My boyfriend and I have been living together for three years. We are both in our early 30s, and get along great. We have talked about marriage since we first started dating (five years ago), but so far, no proposal. I know he wants to have a family in the long-term, and I know he loves me, so I don’t know why we aren’t moving forward. When I bring it up, he tells me he will know when it’s right, but that’s the end of the discussion. I don’t like how much power this seems to give him in our relationship, but I know I want to marry him and it seems like he’s less sure about me. I am wondering how much longer I should wait. I set a mental deadline of the end of this year, but I wonder if I should tell him that if we aren’t engaged by then, I’m leaving?
–Ready to Marry
Let’s start by saying, congratulations on knowing what you want. That’s honestly a big step – as many people find themselves in your situation and assume that marriage is what they should want, but don’t give the deeper questions much thought (fast forward a few years, find themselves in a counselor’s office, and realize they never really wanted to build a marriage together in the first place). You know what you want. Boyfriend knows what you want. The rest is a little murky. Let’s look at why that is.
Scenario #1: Boyfriend is unsure. Truly. He needs “more time.” That is understandable, but the question that needs to be asked is not “Why do you need more time?” Rather, “What are you doing with that time?” Is he soul searching? Is he talking to you about his concerns? Is he in therapy? If “No” or “Not yet” is the answer to these questions, then you need to pay attention to how that feels.
Scenario #2: Boyfriend is sure. He has a ring. He’s got a plan in motion. You are going to be swept off your feet – lucky you.
Scenario #3: Boyfriend is sure. He does not want to marry you. He doesn’t know how to tell you. He is waiting it out so that you get so irritated, you give him an ultimatum and force yourself into a corner.
Your mental deadline is an ultimatum of sorts. I’m not against setting a boundary like this, I just want to make sure you are comfortable with the outcome, either way. I understand that you are thinking about marrying this person, so the dissolution of this relationship may never feel “comfortable,” but that’s the only way an ultimatum works – you have to be willing to accept the consequences (NOTE: have your support network queued up and ready). If you are not ready to walk away, then don’t tell him about your deadline, instead, ask the questions from scenario #1 and see where that takes you. If you are comfortable with the possible results – pro and con – then I think waiting and seeing may be an excuse to put off the inevitable. This all starts with you, have the conversation with yourself before you bring Boyfriend into it. Good luck.
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC.com) 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 stacymurphyLPC@gmail.com.