I've been with my boyfriend for two years, since university, and we've talked about moving in together. But I feel he's getting cold feet. He keeps making excuses, saying he wants to stay in his flat until the lease runs out, and that he wants to go abroad on his own for six months before settling down. At a party, I actually saw him taking down the number of another girl. He said he was just drunk, but I was upset. I love him so much, but feel he doesn't love me. What can I do?
Yours sincerely, Sheena
The sooner you put the idea of moving in together on hold the better. Actually, don't even put it on hold. Just wipe it out from your future plans. At the moment you just don't know where you are – and your boyfriend probably doesn't really know where he is, either. You can't tell yet whether he's is frightened of the prospect of settling down, or if he's decided he doesn't love you as much as he thought after all. Either way, leaving him be for the moment will make his choices easier. And put you out of your misery sooner.
Imagine he's suffering from fear. And think of him as an angry dog under a chair. If you approached this animal, offering all kinds of titbits and balls and sticks and calls of "Pretty doggie, come here doggie... there, there!" and every time you moved closer he barked and growled, then what would you do? If you had any sense you wouldn't get closer and crouch down, risking getting your nose ripped off. No, you'd simply walk away. You'd do the washing up, whistle a nonchalant tune, get on the phone. Act completely relaxed. Within half an hour I bet that dog would slowly come out from under the chair, start licking himself, and, eventually, look up at you, wondering where you'd put those chews.
This is exactly how you should behave with your boyfriend. Well, not exactly, of course... but similarly. Take the initiative. Tell him that you, actually, are having second thoughts about your plan to move in together and have been having second thoughts for some time. Be honest and tell him that you're aware he's uncertain, but then lie, saying that after much thought you yourself have started to wonder if it's such a good idea for you. Go further. Say that even if he changed his mind and wanted to move in, you're suddenly feeling very wobbly about it all and not certain that, long-term, it would work out.
Either he'll become quite desperate, and beg to set up home as soon as possible, or he'll breathe a sigh of relief and slowly slither out of your life. Either way, you'll pretty soon know where you stand.
If he starts blowing hot again, don't be too quick to jump at the chance of being together. You will now have all the cards. Keep in control by not leaping up and down and clapping your hands and saying "Right that's settled. I've already bought a ring for you to give me! Next stop: marriage!" Pretend to consider the offer seriously before saying yes to the idea. And if he blows cold, at least you will have pushed the situation yourself into some kind of resolution. And rather than hanging on for the next few months, suffering the most agonising pain and anguish, you'll be able to dust yourself down – I hope – and think about finding someone else.
He doesn't deserve you
Run a mile! How can you go on loving someone who so clearly does not love you? It is one of the hardest facts of life that those whom we love dearly do not always love us. Indeed, sometimes they make use of us and he is doing that with you. I bet you even take care of his laundry and cook for him sometimes, don't you? You sound like that sort of loving, caring girl.
You deserve better. You have your own place, make your own life. Without him. He does not deserve you.
June Helen Rogers, London NW3
End it now
Did Sheena read her letter before sending it? I don't understand why this represents a dilemma – the boyfriend is clearly not interested any more, but can't bring himself to end the relationship. Do it for him, and travel round the world in your own right or do whatever you want to do with your life. Don't waste it on someone who is "just not that into you". For goodness sake, where is your self-respect?
Ruth Coomber, Needham Market, Norfolk
You need a break
I think you must know the answer to your dilemma. He's obviously not ready for the kind of commitment that you want. This does not necessarily mean that he's not fond of you, as two years is a long time to be with someone, but settling down together has started his alarm bells ringing. Men mature much later than women. I assume you are both in your twenties and therefore have a lot to achieve and things to do in your lives before setting up home together. If you love him, you will let him get on with his life. To pressure him will only drive him further away. After six months abroad, he might just feel differently – then on the other hand, so might you.
It is always very difficult to let go of someone you love, but if he cannot be honest with you now, what chance is there for a future together? He seems to me to be quite a weak and immature man. I suggest you give him as much encouragement as you can and suggest that the break will be good for you both.
After all, when you have time to reflect during his absence, you might just discover that there is always another bus just waiting around the corner.
Anita Ashford, Norwich
Accept that it's over
Think of the feeling you get when your bathwater is going cold and there's no more hot water in the tank. You know you should get out of the bath, but you also know that, briefly, that will be more unpleasant than staying. This relationship is like that. You must take a deep breath and and get out of it. You are still enviably young, and there are masses of other single young men who want to meet you. Don't just watch other women at parties being asked for their telephone number. Become one of them.
Felicie Oakes, Birmingham
Love is not enough
I can see why you're confused. But just because your boyfriend loves you doesn't necessarily mean he wants to move in with you. In fact, it's probably because he does love you that he's finding it so hard to tell you his plans have changed. It's time to make it easier for him, I'm afraid.
Adele Parr, London E1
Next Week's Dilemma
My brother sexually and physically abused me from when I was 10 until he left home. A few years later, he tried to attack me and then, three weeks after he'd said he wanted a physical relationship again, he committed suicide. My family were distraught. I'm now in my 40s. Having never told them, should I now reveal the truth to my family? Do I speak out and tarnish their memories of my brother, or keep quiet and continue to feel ashamed and haunted for ever?
Yours sincerely, Nell
What would you advise Nell to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave your suggestion in the comments below. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a Belgian Chocolate Selection by Amelie Chocolat ( www.ameliechocolat.co.uk)