My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. We started dating in undergrad (we're in our early 20s). He's the first person I've seriously dated. "Matt" is in grad school a couple of hours away from me, and I'm working, so our schedules have been pretty different. We see each other on weekends when schedules allow, but for the past few months his inconsistency in how he acts toward me has been concerning. Matt would be occupied with school or distracted with his clubs and fraternity whenever we spent time together. He was never fully present. This bothered me a lot, given that we only see each other every other week on average. We talked about this, and he said it was just a busy time for him and that he would do better. He started giving me more attention and love whenever we were alone together, which was great, but I started noticing that he would distance himself from me whenever we were around other people, including his friends. When we hang out with friends, he treats me like another friend and doesn't care to show any signs of affection. He even forgets to introduce me as his girlfriend to some of his new friends – he acts like I'm another friend.
When I brought this up, he said he doesn't want to make other people feel uncomfortable by being affectionate, which I think is honestly ridiculous. Matt's inconsistency is something he's very aware of, and he has repeatedly said he'll work on it, but it's been several months and nothing has changed. He said he feels like I’m putting a deadline on him to change his behavior, and he doesn't know when he'll become more consistent. I thought he was acting like this because of school and his workload, but he's off for the summer now and it persists. I'm not sure what to do. He'll be working in another country for the summer so we won't see each other for a few months. Am I overreacting? Should I wait it out and see if the behavior will change? I love him very much and enjoy his company, but his inconsistency is a huge turn off. Please help!
– Craving consistency
There's a difference between introducing someone as your girlfriend and having some big make out session with said girlfriend in front of your friends. Your boyfriend might not be comfortable with public displays of physical affection, but he should be able to call you what you are and treat you well in front of his community.
It sounds like he wants to behave like a single person. And if that's the case, he should be single. It makes sense that he wants more independence – to be able to experience his academic life without feeling tied to another person. But he can't have it both ways. If he wants a more casual partnership, he can't expect so much from you.
Perhaps you can spend the summer thinking about how it might feel to be single, and what life is like when you're not scheduling yourself around someone else. Maybe it's time to talk to him about what the new long-distance expectations should be, and whether this is a good time for a break and reassessment.
I know you love him and want to stay committed, but you also want to be with someone who's present. If that's not him, you should give yourself the space to be present for yourself.
Readers? What should her expectations be when he's with friends?