QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER [Let’s call her Amy]: I’ve been dating my current boyfriend since November 2008. I’m 30 and he’s 38. In August of 2009, after roughly 9 months of dating, he told me that instead of celebrating our 1 year anniversary, he thinks we should get engaged. I planned and paid for a trip to California in October, so he could meet my family. He repeatedly reinforced that he planned on asking me to marry him in November and told me (and friends of his) one week prior to our trip that he was going to ask for my father’s permission. He didn’t.
When we got back to Manhattan, I asked what his intentions were. He told me that he thought we would move in together first (in December) and 3-4 months after that, he would propose. After much discussion (and anger from my part), he said that he didn’t get his expected quarterly bonus at the end of September and that derailed his engagement plans. It’s now June, 2010 and we’re still not engaged, but we moved in together in the beginning of May.
Our relationship is great, and he’s the “one” for me. I’m trying to be patient with him regarding his financial situation, but I have periodic meltdowns wherein I say, “I want to be engaged,” and he says he needs to be in a better place financially. I told him I’m willing to get engaged without a ring, or with a very modest ring, but apparently this hurt his man-pride. He’s told me, right now, he feels like “dead weight.” I have a great job and a good income. I like nice things (ahem, Gilt Groupe), but would never expect him to foot the bill. We split our living expenses 50/50.
What I want most is to be able to flip a switch and not feel like utter sh*t all the time…just get over it and not want this so badly (why the F is being engaged that important to me if I’m otherwise happy?). In really bad moments, I start dissecting myself for inadequacies and internalize (i.e. this isn’t about his finances, it’s about my weight or looks or attitude, something I’m doing wrong…). It is getting increasingly hard to smile and congratulate my friends and our mutual friends who have gotten engaged recently (hello, like 14 in the last 2 months). And it is getting increasingly more difficult to stomach the “milk for free” and “2 year deadline” comments….and of course the dreaded, “why aren’t you engaged” which is, on occasion, asked in front of him.
It just so happens that you’ve come to the right place. Odd, but somehow I feel like this is my sweet spot. First, some required reading:
Your guy might be 38, but he’s acting 28. What in the hell does that mean? See for yourself…
1) From Cougars + Kittens: “He can’t see himself married because when he was younger and thought abstractly about his married life one day, he always saw himself as a bread winner, as an accomplished man with a high-paying career, not a job, a career. He saw himself as a man. When do you begin to see yourself as a man and not as a boy? When you’re married! When you’re married you’re responsible for another person, and worse, you have to really be accountable for yourself.”
2) An Appointment With Dis is encouraging, promise. If anything, reading it will make you realize not to push so hard, to talk it out, to expect him to get on bended knee, ask your father for your hand… woman, you’re ruining it for yourself. There is nothing fun about knowing he’s going to ask (“just not knowing the exact how“). It’s controlling. Again, you’re ruining it for yourself. If you trust, in the deepest part of you, that he will, in fact, ask you one day, when he feels more financially secure (and that it’s not simply a stall tactic due to uncertainty about you or marriage in general), leave it alone. So you can enjoy it all the more when it does happen.
From An Appointment With Dis: That’s the problem with expectation (particularly the type beyond your own control); it can lead to disappointment. I hate to say it, but even when something brilliant happens, if you were expecting it, you won’t be nearly as elated as you’d have been if you were blindsided by it. We overestimate our pleasure and pain when we have time to forecast things. When unexpected surprises creep in (both the magical and menacing), we feel things more deeply. But how do you avoid having expectations? Realistic or not, they’re still there, with their own pulse, and what do they add to life, aside from a clear declaration, even if only to yourself, of how you’d like to be treated?
3) Does Soon Really Mean No? The Cliff’s Notes: “As long as everything becomes an excuse, ‘someday’ stays where it is: as far away as it’s always been. We make space in our lives for what matters, now. Not in promises and soons, but on mantels with sterling frames, in shelves we clear to make room for our now. Everything else is talk.”
4) Ultimatums Might As Well Have The Word ‘Mate’ In Them The cheat sheet: “If we’re not *here* by *this* date, then I’m gone. Sometimes, I think having to say that is reason enough to just leave. The women who have to put an expiration date on their relationships shouldn’t be in that relationship in the first place.”
5) Breakups + Breakthroughs, a personal favorite. “Eventually the excuses wear thin, 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 alone by default, not preference.”
6) Meet My Needs, another essential read. Seriously. “We complain that someone else isn’t meeting our needs, but we never ask if we’re meeting our own needs. ‘I need to feel…’ Fill in the blank. ‘I’ll be happy when…’ then give it to yourself.” In your case, I’d say the need you want met is validation. You want others to take your relationship seriously. You want validation from your man that he’s in it for the long haul, so you’re not played for the fool, wasting your time and eggs in a relationship that’ll never move forward. And I’m telling you, you need to figure out how to give yourself validation. Read “Meet My Needs” again. And again. Until you figure out what you can give yourself to feel confident and self-assured that you’re making the right choice.
Before I take a smack + crack at answering this (with more straightforward, specific advice), I’ll let others weigh in with their own words of wisdom. Floor’s all yours…
GOT QUESTIONS? NEED ADVICE? If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address. Nope, I’m not a shrink, but since people keep asking for my opinion, I might as well share it and air it, so everyone else can weigh in too.