Does A Relationship With A Bad Beginning Mean There's No Potential?

I’ve been dating a wonderful man for the past two years. We were friends first so during the initial courtship I was reluctant to jump in. He was sweet, patient and persistent and I became confident there was potential.

However, after sleeping with me the first time he was distant, avoided sex, stared at other women, put me down, etc. I tried to break up many times but each time I raised an issue he fixed it. I was so confused by his behavior until I found out I’m his first serious relationship. Although he’s dated plenty, he has a history of losing interest early on and it sounds like he’s hurt a lot of people in the past. (Backstory: although extremely handsome now he was definitely an ugly duckling for most of his life and as a result is not exactly experienced.) Once we started talking about his insecurities and I made it clear that I wouldn’t leave, things got much better.

Now I am in the most loving, caring, supportive relationship I’ve ever had. He is smart, handsome, incredibly kind, earnest, affectionate, loves me to pieces, is devoted to his family, etc. I feel lucky!

I’m in the middle of job hunting and received some great offers on the other side of the country, which I’ve turned down. Some days I’m confident in my choice and other days I think I’m crazy for basing life decisions around someone who mistreated me. He’s said that he’s 100% committed but he’s also said that he doesn’t know where this is going (which is how I feel). I have a lot of left over insecurities from the beginning of our relationship and they’re beginning to bubble up. Whenever he does a small thing I blow it out of proportion. I know I need to stop but I wonder if I will ever able to forget our horrible beginning.

Does a bad beginning mean that we have no potential? How do I figure out if we’re compatible long term without having a “where are we going” conversation and placing undue pressure on him/us? If he doesn’t “know” after two years does it mean he never will?

Eve

So many questions, so few obvious answers. In order:

Does a bad beginning mean that we have no potential?

No, because that would be a binary choice and I don’t believe in binary choices. The fact that he would mistreat you at all seems to be a character issue, and that is absolutely a huge red flag to me. At the same time, if he’s been Mr. Perfect ever since that rocky first month, I don’t see how you can give greater weight to his previous behavior than his more recent behavior. So, no, I wouldn’t say you have no potential. I would say that the kind of person who is distant, puts you down, avoids sex and breaks hearts is a high-risk partner – the kind who may not have the capacity to make ANY woman happy.

The kind of person who is distant, puts you down, avoids sex and breaks hearts is a high-risk partner and may not have the capacity to make ANY woman happy.

How do I figure out if we’re compatible long term without having a “where are we going” conversation and placing undue pressure on him/us?

You never mentioned your age. It makes a difference if you’re 25, 35, or 55, you know?

You never mentioned what you do. It makes a difference if you have to be in a specific city to do your job or if you can do it anywhere.

You never mention where you want to live. It makes a difference culturally and financially where you choose to plant roots.

You never mention whether you want to have kids. It makes a difference in how much time you have to invest on a risky relationship.

Those are questions for you to answer. But I would suggest that two years in, you may or may not be positive that you are meant to be married, but you should be sure of one thing:

Your life goals and your boyfriend’s life goals are one and the same.

In other words, you should know him well enough, and have strong enough communication to know if he ultimately wants to get married, have kids, whether he’s ambitious, and where he wants to live. If you don’t know the answers to these – or have swept them under the rug to avoid making waves – it’s about time to have that conversation.

I’m a huge advocate of telling women to practice patience and giving men enough time to choose you, by their own volition, without exhibiting insecurity and pressure.

But two years in, you deserve some answers. You don’t have to sit him down and say, “So are we getting married?” You DO have to sit him down to find out if he wants to get married, what he thinks about your job opportunities, and whether he is willing to step things up.

By the way, it’s worth it to mention: just because he wants to marry you does not mean that you should want to marry him.

Ultimately, marriage is a choice, not a feeling.

The best relationships are based on a feeling of safety. And if you have a man around whom you don’t feel safe, you will be walking on eggshells for the rest of your life.

If he doesn’t “know” after two years does it mean he never will?

I have a theory that I use in my coaching.

You CAN know when it’s NOT right with someone.

You CAN’T know when it IS right with someone.

Believe the negatives, ignore the positives. If you have a bad feeling deep down about a man’s trustworthiness? Believe that feeling. On the other hand, everyone has had the “you just know” feeling about a romantic partner and been WRONG. I “just knew” twice and got dumped both times. Which just goes to show how much you “just know” when it comes to passion.

Ultimately, marriage is a choice, not a feeling. If either you or your boyfriend is waiting for an epiphany, you might both be waiting for a long time. Lots of people want to have the feeling – so that there’s no choice to be made. Problem is that the feeling is wrong more often than it’s right.

There are two separate choices to be made, Eve – your choice as to whether you can let down your guard and trust him after two years of good behavior, and his choice as to whether he wants to marry you. You can control the first one. You can’t control the second one.

All you can do is draw your own conclusions and IF you trust him and IF your long-term visions are aligned, let him know that you’d like him to make a decision within the next year.

If he doesn’t, it’s time to walk.