I’m 31, and in a four-year relationship, which has hit a dead end. I spend most of my time at my boyfriend’s place, and my pets and stuff are here, but I still pay rent and utilities for an empty apartment. The boyfriend refuses to let me move in with him “officially” and give up my old place. Do I pack my stuff and wait until he changes his mind? Or is this relationship a lost cause, since he can’t make a commitment after four years? —Katie
If by commitment you mean marriage, you might be right to bail…. Or you might not. In 1981 (like, when you and I were born), only four per cent of women in Canada lived with a man-friend; in 2006, when you and me and everyone we know were living in short-term, post-university IKEA-and-gig-poster-themed sex-nests, 16 per cent of women cohabited. But, what the data around relationships means is generally too slice-and-dicey to be significant in an individual way, and is always super-contingent on factors of location, age, education, income, race, kids or no kids, engaged or not engaged, and related quasi-factors like how things are done in your community of family and friends.
It’s certain, though, that more people live together before marriage, more people don’t get married at all, and more people get married later.
If, however, by commitment you don’t mean marriage, but caring enough about your partner to not treat them like the garbagiest garbage, then, yeah, your boyfriend does not seem all that committed, except to himself and his aggressively selfish and illogical shittyness. I’m not kidding, either; making you assume real financial responsibility so he can maintain this emotionally greedy freedom-mirage is unambiguous and next-level Bad Boyfriend behaviour.
So probably the real question is why you would want to be committed to him? Rarely is a zero-sum ultimatum anything other than a dirt-nasty trick, but in your case it’s the only reasonable solution: You’re giving notice on the commitment-buffer that is your empty apartment and moving in for real, or he’s out of your life.
My best friend since grade nine has a lot of problems in his life right now, ranging from his work to his family back home. I want to help him, but more often than not he chooses not to hang out or talk when I offer, and just stays home and orders pizza. —Alec
That’s sweet as pumpkin pie (almost seasonally topical!), to care about your friend bumming out at home with some of those gnarly stuffed crusts. I like you, Fake-Name Alec.
It sounds like your pal is “isolating,” which is a real thing for people who are enduring or have endured some kind of personal trauma, especially trauma that they are embarrassed about, or don’t want or know how to share (even considering the Best Friend Imperative that makes you his go-to). Or they’re still in the process of holding whatever it is close and still and then shaking it all up, like a feelings–snow globe (seasonally topical!), which can take a while with more complicated, less solvable problems.
As an isolator, I can tell you the only thing you can do to help your pal is to act like a kindly ghost, totally undemanding but totally available, like somebody’s first girlfriend, perennially ready with a few hours and a secret park-bench flask. Be the Pema Chödrön of buddies for him, and lean on your other bros for whatever you need right now. Maybe don’t call him, but text and email quick blasts of presence and support all the time; say that you’re around if and when he needs you, in whatever social or personal capacity, to talk or not talk. Don’t put any of your friendship-frustration on him—at least not right now. This all sounds punishing and radically one-sided, because it is, but being all about him for a while is your best-friend long-game.
Have a question for Kate? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.