Q: Dear Meredith,
My boyfriend and I have been together for a few years. We have the same education level, life goals, and interests, and he treats me better than any man ever has. We're in love and loyal, and I have no doubts there.
The problem is his confidence. He struggles to keep a good job because he lacks decisiveness, and the thought of letting someone down scares him. He's afraid to try new things or share ideas in the workplace. And he doesn't get much done on his own around the house because he doesn't take the initiative -- he prefers to be directed. (To be clear, he lives with his dad right now, but he spends a lot of time at my place.)
I know someone he works with at a part-time job, and he asked me for advice on how to handle his anxiety, which, besides being unprofessional, says a lot.
I could not dream up a better partner, except for these issues. He was raised pretty sheltered, and he hasn't ever had the fear of not being able to pay bills as motivation like I have. I feel I've tried everything I can, so I ask you: Any advice for helping him with this issue, besides therapy, which is already a consideration? I can accept it if this is just how he is -- I love him no matter what -- but a second full-time income would certainly help when it comes to cohabitation/marriage/kids/etc., which are all things we both want.
– Love Isn't 100% Enough, Massachusetts
A: He isn't going to change, but he could become more assertive and confident in the right job. Is he pursuing the right profession? Does he like his work? If his job is causing him constant anxiety, it might be time for him to meet with a career counselor. Sure, therapy would also be great, but he could benefit from talking to the kind of professional who can tell him what to do for a living.
As for life at home, perhaps it would help if he felt some ownership at your place. Even after a few years, it might feel strange to tend to someone else's apartment. Be very clear with him about what you need and how he can help.
You say that you love him no matter what, and I believe you. But before you sign on for marriage, kids, etc., see how he responds to therapy. Not everyone excels in the workplace. He might have skills that come in handy after you have kids. But ... the talk about anxiety gives me pause. Figure out whether he can evolve into someone you can depend on -- because you need that in a marriage. You have to be able to take care of each other.
Readers? Will he change? If so, how? Would a different job help? Should he be living on his own? Help.
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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.