Letters From Japan: “He Wants To Take A Two Year Break … And Then Marry Me”

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Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you'd like to ask Hilary? Email it to editorial@gplusmedia.com with the subject "Ask Hilary."

Hello Miss Hilary!

I have a problem with my Japanese boyfriend. We have been dating for two years and I would say that we have a very good relationship.

He was involved in a minor incident 7 months ago and he needed to face the police, but all was settled well. Then one day he told me that one of his colleagues has been called in to see the police because of him, but again the problem was settled.Then problems with our relationship began. In the past few weeks, he’s been acting so weird that I asked him what was going on? He told me he wants us to get married early, but I am working on a two-year contract and I can’t drop what I’m doing immediately for him. He said he understood that, and after a few days, he told me that he wants his freedom for two years, and after my contract ends, we will get married. I asked him why, and he gave some reasons, but promised that we would get married in two years. I told him that I don’t want to end the relationship, and he said he doesn’t either but wants to have time for himself. I’m very confused now. Should I consider this as a break up even if he says we’ll get married after my contract ends? – Two Years Wait

Dear Two Years Wait,

My instinctive reaction when I heard your story was to worry about you. When Japanese partners have problems with the police, it can sometimes turn nasty for visa holders, but I’m glad that that’s not the case here.

However, this “wanting time for himself” is a rather common “trend” I’ve noticed in recent years — you’re not the first woman I’ve spoken to about this sort of situation, and I don’t think you’ll be the last. Japanese women as well have messaged me with this same story, so it seems to be fairly evenly dispersed between Japanese and multicultural relationships alike. The one thing that every single message has had in common is that this request comes from the guy first and tends to involve him needing to “find himself,” “needing some space,” or “not feeling ready.”

Based on my previous experience and discussions with Japanese men on the issue of “needing time,” I will go straight into the conclusion that he’s not ready to marry you, and wants to explore his options before “settling” or “coming back to what’s reliable.” Your boyfriend doesn’t want to be your boyfriend until he can do whatever he wants — which means putting you in limbo for two years while he dates/sleeps with anyone else he wants. As one of the men I discussed this with said, “he thinks of (you) as a security blanket: always there when you need it, even if you forget it in the closet.”

I told him that I don’t want to end the relationship, and he said he doesn’t either but wants to have time for himself.

Given that you mentioned his legal troubles, one of the Japanese men I spoke with, (who happens to be a lawyer), said that your boyfriend might still be involved in legal troubles. I don’t know the exact circumstances from your email, but if his legal problems are serious enough that he needs to end the relationship, you should consider the relationship over. You might even be contacted by the police yourself if the incident was serious enough.

What this all boils down to is: your boyfriend is either trying to find an excuse to end the relationship, or looking for permission to date other people until you can accommodate his plans. Either option isn’t good, no matter how you look at it.

I would say that you should end this relationship and that you have every right to consider yourself a free, single woman. I know it’s not the outcome you might want, but it may be for the best if you try to think of yourself this way. Do you really want to wait around for a man that doesn’t want to be with you? I’ve never met you, but I can say for certain that you don’t deserve to be treated like that by anyone for any reason.

Don’t let someone that only wants to be with you on his own terms dictate your life.

It might be a good idea to cut off contact with him, especially during the initial break-up stages. It can be hard to end a relationship like this, with some promise of “in the future” lingering overhead, so you might be tempted to jump at his every message or phone call. I would strongly suggest not doing this, simply because you are worth being with as you are, and not as someone to come back to marry after having some flings or freedom.

You’re a free, single woman now, and if you happen to meet someone else and you want to try dating them, I say go for it. Don’t let someone that only wants to be with you on his own terms dictate your life. It’s not worth the heartbreak and stress.

Read other Letters From Japan questions and answershere.