Today’s article is in response to a question from a reader (via Ask Melissa!) about how to know if you’ve waited long enough in a relationship when you’re waiting for someone to resolve some issues in their life so they can go into deeper levels of involvement and commitment with you.
In my response, I provide guidance on how to approach this question, including the key things you need to consider (and questions you should ask yourself!) in order to know whether you’ve waited long enough, what to do if you’re in love and struggling with whether or how long to wait (does your relationship have a chance for the long haul?), and my honest opinion about whether you should wait (including my opinion on when you might want to wait and when you absolutely shouldn’t wait).
My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year and a half. In the beginning, it was great. Then issues started happening.
He stopped letting me around his youngest child because he would go back to the mom and talk about me and she would freak out. He would tell her he isn’t with me. Then the amount of days changed that I saw him.
Then I found out he had slept with her on more than one occasion. She even slept over the house, which he lied and said that she would always sleep in another room.
The last six months we would break up every few weeks but always find our way back to each other. He told me that he still has feelings for her, but they will never work. They fight too much. But he does things to please her just so she doesn’t give him a hard time.
He said he is lost right now and his life isn’t right, but he loves me and doesn’t want to lose me.
At the same time, I feel like he is either keeping me around till he is ready which I feel like we are amazing together and we never fight unless it comes to his ex.
He said he is waiting for her to tell him she has a new boyfriend and eventually he will just say he is with me.
I’ve met all his friends and family so everyone knows about me. So, I know he isn’t bringing her around anyone. If anything, he is going over to her house or she is coming over to his for the kids’ sake only he says now.
He said they are in a good place. But I just don’t know how sincere he is.
I am in love with him. He says he loves me deeply and he knows where his heart is at, which he says it’s with me. I feel like we would be an amazing couple because we are great together.
But it gives me a lot of anxiety and trust issues. I’m scared that I’m putting all this effort into the relationship and not getting the same in return.
Do I stick around? He said he is just waiting for his ex to move on herself so it’s easier. But how do I know if he is for real with me? What he does and says sometimes makes me believe he really does love me but then our situation is like something from a soap opera. How do I know when I’ve waited long enough? I love him so much.
Dear Confused Momma,
Thanks for writing in. I really feel your frustration.
And I can understand why being in this situation would leave you feeling confused and give you a lot of anxiety and trust issues.
Hopefully I can help bring some clarity to what you’re experiencing.
How Do You Know When You’ve Waited Long Enough?
This is a very personal question – meaning there is no cut and dry answer to this, no specific figure or length of time that I can offer you because knowing whether you’ve waited long enough depends your values. And values are highly personal.
But the short answer is:
You know you’ve waited long enough when you’ve spent more than you’re willing to spend.
You know you’ve waited long enough when the COST of waiting becomes greater than what you’re waiting for.
And what that means is, knowing when you’ve waited long enough depends on what matters to you.
Assuming you want to be happy in a long-term relationship with this man, you need to know whether you’re compatible enough to grow together instead of growing apart.
Which means that you need to both share a vision for the kind of life and relationship that you want, and you need to know that your needs and relationship requirements will be met, otherwise you’re not going to be happy in the relationship long-term.
Ask yourself: How does it make you feel to wait? What are you feeling while you’re waiting? And how long do you want to keep feeling that way?
Or put another way: What is it COSTING you to wait? And how long do you want to keep paying that price?
Also, check in with your attitudes about love, relationships, and dating.
What do you ultimately want in deeply fulfilling relationship?
Are you unconsciously settling for less than what you really want?
Sometimes people settle for less than what they really want because don’t believe that they can get what they really want.
But the thing is, when you settle for less, you get less.
Also ask yourself: How much do you value your time?
You know you’ve waited long enough when you’ve spent more than you’re willing to spend.
You know you’ve waited long enough when the cost of waiting is greater than what you’re waiting for.
It’s like waiting to be seated at a restaurant. Except dating and relationships are much higher stakes.
When you’re waiting to be seated at a restaurant it’s costing you a bit of your time and comfort.
Maybe you’re getting hungry while waiting. Maybe you have to wait outside in cold weather.
And the most you’ll wait is probably and 45 minutes.
Maybe an hour and a half if you really want to dine there.
But in dating and relationships, if you’re feeling anxious waiting for something to happen, you’re not only paying with your time, you’re also paying with your emotional well-being.
And if you’ve been waiting for a while…like months or years, sometimes you’re paying with possibly your fertility (if you’ve been wanting to find someone to have children with).
And you’re certainly paying with the opportunity to otherwise meet someone else who is wonderful and ready and available to commit to you right now.
Every opportunity comes at a cost.
And this is not about viewing relationships as transactions.
But the discomfort and frustration from waiting precisely comes from your needs not being met.
And as long as your needs are not being met, you’re not going to feel happy or fulfilled or secure in the relationship.
So how long you’re willing to wait for him to meet your needs depends on the VALUE you put on your time, the value of those needs, and your sense of urgency around having those needs met.
What If You’re in Love? Does Your Relationship Have a Chance?
There’s no doubt that you have strong feelings for each other.
He loves you. You love him. You have an amazing connection.
I’m sure that’s ALL TRUE.
You probably ARE perfect for each other if we’re talking about the love and connection you have.
Except, there is a difference between being in love and being READY for a relationship.
There’s an issue that’s really bothering you and it’s the fact that he’s not over his ex.
See, you can be deeply in love with each other, have an amazing connection, but not be ready for a committed relationship.
Because being ready for a relationship entails a number of things, including being emotionally available for a new relationship.
And if he’s not emotionally available for a relationship with you because he still has feelings for his ex (even if he rationalizes his feelings with thoughts like “It’ll never work out between me and my ex,” the fact is he still has feelings for his ex – not just feelings, you said they’ve slept together on occasion! – and so part of his heart is still in the past), then that undermines the long-term viability of your relationship.
Because as long as he still has feelings for his ex, you’re going to feel insecure.
And if you feel insecure, you’re not going to feel safe going into deeper levels of involvement, intimacy, and commitment with him.
And if you don’t feel safe going into deeper levels of involvement, intimacy, and commitment with him, then you’re not going to be able to have a fulfilling long-term relationship.
Should You Wait for Him?
Here’s my honest opinion — but keep in mind, this is just my opinion and what matters is not what I think but what YOU think and what YOU feel is most important to you.
But I don’t believe in waiting.
I believe your time is WAY too valuable — your life and dreams are too valuable — to wait for anybody UNLESS they are moving heaven and earth to make the changes necessary to meet your needs.
But even then, they would have to be pretty close to resolving the issue(s).
But if they are being passive about it (waiting for someone ELSE to do something instead of taking proactive action), dragging their feet or making excuses, there’s no way I’m waiting.
You have a dream inside of you for the kind of life and relationship that you really want. And the longer you wait, the longer you delay that dream.
And my take is, if a man really cares about co-creating that dream with you, he will do what’s necessary to make it happen.
He will take conscious, meaningful action to make it happen, not just talk about it.
And if he really cares about moving on with his life and moving on from his previous relationship, he will do what’s necessary to move on.
He’ll tie up loose ends and create appropriate boundaries, regardless of whether he’s in a relationship or not.
And if he doesn’t, then that’s a good sign that he wasn’t committed to moving on in the first place.
But it all comes down to you and what you value.
We are always empowered with choice.
But that power comes with responsibility – and it’s not always comfortable.
But I encourage you to get deeply clear on what you value and what really matters to you, and the answer to which path you should take will become much clearer to you.
I know these things take a lot of time and thought to consider, but I hope this helps provide some guidance.
Please feel free to reach out if you need support with relationship clarity.
With love and light,
Have a burning relationship question? Send me your question here.