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My boyfriend's quarter-life crisis

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  September 9, 2010 08:48 AM

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He's been unhappy for two weeks. That's a long time if you're 25, apparently.

Q: I feel like such a tool writing about this because it seems so minuscule compared to the other letters you post. But I'm stuck and I'm hoping you might be able to make some sense of my situation.

To sum up a really long story, I'm 24 and my boyfriend turned 25 last week. We have been dating for six years. We met one month before I graduated high school. We went to different colleges, but both in the state and both still live at home with our parents for financial reasons. I am ashamed of this because I feel I should be out on my own at this age, as should he, but that's an issue for another day.

A few weeks ago after work one night we did the whole date-night thing, but he seemed a little distant. When we went our separate ways he was still acting weird, so I called him to ask him what was up. One thing led to another and we met back up so that he could tell me he is unhappy and has been for two weeks. He said that it's not that he's unhappy with me -- just unhappy in general. He can't pinpoint why he feels like this. He loves me. He sees himself with me. He doesn't want to break up. He just needs space.

We have taken two breaks over the course of our relationship -- one for two weeks when we were 19, the other for eight months after he turned 21. I think, while many disagree with breaks, it was the smartest thing we could have done since we had been together at such a young age, and we both got our immature stuff out of our system. After that eight-month period, we decided we wanted to get back together. Since then our relationship has been pretty close to perfect, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, since his birthday was last week and I had already had a surprise get-together planned for all of his friends, we decided to go through with it. He said he couldn't think of anyone he'd rather spend his birthday with, so we had the party. We got along fine during the night, and honestly, if you didn't know we were "taking a break," you really wouldn't have known there was a problem. At one point at dinner I had to bring it up because it was eating away at me not knowing what has been bothering him. He couldn't tell me. He "doesn't know." He's asking for a maximum of two months. And he says he really doesn't think that I have anything to worry about, and that he really doesn't see this ending. In my gut I believe him.

We have activities planned for the next few weekends, and they are things that I cannot miss. One of them is a concert we have already bought tickets for and are both looking forward to, and the other is a weekend-long fundraiser for a mutual friend. We have many mutual friends who were his first, but they have become just as close to me over the course of our relationship.

I don't even know what I'm really asking. I'm defining this as a mid-20s crisis, since he's really got a lot going on in terms of family, not having a job, and dealing with the pressure of us growing up. I mean, we're 24 and 25. I don't have a need to get married and have kids in the next year or two. Although that is what I'm surrounded by, and I'm kind of thinking he might be feeling that pressure.

I really have faith that we'll work it out and that in the end we will be fine, but it is killing me not to talk to him or to know what's going on in his head or why he's unhappy. And I'm trying to respect his space and not call him, especially because I know I have set-in-stone times that I will see him, even if it is with a group of people. But it's hard not to think about the what-ifs. What if it's over? Could there be someone else? Is this something I should be concerned about? Is it normal for a guy to have a mid-life crisis at 25, especially given our situation?

I'm hoping you can provide some insight, advice, or just maybe a hammer across the head telling me it's going to be fine. Or that it's not. Whatever. Readers, be kind.

– Hopelessly devoted, Southern Mass.

A: HD, he's not having a mid-life crisis. He's having a quarter-life crisis (cue that John Mayer song). Actually, let's not even call it a crisis. He's just being 25.

I do think it's weird that he needed a break after being unhappy for two weeks. Two weeks is a blip. And what's with the everything-will-be-fine-in-two-months thing? Where is he getting these arbitrary timelines for happiness?

There might be someone else. Or maybe he just wants to know what it would feel like to attend a few social events as a sort-of single guy. Who knows?

My advice is to ride out the next two months. See how you interact at these social events. Is he distant? Is he more like a friend than a boyfriend? At the end of two months (which isn't a very long time, by the way) see where he is. If he needs more time, take some time for yourself, too. You said it best-- you're both quite young. You can keep taking little breaks here and there to sow oats, or you can split for real so that you know what being alone is really like. If at the end of two months he's still feeling queasy about life in general, consider a real, grown-up split. Branch out and make some new friends. Expand your circle. Have your own quarter-life experience.

A real break-up doesn't mean you won't ever get back together, by the way. It just means that you're being honest about what you are now -- 25, home with your parents, and unsure about everything.

I can't promise you that the two of you are going to stay together. But I can tell you that everything is going to be fine.

Readers? Thoughts? Is two months all it takes? What's with all of the breaks? Can you give her some words of wisdom? Discuss.


– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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