He’s my boss

Hi Meredith,

I can't believe I am actually writing this all out but here goes. I am turning 30 in a few days. I know it shouldn't be such a big deal but it is to me. I have a great job, I am in school, and I own my own home.

I have been dating this guy for the past four years. It hasn't been a normal relationship. He is my boss -- my immediate boss. No one knows of our relationship, and to be honest, coworkers often try to set us up to sit next to each other at events. We don't give any indication of our relationship to the point that several of the guys at the office flirt shamelessly with me and they other think that my boss is gay for not making a move.

I know we can't have a relatively normal relationship unless one of us gives up our positions. We both worked really hard to get where we are and won't want the other to jeopardize that. What is an even bigger problem is that he doesn't seem to want to really commit. He is supportive of my career, being in school -- he even helped me in my house search. He is always there for me for the big things but never for the little things. His birthday is two days after mine and he is turning the big 4-0! I told him a few days ago that I had a surprise for him and would pick him up the evening of his birthday. His response was "Can I get back to you? When do you need to know if I can make it?" His response totally floored me. I mean we have been together for 4 years. It's a big birthday!

Should I understand that he doesn't expect to celebrate big events with me? Is it OK that he is there for the big things but never sweats the small stuff? I mean, am I complaining about nothing? I'm not in a rush to get married or anything. I just want to know if he is committed to us. He says he wouldn’t be around if he wasn't committed.

– Sweating the small stuff, Boston

"Can I get back to you?" doesn't fly. His response should have been something like, "I'm turning 40! What should we do?"

It sounds like he's committed to the present, STSS. He supports you with anything that maintains the status quo, which is no longer good enough. I know he's your boss, but you've been together for four years. Usually companies have some sort of paperwork that allows you to disclose a relationship without losing your jobs.

My guess is that you're both hiding behind the work thing. He's using it to keep a safe distance, and you're using it to excuse his behavior. How long can it go on like this? Another two years? Three?
It's not enough to hear that he's committed. It's time to find out when you can take a step forward and become a full-time couple. You need a real strategy, and while that may require a trip to human resources, isn't it worth it? After four years?

And for the record, turning 30 is a big deal. It's the perfect age to get feisty about what you really want.

Readers? What should she be asking him? Is the work issue a fair excuse? Is she overreacting to the 40th birthday incident? Am I wrong about taking the step to disclose this at work? Discuss.

– Meredith