How "Serious" is 8 Years, 3 Kids?

Q: Together for eight years, we have three kids together. I'm 26 and he is 38. The problem for me is that I only know how he truly feels about me when he is upset and angry; that's when he tells me how much he cares about and loves me. Whenever I want to talk about serious things like marriage, he gets upset and wants to talk about other things. He complains that I text too much but it's hard for him to listen when we talk. He says things like "it will get better, give him time." He's in a lot of debt that keeps him from doing the things he really wants to do with me. He says that he wants to look for a house so the kids can have a real chance to grow and have a great education, but nothing is being done differently to achieve those things. Is this ever going to be serious or am I wasting more time of my life? What should I do to find out if he sees his future with me? -- Renee, 26

Dr. Susan: It used to be that if you were together long enough to have three children with someone, you no longer asked if the guy was "serious." Even so, I suggest that you're asking the wrong questions. Obviously, it's time for your man to commit to you and the kids so all of you can feel safe and secure. I don't think you have to doubt his feelings. What you may doubt, however, is his willingness to take the future--any future--seriously. Things don't just "get better" by themselves. The issues are practical, as well as emotional: how to get out of debt, how to be a dependable father to his kids, how to make you feel loved all the time, not just when he is angry. Some action steps by him (or both of you) are needed to prove you're not wasting your time. If the word "marriage" scares him, it might help to see a counselor briefly to work out what's holding him back.

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