Dear Sohum,

I’ve been in some kind of romantic relationship with a guy for 6 months, and I want to make it official and have some commitment. We lived together for a month for the 3rd month and have been in a LDR ever since. He pays to have me fly out to visit him monthly. We’ve said the big “I love you” and were even official for about a month. However, when I ask him to DTR, he says that he doesn’t know what we are. A big reason why I want commitment is because my family would never approve of him due to religious differences, and by being with him, I risk ostracism. They don’t know about us, and they especially don’t know that I’ve been flying to another state monthly. It’s been really stressful due to having to keep it a secret, and I’ve shared this with him. Is it wrong of me to stay or ask him to make a commitment? What should I do?

Anxiously,

Stuck in Relationship Purgatory

Dear Stuck—

I can imagine what you refer to as “commitment” and “being official,” but for the sake of my wretched column, I’m going to try and be concrete about what you mean. By commitment, it sounds like you’re talking about monogamy. As for being official, I can’t guess what that means, except perhaps you want to feel like you would see each other as partners? If this isn’t what you mean, it begs the question of what you really do mean, and whether you’ve failed to communicate it to this boy in a way that would make defining the relationship possible. Not to say that you’re in the way of your own desires, per se, but it’s at least worth chewing on.

There’s some stakes here: You’re being flown out on this boy’s dime to spend time with him. A conventional way of understanding that is that the boy cares about you so much that he feels compelled to spend time with you — I don’t disagree- — but I might suggest that he sees spending this money as taking the place of the kind of commitment that you find yourself longing for. It can be stressful to poke and prod at financial stakes when they are clearly interwoven with romantic issues, but I urge you to do just that. Ask him about your visits and what he thinks they are for. Sex? The joy of spending time together? Before you untangle that set of financial and emotional commitments, I might caution against flying out too often.

There’s also this problem of ostracization and religious differences—I’m afraid I don’t actually see a clear connection between this fear of disapproval by your family and the commitment you desire. I rear back to the question of what this commitment actually is — if it’s not monogamy, what is it? If you’re looking for a marriage proposal or promise, I would urge you to stop looking, only because it doesn’t sound like he’s anywhere near that state of mind, and you’ll continue to be hurt by his lack of commitment.

Finally, you say your family would “never approve,” but I wonder what you’re basing that on. Family members can say bigoted things or disparaging things, but gradually they will about-face when they realize a cherished member of their family or circle of friends belongs to that disparaged group. It can take a long time, but it usually does happen.

Stuck — as is usually the case with these things — there is hope! But it requires a lot of talking through. And it also requires the strength to know that, even if you love someone, if their values or commitments or sensibilities don’t align with yours, you might need to gather the courage to confront your partner about it — and to accept whatever fallout might be subsequent.

Is it strange that I struggle to form an emotional connection with men on this campus? Or is it something about the way young men present themselves? Dear Sohum, help me.

Irritatedly,

Babe Boy

Dear Babe,

This is a perennial problem. As much knowledge and insight as I have, I will never understand the full psychological profiles of the young collegiate man—I say this, even while being one. What I can offer you is this—it is not strange to feel disconnected from men, or broadly, other people at Yale. But it’s also not a personal failing, for you or for these men. If none of the men at Yale are to your liking, you can wait, and you will find an emotional connection with some other (wo)mxn, some other time and place. The college relationship is an unnecessarily rarefied breed, and you have the rest of your life to form emotional connections. Take solace in your friends and confidantes, and remain open to the possibility that nothing is innate, that emotional connections are a two-way street, and that if you are intentional about seeking emotional connections –(as vague a term as that is, it’s for you to define), you will find it- — eventually.

XOXO,

Sohum