Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Widower Question


This is a response to an anonymous comment I found on Dating a Widower. I'm responding here because I don't like the idea of anybody being frightened ever, let alone on New Year's Eve:

Now I'm really frightened. My "friend" lost his wife of 25 years after a long illness. She died 4 months ago also. Stan and I knew each other for years before she died, and I actually went to school with her and liked her very much. Russ and I have been dating for only a month, but it seems like the relationship is moving along in a nice way. We talk about his wife often, and I am very comfortable with it and his feelings. I have asked him several times if he thought he were emotionally ready to date since it's only been such a short time.

His reply was that when his wife was diagnosed with cancer 2.5 years ago his marriage changed, that he became her partner, care giver, support system. That he has been grieving the loss of his marriage for all that time. Russ and his wife had a good marriage and I have no doubt would have been married forever had she not have died. Maybe I am fooling myself, but when we talk about her it seems very natural, healthy, Russ talks about everything, not like she was just a saint, but the not so great things about their marriage too. We laugh and we get sad.

Russ says that some people don't understand that he isn't openly grieving, but that they don't understand about the greiving he has done for so long. When she was sick and I would run in to Russ, he would talk to me about her and the things they were going through at home, trust me he was grieving. I guess what I'm asking is, can he really be ready to be in an exclusive relationship, or am I to look forward to the backing in, backing out times, do I quit seeing him and give him the public grieving time he really doesn't want? Be his friend? Geezzz I'm so confused now after reading the other blogs. Please help me.



You know what, Anonymous? He says he's ready. He's acting like he's ready. Maybe he really is ready.

The tricky thing about relationships (whether you're dating a widower or not) is that there are never any guarantees. Not for me, not for you, not for Brad Pitt. Some relationships work out and some of them don't.

There's some comfort in that.

So far this man has given you no reason to doubt him, so enjoy yourself. Take things day by day. See what happens.

Best wishes for a fabulous new year filled joy, health, and prosperity.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

He Says He's Been Hurt and Won't Commit


Hi Terry,

I met this man four months ago and we hit it off right away. He was married for 20 years, and then got into a four year relationship four months after the divorce. His wife left him for another man, and the four year relationship broke his heart also.

Anyway, he would not ever make the commitment to me. He kept saying, I'm not sure I have the feelings I should have for you, it should just be there. The next minute he says, he's been hurt so bad he doesn't know if he can ever fall in love again. When he says he wants to stop seeing me, a few days or a week later, he emails to tell me he misses me and he thinks about me all the time.

This last time he emailed me he said that he was in a committed relationship but wasn't happy and thought about me all the time, this is after we hadn't seen each other for a month, so we got together again and he was in love with me and going to let the other relationship go to pursue a relationship with me.

That lasted a week and now he says he's not sure he has the feelings he should have for me and he doesn't for the other lady either, and he's confused. He has not left the other lady yet he says because of the holidays, and they had plans, but he was going to right after the holidays. After talking for awhile, he says that I'm right, he's just confused and he wants to give us a chance now and he's going to commit to do that.

Is this the behaviour of a man that has been hurt so badly that he can't commit and may never be able to love again, as he says?

In the last two and a half years, he has gone from one relationship to another. I think he loves me and that scares him, and that if he would just give us a chance, he would overcome the fear and be happy. What do you think? Is there any advice you can give me to help him move forward in his life?

Thank you.

K.-


Dear K.-

You sound like a nice person. You sound like a nice person who does not deserve to be treated like a ping-pong ball days before Christmas.

You are allowing this man to call all the shots in your relationship. He is taking very good care of himself, thank you, while you're left wondering how you can help him.

He says he's going to dump the other woman he's dating after the holidays. Wow. What a guy. He doesn't want to break plans with her, so he'll continue to let her think things are progressing happily between them, and then BAM! Happy 2009!

Put yourself in her place.

But he's confused, poor boy, and so we're all supposed to rally around him and help him figure things out. And the one who manages to convince him that she truly understands him--will never hurt him-- will be the winner. She'll get the prize!

HIM!

Except if you stand back and look closely, he may not be much of a prize. You said it yourself: In the past couple of years, he's gone from one relationship to the other. His wife left him for another man. Okay, maybe she was a heartless witch, or maybe-- just maybe--she wasn't. (There are two sides to every story.) Then he dated another woman for four years, and she broke his heart.

Why is everybody breaking this guy's heart? Seems to me he's out breaking everybody else's.

In the end, you can't convince anybody you're the one for him. You can't help him move on with his life. He has to do it for himself.

WHAT YOU CAN DO is come to terms with the fact that you deserve better than this. You shouldn't have to spend the holidays wondering if and when this guy is going to lower the boom on the other woman and come back to you.

(Because even if he did, do you really want to be looking over your shoulder, wondering when he's going to do it to you?)

The next time he calls you and tells you he's thinking about you all the time, tell him to keep thinking. Because you've moved on.

Let this be your mantra:

I DESERVE BETTER. I DESERVE BETTER. I DESERVE BETTER.

I CAN DO BETTER!

Because you can.

Banish this individual from your mind. Spend your time with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself. By all means, steer clear of small-minded creeps who make you feel defective because you're not in a committed relationship.

Treat yourself as you would a beloved child.

Merry Christmas. I'm saying a big prayer for you and wishing you all the very best. Here's to a happy, prosperous, and blessed 2009 filled to the brim with a love that never, ever makes you wonder.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dating a Widower at Christmas


Hi Terry,

I am one of your readers who's come across a tough dating issue.

I am single. I met a man 18 years older than me. His wife just passed away less than one year ago. We seemed to be getting along well, dating, taking dance lessons twice a week, and occasionally having sex.

Recently, his attitude suddenly changed. He wrote me an email, which I'd like you to help me understand. Is there any hidden meaning here? Should we stop dating? Or is it just a song?

Here are the contents of the email:

"(As the song goes....Que Sera Sera.....Whatever Will Be Will Be......who are we to choose ?...... that is something for GOD to decide and I don't think anyone can interfere.......)."

Thank you very much in advance.

-C.


Hello, C.-

Usually, it takes more than a couple of months to get over the death of a spouse, so I'm going to guess that your dance partner hit the ballroom before he was emotionally ready to do so.

Sometimes after a person's spouse dies, well-meaning friends advise them to "get out there" and "keep busy" before they've had a chance to process the loss. I'm not a bereavement counselor, but I do know that after my mother died, my father and the rest of us had a rough time facing that first year of birthdays and holidays without her.

So, here we are a couple of days before Christmas, and your friend's attitude has suddenly changed. He and his wife used to spend Christmas together, and he will wake up this year without her. The emotions he'd been suppressing by "getting out there" are coming to a head.

That's not to say I like the "Que Sera" email. Whatever will be will be, and while the future is not ours to see, you certainly have the right to choose whether or not you will continue to be this man's dance partner.

I don't know whether he wants to stop dating. I don't know if he even knows. I do know that it usually takes more than a few months to get over the death of a spouse (I'm repeating myself, but this is important).

If I were you, I'd treat this man kindly, but I wouldn't let him call the shots. You might meet him for fewer dance lessons (or none at all). You might keep your options open and date other people.

I would definitely cut out the sex.

It appears he's asking for space, so by all means give it to him. But give yourself the love, care, and consideration you deserve. Treat yourself as a treasure that's yet to be discovered.

He's taking care of himself. Please take care of yourself.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Who Would Marry This Person?



Drew Peterson, the four-times-married 54-year-old whose third wife turned up dead in a bathtub, and whose fourth wife disappeared and never turned up at all, claims he is newly engaged to a 23-year-old.

Why any woman would find this individual remotely attractive is beyond me, but experts have been weighing in with theories (some women have an unusual need for excitement, others just suffer from cripplingly low self-esteem).

Peterson himself has claimed that women frequently hand him their phone numbers.

In better news, a good friend told me yesterday that her brother, a nice and normal divorced man in his early 50s, is enjoying a serious relationship.

"Is the woman around his age?" I asked (I really didn't have to ask; I instinctively knew the answer).

"Yes," my friend answered. "They like to do a lot of the same things. He's happy. For the first time in a long time, he feels really good about the future."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mama's Boy

I just got word that my book club meeting tonight is cancelled due to bad weather. Damn! I was looking forward to that hummus and wine.

So....

I'm not proud to admit this, but I'll probably tune into NBC's new sub-reality show, Momma's Boys, in which three overbearing mothers oversee their sons' choices of potential mates.

Check out the clip from this morning's Today Show. Am I a glutton for punishment, or what? (This review by Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd says I definitely am.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Attracting Men When You're Over 40


Hi Terry!

I am in my late 40s, never been married, and most of my friends are now married or in serious relationships, so my whole social group have almost instantly disappeared), and I am very social and used to having things to do every night). I work from home, so don't meet a lot of new people these days and most of my activities are not conducive to meeting men e.g. going to the gym to exercise classes which are all women etc.

I would love to be in a relationship, but my challenge is how to meet new/eligible/straight/unmarried men! I toyed a bit with on-line (although I may not have given it a fair try), but the guys on-line my age are looking for 20 year olds and even though I am a beautiful woman - I don't think that beauty comes across in my photos, so I don't think the on-line medium does me justice. I have a high level of education and I speak several languages and am looking for someone with an international perspective - sometimes I think it's where I live that limits me, but I talk to people in New York/ Washington, all over the country and world and it seems these men are few and far between.

So my question to you is -- if the on-line dating scene creeps me out (which it does) - what other avenues are there for being proactive in meeting decent men! As I said, I am far from shy and once in front of people can easily break the ice. It's just that I am not meeting them!! I never used to think age was an issue - but I guess in this situation maybe it is?

Looking forward to your perspective on this.

-M


Dear M.-

Yeah, a lot of guys in their 40s do look for younger women (just as more women in their 40s look for younger men), but, believe me, men who want to date a women their own age exist.

Some men really do prefer to date someone who was about their age in 1980; it gives makes them feel they have something in common, it makes it fun to reminisce, and it helps the woman fit in more easily with their friends.

Speaking of friends, when ours marry or become involved in serious relationships, a lot of them definitely disappear (very annoying, I know). The challenge is to always be meeting new people.

You're in the gym, and that's great. Are you making friends there? Who cares that they're all women? Make a friend and see where it leads. She may have a brother or a cousin or a co-worker who wants to meet a woman just like you. (Just don't drop her when you do meet someone special. We all need friends.)

You work from home. Is there a coffee place in your neighborhood where you could spread out with a newspaper and take a 45-minute break several times a week? The coffee places in my neighborhood tend to attract men with laptops. Become a regular. See who you meet.

Pick a night and go to a bookstore with a cafe. Choose some books, buy yourself a coffee, and hang out. The great thing about bookstores is that nobody will think you're weird if you're in there by yourself, and you're approachable if you're alone. Become a regular. If they have an open-mic night, be sure to go.

Find a friend and go to a high-end restaurant for drinks. In other words, go where educated men go, like a good steakhouse. (I know of one celebrated steakhouse that actually offers free drinks to women during certain hours; in other words, they get a lot of men hanging around, and they want more women.)

It's key that you go in there focused on enjoying your friend's company (avoid looking like you're on the make). Once in a while, splurge for dinner there. Become a regular. Treat the bartender well (once they get to know you, bartenders can be an excellent source of introductions).

Volunteering is a beautiful way to meet people, too. Try Volunteer Match or Habitat for Humanity.

Be a beacon of light wherever you go, whether it's to the supermarket or the dry cleaner or to the library (did I tell you the story about the ex-nun who met her very well-to-do husband when she worked as a clerk in a company library?). You never know who'll you'll meet, who'll see you, who'll know someone you'd like to know.

But, before you ever leave the house, it's important to know what you're looking for in a man, and I'm talking about more than just his looks and income. Look for honesty, a sense of humor, and generosity, for a start. Pull out a pen and write it down! Build that man in your imagination. Believe that he exists and is on his way to you.

While your beauty and education certainly have value, in the end you don't want to be loved for them. Embody the qualities you want in the man you attract (in other words, be the person you want to date).

You can't miss.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dating vs. Hooking Up


Today's New York Times published a provocative piece by Charles M. Blow about the under-30 population's attitude toward dating. According to my teenage friend, what the article says is true: It's all about the hookup.

"There are girls in my school who find a new guy every week, and then come to school and brag about it."

"Really? I said. "Because I sure hope they're using protection. People can get really sick, you know." (Couldn't resist this opportunity to mention the disease-preventative properties of condoms.)

Back to Blow's article: He finishes it by calling the whole phenomenon "sad." I'm inclined to agree, but most of the people who commented on the piece clearly do not.

Read Blow's article here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Does He Like You (Or Does He Just Need an Ego Boost)?


Just yesterday I sent a piece to my mailing list about men who flirt madly with you, capture your interest, and then...nothing.

Coincidentally, today Manslator Jeff Mac advised a woman who's wondering whether one of these types is truly interested in her, or if he's merely making eyes to give himself a major ego boost. It's great to get a male perspective on these matters, so check out Jeff's take here.

Perceptive Jeff is also the author of the hot new and humorous book, Manslations: Decoding the Secret Language of Men.

Date Safely


My favorite Irish correspondent wrote today to advise me of the term "sexual kleptomaniac," which describes a clown who'll say and do whatever it takes to get a woman into bed.

At the same time, New York investigators were trying to find out what happened to a 25-year-old woman who disappeared after leaving a club with a sexual predator named Michael Mele. Allegedly, this creep has a long track record of aggression and deviance, and the long arm of the law is finally catching up with him.

It's my fervent belief that most men are not sexual kleptomaniacs or deviants like Michael Mele (not by a long shot), but how do you protect yourself from the ones who are, especially if you're meeting guys online? Dating Coach and Manifesting Mr. Right author Ronnie Ann Ryan offers some good tips.

To read them, click here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

He Loves Her, But She's Abusive


Terry-

I don't really want to talk to my friends about this problem because it's kind of embarrassing.

The girl that I'm dating I love very much. We get along really good. But when we fool around she can get really physical. I'm in pretty good shape. I'm about 5'7, I box, and I also help teach boxing courses at the gym.

Well, the girl I'm dating is a bit taller (5'11) and a little bit bigger than me. Not fat, just thicker. I'm only about 145 and she's about 160. Maybe I'm saying all of this to justify my question so it doesn't look so dumb.

When we fool around, I can tell she's a bit stronger than I am. That alone kind of bothers me. But it is what it is. I have a pretty small waist and lean muscle while she has pretty big hips and bigger leg muscles.

This wouldn't be that big of a deal if she didn't get too physical. It's like she enjoys trying to hurt me.

Like if I'm on top she'll wrap her legs around really tight at times. I tell her to stop. But sometimes she'll actually get mad and want to stop. But I don't know what else to do. I can't even catch a deep breath and it feels like my ribs are going to crack in. I'm really not trying to exaggerate this. But it's not any fun for me. And it's nothing I can talk to my friends about. They would think I was a ......... a really weak guy.

She gets mad if I ask her to please me "down there". But I do that like 10 times to her 1 time she ever does it for me. Many times she'll make us stop fooling around completely.

Again, I'm not exaggerating about this. And, to make matters worse she has me lay on my back with her straddling over my face. Opposed to her laying on her back. But then she grinds so hard. Sometimes pushing down so hard that I can't catch a breath. THEN she'll get upset at me for "squirming" too much!!

When we are not fooling around it's GREAT. That's so odd to say. You'd think that I would like to fool around with her. I do and I would more. But it seems that the longer we've been together the more this element has been coming up.

Then there's the embarrassing factor. I want to be a boxer. I don't need to think I'm the toughest guy in the world. I'm clearly not. I can live with her being physically stronger. But when she's in the mood, and in that particular mood I get intimidated.

I would never hit her. Never ever ever. But, she's squeezed my ribs so hard at times that I have had to miss sparring. I'll even tell her before fooling around that I have sparring over the next couple of weeks (I can make okay $$ being a sparring partner). There have already been 2 times when I couldn't do that because of her acting like Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses

Is there any chance she'll lose interest in doing this/acting this way? Is she trying to show me that she's in charge when we fool around? Should I end the relationship? But if I do that, I could see her telling people about her hurting me and me being weak, not able to 'handle' her. That would be embarrassing.

-Frustrated


Dear Frustrated:

Before I give you my opinion (you don't sound like a weak guy, for one thing), here's what the website of the National Domestic Violence Hotline has to say:

"Abuse is a pattern of coercive control that one person exercises over another. Battering is a behavior that physically harms, arouses fear, prevents a partner from doing what they wish or forces them to behave in ways they do not want.

Battering includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

If you think you might be in an abusive relationship please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or your local domestic violence center to talk with someone about it."

Note the bit in the third paragraph about gender. It's a myth to think that only men are capable of abuse in relationships. Women are more than capable of it, too, whether it's physical or emotional (but it's underreported because a lot of men fear being perceived as weak). If a woman had written to me about a man rendering her unable to work, I would tell her to run for her life.

As I said before, you don't sound like a weak guy. At all. You're hanging out with boxers, but a cursory glance around a mall near you will prove you're stronger and fitter than 96% of the US population.

You sound like a decent guy who's in love with a woman who treats you well when you're not in the sack. But once you hit the sack, she transforms into a creature who gets upset at you for wanting to keep your airway unobstructed. She stops the action because it's all about her, and you're not doing things according to her demands.

You say this behavior is escalating. The woman has injured you to the point where you were unable to work. This is absolutely not okay.

Just because you're a man, it doesn't mean you should let her behavior slide. You already know it's not okay, or you wouldn't have written to me.

Here's the tricky thing: You say you love her. Things may be great between you most of the time, but does it really make up for the other nonsense? If you stay with her, what will your life look like 10 years from now? Will you have been able to achieve your goals as a boxer? Can you imagine being married to her?

You say that if you break if off, you could see her telling people about hurting you and that you're weak. What kind of person would say such things? And if she does say them, would they reflect on her or you?

I'm guessing it would not be you.

I don't know this woman, and I don't know what else she's capable of. If you decide to get out of the relationship, and she makes things dangerous for you, please make a call to the good people at the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

You wouldn't be the first man to do it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Have Her Chances for Love Passed Her By?



Terry-

You are so fortunate to have found your life partner and have a nice life. I am almost sixty years old and have waited patiently all of my life for my life partner.

A college graduate from a private women's college, I returned home to find my classmates married. I live in a small town and have worked in a variety of fields and eventually worked my way up from teller to vice president in a local bank. I currently am a caregiver to my 93 year old father. Have always been the caregiver to my parents and siblings. Also take care of an animal shelter by myself.

Do not get asked out because most of the men are married (they flirt a lot). The single men are divorced and too scared to get into another relationship (they can barely talk).

I really expected to have a husband and family, but no one ever chose me. I am approachable and speak to people. People whom I don't know even speak to me for advice when I am out shopping. I have worked with women who got divorced and the next day there was a line of guys wanting to date them. Meanwhile I was totally ignored by men.

About three years ago, a guy who I have known for twenty years made his move. He is a very intelligent doctor who has a practice nearby but lives an hour away. He seems to care about me but never asked me out or gave me any flowers or gifts. He has been divorced three times but that was before I knew him. He told me about his parents and siblings (he has no children) but didn't show me his house or introduce me to his family.

Two years ago I broke my collarbone and he was the first doctor to treat me. Then he never checked on my progress - no calls, did not come by, no soup, nothing. I was shocked that he wasn't concerned. He also treats my family and wants to make sure I can reach him and have all of his phone numbers.

Well, this relationship is hopeless and in the past two years I have aged a lot. It is the holidays and once again I must go through them alone.

I have prayed to God for years and sat in church with all of the married men and jealous wives. Just think that God forgot me. I don't get anything for Valentine's Day and I usually buy my own birthday gifts. Don't get to celebrate anniversaries and go on nice trips. Mainly just work all the time. This past Spring I did make an effort to go to several concerts by myself for a change of pace. Just have a lot less energy now. It amazes me how so many people found their life partners.

-D.


Dear D.-

You didn't ask for any advice, so I won't give you any.

I will say this, though: I don't believe God forgot you (I don't believe he forgets anybody). I do believe that age is irrelevant. If you're in good health, age doesn't matter. (My husband's aunt is vital and healthy at 104; my husband's brother, an athlete, died of an aneurysm at 20.)

As far as finding my life partner, it was less about finding someone to choose me and more about determining what I wanted in a man, and then deciding that I "had" him.

This took concentrated effort. It meant acting as if, thinking as if, believing as if the guy truly existed on a daily basis in my life, house, and car. For example, I stopped sleeping in the middle of the bed to make room for him.

This may sound like hocus-pocus, but I conditioned my subconscious mind to believe this man and our relationship existed. What the subconscious mind accepts as reality, it brings to pass. There are lots of good books on this subject, including Positive Imaging: The Powerful Way to Change Your Life
by Norman Vincent Peale.

Just so you know: Prior to meeting my husband of 16 years, my longest relationship lasted nine months. And it was a disaster.

I don't believe for one minute that love is out of the question for you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

When Your Love's Dishonest


This email came from a guy, but I'm pretty sure we can all relate:

Hello, Terry-

If your girlfriend does something dishonest, what's the best way to handle it?

Your friend,
F.


Dear F.-

It depends on what they did. If the person in question snatched a shot glass from a bar, I'd be turned off. But if I really liked him (or, in your case, her) I'd probably say something like, "That's stealing, isn't it?" and listen carefully to his response.

Eh, who am I kidding? I probably wouldn't date him again.

As for people who lie, I don't have much patience for them, either. If a guy told me I looked great even if I knew I didn't, I might chalk up his lack of honesty to kindness, but I'd think twice about asking his opinion again.

Since none of us is perfect, it's possible that a stupid fib will pop out of someone's mouth during a moment of insecurity, and that's probably okay as long as the person takes pains to be honest in the future. We're all capable of little lapses in honesty -- in our words and in our actions -- every now and then. It's how we handle ourselves afterwards that matters. We must strive to do better the next time.

But if I were with a guy who lied to me (or to anyone else) as a means of getting through the day, I'd definitely kiss him goodbye.

Life is complicated enough without having to figure out what's real and what isn't. When you're in a long-term relationship, it contributes greatly to your piece of mind to be able to trust your partner. You can't build happiness on a shaky foundation.

In case you're wondering if I ever lied to my husband, I did. Once. I made up some silly story to get him to a surprise party. While he really enjoyed the party (and the gesture), he did express concern about how well I lied to him about it. It did make him wonder what else I was capable of lying about.

I made it a policy never to lie to him again, and I hold him to the same standard. Years ago, I fell in love with a liar, and it cost me many months of sleep, not to mention my self-esteem.

If you're an honest man, you deserve to date an honest woman. She's out there. Accept nothing less.

-Terry

Monday, December 01, 2008

She's In No Rush to Get Married--Is She Weird, or What?


Hi Terry,

I guess that first I would like to commend you on the advice you give others with their pressing life's questions. You seem to analyze things the same way that I do, and I guess that's why I wanted to come foreward and ask you a question of my own.

First off I am only 21 years old (still very young I know), but I've recently found out that my views on marriage are so much more different than everyone else's that I have come across. I have been with my boyfriend, the love of my life and my best friend, for two and a half years, and unlike most people I am not expecting an engagement ring any time soon. I don't feel that we have been together long enough to receive such a gift.

I read about people wanting rings after only a year or sometimes even less and getting them, and it makes me nervous in my stomach. Forever is a very long time and to base so much on such a short time would make me uneasy.

But on another note there is no doubt that my boyfriend and I will be together forever as we tell each other often. We share dreams of having a home, children, dogs, and maybe even some day a cottage by a river. We sometimes lay awake a night and collectively daydream about what dreams we have the future (now if we can ever agree on a son's name lol). He's the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I cannot imagine my life without him. I feel like as long as I have him, and we continue working towards our future I'm happy and don't need anything else, and I know he feels the same.

But then there is the topic of marriage. Currently both of our parents are going through nasty separations. My parents are separating from a 22 year marriage and his mother is divorcing from her second marriage, this one of 16 years. Both of our mothers are already dating and have not had communication with us in almost a year. We're both going through the same thing, and so have been able to offer each other a lot of support. But I think that these ordeals have made us both afraid of marriage.

Through the past 2 and a half years with him I've realized that I don't need a ring to prove that he loves me or that I love him. That we don't need a piece of paper to stay together forever and to make each other happy. We both put equal parts into the relationship and keeping a happy home with our two cats. I realized that the only reason I would want to get married would be to have his last name and to wear that beautiful dress, and I really don't need either. As long as I have him to make me laugh, to share my dreams with, to hug me when I cry, and encourage me when I'm down I don't see why I need a ring and a rock. Am I completely crazy and off the radar that I'm not crying for a ring?

Sure some days I often think that the party would be fun and that our relationship wouldn't change with marriage (just because we're both so aware of what happens) but is it wrong or odd of me to not feel pressured to be married by society and family? For me to not become crushed if there's not a promise ring for me in a box under the tree (We always agreed promise ring before engagement ring and puppies before babies)? I almost feel like a black sheep.

When we talk about how we feel about marriage I feel fine but then when we're around all of our friends who are engaged and having children, they laugh at our idea and are taken back by the fact we're not in a rush to get married. Why does it make me feel like I'm weird? I read these questions about people ready to end a six-month relationship because they don't have a ring yet, and I can't help but wonder why I have no desire to get one. If he ever asks my answer is yes because I know we'll get through any problems together, but will we ever get over our fear of marriage?

I know its a long email but you seemed like the one person I could explain my problem to without any ridicule. There's multiple problems in this I know. The fear of marriage and the pressure of society. Its a small problem compared to some but I just need to know that I'm not weird (Which I use the word weird for lack of another more fitting word). I hope I didn't confuse you too much, and I hope I hear from you soon.

-T


Hello, T-

Thanks for the kind words.

Now, do I think you're weird? On the contrary, I think you're smart, self-aware, and show incredible wisdom for a person of any age, let alone 21 years.

Let's talk about your age. You're 21, and society chides you because you're in a relationship but not pining for a ring. You're barely out of school, finding your way in the world, deciding what's right and what's not right for you, and somehow this makes you weird.

But you're not. You haven't allowed other people to make decisions for you. You know your own mind. You are to be respected, not chided.

Now about the fear of marriage. Again, you're 21. Your parents and your boyfriend's mother are in the middle of what you term "nasty" divorces. Well, really, who in your position--and in her right mind-- wouldn't think twice before she legally bound herself to another person?

The truth is, many people don't get married because they're in love. They get married because "it's time" or "everybody else is doing it" or because they promised themselves they'd beat their sister, roommate, or cousin to the altar (seriously, some people do this).

It's insane.

You and your boyfriend, on the other hand, seem to be working out very carefully what you want out of life together. Believe me when I tell you that so many engaged and married people don't have the conversations you're having. They buy a ring, buy a dress, and wing the rest. They wake up a year or two years or five years later wondering if one or the other is ever going to want children, or if they're ever going to agree on when to swap the one-bedroom in the city for a house in the suburbs.

Eventually, a lot of them give up trying to convince the other and divorce.

Will you ever get over your fear of marriage? I don't know. You and your boyfriend might consider counseling to work through your very natural and intelligent concerns. Or you may just keep going at the pace that feels comfortable and see how things unfold.

All the very best to you,

Terry