April 20, 2021 at 8:12 am #378143
My boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years, living together for 8 months. I have been bringing up the topic of marriage.. he always seemed to enthusiastic about marrying me. But then this past weekend I outright asked him, “Why aren’t we engaged yet?” After much thinking on his part he basically told me that there are some things he feels we need to work on in our relationship. Last night when I spoke to him about all of this again he told me he is writing something about things we can work on together. I asked him if he could see himself spending the rest of his life with me and he said yes, though he hesitated. I asked him if this thing he is working on is to break up with me and he said no. I asked him if he would just break up with me if he didn’t want to marry me and he said yes. He said he wants any discussion we have about this to be a dedicated 2-3 hour conversation and that he’ll be ready by the end of the week to talk more about it.
For what it’s worth, he did say that he is unhappy with where he is in life (not unhappy with me according to him, just the job he has and the city we’re living in for his job) and both of his parents have been through multiple marriages, so I can see why he would be somewhat hesitant.
I am honestly blindsided by this and it is scaring me. I thought us getting married was a no-brainer. I need some advice regarding how to deal with this, mostly because I’m very emotional about it and it’s affecting my ability to get my work done.April 20, 2021 at 9:13 am #378154
You shared that your boyfriend whose parents went through multiple marriages, is unhappy with his job and the city he lives in. Following a 4-year relationship with him and 8 months of living with him, in which he always seemed enthusiastic about marrying you, you asked him in the past weekend: “Why aren’t we engaged yet?”, and he answered after much thinking, that “he feels we need to work on our relationship”. He told you that he is preparing, in writing, what he plans to discuss with you by the end of a week, predicting it will take “a dedicated 2-3 hour conversation”.
“I thought us getting married was a no-brainer”, you wrote, and this recent development blindsided you, scaring you. You are very emotional and your work is negatively affected.
My thoughts: since he is preparing for the conversation he wants to have with you in a few days or so, you can prepare as well. If you prepare best you can, and put it all in writing, you may have some peace of mind for the rest of the week, knowing you did all you can to prepare.
If you’d like me to try and help you prepare, you are welcome to share more about your boyfriend (without specific details, such as his exact age, job title and the city or country you live in): what is his approximate age, the nature of his dissatisfaction with his job and city, his past and current relationships with his parents and step parents, etc., anything that may be relevant to his current state of mind, as well as the nature of the relationship, particularly have there been arguments and fights between the two of you?
anitaApril 20, 2021 at 9:46 am #378156
Thank you so much Anita. He is in his early 30s and I am in my late 20s. He likes his work but has talked about being stressed about money (I hadn’t been working but my parents had been helping me with some expenses and I’ve been able to help paying for things with my savings. I just got a great job offer that I start next month though). He’s lived in our hometown for all of his life and is definitely lonely because he’s not used to being around the friends he had back home, whereas I have lived in different cities and countries before, and am frankly just not as social as him. His relationship with his dad is pretty good I think, although he’s more like a very good friend than a father figure to him (by my boyfriend’s own admission) and his mom definitely loves him but they seem to argue a lot more than my mom and I do. Neither of his parents are married, and from what he’s told me their marriages, divorces and subsequent relationships were all pretty rough. As for fights and disagreements between us, they happen occasionally but not often, we’ve really only had one since moving in together, and I thought after the initial emotional stage we were pretty good at talking things out. One thing that does come up when we fight is that he tells me I’m selfish, but I’ve told him I don’t think that’s the most helpful thing to say because it just sounds more like an accusation of a negative character trait than a behavior I can work on… also it sounds a little generic if that makes sense. After reflecting upon it, I’ve realized I think any disagreement or argument I’ve had with a sibling, parent, friend, co-worker, whatever can be distilled down to the idea that one or both of us were being selfish (unless it was just a misunderstanding).
So that might be something for me to write down. Rather than telling me I have X negative character trait, it would be helpful for him to give me the benefit of the doubt and just explain to me that I’m exhibiting X unhelpful behavior and it makes him feel like Y.
Also, he told me that he doesn’t feel I’m emotionally supportive enough, but when I asked him if he could tell me what being emotionally supportive looks like to him, it didn’t seem like he could… although in fairness to him he said he was really tired and the time and not able to form really articulate thoughts about something important like that.April 20, 2021 at 10:43 am #378162
You are welcome. You shared that you are in your late 20s, have been unemployed for some time, using your savings and parents’ supported to pay bills, and are about to start a great job in May. You are okay living in the city, away from your hometown, because you lived in different cities and countries before, and your social needs are not as strong as your boyfriend’s.
He is in his early 30s, employed, likes his work but is stressed about money. He is unhappy living in the city because he never lived away from his hometown, and having stronger social needs, he feels lonely living away from his friends there. He told you that his father is “more like a very good friend than a father figure to him”, and he argues a lot with his mother. His parents are not married, and both experienced rough previous relationships, marriages and divorces.
The two of you occasionally fought before moving in together and fought only once since moving in. When you fought, he told you that you were selfish. “it sounds a little generic”, you wrote about him telling you that you were selfish. You reasoned: “it just sounds more like an accusation of a negative character trait than a behavior I can work on”. He also told you that he doesn’t feel that you were “emotionally supportive enough”, but when you asked him for specifics, “it didn’t seem like he could”, perhaps because he was tired, you speculated.
My thoughts: your reasoning that he accused you of a negative character trait instead of pointing to a behavior that you can work on is accurate and wise. But I see more to his accusations that you are selfish and not emotionally supportive enough: it seems to me that when he told you these things, when angry, he was saying these things to his mother. It is very common in romantic relationships that one or both parties inaccurately project parts of their early- life experiences with a parent => into the relationships with their romantic partners.
It is also common for parents who are busy with beginnings and endings of their own romantic relationships to not have the time and availability to emotionally support their children. His stronger need to socialize may have originated in him being too lonely at home, with an inattentive mother who did not.. socializing with him as a mother and son. Neither did his father socialize with him as a father and son.
“they seem to argue a lot”, you wrote regarding him and his mother. I am guessing that he is angry at his mother for being selfish, and when he was angry at you, during the fights, he inaccurately projected his mother into you, accusing you of what he accuses her.
What do you think about what I wrote so far?
anitaApril 20, 2021 at 10:59 am #378164
I guess what you’re saying is possible, about him projecting his mom’s behavior onto me. She definitely doesn’t seem to know how to be emotionally supportive to him. And he does seem to think that she behaves selfishly, which, although she’s not my mom so I hesitate to make any judgements, I can see why he would feel that way. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and not think that he would be projecting his negative experiences with other people onto me, but no one is perfect. And I really had an ideal upbringing with parents who have a good relationship and siblings that I love spending time with, which might be why I don’t experience those issues. I guess I don’t exactly know what to do with all of this information though.April 20, 2021 at 11:12 am #378166
You shared that his mother doesn’t seem to know how to emotionally support her son (your boyfriend), and that he indeed thinks that she behaves selfishly.
“he does seem to think that she behaves selfishly, which, although she’s not my mom so I hesitate to make any judgements… I don’t exactly know what to do with all this information though”-
– one thing you can do with this information is to stand by your boyfriend’s judgment that his mother has been selfish. Young children are not mistaken about who their parents are. Young children’s perceptions are accurate because they do not project anyone into their parents, they see their parents for who they truly are.
So, instead of telling your boyfriend that you hesitate to make a judgment about his mother/ instead of expressing doubt in his childhood (and ongoing) experience with his mother, support him emotionally by expressing your full trust in his experience of his mother.
anitaApril 20, 2021 at 11:47 am #378169
Okay. That makes sense. He has mentioned something before about how it seems I don’t trust his judgement enough. I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.April 20, 2021 at 12:01 pm #378171
You are welcome, Philippa. Post again if you need to.
anitaApril 20, 2021 at 12:28 pm #378175
I am just really sad about this. I feel like if he can’t say right now that he definitely wants to marry me he probably doesn’t. But he has told me I’m the love of his life so much and we’ve talked about marriage before. I’m having trouble understanding how this can be so simple for me but apparently so much more complicated for him. I will hear him out of course, but the waiting is stressful.April 20, 2021 at 12:43 pm #378178
I understand your distress. We talked earlier about you preparing for the conversation with him, putting together a plan, in writing. You wrote in your post before last: “He has mentioned something before about how it seems I don’t trust his judgement enough. I’ll keep that in mind”-
– how about not only keeping it in mind in a general kind of way, but developing the topic into an essay of sorts, including writing about specifically, in what circumstances and in what ways you can express your trust in his judgement, what words will you use, in what tone, etc.?