanced" or "wined and dined"--I want someone I can hang out with where we care about each other and want each other to be happy and succeed. Our pre-existing relationship was like that.

I said I'd give him his space, but there's a part of me that wants to reach out, or speak to a mutual friend who might be able to help him if he doesn't want to hear from me. (He avoids talking to his parents about anything, so I'm guessing a non-relative could best help him out.) I know it's not a good idea, but if nobody offers him or forces him to take some guidance and make his own decisions, he's heading down a path of self-destruction and I don't want to be heartbroken on the sidelines.

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Heather
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jazzberry: I'm sorry you're in this kind of spot. It sounds like, though, you've been putting a lot of energy into trying to be very thoughtful about it and your partner's feelings while still keeping a good hold on what you want and need for yourself. That's awesome.

The place where I'm feeling a bit lost -- you might be, too -- is in getting a sense of what he really wants right now and how he's feeling. I'm getting the impression that he's saying he's lost a certain degree of his romantic feelings and that he doesn't really want the relationship that you do (and may not even understand what it is you want in the first place). And yet, it also sounds like he's not wanting to let this go, either.

Can you perhaps try and give me a better sense of those things and what you think about them?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SilverLining
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I'm sorry I didn't have the time to reply earlier because my internet wasn't working, it's finally working now.

I'm sorry to hear all this. [Frown] it seems like you have a good grasp and understanding on the whole dream thing, just don't let it upset you or anything okay? You don't need anything extra to think about when theres already so much.

Did he say that he wants to be bosses around? You taking this from other friends experience and I'm thinking that maybe that isn't wise and that maybe they might give you the wrong impression: maybe he has his own reasons for wanting to be in the military. I know that some people do go into medical fields because they want to help people, maybe he feels that he could help by being in the military? I don't think it might be wise by taking an assumption of why he wants to go into the military or not. Have you asked him his reasons or why he wants enlist?

Honestly; reading over your second point, it sort of bothers me because it sort of sounds what he's saying is that he might just want "Friends" but Its confusing and unclear. It sounds like you said before: he needs to make up his mind and figure out what he wants. And I understand your worry and that you might be scared from the dreams or thoughts of what might happen but I suggest take it as it comes along rather than trying to look ahead and over worry yourself.

I understand your worried and you want to intervene before both of you get hurt in this but I think there's a lack of know on his motive...as to why he wants to do this and what he wants in general for that matter.

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SilverLining 2012

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jazzberry
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Heather, I've been a longtime fan of your work. Sincere flattery aside...

What do I want from this relationship? I wouldn't say I have "high" or "low" standards, but "reasonable" standards. My standards for a relationship of any kind--friend, partner, lover, etc--are based on mutual trust, respect, and care. Both people should care about each other, want each other to be happy, and encourage each other to succeed without losing themselves in the relationship.

In giving him his space, I can't exactly communicate that right now--that my view of a romantic relationship is similar to a close friendship, but bridging the gap between friends and family. I don't know what his ideas are on a romantic relationship, but from what I can see, he seems to think it's something more "dramatic".

I know he's confused about the relationship--from what I can tell, he doesn't know what he wants or where he sees it going, but he doesn't (want to) see it as a dead-end situation. It's not much, but at least it's not a break-up thus far. I sincerely hope that he does get back in contact with me, rather than hide away and leave it at that.

SilverLining, the military thing is half-baked from what I know--he went to a military summer camp and found it wasn't for him. I'm thinking it's just a loose idea rattling around in his head, but he's stubborn enough to go through with it.

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Heather
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Aw, thanks!

So, the space that you're giving him, do you two have any agreements about it, like a time period for it, then a day/time when you're going to regroup and talk about all of this, including finding out what he thinks he wants?

If not, might you be able to communicate with him to arrange that? It just seems like trying to figure any of this out right now is going to be awfully difficult without that kind of a talk where you find things out like what he thinks you want (then you clarify what it really is) and what he wants, and if those are things you want with each other or not now.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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jazzberry
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The space is undefined, unfortunately. I feel reaching out to talk to him now is not such a good idea--just approaching the subject makes him uncomfortable and looking for the nearest conversational "exit". (There's also the factor of im/maturity at work here, but that's already been alluded to.) I doubt much will change if I keep "chasing after him" like a harebrained character from a 1950s romantic comedy. (No offence intended to those comedies, but I have issues with sexist humour.)

I feel giving him at least a week or two without contact should help him. If it doesn't let him figure things out, at least he'll be able to get some space to think things over and calm down before I reach out to him. I doubt he'll make the first move; his natural defence in conflict is to retreat, and he sees this as some kind of conflict if it creates tension between us. (It counts as dramatic conflict, but life is off the page.)

So far all I know about what he wants is that he wants time to figure out whether he can "make a commitment" to the relationship without having doubts about staying. His last relationship lasted months past its "due date" because despite not seeing a future for the relationship, he stayed for her and made things much worse in the process. From the start, we've worked to be open in our communication with each other, and neither of us wants that to happen here. Taking that into consideration, it sounds like deep down, he wants to continue, but the absence and change of life plans have made his heart go...running out the door for dear life.

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Heather
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Okay. So, what it sounds like to me is that, for now, you're just going to have to kind of live in limbo if you feel like even arranging a time period or a day to regroup and talk isn't sound or what is best.

I know that seriously blows, but if that's where you're at, then I think trying to figure out anything about him right now is just going to be a waste of your energy.

But. In the meantime, is there anything you think you might be able to clarify about yourself, about what you want in and from this particular relationship, and that you can bring to the table when you do talk so that you can give him a very clear picture of what you are asking him for? How about also coming up with some hard limits, so that in making decisions about the relationship together, he has some very clear things he can look at to better decide if this is right for him or not?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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jazzberry
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I can't say "I don't want anything" or "I want things to be like what they were", because neither answer clearly explains what I'm looking for. What I want from him in the relationship or from any relationship is mutuality and equality. I want both of us to feel comfortable around each other, respect each other, and trust each other as friends, partners, lovers, etc. I don't want to be put up on a pedestal or to put someone else up on a pedestal, but to be treated as an equal human being whose thoughts and feelings are taken into consideration and given as much respect as their own.

I have some limits with speech--I'm a stickler for politically-correct language, but that's never been an issue. I insist on mutual consent in physical and emotional intimacy; what I won't stand for is having consent or the lack thereof overruled. I also insist on honesty and open communication--that's my main cornerstone for any successful relationship, both to understand each other and to build trust so any future roadblocks can be discussed and maturely figured out.

In the meantime, I've thought of a few questions for him (and for myself) to discuss when we do meet again--when the hurly-burly's done, as some would say...

What are your standards/ideals for love or a romantic relationship?

How important is sex to you in a relationship?

The second question is because we had been each other's "first" relationship pushing physical boundaries. Nothing was done without mutual consent and discussion beforehand, and we made sure to be prepared and keep things safe. What I'm beginning to think is that he was more emotionally affected by sex than I was--I don't perceive sex as an emotional be-all-and-end-all in a "long-term" or "true love" relationship, but as a "bonus feature" to enhance a romantic relationship. It's not the "main feature" (communication and companionship), but it's a fun bonus, and if done well, it can enhance the main items.

I can't think of other "hard limits" so far, and I might want some clarification as to what that means. So far, my limits and wants are basic: I don't want or need to be valued like prized porcelain, but to be seen and appreciated as myself, in aspects good and bad.

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SilverLining
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Jazz, have you talked to him and told him this? Told him that you just wrote here? It seems like you both need to just sit down with each other and just talk about whats on your mind and what BOTH of you want in and from this relationship. Locked in a room kind of thing you know? But since you think he wants his time a space, maybe a cooldown period is what he needs? If he gets edgy or wants to change the subject once you both do talk however, I feel you just might want to tell him to sit down (or stand, or whatever) and talk about it because running away from a situation because your nervous about the outcome, is not going to help either of you in the relationship.

I think its very good that you want the relationship to be strong communication wise and I feel the same way about that. You both should feel that you can always talk to each other no matter what the situation, even in this one. But if he's requesting time to think, I also think breathing room should be given to process his own thoughts as to what he wants. I do think however you should tell him what you want like you did here with us if you haven't already.

From what you've told us; it mostly seems he's unsure about the commitment, maybe because of his past experience when he wasn't sure about it.

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SilverLining 2012

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jazzberry
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I know that when we finally meet to talk, I'm going to talk these things over with him. It may be difficult for him to take in all at once, but it'll be good for us both, whether or not the relationship goes on.

I'm especially curious about his views on love now because of something he said about his ex during that last talk. When the relationship was solid, he said he'd cared about her, but never that he loved her. This time, he explained that he only went out with her because mutual friends kept on setting them up, but said there were a few moments where he did feel he loved her, and he told her that. When I pointed out that he'd possibly lied to me about it before or that he may not have been sure he knew what he felt for her, he tried to explain that "after you're with someone for a while, you start to feel something".

If he hadn't wanted to be with her in the first place and mostly wanted to bolt during the relationship, the few moments sound more like a mild version of Stockholm syndrome to me than genuine affection, from my perspective.

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SilverLining
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Yeah, it sounds like you both just need to talk things out, however difficult it may be for either of you. Running away from the situation wont make it go away: just prolong it. But to make it easier, maybe go through things slowly enough and not rush through things if you know what I mean? There's A LOT to talk about so you don't want to just bring everything up at once and have him overwhelmed or anything like that. You want a gradual talk and both you and him giving your ideas and responses. Not just one of you explaining things to each other and not taking the others opinion into account. I've seen and heard that too many times and it doesn't make sense if your not actually LISTENING to each other.

I hope all goes well and all of your questions do get answered when you both talk. Do you know when you both are going to talk next?

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SilverLining 2012

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Heather
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I think all the things you've made a note of talking about sound very important, and sage to talk about.

quote:
I can't think of other "hard limits" so far, and I might want some clarification as to what that means. So far, my limits and wants are basic: I don't want or need to be valued like prized porcelain, but to be seen and appreciated as myself, in aspects good and bad.
Well, for example, one thing I think I'm hearing you say is that you want him to commit to this as a romantic relationship. If I have that right, what does that mean? What are you asking him to commit, to? Some kind of exclusivity, for instance, and if so, what kind and to what degree? Some kind of time that's dedicated, in a day or a week or a month to this relationship? Something about future plans or goals?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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jazzberry
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Nothing has been set up about a talk still--the date of my first post to this topic was when all of this (the initial situation plus the details) initially happened, and we haven't been in any contact since. I want to give the two of us at least a week's time apart, maybe 10 days, maybe 2 weeks.

It's not just for the sake of giving him time to think--people (my mom especially) keep telling me "don't chase after him, let him come to you", so my wanting to discuss things further is also compounded with others' insistence that if I keep on after him, it'll make him stay away for good.

Right now, I'm venting after feeling like I went into the relationship maturely and was met instead with someone who couldn't stand the pressure.

What I want from a commitment as a romantic relationship would be...at least 5 hours of contact in a week. Divided up, it averages about 43 minutes a day. That can still go to as little as half an hour or extend to a full hour, depending on how much time we each have available. (I'm a theatre student, and much of my time is taken up by rehearsals and crew work along with "studying" plays and scenes.) The minimum time is also the variable amount of time that could be used to work out or to watch a TV show or two. In theory, if someone has the time to work out or watch a bit of television, they have the time for a relationship.

The time can be spent together in person, talking on the phone, or chatting online if time and space constraints prevent a physical meeting. That time should be spent in direct and open communication--not intense matters, it can be for each person to tell the other about their day and share their experiences with each other in conversation, not in the sense of an emotionally distant travel postcard. As long as there is some time spent in earnest connection, I'm content. In the event that someone isn't feeling so well physically or emotionally, or there is some kind of emergency preventing contact, I would want to be told or to tell them "I'm not feeling it/able to talk right now; can we talk another time?" rather than be ignored and get huffy if one is pushed away when reaching out to the other.

Assuming that each person has said "I love you" to the other and sincerely meant it, a romantic relationship should be affectionate. Not big-ticket gifts or possessiveness, but gestures like holding hands, hugging, an unexpected peck on the cheek or lips, and if one person says "I love you" to the other, it should be reciprocated ("I love you too"), not just responded with "you know how I feel already".

For sex in the relationship, both partners should discuss it first, mutually consent, and make sure precautions are put in place by getting contraception and tested for STIs.

As for long-term plans, what I want is an open environment so if any changes occur in each person's life, good or bad, they can go to their partner and discuss how to work things out to live their lives to the fullest and still factor each other into them.

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jazzberry
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Okay, perhaps I lied to myself. I said I'd give it at least 10 days to 2 full weeks before calling him, but I want to call him up this weekend (a week after) and set up some kind of meeting to talk things over next week before the semester starts, so I wouldn't be bogged down by rehearsals yet and have no time to sort things out. I would feel uncomfortable about running into him on campus if we didn't talk things over. He'd be inclined to run in the opposite direction if the situation isn't figured out.

What would be a good way to say over the phone that I want to find out what we each want from a relationship (regardless of whether or not we break up), without scaring him away from talking about it at all?

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