Spell it out for boyfriend: He's having doubts
Q: So last night my boyfriend of five years and I were discussing his fear of getting married. We are both in our mid 20s. I want to be married; he isn't ready yet. Well, he goes on to say that he doesn't get the same feeling with me as he did with his first love. But he still loves me more than he loves her.
How do I interpret that? He is my first love so I don't quite understand. He made it seem like the butterflies in the stomach were better with her. To me, this screams of bad news. I don't want to overreact but I feel very upset over this.
A: I can see why. Pretty cruel thing to say in an ongoing relationship, since now you'll always get to wonder how you're measuring up.
But I think it's bad news for a different reason — he's still measuring love by volume of adrenaline. If that were the way it worked, everyone would be pining away for the person they kissed under the bleachers in high school.
I think the only way you really can interpret this is "He's having doubts." Painful, but good to know. If he's having trouble finding a way to say it to you, then it may actually help the situation if you save him the trouble and just express it for him. "You're having doubts."
Then, pay careful attention to his response. If he agrees, then you've got your answer, obviously. But if he denies it, give his denial the sniff test. Does he mean it, or is he trying not to hurt you, or is he afraid of breaking up, even though that might be what he really wants?
It's not mind-reading you want, it's person-reading. You know him, and you'll know the truth when you're ready to see it.
If he does deny and you don't believe, then give him some time apart from you to be sure. Label it that way, even: "I want you to be sure of your feelings, so I think we should stop seeing each other for a while to help us figure things out." As long as it's said lovingly and not spitefully, it can be an extremely effective way of getting an outcome that's truthful, unforced and free of regrets.
Breaking up now will be easier for both of you
Q: Rough question: I'm working in another city over the summer, but I'll return home in a couple of months. Waiting for me is someone I really don't want to continue dating, but who expects our relationship to really take off once I get home. We're on a daily phone-call schedule, which feels disingenuous and full of pressure for me. Is this one of the rare exceptions where it might be more decent to break up over the phone?
A: Yes. Breaking up over the phone now is better than, essentially, lying to the person on the phone daily for the entire summer.
Consider the alternatives if you don't tell: Either your voice will betray your lack of interest, and your friend gets to live all summer with the anxiety that you're slipping away; or your voice doesn't betray you, and your friend gets blindsided at the peak of anticipation.