Q: I have always been the relationship type of guy. I'm only 23, and I've been in three relationships lasting over a year, plus just recently one of nine months. I have ended every single one, but I'm again talking to my last girlfriend. I seem to fear that I might be missing out on something. I'm very confused about what to do in regards to being in a relationship or not. I also feel that I have not been single enough and that I'm running out of time. But I also have always planned to be married between 28 and 30 and am scared that if I don't meet someone now, I won't reach what I have always wanted because I feel you have to date someone for a long time before you get married. I worry that if I leave this relationship, or don't meet my goals, that I will regret everything. What do I do? -- Chris, 23
Dr. Susan: Number one thing you need to do right now is relax. You can't make good decisions when you're so obviously fraught with anxiety. It's okay to have a general plan to marry before you turn 30, but you're only 23, and a lot can happen between now and then. If it happens a couple of years later, that's okay too. You have to look seriously and deeply at why you left each girlfriend, and also why it took you a year each time to realize this wasn't the right person for you. (It can take a year or two years to really get to know someone--that's perfectly normal--and I'm only suggesting you think about why you made your decisions in order to learn from them.) What are you afraid you're missing out on? Trust your gut, the gut that says each of these girls wasn't right for you. Do a little more exploring. Going back to your last girlfriend may or may not be the right thing to do. Why did you leave her?? If you want to be single for a while, now might be the best time. Give yourself a year without sticking to one girl (be honest with each one you date that you're not going to be committing to anyone for a while). Face it, though: some guys really are relationship-oriented, and any long period of time spent alone is not gratifying. Consider working this through with a good counselor, as there might be some underlying issues that make your life so confusing and anxious right now.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.