Did we decide to get married? I'm not sure...
April 11, 2010 7:12 AM   Subscribe

(relationship filter) Am I refusing to see the writing on the wall? Says he wants to marry me. Has the excitement of a sloth. What am I missing here?

Please help as I need some outside perspectives. My boyfriend and I have been together 2 1/2 years. He's 41. I'm 39. Full disclosure: He is engineer type and I'm very circular, more artsy. After several months of discussing marriage, he says he is ready. That's my problem: he has absolutely ZERO outside happiness/ emotion or enthusiasm. When I asked him about this, he said that he is happy inside and I just need to trust him. I swear I'm not making this up: he had more excitement about the Sonoran Hot-dog he discovered last night. I feel so torn...my gut tells me something is definitely off...he is telling me that he really is happy about this. There has been NO "you're the one for me" or any words of affirmation. Just his decision. In all fairness, he will not do anything he does not want to do. When I tell him that I want someone to be as excited for me as I am about him (and I am...I adore him and tell/show him all the time) and to be excited about US and starting a future together, I'm told my expectations are too high. He didn't want to do a formal proposal (even though I would've loved that...fine.). He doesn't want to "ask" me formally...he thinks telling me is enough (I always liked the idea of being asked, but if he feels that strongly....fine. I'll go along with it.) I, however, do NOT think it is too much to ask that he genuinely seems to be happy about this. Am I out of line here? I've asked him if he doesn't want to do this and I've given him every out so he doesn't feel pressured. He still says he does. Am I being a fool here???

Thank you so much for your help. I appreciate it!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Some people are less emotional than others. Not sure there's more to read into it than that based on your description.
posted by dfriedman at 7:18 AM on April 11, 2010

If I was going to give a snap judgement, I'd say he probably IS happy, but you aren't. Instead of looking for writing on the wall as to whether this is what HE wants, figure out if it is what YOU want.
posted by gjc at 7:20 AM on April 11, 2010 [13 favorites]

I really don't think you should be worried about how excited or happy he seems about it. I'm very similar to your boyfriend, I don't always outwardly project my happiness or enthusiasm to my SO.

If he is telling you that "he is happy inside" and you "just need to trust him" then seriously, just trust him. I can tell you from experience that if this is how your guy is it will save both of you lots of stress and annoyance.
posted by Funky Claude at 7:22 AM on April 11, 2010

I think you should talk to your boyfriend and tell him that you'd like to be asked (formally) to marry him. I'm sensing some resentment about that, and it seems like that's one of the reasons why you're feeling that he doesn't care enough.
posted by kylej at 7:24 AM on April 11, 2010

Are YOU going to be happy being the compromiser on all things emotional for the rest of your lives together? When one partner keeps all their feelings on the inside and the other lives on the extreme outside of their skin, it can be really hard if their expectations of each other are not fair or matched. If you NEED someone to SHOW you they love you in particular ways, will you be happy with this man long term? Since it sounds like you usually give in to HIS way of showing love. Which is fine -- I've come to appreciate that replacing my wiper blades is an act of love much larger than sending flowers would be for my husband; also seeing out the windshield is surprisingly useful -- but only if YOU are fine with it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:27 AM on April 11, 2010 [25 favorites]

I don't care if he is emotional or not. He needs to give you a formal proposal because YOU want one and it is worthwhile to give you what YOU want occasionally.

If he can't be troubled to do that, is this the life you want?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:35 AM on April 11, 2010 [11 favorites]

I feel so torn...my gut tells me something is definitely off...he is telling me that he really is happy about this.
Your gut is telling you about you, not about him. Listen to it.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 7:39 AM on April 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

He thinks your expectations are too high? Based upon what you've written, I'm given the impression that he's a bit of an emotional ogre: emotions and the display of emotions have to be on his terms only. Can you live with that? Is he showing that he loves you in some other way (like Eyebrows McGee's husband: by doing "non-romantic" tasks that show his consideration and care for you)? If he isn't, then I'd argue that he's just paying lip service to the whole relationship: he likes how you cater to him and demonstrate your love, but he's not really that into you. You're right to be concerned and you are not out of line.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 7:42 AM on April 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

My husband -- an artsy, feeling type -- asked me after about 10 years of marriage why I loved him. I said I made a decision to love him, and having done so, was committed to following through. He was incredulous: "You made a decision?" An argument ensued, the high point of which was his declaration that living with me was "like living with Mr Spock!" We'll be celebrating our 31st anniversary in a few months.

That said, however, my openness to feelings, both his and mine, remains a challenge for us. What is natural and easy for him is a conscious effort for me. The effort doesn't consist of loving him; that's easy. The effort is communicating it in a way that meets his needs.

Like Eyebrows McGee has said, you will have a lifetime of compromise ahead. I really appreciate her story about the wipers. What I get out of it is that her husband wants to keep Eyebrows safe, wants to save her the time and trouble of doing the chore herself, and that she is on his mind enough that he thinks of these things. In my book, that's an expression of abiding love.

My husband would tell you to listen to your gut feelings and not go through with this. On preview, I think that Truncated, St Alia, and LOLAttorney have valid points. I believe that any long term relationship involves ongoing compromise. Perhaps my relationship is satisfying because both of us make compromises. How will he meet your needs and are the compromises he requires are ones you can live with?

Good luck.
posted by angiep at 7:51 AM on April 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

Ask yourself is he the one who started discussing marriage? or are you the one who brought it up?

If it's been you the entire time, I would go with your gut.

What one normally finds with people is that something's off if someone's speaking to you in a melancholic manner and saying everything's fine.
So I suppose an apropos question here would be, what's his body language when talking about this?

If it's more avoidance and doing something else while talking about it, yes, there's a red flag.

Does your relationship have to have a marriage? What are his views on marriage? Maybe his previous marriage experience was bad? Maybe he's never been married so he's nervous about it and is unable to show his affection due to the anxiety of the new situation at hand? Maybe there's an unspoken need here from his side.

I personally don't believe someone who says they are happy on the inside, but in work situations you work with what you've got and take it at what is communicated (dependent upon the level of relationship of course). However, when it comes to these private and intimate people/connections, things are usually different.

You seem to need some perspective either from a therapist or a marriage counselor or someone closer to you both who can give you a perspective that's closer to the situation at hand.

Aside from the above, all these questions are better clarified before you tie the knot than after because you could just go on living like this with each other without the need for marriage. Also, is it a trust issue here or a communication one?
posted by iNfo.Pump at 7:56 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

he will not do anything he does not want to do.

I think this is the problem. He's decided that he wants to marry you--having discussed it on his terms, agreed to it on his terms, and making plans on his terms--but his attitude isn't conducive to a happy, healthy marriage unless you're really truly happy and content sacrificing your preferences and desires to his every single day, in every facet of your life together.

Being married is really wonderful; I love being married. However, being married means sometimes doing things you do not want to do. I would urge you not to marry this person until you and he have a clear understanding that compromise in an integral part of marriage, and that compromise doesn't mean splitting things down the middle: sometimes one or the other partner will have to do something s/he doesn't want to do. Being a true partner means being occasionally willing to set aside what you want for the other person's benefit or for the benefit of the marriage. I think both of you need to talk about this before you make any plans to marry.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:58 AM on April 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

And, moreover, looking at some of the distinctions people are making about gifts, etc.--there's nothing wrong with being inclined to do one thing, to show love in one way, rather than being inclined to do the thing your partner really wants, to show love the way your partner most enjoys. The problem is when you say, "I show love by fixing your car. If you're asking me to show you love by buying you flowers, that is unreasonable and I won't ever do it because I don't want to. Your expectations are to high" instead of saying, "Buying flowers come naturally to me; I'd prefer to work on your car. Because I love you, I'll sometimes buy you flowers, but please understand that working on your car means exactly the same thing from my perspective."
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:02 AM on April 11, 2010 [12 favorites]

er--"Buying flowers doesn't com naturally..."
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:03 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I, however, do NOT think it is too much to ask that he genuinely seems to be happy about this. Am I out of line here? I've asked him if he doesn't want to do this and I've given him every out so he doesn't feel pressured. He still says he does. Am I being a fool here???

Well, I don't know. Do you love him? There's lots of hang-wringing here about how you don't like his communication style, but nothing about what you do like about him--how much you love him, for instance, and appreciate other things about him. Just that his way of expressing affection isn't right for you.

Regardless of what he wants to do, I suspect that you don't really want to be married to someone who expresses himself as he does. I know it's easier to convince yourself that he doesn't really love you--it absolves you of the guilt of throwing away a perfectly good guy who cares about you enough to want to marry you--but I think this post is much more indicative of your feelings than his.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:29 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to say that I can't favorite Meg_Murray's observations hard enough.

Never been married, but I've been with my girlfriend about five years now, and living with another person is hard sometimes. No matter how much you love each other, you will not always agree. You will not always want the same things.

Getting through that intact requires patience and a willingness to occasionally set aside what you want, in favor of what your partner needs. If he isn't even willing to propose formally - a very minor concession, and thoroughly reasonable in our culture - then he's not ready for the million other very small things you're going to need and want down the road.

I wouldn't necessarily run for the hills or anything, but I'd definitely wait on marriage. And counseling is a good suggestion: having a neutral party help you guys communicate what you want and why might help.
posted by mordax at 8:41 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm kind of confused by the things you say in your question. OK, so you've been seeing each other for 2 1/2 years. For several months, you've been discussing marriage with him. See- that, to me, seems like a long time for two people to be "discussing marriage," and after all that, he's decided that he does indeed want to marry you, and now you want him to ask you if you'll marry him? You've already been discussing marriage for months, and obviously you've wanted to go for it, so why does he need to ask? (That's my take on his reaction, and if I were in his shoes I'd probably feel the same way. As the engineering-type you describe, he probably thinks asking you formally would simply be redundant.)

As you said, it sounds like he just isn't much of an outwardly emotional guy, not that he isn't happy to be with you. If he tells you he's happy, take his word for it. I've known guys exactly like that. Instead of looking for obvious expressions of his feelings for you - like sending you flowers or telling you how happy he is with you - look for ways that he shows you that he loves you, like the example Eyebrows McGee gave. There must be a reason why you've loved him up until this point, right?

If this is a dealbreaker for you, well, that's up to you. His outward emotionalness probably won't change. But if you'd like to stay with him, it would help learn to appreciate him for who he is and not focus on who he isn't, and think about how he shows his love for you as opposed to how he doesn't.
posted by wondermouse at 8:53 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

What Meg_Murry said, oh so very much.

Your post reminded me very, very strongly of an ex of mine. I had the same crawling something-is-off-here feeling, the same discomfort with trying to reconcile that with my belief that it was unreasonable to expect him to do things he didn't want to do. And it wasn't big things, and it surely didn't matter that much if he loved me, and, and, and...

Looking back now, it wasn't about which particular things he did or didn't want to do. It was that, as you said, he just... wouldn't do anything he didn't want to. It was that 'I don't wanna' was a reason that, in his eyes, should have overruled all else. And it didn't matter... until the point where it did, when his behaviour grew seriously, seriously strange, and when I ended up listening to what I then thought was the love of my life explain to me - in tears, and in quite evident psychological distress - that "I can't do things like buying you flowers because it feels like giving you anything is giving parts of myself away!"

Yeah. That sucked.

Since they're not (I hope!) the same man, I'm reluctant to suggest that you should run like the wind now now right now just because of that. But if your gut feeling is warning you to keep your running shoes by the door, you should probably listen.
posted by Catseye at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

I was in a very similar situation. I spent 10 years being....content. Then I woke up one day and suddenly realized that I really, really missed passion. I looked down the road and realized that if I stayed with this man, I would never have passion again. Ever.

So ask yourself, "Can I live with that? Is that really what I want for the rest of my life?"

Personally, I broke it off, and very shortly afterwards found what I was looking for. We've been together 4 years now, and when I look back at my previous relationship, I can't believe I put up with it for 10 years. And interestingly enough, he really didn't have a lot of emotion about our breakup, either. Best decision I ever made - seriously. Just to be clear, the relationship was good in a lot of ways, and my female friends continually asked me if he had a brother, etc., and everyone was totally shocked when we broke up - we never fought, had a very stable life, and looked like the perfect couple.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:14 AM on April 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

He is discounting your expectations and your emotions.

You have a right to have genuine expectations and emotions.

It sounds as though you are not an ideal match for this man who would prefer that you have different expecations and emotions than you do.

I'd get out of this one.
posted by bilabial at 9:17 AM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Favoriting Meg_Murry's responses so hard. As she said, the problem isn't "I show affection by doing X, Y, and Z" it's "and I'm unwilling to even try doing P, Q, or R even though you have told me that P, Q, and R are important to you."

There's unexpressive, and then there's "more excited about a hot dog than about the prospect of getting married". There's intellectual engineer type, and then there's "if you think I should be excited or enthusiastic about the prospect of signing on for life together, your expectations are too high".

In all fairness, he will not do anything he does not want to do.

Do not marry this man.

Speaking from the perspective of 12 years married, marriage is all about doing things you don't want to do. Marriage is all about learning to compromise, and most importantly, learning how to be okay with that. Marriage is work. It's very hard work and sometimes, even when you know in your heart and gut that you are completely committed to the other person and the other person is completely committed to you, you still don't feel like it's worth it and still just want to give up and chuck it all. If you start out without a strong base of commitment and willingness, I don't know how it would be possible to make it through that.

He is already telling you that he either cannot or will not leave his comfort zone to do things that you have told him are important to you — and something like "I would like a formal proposal, even if it is redundant" is a small, small thing to have to do, compared to some of the things a married couple is likely to face together.

Listen to him. Believe him. Do not marry him.

My mother used to say, "You deserve somebody who makes your heart sing when you look at them. And you deserve to know that their heart sings when they look at you."
posted by Lexica at 10:31 AM on April 11, 2010 [16 favorites]

Assuming that he knows himself and is honest when he says he does really love you, you guys can work on how you communicate so that it works better for you. blah blah therapy blah blah. Unlike others here, I do believe his outward communication can change, and that your ability to hear the ways he communicates can change as well.

But for that to shift, you'll need to stop framing this like "what do you really FEEL? I can't tell," because then he can just say, "I told you I loved you and I'm happy," question answered, case closed. What you need to do is back up out of the trying-to-see-in-his-head space (although it is quite natural and understandable that you'd be there), and talk about what you feel and what you'd like to be happening.

If you haven't read up on nonviolent communication, that might be a place to start. It's all about explaining what you'd like and the need that's going unmet in a way that (hopefully) inspires compassionate giving in the other person. If you can identify the unmet need, his engineering problem-solving skills might spring into action.
posted by salvia at 10:43 AM on April 11, 2010

Speaking from the perspective of 12 years married, marriage is all about doing things you don't want to do. Marriage is all about learning to compromise, and most importantly, learning how to be okay with that. Marriage is work. It's very hard work and sometimes, even when you know in your heart and gut that you are completely committed to the other person and the other person is completely committed to you, you still don't feel like it's worth it and still just want to give up and chuck it all. If you start out without a strong base of commitment and willingness, I don't know how it would be possible to make it through that.

It doesn't have to be. Some marriages are all about compromise, some aren't. You only have to compromise if your desires aren't congruent with the desires of your partner.

"Engineer types" are hard to deal with. I know, because I am one. I can see where such a person would have a lot of trouble with (what he perceives to be) a "phoney" marriage proposal. For him, it wouldn't be genuine. You both know that you have agreed on marriage, and to act out a play would just be silly game playing. He probably doesn't dance, either. Some people just don't like ceremony for its own sake.

(Also, an an engineer type, I can relate that "being happy with the relationship" and "being happy RIGHT NOW" are two distinct things. "I love you with all my heart, but I really can't be happy right now because I am in a shitty mood" sometimes happens. And those of us who have those moments know that when we are dealing with an emotionally reactive person, that mood will cause trouble. We can't always compartmentalize. When we try and fail, the shitty mood bleeds into the moment and ruins it. We, sometimes incorrectly, assume that not doing something is better than doing it and ruining it.)

(Also, don't discount that he may well be planning on doing an actual proposal, and is simply waiting until the right time. Like when it doesn't seem forced.)
posted by gjc at 10:58 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are offering him something awesome and amazing. Your time, love, and commitment. It is a gift, not a chore.

Maybe he feels the same way.
posted by gjc at 11:01 AM on April 11, 2010

When I read the part that said "he will not do anything he does not want to do," I took that to be an illustration of the fact that he must want to marry her, because otherwise he wouldn't say he wants to marry her. Not that he's never willing to compromise on anything to make her happy. I don't think we know enough about their relationship otherwise to be able to say that this guy is totally cold and never does a thing for her.
posted by wondermouse at 11:39 AM on April 11, 2010

It sounds like "discussing marriage" means you telling him you want to get married. When he agrees, you start having second thoughts. This sounds like you want to get out of the relationship. One possibility is that you brought up marriage because you thought he wouldn't want that, he would say no and that would let you break up with him guilt-free. But instead he agreed, so you've discovered something else that's wrong. So it's worth asking yourself why you are looking for something to be wrong, maybe it's your own ambivalence or cold feet.

Another thing that is very interesting to me: you respect the fact that he doesn't want to do a formal proposal, but you feel you are entitled to him feeling a certain way. In other words, you don't want to tell him what to do, but you do want to tell him how to feel. What's that about?

I think his behavior is probably consistent with how you've been discussing marriage. You want him to be excited about starting a future together, but has your discussion about marriage been mostly about what you want? Now that he's given you what you want, you want to switch to what both of you want, but you've already set the expectations for him that marriage is about you and your needs.

What we expect from men and women in relationships can be illustrated by looking at the myth of Cinderella. What do we know about her? All kinds of things: her mother is dead, she lives with her step-mother who treats her cruelly, her step-sisters are jealous of her, she dreams of going to the ball, etc. We have a rich picture of her emotional life. What about the prince, what do we know about him? Other than he's a prince, practically nothing, he doesn't even have a name. (OK, "Prince Charming" in the Disney movie, but isn't it symbolic that his name is never used?) The male side of the equation doesn't feel anything, he only does things; his internal life is nonexistent, he is more like a nameless machine than a person. Anonymous, invisible, dehumanized. How does this intersect with each of your identities? An engineer performs a function; an artist expresses her subjectivity.

Without meaning to point fingers: with that context, it's interesting what Lexica says: "Marriage is all about doing things you don't want to do. Marriage is work, regardless of how you feel." But then, in apparent contradiction: "You deserve someone who makes your heart sing." Isn't it clear that for him, marriage is work; but for her, it should make her heart sing?

The bottom line: you can't expect him to have the feelings you want him to have if you treat him (or allow him to treat himself) as if his feelings don't matter.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Have you tried communicating the contents of your post to your boyfriend and discussing it with him? If you are at the marriage stage, I don't see why you couldn't have a conversation about these things.

To try to answer your question, it may be that he is less emotional, or that he doesn't know how to show his affection in this particular situation... maybe he never learned how to show love for another person the same way you do. But communication goes both ways. Does he show affection and commitment in other ways, like doing things for you, being supportive, etc. Perhaps, he just has a way of expressing his feelings, that isn't very appropriate for this particular situation?

On proposing, do you guys have a more traditional man-woman interpersonal relationship, or are you more equal? I can see how proposing can seem obsolete and silly to certain people, and he may be one of them. But, if you tell him how much you want to be proposed to, perhaps he can get over himself and do it for you?

The bottom line is: from your description of him ("he will not do anything he does not want to do") it seems likely you are over-thinking this; talk to him; and if you have to continue thinking about this, try to establish whether this behavior is consistent with his past behavior. This situation can also get you started on an honest conversation about him trying to get out of his comfort zone more, and doing things he hasn't done before, like proposing formally, or showing excitement in different ways than he is used to.
posted by albatross84 at 12:02 PM on April 11, 2010

"he will not do anything he does not want to do," I took that to be an illustration of the fact that he must want to marry her

I took it to mean the same thing, but saw it as the root of the problem. He says he agrees to marry her, which indicates that he wants to marry her because he doesn't do things he doesn't want to do. He won't formally propose, even thought she told him she would like him to do so, because he doesn't want to. He won't show enthusiasm for their decision, even though she told him she'd like some sort of outward enthusiasm, because he doesn't want to. His apparently rigid adherence to doing only things he wants to do, and his reliance on, "I shouldn't have to, I don't want to" as a reason not to do things she would like him to do seem very problematic.

An engineer-type could find solutions to this situation if he chose to: he could set an alert on his google calendar to remind himself to mention to the OP that he loves her and is excited about spending their lives together; he could stick a post-it up on his cubicle at work that says "remind OP you love her"; he could write her little love notes and stick them in the mail at random if he's more comfortable writing than saying things out loud. Instead, he's saying "Your expectations are too high," meaning he is not willing to stretch himself at all for the relationship. That's not a person who is ready for marriage.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:16 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

"he will not do anything he does not want to do," I took that to be an illustration of the fact that he must want to marry her

I too took it as "I trust that if he is doing it, he does want to."

Don't you know people that you can trust not to give into peer pressure and not to silently go along with things they really don't want to do, particularly getting married, but who are also compassionate and considerate enough to want to do things that make others happy? I don't think strength of character necessarily indicates selfishness and callousness. Would you even want to date someone who does lots of things that they hate, to the point that you wonder if they're just marrying to you to avoid making you happy? Ick, just thinking about having to wonder about that gives me the total heebie jeebies.
posted by salvia at 12:58 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

marrying to you
posted by salvia at 12:59 PM on April 11, 2010

You said it:

In all fairness, he will not do anything he does not want to do.

If he doesn't want to do something, no matter how important it is to you, he's simply not going to do it. So the default in your relationship is going to be his feelings. Even if he's happy, or feels the situation is simply adequate enough for him, he's not going to show the enthusiasm you are.

Even if certain things are important to you in order for you to feel happy or loved, he's not going to show them if he doesn't feel like it.

There is no normal. Everyone is entitled to their own wants and needs. For him to tell you "your expectations are too high" isn't really true. It's just that your expectations *of him* are not things he probably will ever be willing to provide. But you still have the right to want or need a relationship where those expectations are fulfilled. It will just have to be someone else.

Will you be happy constantly sacrificing what you really want/need for whatever the bare minimum is that he is willing to give you?
posted by Ashley801 at 1:36 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Related to my comment, I highly recommend Terence Real's I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression. I don't think your husband is depressed, but the book sheds a lot of light on the wounding men experience and how that disconnects them from their emotions.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:24 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

In all fairness, he will not do anything he does not want to do.

My partner is like this, and I am way, way not like this. And it has definitely led to some issues of the sort you describe. He says "okay, I know you want to do x, let's do x" and I feel like "well, are you only halfheartedly going along to appease me? that's no fun, we should only do x if you want to also". But the truth is he does want to, because if he didn't, he just wouldn't do it. (Speaking now about optional things like going to the park, not necessary things like calling the plumber or whatever.)

In a way, this can be a great feature in a partner, because you don't have to worry that's he's doing things resentfully. He just won't do things he would resent. It is hard to get your head around, as a person who continually does optional things she doesn't really want to do and sometimes feels resentful and sulky about it. (Not sure if that's you, but it's me.)

So - I think the "won't do things he doesn't want to do" is a good sign.

When he tells you that he thinks you should get married, does he look happy/content/smiling, but just not overwhelmed with joy? If so, I would take that as an excellent sign. In his mind the decision is made, and he's happy with it, and figures you are happy with it since you've been discussing it, and now bob's your uncle. Everything is settled. No theatrics necessary. When we decided to get hitched (excellent decision, no regrets), that was something of the scene. No formal proposal; happy, content, but not jumping for joy/shout from the rooftops.

Or is he not even visibly happy/content in whatever his usual way of expressing that is?

(I wouldn't worry about the excited-about-Sonoran-hot-dog thing. that's surprise, which is naturally going to look different than a longer-term contentment/happiness about an ongoing state of affairs like your relationship.)

Finally: often people here recommend the book Five Love Languages, about how people express their love differently (eg through doing tasks for you). Maybe worth checking out in case it helps with this disconnect? Assuming that he's willing to talk about this sort of thing with you, and you can lay out your needs ("look, it feels to me as if you're not excited, because I'm expecting that an excited new fiance would buy flowers or do some other outward expressive thing. Will you do something like that for me, please?")
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:51 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I guy who told me "Of course I love you, I am just not capable of showing you so in any outward emotional way; now let us calmly make plans to merge our lives together" would drive me insane, frankly. Right over the m-fin cliff. And my husband didn't do a traditional proposal either, but it's because he was so in love that it just burst out of him and surprised us both. Though generally, he is a relatively calm and logical person. But he was over the moon happy to have me, and I felt the same about him.

You sound full of doubts; maybe deep down you suspect it's eventually going to drive you insane too. As it doesn't sound like he'd care too much if you took your time getting married, why not talk to a therapist and take some time out to think about how *you* feel?

My marriage is not the only workable kind out there, by any stretch; maybe what you want is different. But after 12 years of observing my own and friend's marriages, I will only say, that a partner can look amazing on paper, meet all the typical Great Person Checklist Items, and still be totally wrong for you. Don't marry someone because of their objective great qualities; marry them because you both can't imagine not being together the rest of your lives.
posted by emjaybee at 8:32 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not an engineer, but I spend lots of time with them in their native habitat (science lab). Some engineers I work with are a hair shy of autistic and well into asberger's. The stereotypes about engineers often have a kernel of truth; often emotional literacy isn't their strong suit.

Don't assume that if he loves you that he knows what you mean or what you need. You may need to be more specific about your concerns and needs because he may not have the ability to anticipate other people's needs.

Consider having an explicit discussion with him about what you need in this scenario. Don't assign blame, and don't tell him that the way he's thinking about things is wrong, but do say something along the lines of "when you tell me that you don't want to formally propose, I'm concerned that _______."

You deserve to have your needs met too; he may not understand exactly what you need unless you explicitly tell him.
posted by answergrape at 9:08 PM on April 11, 2010

I can't agree more with wondermouse on this one...

he probably thinks asking you formally would simply be redundant

See, because if this was you and I talking, and you had been bugging me for months about getting married and (this isn't mentioned, but talking about it for a long time makes me feel like you were maybe pushing him on it) trying to convince me that it was the right thing to do and I finally said "Ok, cool, let's get married"...and then you came back with "Ok, when are you going to propose?" ...isn't that what we just decided on???

I don't think this should be a determining factor in your relationship. You should try couples therapy if you really feel that it is. But some people (especially engineering types, ime) are extremely uncomfortable with emotions like that. I get really excited over stupid things- the new Smurfs movie coming out, my brand new sewing machine- but when it comes to talking about my problems, or telling someone how I feel, I freeze up. It happens. And the more I am pushed about it or the more it is brought up, the more uncomfortable and less willing to talk about it I get.

Please don't listen to the people upthread that, based on a paragraph, are telling you to run away from him, or not to marry him under any circumstances or that there's a good chance that he has serious psychological problems. Please do get some kind of therapy.
posted by kro at 9:54 PM on April 11, 2010

I don't know that I'd read into it...well, no, i probably would. But I don't know that it SHOULD be read into. But I will say this - if you're going to compromise all these things you hoped to have when you pictured marriage, he better be worth it, yeah?
posted by leafeater at 7:58 PM on April 15, 2010

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