Does A Relationship With A Bad Beginning Mean There’s No Potential?

Get Your Questions About Men Answered

I’ve been dating a wonderful man for the past two years. We were friends first so during the initial courtship I was reluctant to jump in. He was sweet, patient and persistent and I became confident there was potential.

However, after sleeping with me the first time he was distant, avoided sex, stared at other women, put me down, etc. I tried to break up many times but each time I raised an issue he fixed it. I was so confused by his behavior until I found out I’m his first serious relationship. Although he’s dated plenty, he has a history of losing interest early on and it sounds like he’s hurt a lot of people in the past. (Backstory: although extremely handsome now he was definitely an ugly duckling for most of his life and as a result is not exactly experienced.) Once we started talking about his insecurities and I made it clear that I wouldn’t leave, things got much better.

Now I am in the most loving, caring, supportive relationship I’ve ever had. He is smart, handsome, incredibly kind, earnest, affectionate, loves me to pieces, is devoted to his family, etc. I feel lucky!

I’m in the middle of job hunting and received some great offers on the other side of the country, which I’ve turned down. Some days I’m confident in my choice and other days I think I’m crazy for basing life decisions around someone who mistreated me. He’s said that he’s 100% committed but he’s also said that he doesn’t know where this is going (which is how I feel). I have a lot of left over insecurities from the beginning of our relationship and they’re beginning to bubble up. Whenever he does a small thing I blow it out of proportion. I know I need to stop but I wonder if I will ever able to forget our horrible beginning.

Does a bad beginning mean that we have no potential? How do I figure out if we’re compatible long term without having a “where are we going” conversation and placing undue pressure on him/us? If he doesn’t “know” after two years does it mean he never will?


So many questions, so few obvious answers. In order:

Does a bad beginning mean that we have no potential?

No, because that would be a binary choice and I don’t believe in binary choices. The fact that he would mistreat you at all seems to be a character issue, and that is absolutely a huge red flag to me. At the same time, if he’s been Mr. Perfect ever since that rocky first month, I don’t see how you can give greater weight to his previous behavior than his more recent behavior. So, no, I wouldn’t say you have no potential. I would say that the kind of person who is distant, puts you down, avoids sex and breaks hearts is a high-risk partner — the kind who may not have the capacity to make ANY woman happy.

The kind of person who is distant, puts you down, avoids sex and breaks hearts is a high-risk partner and may not have the capacity to make ANY woman happy.

How do I figure out if we’re compatible long term without having a “where are we going” conversation and placing undue pressure on him/us?

You never mentioned your age. It makes a difference if you’re 25, 35, or 55, you know?

You never mentioned what you do. It makes a difference if you have to be in a specific city to do your job or if you can do it anywhere.

You never mention where you want to live. It makes a difference culturally and financially where you choose to plant roots.

You never mention whether you want to have kids. It makes a difference in how much time you have to invest on a risky relationship.

Those are questions for you to answer. But I would suggest that two years in, you may or may not be positive that you are meant to be married, but you should be sure of one thing:

Your life goals and your boyfriend’s life goals are one and the same.

In other words, you should know him well enough, and have strong enough communication to know if he ultimately wants to get married, have kids, whether he’s ambitious, and where he wants to live. If you don’t know the answers to these — or have swept them under the rug to avoid making waves — it’s about time to have that conversation.

I’m a huge advocate of telling women to practice patience and giving men enough time to choose you, by their own volition, without exhibiting insecurity and pressure.

But two years in, you deserve some answers. You don’t have to sit him down and say, “So are we getting married?” You DO have to sit him down to find out if he wants to get married, what he thinks about your job opportunities, and whether he is willing to step things up.

By the way, it’s worth it to mention: just because he wants to marry you does not mean that you should want to marry him.

Ultimately, marriage is a choice, not a feeling.

The best relationships are based on a feeling of safety. And if you have a man around whom you don’t feel safe, you will be walking on eggshells for the rest of your life.

If he doesn’t “know” after two years does it mean he never will?

I have a theory that I use in my coaching.

You CAN know when it’s NOT right with someone.

You CAN’T know when it IS right with someone.

Believe the negatives, ignore the positives. If you have a bad feeling deep down about a man’s trustworthiness? Believe that feeling. On the other hand, everyone has had the “you just know” feeling about a romantic partner and been WRONG. I “just knew” twice and got dumped both times. Which just goes to show how much you “just know” when it comes to passion.

Ultimately, marriage is a choice, not a feeling. If either you or your boyfriend is waiting for an epiphany, you might both be waiting for a long time. Lots of people want to have the feeling — so that there’s no choice to be made. Problem is that the feeling is wrong more often than it’s right.

There are two separate choices to be made, Eve — your choice as to whether you can let down your guard and trust him after two years of good behavior, and his choice as to whether he wants to marry you. You can control the first one. You can’t control the second one.

All you can do is draw your own conclusions and IF you trust him and IF your long-term visions are aligned, let him know that you’d like him to make a decision within the next year.

If he doesn’t, it’s time to walk.

Join our conversation (11 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1

    Eve – Everyone feels lucky to be in a loving and caring (etc.) relationship but to me, that is not enough of a reason to stay. While you don’t state the things Evan points out (age, job, reason for the move), I wonder if you are looking for “permission” to break things off with your guy (through group consensus)? My concern (even though you discuss his A+ behavior) is hi. putting you down which is not cool in my mind,at all. Even with little relationship experience, this troubles me. A college boyfriend did this to me and to this day, as soon as a man does this, its over to me.   Don’t feel guilty or look for “us” bloggers to convince you to stay. It seems you have made up your mind already. Go with your gut and trust yourself.   Follow your dreams. Don’t feel guilty for moving on. There are many other wonderful men out there 🙂

  2. 2

    Evan, could you or someone help me understand something. I have read many of your blogs and one of the recurring themes is a man did something in the past (strip club, ex’s phone number, flirted  with another woman socially at a party, watches porn or lied that he watches porn)   but he is a great guy besides that one mistake and treats he like  a diamond, yet  the woman is questioning the entire relationship based off that past action, no matter how good he treats her now. In one of your blogs… or was it a news letter?… You mentioned a woman will remember something you did months ago when accounting -internally-    your points, so she remembers what you did months ago and could treat you good or bad for something that you don’t even remember…
    My question is, does this mean that if you make a mistake with a women you truly love, no matter how hard you try to show her you were an idiot afterwards, no matter how much good you do afterwards to show her you love her, she could still do as the letter writer Eve and allow a mistake from the past to bubble up and destroy the relationship? What should a guy do if she brings up something he thought was over and forgiven?
    I’m not talking about men who intentionally hurt women by the way, I’m talking about honest mistakes,  still  hurtful just not intentional.

    1. 2.1

      you always ask very good questions in a very sweet manner, I think you are going to be the ladies’ favorite male poster here.  
      I will offer my own self-analysis here, and probably other women will answer too.   I have a big ego, and I remember things that my husband did to me 15 years ago, which hurt me pretty badly at the time.   He is a good husband (has been for a loooooooooong time), and a great father, but we do have our quarrels and disagreements. When we are having a rough time, all the bad memories come rushing back to me, and I say to myself   ” how could have I been so stupid to disregard/forget/forgive so and so, it was a major red flag!”.   So, yes, mistakes from the past do bubble up, but if the quality of the relationship is good now, it is not very likely that they will stir trouble.  

    2. 2.2

      Thanks Gabriel. X

  3. 3

    I love this blog.   But this G person is NOT my favorite poster.   I don’t like these comments/ questions that stray from the original letter/ answer.   If G has so many questions, maybe he/she should write his/her own letter instead of hijacking the thread.

    (Agreed. – EMK)

  4. 4

    i am all ears for your own story / opinion on the topic 🙂

  5. 5

    To my opinion a rocky beginning is not a death sentence on the relationship, but the potential for a long-term healthy relationship is going to depend on how much progress has been made since the bad beginning. If the Letter Writer’s partner has acknoweldged his former bad character, and had committed to behave in more respectful ways in times of doubt, hardship, and disagreement then there is potential if they are otherwise compatible in their life goals, values, and lifestyles. If no discussion and commitment to do better have happened, I’d be worried that the “bad beginning behavior” would come back as soon as other difficulties would surface.
    Letter Writer, in order to assess long-term compatibility, you do not have to ask the “where are we going?” question. Simply ask curiosity-based questions about him that will allow you to discover his life goals, his values, and how he plans on managing his life. You will be able to deduct compatibility or lack thereof all by yourself. I find perfectly reasonnable for people who are dating to ask one another questions such as whether or not they would like to be a parent someday, and if yes, how they would raise their children in terms of values and discipline, what their career goals are, where they would love to live long-term, when/how they plan to retire and what their financial goals are, what their spiritual beliefs are, etc. Simply observing how your partner respond is already going to show you how interested they are in that process of deepening your relationship. If they cry wolf about feeling pressured, threatened, or answer evasively and/or don’t care to ask you questions in return, you know where they stand on the question, and therefore what you have to do : )
    You do not want to ask a list of serious questions on date #3, but a few months in an exclusive and committed relationship it’s only wise to start evaluating long-term potential if long-term is what you are looking for. Two years is definitely overdue.
    And finally, yes if he does not know after two years, he might never know, but only if you have made clear all along that he has to make up his mind re: long-term and have given him time to do so. It’s not fair to assume that he is evaluating you as a wife while he might simply be enjoying his first serious relationship. Clarity is always the best policy, so if you have not been clear yet, start now and give it another full year.
    To others who are 6 months to 1 year in, I’dd suggest to start evaluating long-term compatibility now so that you can walk away gracefully at the end of the second year if “(s)he still does not know what (s)he wants” : )

  6. 6

    If a guy does something hurtful or idiotic at the beginning of a relationship , it’s not a death sentence . What it means is he will have to work doubly , triply hard for the relationship. It’s human nature for the bad to linger longer in our memory. Every time he messes up, it’ll take her right back to that ugly place.

  7. 7

    Thanks for this Evan. My favourite part is:
    You CAN know when it’s NOT right with someone.
    You CAN’T know when it IS right with someone.

    I have been stressing that my 4 month relationship is doomed as we have a fair number of diferences but what I do  know is that it isn’t  wrong. On the important things like commitment, respect, kindness, support, long term goals and values we match. The differences are negotiable and we can work on them to where we are both comfortable.  

    Love your blog.

    To Eve, I think the most important thing for you decide is can you forgive your boyfriend for his mistakes and move on from them, can you trust him that he will not hurt you in the same way again? Only you can make that decision.

  8. 8

    Basing life decisions on someone who mistreated you, AND someone you are unsure even wants to marry you, IS crazy in my opinion.    I did this 2.5 years ago,   and I regret it.    I gave up an amazing teaching position in Spain; a position that would have gotten me out of debt and provided a wonderful life experience.    I chose to stay here because my boyfriend said he “didn’t want to lose me.”   Two years later,   guess what?   I am still in debt,   no amazing teaching experience in Spain,   and now my boyfriend has expressed that he doesn’t want to get married.    :/

    Take care of your life essentials first. The right man for you will find a way to mold himself into YOUR solid life.


  9. 9

    what a meanie the responder is! I was asking the same question in my mind about my own ex. After reading the concern, I now see, Yes, I am getting over me ex for good, even if it takes work and time and is painful. And I will eventually open to new love that never puts me down (thats just abusive) and that gets off the right foot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *