- Gender and Relationships
She Brought Up Marriage, He Brought Up An Old Argument. What Does That Mean?
I've been enjoying your advice here. It would be fantastic to get the opinion of someone who is as straight and honest as you are, so here's my scenario, in the case you think you can help me see my situation with more clarity:
I've been dating a great guy for the last 2.5 years. He is easy-going, mature, kind and very smart. He is 31-years-old, has a very good job and income and bought about four or five years ago. He has been doing his masters degree part-time and will be looking for a job in his new area of specialization in the near future.
I am 27-year-old, and I also have a good full-time job and support myself fully. I am planning to go back to school for my PhD soon, but haven't made any definite plans yet.
We've been living together for the last year and a half, in his house (I pay a monthly rent that we agreed upon. We don't share any bills except for food expenses, our finances are not tied together in any way).
About 9 months ago, I brought up the idea of marriage. We were very happy together, we had a few arguments but resolved them, lived together without any major issues - and we both generally want marriage and children (he has been forthright with me about his hopes of having those things in his life). I felt that we were in a good place for marriage, both secure in our jobs, even if we're going or planning for more training/schooling. And the biggest part: We were very much in love.
But he did not want to get married and wasn't sure why. First he said we had a lot of changes coming up and he wanted us to get through them first, but finally agreed that we'll always have changes, even with marriage and kids and life - so he agreed that was an excuse. Then he focused on a relatively small argument we had once (a very silly one about a time when I took a wrong turn on a driving trip, and he decided I don't listen to him because of it - but later rescinded that idea). Eventually, he agreed that the specific argument was not the problem - but he still couldn't figure out why he didn't want to get married.
It surprised me, because our relationship seemed to be moving towards marriage - including us moving in together, being involved with each other's families, and making plans together for a move together when he is finished with his schooling. I had planned to apply for my PhD around cities that he would also have options for his career. We had talked often about our future house together (he would bring this up), and I started taking actual steps towards applying for schools, such as studying up for the GREs.
Immediately I told him that I wouldn't consider moving with him unless he could commit to a future together. I have a job I like very much that I don't need to leave immediately, and there are great schools for me in areas where he's not necessarily interested in moving, so I would have to make decisions that are best for me, not both of us, if he didn't want to make a commitment. I told him I didn't not want to put an ultimatum down, but that I also won't change my life around to be with someone who isn't sure about me. So, we ended up postponing our planning for the future for a year. I would wait an extra year before applying for schools, and he would wait a little longer before changing careers.
I went through a lot of emotions about this. Certainly, I felt rejected by someone who I thought very much loved me and wanted a future with me. I also felt, unfortunately, like the needy girl just twiddling her thumbs, waiting for the guy to come around -- and I really, truly dislike this feeling. I've always been independent, and I was never the girl who desperately wanted to get married. But when I met this guy, I did feel like he was the person I could make this kind of commitment with, and actually wanted it with him. And surely, after two years and living together, I thought he had plenty of opportunity to figure out how he feels about me (am I amiss with this idea?).
Anyway, we talked about it more. He never actually came up with any reasons why he didn't want to get married - but I asked him to think about a potential time-line with us, a way for me to know that he at least has our future in mind. He did - and it looked OK, basically us getting engaged a year later. But then I felt guilty about pushing him on the issue of marriage, so I told him to forget a time-line -- I didn't want him to just marry me because it was time; I actually wanted him to want to be with me.
And then, the most interesting of all my feelings: I wasn't sure I wanted to marry him anymore. I couldn't see the engagement as this fantastic, wonderful feeling anymore. I felt like any move towards marriage would be tinged with the fact that there was a time that he didn't want to marry me, and that I would never be sure what changed to make him finally change his mind because he had no reason for not marrying me in the first place. And I even broke up with him for a week over it - though, he tried to assure me that he wanted to be with me, and we got back together. Still, however, no promise or hint of marriage.
I'd really, really like to be with someone who wants, without doubt, to be with me always. Where it feels right. Where we're both on the same page, timing and all. Perhaps this is too much to ask, sometimes? Perhaps real life doesn't always work out that way?
And of course, since I've been feeling this way, our relationship has not been the same. It just doesn't have the same feeling of love that we used to share - perhaps my fault, for not simply enjoying what we have together already. I understand that these sweeping emotions of love do tone down after time, but I do feel that ours is directly related to our current doubts about each other.
Of course, he is a great guy, that hasn't changed. And I do feel like I would be losing someone very wonderful if I broke up with him for good. But at the same time, I don't want to wait around until he magically decides he wants to be with me, which could be never, and if he proposed soon (which would be the one year mark that he laid out in the time line, though I told him not to worry about that time line afterward and he hasn't made any hints towards marriage since), I don't know if I could say yes. I just don't have the same joy I used to have about the prospect of us being together forever.
Am I just being silly? Should I just relax and let the relationship be, and not worry about getting married? At the same time, there are some career changes/moves that we will be facing soon, so again, I don't know how comfortable I feel with taking that step together without a commitment. I feel very confused about the next steps. Part of me thinks I should break-up, get my own place and find someone who does love me without doubts -- especially while I'm still relatively young. Part of me thinks that I should hold out and give him more time - why the rush to commitment, right? It's forever, so you better take the time to be sure. When do you make the final plunge one way or another?
Thanks in advance for your thoughtfulness on my situation.
It makes sense you brought up marriage when and where you did. You're probably having your Saturn Return a smidge early, you sound centered and focused in your career and your life which points toward your ability to look ahead and see what you want.
His being 31 and doing nicely in life in career and finances indicates he should just now for the first time know what he wants. It's just starting. His Saturn Return has completed, he sounds focused, and he sounds like he was taking the baby steps. His actions speak to the very beginnings of a future with you. You live with him, but you pay "Rent." You are otherwise untied financially. But he does discuss your PhD in cities his career would work, shares plans to continue to live with you and move with you for your futures, and both of you share involvement with each other's families.
It's not a loud and clear cry for a definite future, but it is an indication that the ball is rolling in that direction.
It was very significant, and good, that he wasn't saying things like he doesn't know if he "believes" in marriage, or if he'll ever get married. All those clear indicators of doubt were absent. You said he agreed in general that he wants the same future you do. He wants marriage and children. This is a very solid sign. When you brought up marriage he didn't say anything asinine or negative. Instead, he tried to talk to you.
It is extremely significant that he has festered on a moment in your relationship where he remembers you didn't listen to him. It's also extremely significant that you have called it silly. You chose the word "rescinded" regarding how he came to drop trying to figure out what was going on in his thoughts. "Rescinded" sounds like you made him feel "silly" instead of heard or encouraged. It sounds like you won a legal argument.
I want you to take a moment and think about this. He held on to a moment, for all this time, where he felt you didn't listen to him. It came focusedly out of him when you brought up marriage. Instead of making him feel like he can tell you anything, and encouraging communication especially on such an important subject, you made him agree it was silly, and you made him rescind what he was trying to tell you. He agreed with you, and then said he didn't know why he didn't want to get married. Even in later talks, he says he can't give a reason.
Part of his not being able to come up with a reason is that while he was searching for his voice in the reason he had, you dismissed it as silly. He's not going to make that mistake again. If he finds his words and figures out how to articulate something that was important enough for him to carry around for so long, and share when you brought up marriage, he knows better than to try to talk to you about it.
I know you decided it was a silly memory. Obviously, it wasn't silly to him. Guys aren't as good as articulating their emotions and fears as women are. But they can point to a moment and say, "Like this. It's like this." Annie, even a dog returns to his vomit. He can't tell you why he's sick, or what's happening, but he can bring you to the place. He can show you where he threw up and say, "Here. It's here. I don't understand. But here it is. This is the problem."
It may very well be that whatever it was, really was kind of silly. Maybe as he tried to discuss it, he even saw that for himself. But that doesn't make it any less real. Maybe the more important thing became how he felt when he tried to discuss it. You weren't listening, you wanted reasons, you wanted what you wanted, and were prepared to dismantle anything he said.
You engaged in a very classic move after that - you pushed him into a timeline. Then, you realized you don't want a man to propose because you won an argument or broke him down. So you told him to forget it. (It's also significant to note that he did agree to your timeline. Even when he wasn't ready to marry you, clearly he was not willing to lose you.)
And because of this, your feelings shifted. As they should. You're right - your engagement should have been something special, and mutual, and loving. It should not have been about pushing or winning an argument. You've soured yourself, but it's hard to see that, so you kind of project the sourness on his not proposing.
You are a very smart lady, you have absorbed a great deal of information here. You walked through the cycle that women create that destroys alot of relationships unnecessarily.
Real life works like this, as you speculated. When you aren't being a partner, partnerships don't usually flourish.
But let me promise you that it does happen, that you are both on the same page at the same time. It's just that you can't force that, or make it happen, no matter what argument you win, or what you choose not to hear.
Sweeping emotions of love don't always tone down. Mine never did. But what does tone down is our anxiety, our franticness, and our immediacy.
Despite what occurred, there's still a bitterness in your words: "until he magically decides he wants to be with me," and "find someone that does love me with out doubts."
There's nothing magic about it, Annie. Being ready to commit the rest of your life to someone should be a serious decision that takes alot of time. He's only just now at the right age to figure it all out. And, nothing you shared here demonstrated that he doubted he loved you.
There's more than one way for you to proceed from here. But I'm not going to list out all the possibilities. I'm going to frame out the one I would advise for you. But first, you have to decide whether or not you still want him. Sometimes things can be just too damaged to work. And only you know just how much you've soured yourself.
If you decide you really do want him and want this to work, here's my advice.
You need to tell him you're sorry for the way you handled his trying to talk to you about that moment where you were driving and took a wrong turn. You need to let him know that you've really learned alot from this experience. You want him to be able to talk to you about everything and anything. If you don't understand, you will not dismiss it. You will try harder to listen. Even if he doesn't understand what he's trying to express, that's ok too. He should still try.
By this point, that incident embarrasses him. You have to let him know whatever it is, whatever it was, you want to talk about it. Maybe it triggered a bad memory of his parents. Maybe it was the moment that followed it that was really something, but he was having a hard time getting to it emotionally. Just honestly own this Annie, apologize for the way that all went down and assure him he can talk to you, his feelings matter, and you will listen.
Then, let him know you're sorry for rushing things. You were anxious and it just got away from you. Things kept taking one crappy turn after another because of it. Now they've added up to the way you both seem to feel now. Again, own this. Apologize.
I guarantee you, this will initiate a dialogue. Even if he says, "Oh, it's ok. It was nothing. Don't worry about it," please believe me that it will mean alot to him. Conversations will begin to open. Some of they may not be easy ones. He'll apologize too, I'm sure. You should be humble, appreciative, and open.
You need to make a very real effort of reminding him why he fell for you in the first place. You need to reconnect with happy in-love Annie. He needs to see you smile, he needs to feel like he can make you happy.
I promise you, right now he feels like he can't please you. He feels like he's not handling things right. Remember, actions speak louder than words. He needs to see it in your face that he makes you happy. He needs to look forward to getting home to you at the end of the day because you're so great to be around, and you make him feel welcome in your life. Reinforce that feeling that you used to have. He's not going to think about building the future if the right-now makes him feel shitty and failed.
That's all you have to do. Really make sure he knows he can talk to you about anything and you're sorry. And, really make sure he can see how happy you are to have him in your life. Then let time do some healing. You might be surprised at how quickly he moves afterward.
If you two have a chance, this is how to make it happen.
You deserve everything you want in life. And you can have everything you want.
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