On the fence about the boyfriend

It's chat day.

Hi Meredith,

I've been dating "Josh" for 4.5 years. We've been friends since we were kids and are both 25. We've lived together for the last year and a half. I love spending time with him and he genuinely feels like home to me. We've been through so much together (major family issues on his part and health issues for us both) and things have finally settled down.

Over the past few months, I've had a serious pang of insecurity about getting married. I brought this up to him at different times, but he didn't take it seriously and just said he's not planning to propose for a while. I don't see the point of dating seriously if marriage isn't on the horizon. This pang of insecurity started lingering before now (maybe a year?) but I just attributed it to being too young to get married. Now that I am officially at an age where I thought it would be appropriate to count down the months on ring-watch, it's become more serious.

The unsureness stems from many questions. Has he really dealt with his family issues? (My recommendation to see a therapist went ignored for months. He finally started going.) Are we just best friends who like to cuddle? Why am I the only person he confides in and relies on? Will we run out of things to talk about? Will we argue over money for the rest of our lives since we already seem to? Is there a better fit for me out there? Would I be more excited to be with someone else? Is he holding me back? Is this just comfortable? Are we growing together or apart?

I just got back from a big work trip where we spent much of our time arguing via text, and being away seemed to give me clarity about my feelings. I felt like it was now or never to break things off. Do it now, rather than in a year or in two when there is more at stake. I am scared to live my life with regrets.

However, when I got home and spoke to him about it, I felt sick and unsure (there's that word again). He is heartbroken. I feel heartbroken, too. He doesn't want to live life without me and has, in turn, made me question what I'm doing. So much of our time together has been good. I'm so confused. Is it guilt that I'm hurting him or do I actually want to stay together? Am I afraid of being alone? Can the unsureness go away if we're living under the same roof? Why is this so hard if it's what I supposedly know I want? I started seeing a therapist too, but sometimes it doesn’t help fast enough.

We share an apartment and don't have family we can easily drive to or stay with. It doesn't seem feasible for one of us to live somewhere else for a bit while we work this out. I've tried staying with friends, but being a nomad makes me feel even crazier.

Thoughts on how to handle this? Is there some option I'm not considering? I feel terrible that his life is upside down while I try to sort this out.

– Unsure, San Francisco

I get a lot of letters from people who doubt their great relationships because they coupled off when they were young. They say things like, "Everything is amazing, but what if there's something else?" They ask, "If I break this off to experience life on my own, will I have regrets?"

It's always tough for me to give these people a concrete answer because I can't guarantee that they'll find a better partner. Many of these letter writers are truly happy in their current relationships and are just victims of bad timing.

But in your case ... well ... you're just not that happy. You guys argue about money. You feel isolated in the relationship. You suspect that you're just cuddling with a best friend.

Pangs of insecurity are normal, but your third paragraph suggests that this pang is more of a dull ache, one that's been tormenting you for more than a year. If that ache is ongoing, you need to put everyone out of their misery and move on by yourself.

Talk to your therapist about next steps and how to cope with big, life-changing decisions. Because I think you're about to make one.

Readers? Any reason for her to stay? Is there any way for her to feel confident about this kind of breakup? If they just take marriage off the table, will things get better? Should she wait to make decisions until they've both had more therapy? Help.

– Meredith