Should I break up with my boyfriend?

Philip Galanes, The New York Times

Posted at Nov 29 2019 09:04 AM | Updated as of Nov 29 2019 10:54 AM


Q: My boyfriend of four years is everything I want in a man — intelligent, kind and adventurous — and I would really like to get married. We’ve discussed it several times. He’s made it clear that he loves me, but is not interested in thinking about the future because the concept of his mortality terrifies him. While I am happy in our daily life, I have made sacrifices to keep us together (two cross-country moves for his career), but he has not shown a similar long-term commitment to me. Should I walk away from a man I love because he can’t commit, or should I stay and enjoy my happiness? — KIM

A: Well, you got my attention! Can your boyfriend pinpoint how far into the future he’s able to think before his dread of death kicks in? Are we talking about the useful life of a new sofa or a quart of milk? Most of us fear our mortality, but few have the nerve to use it as a convenient excuse. He seems able to plan his career well enough.

You deserve to feel secure in your primary relationship (probably the way your boyfriend felt when you moved across the country with him — twice). I’m skeptical of marriage as the only proxy for commitment, though. About half of marriages end in divorce, and those that do last only about seven years.

So, unless you’re dead set on wedding bells (and you’re entitled to be), are there other ways your boyfriend can help you feel safe in your relationship? Maybe having a bigger say in important decisions, or grappling with his fear of death together? Just don’t let him use pop psychology to skirt a tough conversation.


Q: I am a freshman in high school. Since the school year started, I’ve been taking the subway with a friend from middle school. He just created an Instagram account, and he’s obsessed with it. Before, it was fun to talk. Now, his eyes are glued to his phone the whole time, even when we’re in the middle of a conversation. I would much rather listen to music on my headphones, but I don’t know how to tell him I don’t want to commute with him anymore. Advice? — ANONYMOUS

A: I’m glad you’re thinking about your phone-life balance and about sharing your feelings with your friend. (How else will he know?)

Say: “Now that you’re on Instagram, our commutes aren’t as fun for me as when we just talked. Do you have to scroll the whole time? If that’s what you want, I’d rather listen to music and commute on my own. Do you think we can compromise?” You may not persuade him, but it’s worth a try.


Q: I was clearing out my storage room, and I came across cards that I saved from my wedding 19 years ago. Among them was one from my brother. When I opened it, I was surprised to find his wedding gift: a check for $500 that I never deposited. I admit it was my fault not to cash it, but it surprised me that he never mentioned the check wasn’t cashed. When I sent him a photo of the card and check, he said, “Boy, that was a generous gift!” I don’t expect him to replace it, but does a person have an obligation to offer? — FRAN

A: So, you’re just shopping for grievances in general, Fran? You admit it was your fault for not cashing the check (true!), and you claim you don’t expect a replacement check (another wise call). Still, you ask if your brother shirked his duty. He did not.

He gave you a generous check nearly two decades ago, which he had every expectation of you depositing. It was simply an accident that you didn’t. He is not your bookkeeper, and his statement suggests he had no idea you hadn’t cashed the check. My question for you: Do you plan on writing him a thank-you note 20 years later?


Q: Our neighbor called, asking us to dinner next week. We didn’t have plans, so I said yes. She told me her husband was going to make his famous lasagna. The problem: I hate cheese. (A pizza order at our house is one-half light cheese for me, and one-half regular for my wife.) Do I feign illness or push the food around on my plate? — BRUCE

A: When I’m invited to dinner, mindful of all the shopping and chopping, cooking and cleaning involved, I’m usually pretty grateful. I don’t have food allergies, so if I discover that my hosts are serving something I’m not wild about, I keep mum. (It’s only one meal!) I suggest you do the same.

Eat a snack before you head over and take an extra helping of salad or garlic bread at your neighbors’ place. You manage to choke down pizzas with cheese, so you’ll survive the lasagna. (You’re not allergic to it anyway — which would change my answer.) Home-cooked meals are gestures of friendship as much as food. Focus on that, not the menu, OK?

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