DEAR CAROLYN: I'm middle-aged, divorced, but still hoping to share the rest of my life with someone. A year ago I started dating a great man: treats me well, funny, we have mental and physical chemistry, and I always enjoy our time together. He claims he is sure about me and I ... still don't know about whether this is it for me. I care deeply about him and appreciate him, but I keep waiting for that moment or day when I wake up and think, I love this man and I'm all in for the future. It's been a year, shouldn't I be there by now? I want to be patient with myself and my feelings, but then I worry that I'm not being fair to him if, after this long, I'm still evaluating things and he's not. How long is long enough to know?
KEEP WAITING: This could be Part II of yesterday's discussion of the whole idea of a finish line, or reaching a point where we win at life.
Do you like this person? Yes/no. Do you want to keep enjoying his company? Yes/no.
If it's yes and yes, then why does it have to be more than that?
If you're concerned that taking things day by day is somehow not fair to him, then you can certainly tell him you're happy just enjoying his company with no set goal in mind and ask him if he's OK with that. He, then, can decide whether to stay on those terms or go.
I realize that might seem disingenuous of you — to position yourself as comfortable taking things day by day when you just declared you're "still hoping to share the rest of my life with someone." But if you can get yourself to the point of seeing the wisdom of not rushing, and enjoying what you have unless and until it's clear you want something else, then you can say that with a straight face.
As a bonus, this would remove from your relationship this arbitrary pressure for Answers, and allow it to follow its own course at its own pace.
RE: WAITING: I spent a lot of my early relationship with my boyfriend in a similar mind-set; he seemed all in on me, but I wasn't sure if I felt the same. I spent months agonizing, but eventually reached the point of, "Do I like spending time with him? Yes. Then I'm just going to keep going until I don't want to spend time with him." We've been together for more than three years now, and I have reached a place where I can't imagine life without him. But it did take a lot of me trying to get out of my own head about it.
ANONYMOUS: Thanks, very apt. I don't know if it's our conditioning or in our nature, but it is hard work to override the impulse to Figure Out Where This Is Going. The effort is worth it, though, especially given how much we tend to rationalize away when we're eager to make something work.