Relationship Advice

Dreamers

young couple

I moved in with my boyfriend five months ago. We've been friends for two years, but only started being romantic a few months before I moved in. We have the same values and want the same things: starting a co-op, starting a family, running a farm, and promoting a better economic system.

Big, big dreams! I've known him to be all the things I wanted in a partner—strong, supportive, and optimistic. But almost as soon as I moved in he started to fall apart. He's in university with straight A's, but this term he's been sleeping in, missing class, and failing to concentrate on his homework. He says his intestines feel like razor blades when he tries to study.

He spends most of his time playing computer games. He misses buses, forgets to call people, and doesn't know what day it is. He says most days he wakes up not wanting to be alive. He is far from the optimistic, outgoing guy I've always known.

I told him I'm leaving because I don't want to be with a man who can't get his life together. He wants me to be patient because this isn't his normal state. The only reason I'm asking for advice is because my intuition tells me better days are coming and I need to see the big picture.

Part of me says leave, because if he's this way now, how will he be when there are kids and a farm to run? The other part says wait it out and don't make a hasty decision. I don't know what to do.

Alesha


Alesha, your boyfriend is playing video games instead of doing homework. He misses busses and can't remember the day of the week. That sounds like classic avoidance behavior. Avoidance behavior occurs when we have something we don't want to face up to. It's a defense mechanism and it can be totally unconscious.

The best thing he can do is get a physical exam to rule out physical causes, then see a therapist to get to the root of his malaise. But what is best for you?

You have a dream and you want to change the world. You would like to hold on to him because that's easier than finding someone else. But it doesn't look promising. If you want to link his behavior to anything, link it to moving in with him. That suggests he doesn't share your dream.

The status quo effect, not intuition, may explain why you want to stay. That term is used by psychologists to describe a common decision-making strategy. Faced with a choice, most of us look for reasons allowing us to do nothing while refusing to accept reasons which compel us to change.

In Chekhov's short story The Darling, a young woman puts on the identity of each man she is with. Married to a theatre owner, her life revolves around the theatre. After he dies she marries a timber merchant and becomes engrossed in the timber business. Again a widow, she shares the aspirations of her next man, a veterinarian.

Just as there are women who tell a man "your dream is my dream," so there are some men who do the same thing. But time reveals the truth. You don't need your own "darling." You need someone who shares your passion.

As a goal-oriented person, your relationship may feel like a failure but it isn't. Dreams have to be tweaked to make them work. Seldom can they be realized in the exact form we imagined in our head. Working toward your dream, you will come in contact with others working toward the same dream.

Your boyfriend hopes things will get better by doing nothing. That's not a good strategy for either of you. Both of you need to take action, though action is apt to send you in opposite directions.

Wayne & Tamara