Dear Carolyn • I have been with my boyfriend for two and a half years. It appears he would like a family and marriage, but I am not sure it is with me. When he speaks of the future, he says "the woman I marry" or "my kids" but not "our children." He knows very well that I want a family and that my reproductive timing is coming to a close, now at 33. We are not engaged or living together. Complicating things more, we have had career changes that have meant starting anew, maybe moving. He hints about moving home, across the country from me and my family. I feel as if when he pictures a future, it is not with me. He says he does not know what the future could bring. Do I risk what I want a family, children for a man who may or may not want that, who may move home and decide this is (I am) not what he wants? How does one know?
Anonymous and Lost
Dear Anonymous • One doesn't. But, one does know when one is dating a straight-shooter. You aren't. At least, he hasn't been one yet, and instead has communicated in hints, carefully chosen nouns and broad pronouncements of helplessness in the face of this smoke-and-mirrory thingamabob called "The Future." The other name for it: "preserving options." You, meanwhile, compound that problem by immersing yourself in the role of hint-interpreter and status-quo-preserver, instead of looking squarely at him and saying, "About that woman you marry. We're on Year 3. Are you in, or not?" Give him that opening to become the straight-shooter he's failed to be. You're not 22 and not just a few months into this, so don't act as if you are and don't stand meekly by while he does. Important disclaimer: When you're years deep into someone and not being treated to the directness you deserve, a "Now what?"-type query tends to be more rhetorical than anything else. That's because you have two key answers already: Yes, he's OK with letting you dangle, and yes, that alone warrants questioning whether you want a life with him. If he refers again to an uncertain future, end his suspense by noting it won't include you.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.