- Gender and Relationships
Twice Divorced, He Changed His Mind About #3. Is He Wrong? - Relationship Advice
I would like your advice. I am a 36 year old man in a relationship with a 31 year old woman. I have been married twice before and suffered through two messy divorces that were less than amicable. As a product of my two marriages, I have 4 children (2 children with each former wife). I was married each time for 6-8 years respectively to each woman. Shortly after my last divorce, I stared dating my current girlfriend, in the construct of a long distance (over 2,000 miles). She is an ambitious professional who has never been married and has no children. For the first few months, as new love goes, we were blissfully happy talking on the phone every night for several hours and pining away in anticipation of our next visit to each other (normally about once every month). In the early months of our relationship we even tossed around the idea of marriage in the near future, although as we both later realized, it was extremely premature. As time went on, I realized that I still had residual feelings of angst towards the idea of marriage and possessed strong feelings of hurt and anxiety in the arranged separation from my young children, as a result of my most recent divorce. Currently, both sets of children live in different states with their Mothers, as I serve our nation in the Armed Forces. It has difficult for me to see them often and have a “regular” relationship with them.
As soon as I realized that I had these feelings, I made my new partner aware that I felt this way (approximately, month 4 of our relationship). Immediately, she became hurt and resentful, accusing me of misleading her and luring her into a relationship under the false pretense that we would soon wed. As I continued to explain to her, I wanted to continue our relationship, but I really needed some time (and counseling) to aid me in closing “old wounds” before I could start life anew with her, as a married couple. Eventually, she said that she understood and supported my position and would be willing to wait patiently until marriage was right for both of us. Months later I would find that when she made the decision to “support me” it was one that she was very unhappy with and one that was made half-heartedly! As the months progressed, she would continue to express to me how unhappy she was with the fact that marriage may not be in our near future. She would also continue to express to me how all of her friends in her age group were married, getting married, having children or planning a family. She was even quick to remind that her “biological clock” was ticking and that she may be unable to have children soon!
During this time, I kept my promise, entered counseling, made huge strides in repairing my familial relationships and have begun to truly heal myself from my last divorce. My GF and I have maintained a long-distance relationship for a solid year now and although we have many, many happy times to reflect upon, the single point of friction in our relationship is still the marriage issue. She feels as if she is ready and I know that I’m not; furthermore, I don’t feel as if we are ready for marriage as a couple—as we really haven’t spent a significant amount of time together in person! I tell her that I would like to have more time to get to know her better and to let our relationship grow and blossom into marriage naturally, but I’m not sure that she is willing to let that happen. Her relocation to an area close to me has been discussed, but financial constraints make this a challenge. I also fear that if she were to move closer to me from her hometown, there may be a secret, unspoken expectation that I will soon ask her to marry me. She seems so obsessed sometimes with the idea of setting a wedding date, choosing a weeding dress, cake, decorations, etc—the idea of marriage—that I’m not sure if she really understands the gravity of this life-long decision or why I may have some emotional reservations. In our frustration, we both get wrapped up in a cycle of making each other feel terrible for the feelings that we naturally have toward the matter. This issue doesn’t seem like one we can overcome. I do love her and I do want to be with her, but I just don’t know if can withstand the pressure that is being placed on me, to enter marriage when I’m just not ready! Please help.
Thanks for this comment on my Hub When Your Girl Wants to Get Married And You Don't. I moved it to here to give it it's own Hub where I could really delve into it with you.
You said you are in the Armed Forces, and I wish to send you out a big XOXO from me and my husband. Thank you.
Mettdog, your situation isn't actually uncommon. I get a plethora of emails and comments from women who are in the place of your girlfriend. They say their boyfriends used to talk about marriage but have changed their minds. Sometimes it's because he's actually gotten to know her and realizes he can't stand to spend the rest of his life with her. Sometimes it's because they were just swept up in the newness of a romance. And then when he slowed down and thought about things rationally and responsibly, he realized he needed more time. If there's been a major life change like the development of frontal lobes, or the rites of passage/Saturn Return, that could certainly frame the re-evaluation.
These women write to me saying, how can I make him realize, or, how long am I supposed to wait. Mettdog, not one has ever written to me and said, Can you help me to listen to him better, and respect his needs and wishes as I hope he will respect mine?
Clearly, your girlfriend is not a partner. She is completely focused on what she wants when she wants it. Your behavior was normal. Next time I certainly caution that you not let yourself get caught up in that early romance feeling. And if you are feeling it, shut up. Don't tell her. Don't talk about marriage and crazy-level commitments until you are sure.
So you felt caught up in the romance and the two of you flirted with forever. That happens. It's not smart but that happens. What is smart, is that you figured out it wasn't right and you were honest with her immediately. Two failed marriages, left over feelings, children issues that should be your priority, a very important career, and needing time to discover and get to know You as a Man, not just a husband, father or even soldier, but as an individual - are all extremely serious things. You are absolutely correct that you are not ready to marry again. Let alone that she lives far away and that you don't know her as an individual well enough, you are just no where near that place in time where you should be entertaining the thought of committing your life to someone else.
I am floored, absolutely floored, that a woman you said is a 31 year old ambitious professional (read: she has a life) would freak out that after a 4 month long distance relationship, you said you needed time before getting married. Really? After 4 months, she thinks it's unreasonable not to be planning the wedding?
I realize the "you said you said!" argument is very effective, for 3 year olds. But come on. Any functional healthy adult has got to be able to realize when someone says, "I made a mistake, I need therapy, I need to get help, I'm not in the best place right now," that any decent partner would hold their hand and support them.
Your girlfriends fake attempt at support is sad. You're not telling me that she says things to you like, how do you feel about your kids, how are you coping with these left over feelings. You're not relaying here that she's coming to you as a partner, talking to you about what you are going through.
Instead, you're saying that she's repeating her agenda. She's telling you her friends are having kids. Again, very effective when you are 3. "But everybody has a glow in the dark Elmo!" You are relaying that she's telling you her time clock is ticking. Seriously? Does she think the best way to get married is through guilt and pressure?
I can promise you both, a marriage should happen when two people really love each other, and compliment each other. When they are truly partners - sharing each others joys and heartaches. When they can't imagine their futures without being side by side.
A marriage is not something you can bully someone into. Circumventing their feelings and their wishes proves you aren't a partner.
Mettdog, it sounds like you are really trying to pull it together. I applaud your honesty. I applaud your seeking help and being in some kind of counseling. I know it's not easy to look at your mistakes and try to learn. But you're doing it. You are doing it.
You deserve a girlfriend who cares about those things. You deserve to be with someone that listens to you, and understands realistically that you are not in a place where you can have a healthy third marriage.
I realize you love her. And she probably loves you too. But love is the easy part. Can you talk to her? Will she listen to you? Will she support you in your needs? Does she respect you?
The sad part about the love factor, is that if she was actually ready to be a partner, and demonstrated the importance of your fears and feelings in the relationship as equal to hers, you would probably be content and happy, enjoying this beginning, and open minded about it's future.
Think about how things would be if it was all reversed. Say you were in that place in your head and your life where you could really see getting married and spending your life with her. Now imagine she says to you that she needs time. She needs help. She has unresolved issues, and kids and things she needs to work on.
Honestly, what would you do? Would you hold her hand and say, "Well if you're the right person for me, than I want to be the right person for you. I want to support you and wait, and I will help you work through these things." Or, would you stamp your feet and say, "You said! All my friends are married! I want to have a wedding!"
Mettdog, you know where I'm heading with this. If what you've presented in your comment is the real situation, then you need to get a handle on this.
1 - You can apologize once more to her for speaking aloud those early romance fantasies of marrying fast. That was irresponsible, but it was a mistake that has happened to all of us.
2 - You can reiterate that you are not ready for marriage.
3 - You can point out that you two are in completely different places, with completely different needs. You aren't partners. She should probably look for someone who is where she is. And that you would like to spend some time alone.
4 - If she moves near you, it will not change anything. It will not make you ready to get married any faster. Warn her not to. Maybe even remind her that you have children not living in your state and there's a chance you will move to be nearer them.
I really wish you a lot of luck on your journey Mettdog. Thank you for writing.