Murphy’s Love: Engagement Pressure

Dear Stacy:
My girlfriend and I have been dating since college and living together for a few years. She wants to get married. I think she’s feeling pressure from friends who are getting engaged and starting families. I don’t necessarily not want to get married, I’m just not feeling the need to do it right now. She is trying not to pressure me, but it worries her (she wants to have kids, she is worried about her age) and that affects our relationship. Should I just do it even if I’m not ready?

–No Rush

Dear No Rush:

I really love your choice of words here, as I think you know I’m not about to say anyone should go ahead and get married, even if they’re “not ready.” But a realistic follow-up question from me would have to be, do you know why you’re not ready now? Is this something you’re working on in any way, shape or form? Or are you just sitting on the sidelines, watching Girlfriend serve her time as a bridesmaid and baby-shower hostess, and waiting for her anxiety to launch her off into the stratosphere so you don’t have to ask yourself any hard questions?

This is a very tricky situation for Girlfriend. She has spent (what sounds like) years in a relationship with you, reaching the (seemingly universal) stage where friends far and wide start making the big commitments to one another – moving in, getting engaged, having kids. She knows that she wants more than cohabitation, and she’s told you that. Now she has to walk the narrow line of waiting for you to make up your mind, while also not appearing anxious or needy in any way. But shouldn’t this kind of major life decision invite some kind of anxiety? Aren’t the big choices the kind that require conversation and communication? Why is this just your decision to make?

Yes, you say she wants to get married, and I am going to amend that sentence to say she knows she wants to get married to you. It’s your turn to decide if you want to get married to her. Do it soon. If you have a reason that is preventing your decision-making – one that is not about her and outside of her control, like a family history of divorce, or a fear of the Chicken Dance – get thee to a therapist and figure it out. If the reason is about her then, also, do not delay. Put your cards on the table because you are not helping her get what she wants if you know what you don’t want and you don’t tell her about it. That’s not fair. You say her worrying impacts your relationship – the answer isn’t for you to rush into something you don’t really want. The answer is for you to really do some self-exploration and figure out what you do want.

Stacy Notaras Murphy ( is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to

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