“Help! I’m scared the guy I love might be using me”

Dear Sarah,

I’ve been dating my childhood sweetheart for about six months. It’s a dream come true, because I’ve been madly in love with for him for ten years! We spend every other day or night together and talk every day. We do “couple things” such as going to concerts, spending time around each other’s families, ice skating, going out to dinner. We have our favorite TV shows and we fall asleep kissing in each others arms.

But he has never called me his girlfriend or talked about where our relationship is going. On paper, we seem great together and the chemistry is incredible. However, here’s why I’m freaking out….

Until recently, I thought everything was absolutely perfect but then I stupidly read a text message he had sent to a guy friend referring to me as a “make-out buddy.” I felt physically sick—but the message was three months old. Logically, I think he is much more serious about me now then he was three months ago but I just don’t know!

I am crazy about this boy and he’s said he’s crazy about me too, but I feel ill thinking about asking him how he sees our relationship for I fear the hard truth will come out that he is not serious about me.

Please help. I am falling madly in love with this amazing man and I feel like a fool.

—Spinning in Ireland

Dear Spinning,

What your guy said was crude and gross, but as you are well aware, it wasn’t meant for your eyes. It used to be assumed that boys engaged in “locker room talk” —bragging about their sexual conquests like a bunch of overexcited apes amped up on testosterone and sweat. Now guys are all “#thisiswhatafeministlookslike this” and “#heforshe that,” so maybe girls think that kind of dude-to-dude posturing doesn’t go on any more. Nah, it still does. People say really stupid things to seem cool, stuff they’d never want out in public. Not that I condone his text, but I do suspect he’d be mortified if he knew you read it, and I don’t think it necessarily means he’s using you. Nor does it disqualify him as boyfriend material for being some rampant sexist. You’ve known him for ten years, I think you would have figured it out by now if he was a complete DB.

Where do the two of you stand? In my humble opinion: if it looks like a relationship, feels like a relationship, sounds like a relationship, then it is a relationship. Could I be wrong? Totally. But there’s only one way to find out, right? Speak up, woman! Confess that you snooped, apologize, and also let him know how upsetting it was to read that text. It’s OK to be the one to start a conversation about defining what you guys are and where you are headed, and also to simply to ask for reassurance.

The worst thing that could happen is that he says he doesn’t want to be your serious boyfriend. It may seem unimaginably horrible, but here’s how it works: you will cry and feel hurt, then you will get over it and move on and not waste your time in a dead end relationship.

I wish I could take your hands and look into your eyes and say, “You are really going to be fine no matter what,” with such integrity and certitude that you would instantly believe me, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Be brave,

Love, Sarah

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