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In this week’s edition of The Lower Brain, Sara Benincasa tries to help a guy figure out why his girlfriend’s promises and actions don’t quite match.
I’m 27, and I’ve always casually dated people. Months ago, I met a woman with whom I really wanted to have a deep, committed relationship. It seemed like we had things in common. We got closer and I even fell in love with her! She met my family, the whole thing. Then I started noticing some inconsistencies in her story. She told me she was not jealous, but started asking a lot about one of my female best friends (with whom I’ve always been platonic, by the way). She told me that she was careful with money, yet I don’t see that. She spends all the time. She told me that she liked having her own space clean, and her home is always messy. She says she wants to change things, like lose weight or learn French, yet she never commits to it.
I’ve encouraged her when she comes up with these ideas, but she never sticks with it. I even said I’d go on a diet with her, exercise with her, take language lessons with her or buy Rosetta Stone or something. Nope. Nothing. Does she mean the things she says when she says them? Is she lying just for attention or to gain my favor? Is she insecure and trying to be somebody she’s not? I don’t understand. She’s 25, so we are nearly the same age, but I feel like I’m dating some unreliable teenager. Help!
What the Hell Is Going On?
Before we analyze her intent, let’s simply look at her behavior. You’ve described a person who voices a lot of desires and plans, but doesn’t follow through on them. The reality of her behavior is that it doesn’t match up with what you like or want in a partner. That alone is enough for us to determine she may not be the woman for you.
But let’s entertain the idea that she’s not motivated by malice or deception. If so, she may indeed be insecure and making promises because she thinks you’ll want to hear them. Or maybe she means these things but can’t summon the courage or the commitment to actually act on her highest ideals. Deep down, she may not believe she’s worth it. Who knows? It isn’t your business to figure it out. But clearly, this isn’t working for you.
Also, your job isn’t to fix a partner or to model new behavior in the hope they will follow suit. You should take good care of yourself, and she should take good care of herself, whatever that means for both of you. When in a healthy, functional couple, do you sometimes really go to bat for one another? Absolutely. Will you give up certain things in a relationship sometimes for the greater joy the union of two cool people can bring you? Of course. But this does not sound like a relationship with someone who really knows herself, or who is presenting her true self to you.
If you decide to end things, I suggest saying some version of: “I just think we aren’t in sync on a lot of stuff. I have my own stuff to work on, and I see myself wanting to help or fix you, and you don’t need that. I’m not going to be condescending and act like I have all the answers. I am a flawed person and very human. I’m just not feeling it anymore, and I think it’s best we part ways. I respect you and I care for you and I wish you the best.” But put it in your own words, obviously, so it doesn’t sound like a form letter. Emphasize “I” statements rather than “you seem untrustworthy” or “you freak me out sometimes in a bad way” or whatever. Never insult her.
If she pushes for more info, say, “I’ve noticed a pattern in which you say you want to do something, and then you don’t do it. I tried to encourage you because many of these things sound really beneficial, but you just won’t do it. And I can’t make you, obviously. Maybe if I step away you’ll have the room in your life to make some of these changes.”
I’m not saying you ought to break up with her today. You should try having a conversation with her about some of these things first. But if time goes on and there’s no movement in a positive direction, you know what you need to do. And it’s a good you gave this love thing a try. Personally, I’ve been in love a few times, and those relationships didn’t work out for the long term. However, I learned from each one and often enjoyed myself, too. It all moves us forward somehow, I think (and hope)!