breakups and breakthroughs

In ALL, BREAKUPS & BREAKTHROUGHS, FAVORITES by Stephanie Klein56 Comments

I have friends, quite a few, who are, as of late, going through breakups.  Not the kind you shrug at and say, “this too shall pass.”  Decades.  Half decades.  I have a friend, of course I do, who dated a guy for 9 years, through her entire wardrobe of too thin and super fat.  Well, that’s her fault, because who goes 9 years just dating a guy?  But people do, people who say, “I’m just happy being with him, and I don’t care about being married.”  But every time they go to a wedding, he dreads the ceremony, and she bites her tongue and cries audibly.  They have to spend the night having “a talk,” and he’s come to despise Crane’s engraved papers.  She thinks he’ll grow up, eventually, and growing up has to mean marriage, she assumes.  And, if time means he’s going to grow up, then she might as well be there when it happens.  But he doesn’t grow with status quo.  It rhymes and could be as misleading a nursery rhyme as “there once was a man from Nantucket” because we all know, it’s never that long.  And no man grows when he’s not pushed to do so, so ultimatums happen.

But is that true?  No man grows up when he’s not pushed to do so?  Can we really make anyone “grow up?”  “Growing up” seems to imply “giving up fear.”  The small boy who’s terrified of the dark, grows up and willingly enters darkened theaters, bars, and bedrooms.  He has given up the fear and grown up.  If he’s afraid of marriage, is there anything we can do to force him to grow up? See, sometimes growing up happens with time (and information), so we sometimes think, “if I give him more time, and thus, more information about what we’re like as a couple, then he should come around.”  We assume growing up means giving up fear.  And I honestly believe that’s just about right.  When we face our fears in life, we usually feel liberated, but what if, just if, we should have honored our fear?  That incredible gift of an instinct.  How, the question becomes, do we know if it’s instinctual and should be trusted or if it’s irrational and we’re just fucked up?

Instilling him with a fear of loss might work, though usually it’s temporary.  Isn’t wanting your man to commit to the relationship the same as saying, “I want you to be different”?  I don’t think so.  I think it’s about being lazy, lazy and terrified of “forever.”  “But nothing will be different,” she argues.  “I mean, we’ll be closer, but our lives won’t be any different when we’re Mr. and Mrs. What exactly are you afraid of when it comes to marriage?”  She cannot understand.  And he plays her, assuring her that he cannot imagine his life without her, when he thinks of his future he sees her in it, yet, still, he cannot take the next step, even though they’re practically living together.  She doesn’t understand.  “But nothing will be different once we’re ‘MARRIED’!”
“Then why bother?” he argues.
“Because it’s a commitment to work on the relationship until death do us part.”  Not a good idea to mention “death” as an argument for marriage.

If we put the fear of loss in them, will they “grow up” and decide the fear is more frightening than choosing a partner for life?  And is this your job, is this what it takes, to get the person who swears you’re family already to commit to you, as a unit?

Respect yourself enough to say, “I need more,” if, in fact, you do.  Some people don’t.  Most young, never-married, people do.  One of them wants marriage, and usually, not always, but usually it’s the woman who is ready for marriage.  And once she insists she needs it, and he says he cannot, they breakup, and there’s no breakthrough.  Once they insist for themselves and they’re broken up, they retract it.  “I didn’t mean it.  Why was I pushing him?  I love him and just want to be with him.  I’ll wait until he’s ready.”  No, she’ll wait until the next time she gets fed up.  And we’ll dance it again, and this time, her words will mean less.

It’s hard for me to believe it, even harder for me to believe that THEY believe it themselves, the ones who say after years of dating the same person, that they don’t need to be married.  No, I’m not saying that every woman wants to be married and she’s not grown up unless she is.  That’s absurd. What I’m saying is that I’ve seen it, been witness to women who give up on their own dreams and needs because they’re afraid.  They spend their time hoping he’ll grow up and be ready for marriage instead of maybe, just maybe, growing up themselves and loosening the grip on their own fears.  They’re frightened of what alone might mean, scared they won’t do better.  They worry they won’t click so easily with someone else, and then worry about how long it will take to even find that someone else.  That was me for a long damn time.  Still, that’s why it’s so hard for me to believe her when she says, after years of dating, “I’d like to be married, but I’d like to be with him more.”  Because eventually, she’ll get resentful.  Eventually she’ll stop believing that and realize there’s nothing wrong with needing things for yourself and leaving someone who can’t provide them.

The women who are waiting with patient smiles aren’t easy for me to believe because I’ve heard them complain, because I’ve heard them wish, because I’ve heard them talk about their ideal wedding, and I watch them stare at older couples holding hands on the streets.  They long for a forever kind of thing that starts with a ring, but they give in because they’re afraid of losing, or of being alone.  Because really, when you’re in a relationship for that long, the excuses wear thin.  The beliefs become uneven, shaky.  And we begin to question ourselves.  If I were thinner, had better hair or that exotic look.  Don’t do that.  Don’t question yourself.  People do it when the relationship doesn’t work out, wonder what they did wrong in the autopsy of it.  I could have been more understanding, more patient, “I should have listened, shouldn’t have taken it so personally.”  The bullshit we tell ourselves is as long and old as the Nantucket rhyme.  And we pedal it to ourselves, convinced.  We nod our heads when our friends tell us differently, when they tell us it will be fun, that we’ll do so much better, but we don’t live there, at that happy address of confident and independent.  We’re warped by then, thinking independent women are ugly and that way by default.

“But Stephanie, we were engaged!”  Yeah, the kind of engaged that came from, “I’m an old-fashioned girl who doesn’t believe in living together until I’m engaged.”  And the worst of it is this: “How could I have spent all this time with someone, growing together, compromising, for it to end as strangers?”  And that is the worst part, leaving your best friend, your things still at his place, closer to him than you are.  What the fuck is that?  My things, my notebook and washcloth, and fat pants and my best friend’s sweater and futon are closer to him than I am, this man I’ve spent this long with.  It’s strange knowing the items of your life are closer to this person than you will be.  That your relationship can dissolve this quickly.  But that’s the way it happens, the good breaks.  A good break is a clean one, where intellectually, you just know you deserve more, and miracles of miracles, somehow you actually follow your intellect.  You actually don’t just know you deserve more, but you resist calling him and live in the dress code of it.  And when he calls, beyond your own belief, you manage to somehow KNOW he’s doing it because of guilt, or let’s face it, because he’s fucking lonesome and worries he’s a failure, and maybe, just maybe, despite what he’s heard about it being like shooting fish in a barrel, maybe he worries he won’t find someone better.  But do men really think that?  We think that way, scared to death, or to at least Duluth, that we won’t find someone as wealthy, as good-looking, as educated or charming.  We never factor in nice or adoring, somehow.  We never say, “Will I meet someone who treats me that well, who adores me just as I am?”  We’re the ones who’ve got it wrong.  Love should come with a poison control 800 number.

Comments

  1. I have been married once and once was enough (although not a bad marriage, we eventually went in separate directions and I realized I do not like being married). I don't want children and don't think I ever will. I'm almost 40, so I don't think I will change. I am very happy with my boyfriend and hope things just continue the way they are. He feels the same way. Marriage just doesn't suit some people. I make a decent salary — enough to afford a nice 2-bedroom in New York and nice vacations, trainers and other luxuries — what do I need marriage for? I'm just not sure I follow this idea that marriage equals being grown-up.

    FROM STEPHANIE: I agree that marriage doesn't mean being a grown-up once you've actually done it. See, there's the rub. Some people witnessed the bad marriages of their parents, witness married friends who cheat on their spouse, and declare that it's not for them. They should declare it at the onset of a relationship along with, "I have no desire to have children," because the majority of young people who date are doing so because they want to start a life with someone, and this usually includes marriage.

  2. Love the 800 number closer. True, in a lot of ways. I'm not a married girl. I live in sin. Been with the same man for over 5 years. Wouldn't change a thing – it's a loving committed relationship. My deal is this: I don't want a wedding because for me (and please understand this is a personal thing) there are two reasons to have a wedding 1) if it's a religious thing and 2) if it's an excuse to throw a party. I'm not a religious person and I throw parties all the time. I know alot of people say that it's not about the wedding, it's about the marriage, but for me, at this point in my life, I can't imagine how this relationship would be any different or any better if we were married. So that's one point of view….

  3. Your words ring so true. I was in a relationship for almost 11 years before I threw in the towel. And yes, I cried like a baby at weddings and he dreaded every moment. I came to realize that I was worth so much more or at least I thought I had. In the end, he found "the love of his life" and it wasn't me. The only reason he didn't ask me to marry him is because I wasn't the one. And that has been the hardest thing to swallow since my first blow job.

    At least I don't spend my time wondering why he spends all his time with his buddies anymore. I know why, and as painful as that truth may be, it has also brought me much wisdom (and a little peace).

    FROM STEPHANIE: "the hardest thing to swallow since my first blow job" is damn priceless. THAT should give you a little peace, too.

  4. I've just found your blog but I loved this post.

    I too dated a guy for 9 years who didn't want to get married. Like the commitment phobic man in your post, he said he loved me and wanted to be with me always – he just couldn't 'do' marriage. I too did the ultimatum thing that I couldn't follow through and I started to suffer from recurrent clinical depression.

    It was only when I found a good therapist that I began to realise that I deserved more and could find more.

    The changes in me put the fear of God in my man and he found his own therapist to talk through his messy childhood with multiple parental divorces.

    Against all the odds, perhaps, this story does have a happy ending. I have been married to the commitment phobe for the last 2 years and am pregnant with our first child. The only thing the commitment phobe now has to say on the subject of marriage is he can't believe he didn't do it sooner…he gets hit over the head – hard – when he says that…But when he proudly says 'my wife' to people he gets forgiven ;-)

    All that said, I do genuinely believe that there are people who don't want to get married for reasons other than a lack of commitment to their partner. I have a friend who believes that marriage is an old fashioned institution that she doesn't want to be associated with. Yet, she is totally devoted to her partner and has two sons with him.

    I don't follow her logic – to me your marriage is what you make it not what the state determines it is – but I am also convinced she is genuine in her views and committed to her partner.

    I guess the problem for me in this day and age where we have so many choices is that people can hide behind statements like 'marriage is an old fashioned institution' but really what is at the heart of it all is a fear of putting faith in long term relationships (like my husband had) or doubt that their partner is the truly the person for them. And that's not good and people suffer for it…

  5. That last paragraph really hit home. I am steeling myself for such a conversation this weekend and am scared to death.

    Beautiful writing.

  6. I agree with Emily. Call me selfish, but I love and value my independence. That's not to say that I'm opposed to marriage, but that just my not be in my future. Either way, I'm content. Few, married or otherwise can say the same — Lucky am I.

  7. um. I adore you and think this post is excellent advice. But something here smacks a little of "smug married". Judge not…. you of all people know what it's like to spend too long with Mr. Wrong- and the Wasband did marry you, though he could hardly be called a grown-up…

    FROM STEPHANIE: Yuh, and I learned my damn lesson. I just have so many friends making the same mistake I did, thinking he'd change with time, thinking he'd grow up and shed his irrational fears. I spent all that energy worried about his growing up, instead of facing my own fears of being alone. And that's when I grew up.

  8. I too love your blog. I check it everyday, hoping to see a new entry.

    My partner and I have dated for over 8 years and have chosen not to get married. This is primarily due to the facts that neither of us are religious and neither of us want children. If either of those things were to change, I believe that we would get married.

    Its not about commitment, because I believe we're totally committed to each other – but rather that we see no good reason to change the current situation.

    Having said all that, for people who want kids and want to be married, that's for them. Not us. We'll just be the cool auntie and uncle that spoils them every once in a while.

  9. Whoa. You write this from the presumption that everyone wants to get married. That it's the end goal every woman works towards. That's SO not the case.

    Also, doing "grownup things" like getting married does not make a person mature or grown up. It just makes them married. Nothing more, nothing less.

  10. Stephanie. This post comes at the most bizarre time. Just this morning I hit the send button on a message to all of my friends and family to tell them that my fiance and I have ended our engagement. (We've known each other for three years, engaged 9 mos.) It has been a wild week of playing against the fears (of mine: what if I don't find somebody else?! what if?! I just do not want to freaking date again!) and the hope (for us both: we mutually recognize that the relationship is just not getting close enough to fulfilling for either one of us). It is taking a lot for me to step up and realize that I have to be accountable for my own happiness. I can't hide behind the relationship and rely upon the impending marriage to bouy my existence anymore. And it terrifies me. And yet, I am so thankful that he is the kind of person that can stand up, call off a wedding, and declare for the benefit of both of us, that we need more. Because there was no WAY I was going to, having taken all sorts of mental and emotional comfort in knowing I'd finally found my "one". And it would have been a shame to have dug in and held on for a lifetime based purely on fear. That's no way to live. This relationship has clarified that for me. And I just pray to god I remember this lesson forever.

  11. AHH, but here is the crux of ultimatums. If told you could not have children, yet you become pregnant and decide to have that miracle baby, and the man stays with you and five years go by without said- man asking for your hand. Do you break up that happy unit? Because that's what an Ultimatum would do. If his fears are irrational and based on his own past, how do you conquer that other than with patience. To walk away without fighting the good fight, hurts a third and very short person.

  12. A lot of my favorite bloggers have been writing posts that have been taken directly from my life lately! Weird. I'm currently in a crossroads with my boyfriend of a few years – do I move to Mississippi with him after graduation? Do I move to a big city and live the life I've been dreaming of? Etc. Etc.

    I have been asking myself the same question you wrote above: "How, the question becomes, do we know if it's instinctual and should be trusted or if it's irrational and we're just fucked up?" He keeps saying trust your gut, but I don't think my gut can be trusted… I think I'm just f-d up.

    Thanks for this post…

  13. This post resonates with me. I strongly believe that so many relationships end in ultimatums these days because women in their early 30's are living in a completely different world then their mothers. Many of us(although not all have more education, make more money, are more independent, have lived on their own WAY longer, get married MUCH later in life, and on and on and on. The opportunities we have has (fortunately or "un") changed the whole dynamic of dating. Men put off committment because they CAN. Its just a different world and if you're a young successful woman in NYC, well, it may as well be a different planet. Some of the commitment phobes will come around (I'm happy to say mine did). And some of them wont. And some of the relationships probably just weren't worth the time. But at least for my generation, I think its become harder and harder to tell just which category we fall into.

  14. Stephanie –

    This is such a valuable post. If it gets even one woman to turn to her boyfriend of 9 years and say “I need more” then you have done a huge mitzvah. On behalf of many of my friends who read you and many women you have helped, I thank you.
    -Julia

  15. Ugh. I love these sorts of posts, but hate them too because they make me think about things I don't necessarily want to think about (but should!). And I am just not ready to issue that ultimatum just yet.

    Loved this post. I see friends going through the same thing too, good advice. Made me tear up a little (as some of your posts tend to do).

  16. What a timely post for me. I just broke up with my boyfriend of over 2 years. I am not coping, I have no coping skills as a matter of fact. I pretty much hug the bottle, I don't care which one, as long as there is some alcohol in it. It is super tough and I don't know what to do. I am getting too old for this shit!

  17. Wow – Stephanie again you've nailed this "issue" right on the head. I really connected with your line "It’s strange knowing the items of your life are closer to this person than you will be." I used to get so upset thinking that it wasn't fair that our mutual friends would be able to go out and hang out with him, and I wouldn't get to do that with him any more..see him on his BDay, etc. It totally sucks.

    Today was a good day for me to read this post, feeling blue about the whole single thing, and trying not to fall back into the whole "never find someone better than him" routine. But you have reminded me that I'm looking for more than what I had before…ie. treats me that well, AND adores me just the way I am. Sincerely thank you for the reminder, and pep talk.

  18. As a woman who 1) doesn't believe in marriage and 2) never wants to have kids, I find myself wondering if there is a man out there strong enough to handle the relationship that I want. I find them very agreeable in the beginning….all "this is great, no pressure, no ultimatum" and then it goes one of two ways (like most things) they get needy, desperate, clingy, insecure and start wanting me to change who I am and to talk about marriage and kids. Or they cheat, after all we're not MARRIED…. I couldn't be more up front with the guys I meet. Other than wearing a huge sandwich board and using a bullhorn, I don't know how to get these guys to understand that I'm serious. No marriage, no kids, non-negotiable. This is not a decision that I take lightly; I have always felt this way.
    And I know the girls of whom you speak. I give them a year of whining about their going nowhere relationship and then I tell them that I love them but if they want me to continue to enable their whining, they are out of luck. And within a year or so each one calls me crying when the 'worthless loser' (or however they are describing their ex) has broken their heart and spirit and I go and help piece them back together.
    I am still in love with a man that I was with for almost two years and it's just now that I do not take his calls, knowing that he is calling me only out of loneliness. It's hard, but I knew when we were together that we had no future. Living in the moment in my love for him worked for a while. But then I had to realize that our relationship wasn't good for me and I had to move on.
    Single now, not dating, and relishing the silence of my celibacy. I'd love to find a man to grow old with, to share life with, etc……..but I've yet to meet a man strong enough to stay without a ring to bind him, or to be faithful without the false security of a document. And i'd rather be out of a relationship than in the waiting line for the inevitable disappointment.

  19. I believe most of the time a man knows within the first month of spending time with a woman whether or not he would be willing, no matter how inconvenient for him, to have his world turned upside down for her. Whether he could see himself doing whatever it takes to get a ring on her finger and holding HIS breath until she's down the aisle and finally says, “I do.”

    That’s the situation I want for all my girlfriends, I guess. To be chased, not them doing the chasing. But they have to give themselves permission to want for that to – or shit – even close to that.

  20. 10 years ago, I would have said the same thing. I married my first husband after dating 6 months. It didn't work out, for both obvious and non-obvious reasons. Then I started dating a guy I had already known for 8 years and we dated for 5 years – all the time him saying he didn't think he ever wanted to get married. We tried breaking up for a couple weeks but I realized that I would rather be with him- on his terms – than not see his face every day.
    Not a year later, he surprised me with a beautiful proposal during a trip to Italy.
    Now we've been married almost 2 years and – miracle of miracles – we both decided to have a baby.
    People do change- life does crazy things someitmes and the bottom line is – if you know you're wiht the right person, that should be what matters. It's about the person, not the label.

  21. This may be a bit of not seeing the forest for the trees, but I take issue with the implication that women who speak their minds to their men regarding living together before being married somehow results in the engagement/union meaning less. Sure, it might get the ball rolling, but is a man likely to propose if he didn't want to in the first place, just so he and his woman can live together?

    The rest of the piece I enjoyed. Thanks again for speaking your mind so openly.

  22. "They're frightened of what alone might mean, scared they won't do better. They worry they won't click so easily with someone else, and then worry about how long it will take to even find that someone else."

    Are you reading my mind? Most of what you've written has been happening to me for the last nine months. I always felt like I was alone with these feelings. Thanks for saying what so many of us are thinking, but are too afraid to admit out loud.

  23. People change sometimes (thought I don't believe it happens often), but I think one should always assume that the one they love won't change. And they may not grow up either (whatever that means). That's the best information you have to go on. So, I think the best question to ask yourself is if you can love this person and be happy with this person assuming nothing will ever be any different.

    Realtionships are work, but they shouldn't be a constant state of worry, ultimatums, and stomach aches. I believe a certain percentage of a healthy relationship come naturally.

  24. I came across your blog via an Open Diary entry. Damn you for making me brush off allllll this household needs me to do!!! :) I'll be back. I NEED to read more. I'm an East-Coast girl…ok… a Jersey girl (cringe), who married 3 weeks shy of my 35th birthday, left my career, apartment, and fears behind. Now, I have a nutty six-year old and two year old twins. Yup… twins. Boy and a girl too. It's um… interesting. I sit here now, with a glass of wine, staring at the mess of what used to be a house, hoping the husband will bring dinner home for me and my litter-o-kids, while my children are running and laughing and making me want to put a STRAW in the wine bottle I'm trying to nurse. To think, I used to cry my friggin' eyes out thinking I'd be alone, miserable, loveless and childless my whole life. Careful what you wish for. Sigghhh.

  25. I think you're right on all counts, whether women will admit it or not. It's ingrained in us.
    However, on a different note, Im a single mom and while I knew I wanted to be married one day it wasn't anything I really REALLY wanted and knew I'd be unhappy without.
    But I did know I wanted kids. I knew from the time I was a little girl I wanted kids and would dream of the names I would name them.

    Now that I have my little blue-eyed Boogey, the race to get married has slowed down tremendously. I just dont care anymore. I mean, I do and yeah it would be nice to get married, if anything to have more kids, and have someone there for me though I cant help but have my reservations about the whole marriage thing as I watch my gfs going through divorces and custody battles.

    On a completely different note, have you seen Sarah Silverman show? It's hilarious. If you havent seen it, check it out.

  26. I just got engaged on Feb 5th [after nearly 6 years together] and I have to say I am the happiest woman in the world. I can't wait to get married. It has already changed our relationship for the better, its hard to explain, but it just feels so right. I really wanted that commitment from him, call me old fashioned, but I did. And now I have it it feels great.
    Stephanie, your blog is great, thanks for your honesty and your wonderful words. Your twins are gorgeous.

  27. This was a great post. I dated a guy for seven and a half years and it ended once I finally realized that he would not "grow-up." Meaning get married and finally truly commit to me. That was four years ago and I am so glad that I finally was strong enough to walk away. Yes, it was fear on my part of being alone. I then ended up dating a guy for two and a half years that I thought was the one. We went to NYC for Valentine's last year. Romantic, exciting, fun. I was convinced that this was it, a proposal was just around the corner and that I would be married this year. I was kind of right. He did propose last year and he did get married in January but to a girl he met six months after he dumped me and they are expecting a baby this summer. He didn't love me and I wasn't the one for him. To finally say it out loud and accept it was tough. It has been a year since I was dumped and I can handle being alone. Now, do I want to be alone? No, but I want someone who loves me unconditionally and wants to spend the rest of their life with me. I want to be married but I won't settle. I give that contentment and peace all to getting older.

  28. I'm with misstraceynolan — my bf and I have been living together for several years, with no plans to get married (but he's told me that when/if I need marriage, we'll do it). My view is that it's WAY more important to be with him than to be married — i'm not in this relationship for a dress, for a ring, for a day. those don't matter to me. we're committed, we've made a committment to one another that means more than just a piece of paper — isn't that what marriage really is? a piece of paper? that's all that separates us (the happily committed non-legal couples) from them. and with a 50% divorce rate, i'm willing to bet that a lot of us non-legal couples are more committed than those with the rings…

  29. I'd agree with everyone who says you don't have to get married, but what does matter is not having the kind of relationship you need, because that kind of pain & disappointment is a constant presence. I suspect this guy will marry someone else about 5 minutes after she leave him, she isn't the one, for him.

  30. To the commenter "Stepheney"

    Yes, they are out there. I personally know quite a few. And there definitely are many healthy, committed relationships that don't have marriage as their goal (look at Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, for example). What matters is the commitment to one another and the love, not the marriage certificate.

    Marriage allows perhaps for a more public commitment and allows the couple to go through a ritual to declare that commitment (also legal marriage provides certain benefits as you know and that is a factor for some in making the decision). But you can definitely be married in your heart and be happy together eternally without ever going through what most consider a conventional marriage ceremony and being legally wed.

    And, about the not having kids thing, I'm right there with you (I'd actually consider foster kids and would have been fine with step kids, but that's a whole separate issue). Good luck to you, I know they're out there. Hope you find one. (Maybe look into meeting someone through local childfree groups, it might help you find the demographic you're looking for more easily. I agree that they might be the minority, but they are out there.)

  31. I am sitting here staring at this page in utter disbelief… My boyfriend and I of five years decided to seperate for a few months because of the very things you were writing about. The seperation was my idea, not his and it stunned him. This happened only days ago and as I am reading and crying I see myself in your pages. I don't know if there is a happy ending in all of this pain but I have to believe that we as a couple, are capable of overcoming this. We just love each other too much not to.

    A friend of mine said that for men, 35 is the new 25. I am begining to think this is very true. The blinding fear that takes over otherwise sensitive, mature, caring, and wonderful partners can be completly overwhelming for the women in their live. It just doesn't make sense in context. I am not advocating marriage for everyone or, marriage for the sake of marriage but I think the issue is beyond pertinent as so many women I know are exactly where your friend is, exactly where I am now, and so surprised to find myself here.

    Thank you for your timing. It couldn't be more perfect. I am passing this on to 3 close girlfriends who are presently going through exactly the same thing.

  32. My husband asked me to marry him before I expected him to. I thought he would, he was completely smitten as I was. To accept/hint/want anything less is infantile. To force an engagement is a waste of time and best to walk away. But I guess you know that already Steph, having done that the first time around.

  33. Interesting that this is what you wrote today – it really resonated with me. It's comforting to know that other people have these things on the brain as well… and then I read these comments and realize just how *many* people have these things on the brain… and it is actually a huge comfort just to know that this is so universal.

    Thank you for your timing and your insight.

  34. #1. "Sady" from the third comment–do you have a blog? Your writing (short comment though it may be) is awesome, and I want to read more.

    #2. Substitute "committed" for "married" in the post. I see a big difference in committed relationships and those relationships where one person says "I'm not ready yet." That phrase should be taken out and shot–being ready doesn't happen like growing boobs does.

    Great post, and thanks.

  35. Thank you so much for this post–I've been going through a rocky break up for about a month after almost two years of "us" and it's been ups and downs. It's so nice to know others think of it in the same terms that I do.

  36. I realize this might be a culture-dependent thing (I'm German, but have spent quite some time living in the US), but how about this thought: Why marry when you are sure that he is the right one for you, when you are sure and safe in your relationship and don't doubt it? Why do you need a piece of paper to prove it then? As one previous poster said, it's either for the religion or the party – every other reason comes down to being afraid to lose him without that piece of paper, and isn't that poor?? I'm 31, not married, with the same guy for 7 years and very happy, and most of my friends' situations are similar. As I said before, this is probably a culture dependant thing, you Americans are different from us Europeans in a lot of ways… so many more, so much more than we all think at first… but still, I'd just like to throw this in the discussion for you.

  37. Stephanie, I just started dating a guy (twice) and I really like his personality, looks and intelligence. BUT he wears a silver chain link looking bracelet AND necklace. The first date, I barely saw it under his dress shirt's collar but there it was. I thought – it's a pimp necklace! Then again last night, he wore it again and it was visible. Ugh – is it just me or is it weird guys wear them? I kept trying to not see it. Shallow? How can I tell him to never wear it again!!!!???

  38. Wow, I've been in one of these breakups. What you wrote sounded so familiar. I don't think it's about growing up. I thought it was. But I think it's about truly loving. Not caring loving or being in love, but selfless loving. Some feel like they're in love from time to time, and they invest so much and enjoy so much the person they're with that they do love them. But it's not enough. Something is missing. So they wait for that something to arrive, and it just never does. Selfless love. They don't love that person MORE than themselves. You're right about knowing you deserve better. It makes me so happy to see women come to that realization and have the strength to leave familiar and wait and believe that someone out there will be captivated by them . . enough to say yes to Forever.

  39. today i read your post, as i do every day… i have lived my life never thinking of marriage.. I have been with my partner for over 9 years.. And now finally it is legal.. It is legal where I live to marry my partner. Somehow I can't visualize two women in wedding gowns, or one in a tux or any of the "straight" conventions that abound when the word "wedding" comes around.. I do now know, that although I have no plans to marry, I am thankful that I now have the choice to say yes, to invitations, wedding dresses, rings, parties and all the other things….. the only other dilemma is once i'm married i can't get divorced! isn't that funny.. they haven't legally figured that one out.. hmmm maybe i'll wait.. till then we are a committed couple who has raised a family, gone from hell and back and now all these years later.. I sit, and realize it is I who wants more… and deserves more and married or not… it's time i go out and get it.. it's not about the white dress and the wedding ring, the commitment is about so much more…… the players may be different in my story but the words you write ring true. thank you..

  40. I was that girl…with someone 5.5 years, waiting for him to "grow up", issuing ultimatums with no follow through…

    I was too young and naive to realize that if it takes that much time, it isn't marriage he's afraid of, nor a need to grow up…It wasn't that he "didn't want to get married". He just didn't want to marry ME. Had I been able to live in reality at 25, I would have known that. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    I was single for 5 yrs in between. I think I dated everyone on Jdate in the entire NYC Metro area. Then I met my husband who I was engaged to in 5 months and married 5 months after that. Luckily, I got to learn the difference between a bad relationship where you have to consistantly chase someone for a commitment and a good one where it just falls into place- no chasing necessary.

    I would everyone could be that lucky. There'd be much less divorce.

  41. "I believe most of the time a man knows within the first month of spending time with a woman whether or not he would be willing, no matter how inconvenient for him, to have his world turned upside down for her."
    Colleen, that`s very well said. I too think thet after a few weeks of dating both (men and women) should know if the other one could be the right one. If you`re dating the same man for years and he still says that he`s not ready for more, well, that`s just his way to tell you that you`re not Mrs. Right. Sad, but true.

  42. Stephanie…I accidentally picked up your book at the library a few weeks ago and it has served as my therapy since then. My boyfriend of over a year broke up with me two months ago, not because anything was wrong but because he simply gave up and knew he didn't want to get married. I don't even know if thats what I wanted. I know that was a big thing for him to do and it was a gift to me, but I still wonder why and what if, and when does it get easier?

  43. “Will I meet someone who treats me that well, who adores me just as I am?”

    YES!!!! YES !!! YES!!! I have waited for 51 years and he is here NOW…. WOW, what a feeling! Wait, ladies, it is so worth it. Thanks, Stephanie, your book inspired me to go after what I truly needed and wanted…. and it is beyond my wildest dreams…. (-;

  44. Forgot to mention, I broke up with my on again, off again Greek "boyfriend" of 10 years in January… did not cry, put a fork in it, it was done. I did the classic dinner goodbye except that I threw in a "when was the last time we had sex? because I don't remember!!! Was it good? I don't remember!!" speech (only to realize that the diners at all tables around us had stopped talking and were listening to me… oops. Anyhoo, met a man who has wooed by phone… he has never touched me or kissed me. I am smitten and so is he. What a difference a month and a half makes. Rebound? NO WAY! The other relationship should have ended 8 years ago but I had to hang in there hoping my hopeless dreams… not really wanting to marry or live with him but at least I had a man. Ladies, wake up, smell the coffee.. there are men with plans for you AND them waiting out there… just be patient. It is worth it.

  45. Isn't that the truth Stef,

    A friend and I was discussing relationships and how everyone tells you you need to grow and get married. Says who? I am the female who doesn't want marriage because honestly I am having fun doing what I do. That doesn't mean that I don't get lonely sometimes but I'd rather the pangs of loneliness any day then the tears of rejection and heartache.

    That doesn't mean that if Mr. Right shows up on my doorstep that I will slam the door in his face and run into the living room shrieking. I am nearly 31 years old for chrissake and there is som much in life to do than just be married. Women carry that around like a torch and we don't know how to let go.

    I say kudos for you for making US realize that we need to grow up by letting go of a relationship going down a dead end road to nowhere

  46. Yeah, but Stephanie, lots of people don't believe you when you say you're happy with Phil because they've heard all the complaints and all of the anger and frustration. Just because a woman complains does not necessarily make her unhappy.

    And people – men and women – stay in relationships for all the reasons you've stated and many that you haven't. And people – men and women – reconcile for all the reasons you've stated and some that you didn't (including sex).

    There's middle ground in all of that. Women also often like to rush into marriage more than men, often times. Men may be thinking about future and finances and not seeing how it's all going to happen. Women just see a ring and a ceremony and "All we need is love."

    I was that guy. I was the guy that was being pushed for the ring after 9 months of dating. "We're already practically living together. Why don't you just buy me the engagement ring?" Why? Because we had fucking issues that a damn ring wasn't going to solve and I didn't think 9 months was long enough and I wasn't sure this was the right woman for my happily ever after and I hoped things would improve. I hoped that we would talk and things would get better. And I left because they didn't. And she stayed away (when I tried to reconcile for all the reasons you stated and some that you didn't (including sex) because I never got the ring.

    Women can fixate on the ring sometimes. I think a person should do what they feel will make them happy and, obviously, these unmarried women must be happy enough with the relationship or they wouldn't stay in it.

  47. I was in a 13 year old “it’s great for now… we don’t need marriage to be committed” until I got pregnant with this man’s child and realized that I didn’t marry him because I didn’t want to be with HIM. It goes both ways. It was terrible asking him to leave because I knew I was breaking his heart, but the reason I never married him was because I knew he wasn’t my life partner. The whole time. And I compromised for many of the reasons you mentioned… he was my best friend, I didn’t know if I would ever find someone better.

    When I started raising my expectations for life and dreaming again, real love started creeping in.

  48. Hee. This is perfect. And pardon the following ramble here. I just ended something short term, but intense, at least for me. It started with a bang, then I was lead on, either due to lack of chemistry or she had the always looking for something better syndrome/ fear of settling down based on what I cobbled together from her dating history. Never will figure out which completely. Probably a bit of both.

    Stupidly, I was willing to play plan a, b, or c for a short time, thinking she’d work it out and we’d be together for a while. Then I realized I was only compromising myself, because I don’t want to be alone. I want long term. I want something to build upon, but I’m also at a point where I am afraid to wait. I almost played that fatal mistake of living in my fears. Of course when I confronted her for being on dating websites sporadically and friending a strange guy who honed in on our conversation at a bar on Facebook after he sought her out, well let’s just say some of her true colors came out. The poison still hurts, but the spell was broken.

    Wow. As Tom Waits sang, she always seemed to have that little drop of poison.

  49. Great advice your talking about it so the rest of us will know! Definitely will keep in mind. Also, I never thought of it before, but later learned, you have to reignite the place that first made it work early on and also stop doing a lot of bad choices we all do at first if you want to save the marriage

  50. All so true. I do think if one person isn’t ready, then it’s pretty much doomed. I have watched a lot of friends walk down the isle, have a couple of kids & 5 or 10 years later the guys is all… “I wasn’t ready for this.” I also have several male friends in their 50s who are lonely because they passed up a lot of fabulous women to avoid ‘responsibility’. I’ve been in a relationship 23 years now̶married for 18. I know there are no guarantees̶a lot of men seem go ape shit crazy in their 50’s & 60’s̶but I do think we had common values at that start. He did tell me that I was the first woman he felt ‘safe’ with because I didn’t have an urgent desire to have children and I was financially stable. I will say that after 5 years living together I basically said, either this is a partnership or it is not̶because I’d like to see other people if it is not. I really see marriage as a business deal as much as a relationship. It is something that is best negotiated up front. And to do that, you have to know what people’s fears are and try to work those things out. Male fears are mostly about money and bad sex. The reality is, men will ‘trade’ up if they are insecure in any way. I can’t tell you how many men I have worked with who are living their trophy wife fantasy after having had the 1st round wife & kids. They want to raise their new children & be a part of their lives ‘this time’. Sadly, for women, there are no second chances when it comes to fertility. For me, children were not a factor in my happiness, but if it’s important to you, I think it’s smart to keep moving until you find someone on the same page. I have one girlfriend who ‘negotiated’ one child̶and they are very happy. He tells me that he is so glad she talked him into it, but one is ‘all he can handle’. ~RealityTC

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