When will I be forgiven?

Congrats to film critic Wesley Morris who won a Pulitzer Prize yesterday.
(Let's not forget that he likes the movie "Wild Things.")

I have an amazing boyfriend. We've been together for well over a year and live together. I'm in my mid 20s and he's a couple of years older. Let's call him John.

When John and I met, we had an instant connection. After dating several weeks, we easily transitioned into spending almost every day together. We decided to move in together sooner than one might expect.

Living together has worked out very well overall, and I can see myself spending the rest of my life with him. However, when we were having some problems, I met another guy who I started flirting with online. Nothing physical ever happened, but I knew the brief interaction was wrong. I knew that I would end the "affair." I liked the extra attention, but I loved my boyfriend more. But -- before I ended it -- my boyfriend found out. To say it was a horrible feeling that I would probably lose my boyfriend is an understatement. I have never felt so guilty in my life (or done anything like this). I still feel incredibly guilty. He ultimately forgave me and wants to stay together.

I learned my lesson. I love him in a way that I never thought was possible. He has told me he feels the same. Based on some conversations, I think we would be engaged now if I hadn't sought attention elsewhere. We've talked through our problems, and we're much better about communicating. We both really want this to work. The major issue left is rebuilding his trust in me. Based on some questions he asks me, he still needs reassurance that I'm not going to leave him. However, we've started planning longer term again (things like vacations). I'm taking that as we're moving in the right direction.

As much as I love John, I also fear being in a relationship that goes on for years and never leads to marriage. I understand that we need time, but I'm unsure of when it's safe to say that he will never trust me/be ready for that step. I know it's not now, since it's only been a few months. However, in a couple more months we'll have to decide whether we want to renew our lease. I've specifically not raised the topic of marriage, but before we commit to another year together I also need some assurance that we're moving in the right direction. Is there a safe way to raise the topic without pushing him? I'm not looking for a proposal now, but I want to know it will happen if we stay together. I'm also wondering what's reasonable before I start pressing the issue. Is a year after my screw up okay, should I wait more, less?

Thanks for any advice!

– Unsure How to Proceed, Boston

You're not entitled to answers right now, UHTP.

If you guys decide to renew the lease, that's a big step, but you shouldn't pretend that it represents more than it does. You certainly shouldn't demand answers that your boyfriend doesn't have.

You don't have any answers either, by the way.

I mean, do you know that you want to marry him? Because I'd argue that you're still figuring it all out. Don't confuse guilt and the desire to be forgiven with the desire to commit to someone for life. I understand that you don't want to waste years living with someone who doesn't want to marry you, but you also don't want to jump into marriage for the wrong reasons. You guys are just not there yet. Not even close.

My advice is to get through another full lease before you even think about having the conversation (with him -- or yourself). Reevaluate then. And please, don't spend the whole year trying to please him so that he forgives you. Just love him and be normal. That's the best way to get answers.

Readers? Is her desire to commit being ruled by guilt? Should she sign another lease? When is she allowed to feel normal in this relationship again? Can you give her a timeline for her next move? Discuss.

– Meredith