Should I wait for him to mature?

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Hi Meredith,

I met my boyfriend of a year when I had just gotten out of a serious relationship. He was two years younger than me and I was just looking for some fun so I didn't let the immaturity and flaws that come with his age faze me. Eventually, however, we fell in love and suddenly letting the immaturity and irresponsibility go wasn't so easy.

He is going through a tumultuous time trying to figure out who he is. (He is only 19) These ups and downs include depression, struggling to keep up in school, lashing out at family and in the workplace due to some pent up angst, and spending time with a group of friends who smoke a lot of weed.

However, when he is with me, he is everything I could ever want in someone. He is passionate, thoughtful, reflective, and loving. Most importantly, we have a blast together.

We attended the same college but he transferred to another school to go part time because he was struggling so much with the workload here. I am actually finding that I enjoy my space from him and it worries me.

I am graduating in May and hoping to get a job in the Boston area (where he is also from). He claims that this semester he will be taking time to really organize his life and get his act together. I trust if he grows out of his immaturity and irresponsibility and this "phase" he is in, that we have what we need to make it through anything.

Is it wrong for me to hold out hope that he really will change? I know that old adage about how waiting for someone to change is a waste of time. But part of me remembers being his age and feeling restless and making similar mistakes. I am patient and independent enough to wait it out without it effecting me too much (I think...) but it's a risk and I don't think I can handle the disappointment if my waiting doesn't pay off.

What do you think?

– Robbing the Cradle, Boston

Of course he's going to change, RTC. He's going to change like 17 more times in the next three years.

Fundamentally he'll be the same person, but you met him when he was 18. He was barely out of high school. He has so much growing to do. And really, so do you. The age gap between 18 and 20 probably felt huge, and it sort of is, but that doesn't mean that you're a finished person at 21. You're still figuring out what you want to be, how you want to live, and what life choices feel comfortable.

My question for you: What exactly are you waiting for? You mention being patient and waiting this phase out, but what happens when it's over? If he becomes a more stable guy, do you want to run off and get married? At 19 and 21? What's the goal here?

My advice is to become a selfish 21-year-old. Make decisions based on what feels good to you -- because you're supposed to be doing the self-exploration, not waiting on someone else.

If being with him feels right for now, you can stay together. But if you find that you continue to enjoy your space, then you have to be on your own. Because it's what you want. Focusing on your own needs is one of the best and most important parts of being 21. The right partner won't get in the way of that.

Readers? What is she waiting for? Should they stay together? Do you remember the age gap between 19 and 21? People sometimes meet in their teens and early 20s and stay together forever. Is there potential for that here? Discuss.

– Meredith