Dear Barb – Setting a Timeline Can Help with Difficult Decision

Dear Barb – Setting a Timeline Can Help with Difficult Decision

Dear Barb:

I’ve been dating a wonderful man, Paul, for almost a year. We get along great, but I’m wondering if we both want the same thing. We both have grown children. My children are on their own but Paul has a grown son still at home. This son is very dependent on Paul, even though he’s in his mid-twenties. I feel this situation is presenting a roadblock to our relationship moving forward. Paul and I have discussed this and he assures me that things will work out, as he needs to help his son to become independent. I have my doubts about this happening any time in the near future.

My reasons for feeling this way are justified, in that Paul recently paid for his son to go to college and at that point we agreed that we could not make any plans for our future until he was finished school, which would have been 18 months. His son dropped out of school after the first semester and is just hanging around the house and spending time with his friends. He works part-time but otherwise doesn’t contribute to the household. I’m beginning to wonder if this situation will ever be resolved. I don’t want to find myself in this same position two years down the road. How long should I wait before calling it a day? I really do care for this man, but this is not the kind of relationship I want. Thanks.


Hi, Shirley. I can sympathize with your situation. However, I’m wondering if there are other issues going on here. It seems a little odd that a man in his mid-twenties would not be motivated to move out on his own. It seems his father has provided an opportunity to his son, but the son messed up. How did Paul feel about this?

I can understand your frustration. Originally you agreed that you would not make any plans until this boy finished school, so you had established a timeline, but now you fear that this may be an ongoing situation. I think you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. First, is it possible Paul is enabling his son to stay at home, or do you believe he is doing everything possible to assist him to become independent? Secondly, do you believe Paul wants to eventually establish a life with you, or is he happy with the relationship as it is? Because his son is still at home at this age, perhaps Paul is content with this situation as he has allowed it to continue. Only you know the answers to these questions.

I would suggest you decide how much time to want to devote to this relationship. Since you have discussed this with Paul I don’t feel you need to share your timeline with him. If you do, it will sound like an ultimatum and ultimatums are never a good way to resolve problems. When you reach the point in time that you have allowed yourself, you will know what to do. This is a difficult situation and I hope I was helpful.

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