Shadow Boxing

11 Mar

Dear LetterBalm: My boyfriend and I have been dating for about a year. During all this time, I’ve never met his parents, his brother and sister and his friends. I don’t think he’s married or that he has another girlfriend because he’s pretty open about his cellphone, Facebook and Twitter, and he spends a lot of his free time with me. He just doesn’t acknowledge me as his girlfriend. I know his sister casually because we belong to the same gym. I’ve tried to ask him about this, but he blows off the subject. He says he loves me, and I love him. But I don’t like feeling that I’m not at the center of his life. Should I be concerned? Will he ever come around? And, how can I handle this?

–Secret Sweetie

You have good reason to be concerned because, indeed, you are in the backwater of your boyfriend’s life. He’s never put you front-and-center and acknowledged you publicly, and – buck up, girl – it’s unlikely he ever will. Frankly, Ms. L.B. wonders why you haven’t yet caught on after a year of dating. Your man is your boyfriend in name only. There may be any of several reasons for this: He fears family disapproval, he is stringing you on until a better lady comes along, he’s nervous and doesn’t want to move the relationship forward, he says “I love you” to keep you docile. You need to do some thinking – a therapist will help you craft the right questions – and make some serious decisions. You know what to do. When you have a good handle on the reality of the situation, have an earnest talk with the guy along these lines:

Sheldon, you and I have been dating for more than a year, and both of us have said we love each other. But there’s a big, serious piece missing. I’ve introduced you to my family and friends, and you have made no move – nor have you wanted to discuss it – to bring me together with the significant people in your life. If I’m not even worth public acknowledgement from you, I have to believe that I’m not that important to you or that you’re ashamed of me. When people are in love, they want to introduce the person to everyone in their world. When and if you decide to have a real relationship with me in the future, maybe it will happen, maybe not. But now, as painful as it is for me, I’m not going to be your secret girlfriend anymore. We’ll be going our separate ways. I wish you well, but it’s definitely better to end things now.

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