My boyfriend and I have been together for seven months.
He talks about marriage and kids while I'm still struggling to say "I love you" and my parents don't know he exists.
Some days can be really tough because of the varying levels of affection, attention, and involvement we can give to each other. For a long time, it felt like there was something wrong with me; that I was avoiding getting deeply involved emotionally as some sort of defense mechanism.
Turns out there's a name for what we are. It's called an "Asymmetrically Committed Relationship" defined as "relationships in which there is a substantial difference in the commitment levels of the partners."
While the "less committed" partner in these sorts of relationships is usually characterized as heartless, more likely to cheat, and generally having a "couldn't care less" attitude towards their partner/relationship, that is not necessarily the case. Emotional distance can be caused by a variety of circumstances: negative past experiences, low self-esteem, mental health problems, introversion, and a number of other factors.
Additionally, the person who's less emotionally invested in the relationship is typically the one that tends to hold more power between the two of them. This can leave the more committed person feeling emotionally drained and taken advantage of in their relationship.
Using differing levels of commitment as an excuse to emotionally manipulate your partner or to do something destructive like cheating on them is unethical and downright malicious.
If you're going to be that sort of person in a relationship, don't enter a relationship, plain and simple.
I'm more hesitant and unsure when it comes to our relationship but that doesn't mean that I'm heartless or that I would ever intentionally hurt my boyfriend. It also means that I understand that sometimes he needs more affection and support than I usually offer. Open communication and patience have been vital in our experience and we are sure to be open to one another's different emotions.
While ideally, both partners would be at about an even level in their relationship, being on different pages isn't necessarily a sign that the relationship is unsustainable or won't last. As long as there is active, honest communication from each person about where they're at emotionally, along with patience and understanding from each side, it is more than possible to have a healthy, mutually respectful relationship in which both partners feel that their needs are being met.
If you and your partner decide to maintain your ACR by modifying your behavior to meet the other's needs or by adjusting your expectations based on what your partner can or will offer, then, by all means, go for it. Any relationship that's worth being in is going to take some sort of work to achieve. It's worked for me and, if you put in the work, it can work for you too. If you find that it's not working, have the courage and integrity to end the relationship, rather than dragging the person along and letting them think you feel differently than you really do.