Should She Commit While He's Jailed?

Q: I recently started dating someone after 15 months of celibacy, as I needed time to get over my last relationship, which did not end well. This new man and I are compatible and intimate on many levels, except for where we are emotionally. I am 13 years older, and I'm reserved about using those three little words, whereas my partner says that he is in love with me. I have explained to him that it has only been a couple of months and I am "not there yet."

Recently we found out that because of a motor vehicle violation he will have to spend six months in jail as part of a plea bargain. He wants me to remain exclusive to him. I have never dated someone with any kind of record before, and though I'm not opposed to being celibate for periods of time, I don't want to commit to it on principle. I don't feel it's fair for him to ask me to. He is very jealous, and I feel that it will only cause unneeded stress for him to be "in" and me doing whatever I want as his "girlfriend." I told him that I would visit him and write, but that I do not want to be that person saying, "Yes, I have a boyfriend, but he's in jail," after only three months of a relationship. He feels that if I care for him, I should be willing to commit at this point. I think we should just remain friends while he's in. What do you think about the situation, and the request? -- Rose, 49

Dr. Susan: He can ask whatever he wants; I see no harm in that. But if you don't feel strongly enough about him now to give up all others for half a year while he's incarcerated, then I would simply tell him the truth. Let him know you'd rather be honest friends than risk being dishonest anything else. And that while maybe you aren't going out of your way to meet someone new, you need to keep that door open as you really haven't been with him long enough. I also hear that his going to jail has affected the way you feel about him, that the incident is embarrassing and distressing to you. It may take some time after his release to get your relationship back to the level of intimacy you now feel. This period is going to be hard for both of you, but don't let his jealousy force you to commit to something that doesn't feel right to you.

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