How much should I listen to my friends? I'm in my late 30s and I've been dating a guy for almost four years. We don't live together, but we spend every weekend together. I love him and feel that he loves me, though he's never been able to say the words. He shows it through his kind acts, from making dinner to supporting me at events. He's said he doesn't want kids or marriage, and although I thought I wanted both of those things, I'm happy to let go of them in exchange for this relationship, which feels comfortable.
Despite the fact that he's not that great about giving complements, is pretty set in his ways, often has a double standard (i.e., expects me to hop to and be ready when he's ready to go somewhere, but if he's not ready when I am, he thinks it's not a big deal), he is also supportive of the things that are important to me, encouraging, hilarious, and sweet, thoughtful, and protective. I enjoy being with him and hanging out with him.
Recently we went on a trip, and when I got back I found out that the friend we visited had spoken to another friend of mine who then expressed concerns about this relationship. She thinks I can do better and has been rooting for me to end the relationship. My boyfriend is definitely quirky and not for everyone, but I was sad to hear that our mutual friend also was a bit worried. I do wish more of my friends liked him, asked after him, or included him in invitations. They have problems with his specific quirks – he's pretty private and reserved. I have to admit that I've googled gaslighting and emotional manipulation (red flags my friends have raised) to see if they ring true on my end or his, but they don't. Here's the question I struggle with: If I'm OK with a sort of traditional man taking the lead on all things, not getting married, not
having kids, not living together ... is it wrong?
It's not wrong if you're happy. If this is the life you want and you're getting what you need from this partnership, that's great. You don't have to check a bunch of boxes (marriage, children, etc.) to live a fulfilling life.
But (you knew the "but" was coming) if you find yourself making concessions and excuses all the time, that's not good. You didn't say much about compromise and understanding.
You should know that your friends don't have to love your boyfriend. It's nice when everyone gets along and hangs out like you're on a sit-com, but it doesn’t have to be that way and often isn't. People get busy as they get older, especially when kids come into the picture. I very much appreciate the partners who stay at home and watch the kids so I can see my friends on a random weeknight.
Friends can be a mirror, though, so you might want to ask yours why they're worried. When the one friend says your boyfriend is gaslighting you, what's her example? Also, what leads her to believe that you're unhappy? Ask her if this is about what you show her, or if it's more about what she wants for your life and expected you to do with it. These conversations are uncomfortable, but it sounds like you need to know more.
Readers? Is the friend picking up on real problems?