She Said, He Said: When Fantasy Man becomes reality, it might be time to move on
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
I’ve been dating a really nice guy for a couple of years but I think it may be time for me to move on. When we first met, he was unemployed and smoked a lot of pot, not usually my “type” but he was really fun to hang out with and has an infectious personality. He said he had plans to make big changes in his life and has had some promising opportunities but continuously puts things off or sabotages them, saying it wasn’t the right thing or the right time. He still relies on his parents for money and spends most of his time at my place because his place is a mess. The bottom line is that he’s not taking care of himself or contributing to the growth of our relationship but I can’t seem to break things off.
Should I Move On?
Lori: You’re describing an all too common case of loving the fantasy man and resenting the reality relationship. It’s time to be honest with yourself. You fell for what could be: the promises and the potential, while ignoring the truth that was in front of you the whole time. It would be easy to blame him for not stepping up to the plate, but you’re responsible for your life. And instead of putting the focus on him, the most loving thing I can do for you is spotlight your own undoing. How did you get here? Perhaps you weren’t clear of your own needs for a partner when you met, or you sacrificed your needs and wants because you didn’t feel like you deserved them. Or maybe you’ve come to base your worth and lovability on taking care of others. The reality is many couples face this challenge a few months into the relationship. Just as the honeymoon is wearing off, and partners begin to see the authentic choices, behaviors and patterns of their mate. The three to six month relationship is a common occurrence for this very reason. The question to ask yourself is why are you here after years? Were you too afraid to hurt him after three months that you dug yourself a deeper hole? Or did you think being in a subpar relationship with a man-child was better than being alone?
Jeff: Your resistance or reluctance to end things with your boyfriend may be due to the things you really like about him, things that make you want to hold on. With that in mind, it might be helpful to understand more about the things you don’t like. While I’m not condoning his behavior or implying you should just learn to live with it, it’s important to know that it’s not uncommon for men these days to have a difficult time finding their way in the world. It sounds like he’s experiencing a “Failure to Launch.” This dynamic has become an increasingly prevalent issue for men in the more recent generations. Members of Generation Y (millennials) were often pampered by parents who didn’t want to make the same mistakes their parents made — giving them the expectation of being coddled even after leaving the nest. Members of Generation Z tend to be more risk-averse, not wanting to chance rejection, hampering their drive to seek out things that might take that extra effort to achieve.
There also has been a lot of confusing messages in the past decade about men’s roles both in relationships and in society at large. We’re supposed to be strong and capable, yet vulnerable and sensitive — expectations that can paralyze many well-intentioned partners. What does this all mean for you? Figure out much more time, flexibility and patience you have in reserve. If the tank’s on empty, find a man who’s already left the launch pad.
Lori and Jeff: Relationships are all about growth. It’s easy to point to his stagnation patterns as the problem, but this relationship has highlighted areas where you still need to do some work, too. If you really love him and want to grow with him, take the amount of energy you’ve focused on his shortcomings and direct it back to yourself. If there’s not enough foundation to make this pairing work, put your big girl panties on and let him go.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.
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