I need some help. I've been dating my boyfriend for almost three years, and now we are having issues about marriage. I've been asking, pushing, and wanting him to agree to marriage for about a year. I am 30.
I told him on our second date that I don't want to date someone for more than two years if I don't think it will lead to marriage. Anyway, I keep getting restless about him asking. I don't want to be pushy, but I just can't help it. Right around the two-year mark, he gave me this big speech about how much he loves me, but that he's not ready. Sometimes I get really insecure and upset, and I explode with frustration about how I'm afraid he doesn't love me and that I can't stand the idea of waiting around to find out later that he really doesn't want to get married.
Anyway, now it's all really frustrating because even though it seems he does want to get engaged, sometime with the next 6 months it sounds like, now I don't know if I will really believe him. I am afraid I will always feel like I pushed him into it.
How do I learn to back down? And, if he does propose, how will I know he meant it?
-Want to Feel Better Fast
I will tell you how to back down in a minute, but first take note of the words from your letter that popped out at me:
This situation has made you woefully unhappy, and part of you thinks marriage will make you happy. Another part of you thinks that perhaps marriage will not make you happy if you end up wondering for the rest of your life that you had to talk the guy into it.
So you're obviously smart and self-aware.
But you're operating on the faulty premise that you need to be married by a certain age. You said that you told this fellow on your second date that you didn't want to waste time. Is it possible, that in your quest to beat a self-imposed deadline, that you've convinced yourself that this man is indeed the one for you?
Think about this, please. Is he really the guy for you? Do you really love him? Or do you just want to get married already?
Now, even if you decide he is the man of your every fantasy, you said it yourself that you need to step back. You should absolutely do this, immediately and lovingly. If you've lost touch with friends, this is the time to reclaim them. If you don't have any friends, this is the time to make them.
Gently change your routine. Stop investing all your time in a relationship that may or may not proceed the way you hope. Be kind about this. You might ask your guy to make other plans (I repeat: kindly) because you'll be going out with Karen or Sue or whoever next weekend. If you are already spending some time with Karen or Sue, I suggest you start spending more time with them.
Do not be spiteful about this. Be the smiling, lovely woman who attracted the guy in the first place. Continue to see him, sure, but stop being available every time he calls you. Make a space for activities that do not include him. For your own peace of mind, never bring up the word marriage again.
This makes it possible for him to consider that you do have other interests, that you do have the capacity to make a life without him. He may not like that. He may say to himself, "You know, I really love this girl, and I don't want to lose her."
Or he may not. He may decide he does not want to be married, and for you to possess that knowledge would be a gift indeed. You can move on with your life. You're free to attract a man who truly desires to marry you.
The thing is, if you do keep going the way you're going (and you're really being unfair to yourself, by the way), you risk waking up at the age of 47 or whatever next to a man who feels trapped and resents you for it. But you know that already.
Don't condemn yourself to an hellish marriage to meet a deadline.
I don't know why you are compelled to marry by a certain age, but let me tell you, I've known women who had to be married by this or that birthday, and they're divorced now. One of these women, one of my best friends, suffered repeated and humiliating pressure from relatives who considered her a total failure when she reached her 29th birthday and still hadn't hooked a live one.
After answering some personal ads, she met a guy who fit the bill: Right religion, right job, right salary, and so on. On paper, they were a match made in heaven. Her family did a tap dance and threw a lavish wedding.
They were miserable and divorced three years later.
Take the pressure off yourself. Avoid people who pressure you. If all your friends are engaged or married and stopped spending time with you, find new friends. Console yourself in the knowledge that many of them will not be married forever.
The divorce statistics tell the tale. Have I convinced you to back off and start taking better care of yourself?
Then, if your guy does propose, you'll know that it's because he wanted to spend the rest of his life with you. You won't ever have to wonder if you pushed him into it.
But let me leave you with this:
Better single and happy than married and miserable.