how do i bring the future of our relationship up (or should I)?
March 1, 2018 8:18 AM   Subscribe

At the beginning of feb my and my bf of 5 going on 6 years almost broke up because I brought up the topic of where we were headed since he hadn't proposed. I basically said I wouldn't wait around forever continuing to play house and waste my time. He said he had thought about marrying me since yr 2 but wasn't sure and that he had some concerns.

He expressed his concerns (my temper & stubbornness - which reminded him of his dad towards his mom), my sometimes tendency to bicker about small things / making him feel like he's walking on eggshells, concerns about where we would settle down since he's from another country and feels guilt about leaving his family, as well as not having a big support system here, not feeling like he is a part / fits in with my family although he says they are nice and friendly, a weird concern about getting sick and me not being there for him (he says nothing is wrong with him), not being able to enjoy small things like having bottle of wine at home because i don't drink much, and lastly about us having a good marriage or 15 years and it ending in divorce because I was married before).

i know- that's a lot. It was the first time I had heard a lot of this and it seemed like every excuse in the book to me but I don't want to trivialize his concerns. So we decided we would work on the things each of us felt were off (I wanted him to communicate more, help out around the house, and be more touchy because that's how I feel loved).

It's been a good month. i feel like we have reconnected a lot (we have gone out on more dates, done things with our friends, cook together, we read to each other at night, shared wine - with me only having a small glass, there has been more talking, cuddling and caressing, etc.

I also don't know how to bring the subject up or if I should since it's now march. I don't want to feel like I am pressuring or nagging him about this - but at the same time I don't want to keep wasting years of my life. What should I do?
posted by soooo to Human Relations (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You can certainly ask him if he thinks things are better between you, and let the conversation go where it will.
posted by Dolley at 8:21 AM on March 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you actually think of being with him as 'wasting your time' unless marriage is promised, then end the relationship. If you don't actually think that, then quit saying it because it is a very mean thing to say.

If what you mean is "it is important to me to get married to somebody by such-and-such an age, so if it's not gonna be this guy then i need to move on and find the next guy" then own that. But ask yourself why.

Also this: "a weird concern about getting sick and me not being there for him (he says nothing is wrong with him)" - hopefully you can understand that this concern is not "weird" at all just because he happens not to be sick now. It is probably a concern about whether you are capable of being loving in difficult times. The fact that you call it "weird" suggests that the concern may be well-founded.
posted by sheldman at 8:35 AM on March 1, 2018 [34 favorites]

Approach it as checking in on the prior conversation. Not "so are we getting married now?" but more "how are we as a couple doing with the work we've taken on to improve our relationship?" There aren't too many ways I would want to compare a relationship to a job, but certainly with a job, you don't have only one meeting in 6 years to take stock of progress on orojects.

You guys should talk about your progress, fine-tuning your approaches, and so on.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:37 AM on March 1, 2018 [11 favorites]

You can propose to him when you feel it's time, if he says no then go. Or you can jointly decide to get engaged, he doesn't have to be the one to propose.
posted by TheAdamist at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2018 [19 favorites]

Are you guys living together? You mentioned "playing house". If you are living together and he is not willing to commit (which in your case quite fairly equals marriage) then there is nothing you can do to make him commit. It sounds to me like there is a severe imbalance in the relationship where his needs are getting met and yours aren't, and he is okay with that. A few of his concerns have nothing to to with you (his lack of support system, not being family, concerns about his health, the wine) and yet he seems to think you should be the one to fix them despite him not doing about them himself the past six years. And the comment about your unsuitability because you are divorced is a huge red flag to me (has he never had a relationship before you?). Why are all the activities you have participated in this month been mostly for his comfort - what has he done this month to show he is able and willing to make a significant commitment to you (and do more household chores)?

I think have one more honest conversation where you state your boundaries - you are only interested in committed relationships and if he can't commit then you need to find someone who will commit. Right now he has you thinking about the relationship almost every day - I guarantee he has not been thinking about your needs/relationship hardly at all.
posted by saucysault at 8:51 AM on March 1, 2018 [19 favorites]

I think a lot of people hope to get through life only having a couple of relationship discussions but mostly pointedly not having them because that's too hard and scary. It is possible to have a good relationship this way (often right up until the moment it's not, which will come as a surprise to one of you) but it is mostly not possible to have a great one without doing that work.

If you want to start doing that work, you'll have to talk to him about doing that work. It may be easier to do this with a counselor, six years is a hard not-talking habit to break. It's a big gear shift to go from waiting for a surprise proposal that may never come, like some kind of fairy tale, to actually speaking words to each other about whether this relationship is intended to be long-haul/permanent, daily/weekly/monthly.

Apply some agency here instead of sitting around wondering if he's wasting your time, which in this day and age is absolutely a reasonable concern. If he doesn't want to do the work, you'll need to decide if that's the relationship you want to invest any more years of your life in.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:53 AM on March 1, 2018 [15 favorites]

And ugh, "nagging" is a really gendered term. Basically anytime a woman asks for her needs to be met it is perceived as nagging. Why aren't his needs thought of as nagging? Because a man said them. Don't try to be the cool/chill/manic pixie girlfriend. It doesn't ever work out well.
posted by saucysault at 8:55 AM on March 1, 2018 [28 favorites]

He's had these concerns for how long without mentioning them to you?

Personally, I'd be hesitant to seek a long-term commitment with this person until he, or both of you, had done some work on improving your ability to discuss difficult issues--and practiced doing so more regularly.
posted by socialjusticeworrier at 8:55 AM on March 1, 2018 [9 favorites]

One thing I really hate is when I try to explain how I feel, and give some reasons/examples, and then the other person returns and says "ok I fixed x,y,z, so now you don't feel that way any more right?". It's never that easy, and my explanation was never thorough enough. So I'd be really wary of returning to that same conversation with a goal in mind.

However, it's really important to acknowledge the fact that you had a conversation about how your relationship needed some work, and then you both have been working on your relationship. But the next step isn't to return to the first conversation, it's to have a new one. For any healthy relationship you need to have regular discussions of what's going well and what's less good. You had one a month ago, and you should have one now. But don't think of it as comparing now to a month ago, it's about comparing vs what you'd both like your relationship to be.
posted by aimedwander at 9:10 AM on March 1, 2018 [19 favorites]

I think he doesn't want to get married but wants to keep you on the hook. The relationship as it is suits him. Why hasn't he ever brought up all these concerns in the past 5-6 years? He suddenly has all these reasons for not wanting to get married, some of which are kind of irrelevant, that he's putting on you that you've never had a chance to address before. He's now put you in a position where you have to walk on eggshells around him trying to prove that you and the relationship are marriage-worthy. Meanwhile, he's got the issue of marriage off his back and likely isn't even thinking about it. He won't bring it up again and you're afraid to because he'll probably say you're nagging or pressuring him. If he does it's because he doesn't want to talk about marriage. You should be able to discuss these things in a 6 year long relationship.

I think if he were actually open to marriage he wouldn't mind discussing it and would be able to check in with you on how things are going and progressing, because the actual goal of all this reconnecting would be with marriage in mind. If his response is more along the lines of "ugh I already told you I'm not sure STOP PRESSURING ME WAH WAH" then he's not taking the possibility of marriage seriously. If you bring it up again and he responds that way and then tries to blame you for upsetting him and says that makes him not want to get married or anything like that, then you should know that he is blaming you for something he was never going to do anyway.
posted by Polychrome at 9:10 AM on March 1, 2018 [44 favorites]

Jeez! I think you have to look out for number 1 (you) and if you want to get married then you have every right to push the subject. In my experience when you push the subject and they don’t want to do it then you end up breaking up- those were big issues he mentioned and the cuddling and sweetness can sometimes be guys trying to cover the cracks and pretend to themselves. They can’t bring themselves to try and fix something they don’t think is working, but some guys will cuddle etc. to see if it makes their feelings change... (i over generalize but it does happen) how many times have you seen movie stars enjoying kisses and hand holding on the beach only for it to end the next month? The great news is that there is probably a great guy out there who is ready to get married and you won’t have to push it at all! You don’t want to be Jennifer Aniston!
posted by catspajammies at 9:22 AM on March 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I read questions like this and say to myself yet again, "Women never feeling empowered to ask for what they want is what will doom us as a gender." I am just as complicit, having many, many times done the same thing... Oh, if I get all DEMANDING, he will RUN AWAY!! It took a lot of therapy for me to achieve the very simple realization that if I was not happy by myself, I would never be happy with any other person. Anyone who makes me afraid to express myself alerts me to the fact that something IN ME is wrong; and that fear of self-expression is a red flag that I have to fix something about myself.

What are you afraid of? Being alone? Feeling rejected? Your family shaming you?

No one should be the manager of your happiness. No one should require you to shut down or subvert your own wishes and needs. No one should make you afraid to speak your own mind and ask for what you legitimately want and deserve from life.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:28 AM on March 1, 2018 [18 favorites]

You posted a similar question in September, I'm assuming about the same partner, and in September you said you weren't sure if you wanted to marry him and that he wanted kids but you're pretty meh. Has any of that changed since Sept?

It sounds like you both could communicate more clearly and a couples counselor could help with that. And I think it's a bit unfair to pin all this on him being unwilling to commit when you sounded very unsure a few months ago, too. If you feel more resolved now than you did in September, you need to be honest with yourself and with him that it's because your concerns back then have been addressed in some reasonable way.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:31 AM on March 1, 2018 [7 favorites]

This question and the answers are fascinating, almost like a Rorschach test - many of us (me included I am sure) read the situation in terms of our own, often gender-influenced and age-influenced, relationship experiences and relationship desires. As I try to check myself on that, let me just say that my answer above was influenced by reading the poster's prior questions about this relationship and various other things.

But I offer this further suggestion to the poster: if you are still not really looking for kids, and because you know from prior experience that a marriage is not an enforceable promise of lifetime commitment, then maybe see if you can both be happier in the relationship not by thinking of marriage but instead by talking about "do we actively hope to make this relationship work forever? if so, how can we make that clearer to each other and how can we continue to have more joy together?"
posted by sheldman at 9:39 AM on March 1, 2018 [7 favorites]

He's been with you for almost 6 years, so he has a pretty good idea what it's like to live with you. And it's different enough from what he wants in a relationship that he's not sure he wants to commit to making it permanent. That means that even if the relationship is good enough for you that you're ready to commit, you should not be thinking about marrying him. He's not going to become happier in the relationship over time. That's just not the way it usually works. It's unlikely that you're going to be able to make a few small changes that make him decide your relationship is great after all. Your temper and stubbornness aren't just going to go away. And it doesn't matter whether you really are too stubborn or easily angered or if he just thinks you are.

If he was uncertain about marrying you a month ago, he's still going to be uncertain now, as he should be. No one should change their mind about something so major based on one month of new data. My feeling is that you should just break up with him and start looking for someone who's a better match. But if you're determined to find out whether the two of you can make changes that really do make your relationship one you both want to commit to permanently, I think you need to give it at least a year. My guess is that things are not going to be that different a year from now, though.

If you want to talk to him about how he feels things are going, there's no reason you can't do that, but it's not reasonable for it to be, "Now that we made some changes, are you ready to get married? When are you going to be ready to decide?" Just tell him you want to check in on how he feels about things right now.
posted by Redstart at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

He expressed his concerns (my temper & stubbornness - which reminded him of his dad towards his mom), my sometimes tendency to bicker about small things

These first two concerns are things that can be crossed off the list if both of you go to therapy a few times and then practice new ways of communicating. I'm sure neither of you enjoys temper, stubbornness, and bickering, whichever side of it you're on. There are rules and principles you both would adopt -- speaking up before you're very frustrated and angry, saying things in more compassionate ways, stating your feelings instead of accusing, making yourself listen constructively. It's hard at first, but even when it's hard it's so much better than what came before. The plus side of doing the communication training is that even if this relationship ends, you can use it in other important relationships for the rest of your life. I"m not saying you're the cause of the problems...but somebody's got to take a first step.

It's hard to trust a partner if you feel they're not treating you fairly. Each of you needs to treat the other as you would like to be treated yourself. If you do this, you'll quickly find out if the other things on his list are really that big a deal.

My husband and I have been married 30 years. In the first few years, I had doubts that it would last because he and I were very bad at handling differences and disagreements. We did go to a therapist and bought a book she recommended. We only saw her twice...after that, we just forced ourselves (and each other) to use the methods.
posted by wryly at 10:09 AM on March 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would say that he's already given you your answer, you're just not accepting it. He says he's thought about marriage since year 2, and so every day for almost 1500 days, he's asked himself yes or no, and decided no. He's given you a list of excuses(I say excuses because they are small things that can be fixed or worked on together as a team, if he so desired to), that he's tallied up and hidden from you, not even offering you a chance in those 1500 days to address them. This is a control tactic and power play of a passive aggressive person, and he's delivered you a passive aggressive answer in line with that very same approach and mindset. Accept it and move on.
posted by OnefortheLast at 10:41 AM on March 1, 2018 [13 favorites]

It absolutely sounds like your BF isn't sure that you're on his team. Saying that your "temper and stubbornness" remind him of familial mistreatment isn't a small thing, especially in the context of feeling like he's walking on eggshells around you - he is likely downplaying (or not fully recognizing) how he feels in this regard. The sickness example isn't your boyfriend being worried about his health per se, it's a worry about being abandoned. This relationship is nowhere near marriage-bearing.
posted by The Gaffer at 11:06 AM on March 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

Collaboration. Collaboration. Collaboration.

He doesn't come forward with concerns, you are forced to nag, cajole, and phrase your concerns just right or he will accuse you of being bossy like his dad.

If you both can't grow into a more mature collaborative adult relationship where communication is paramount, you will be better off alone.

Fuck him for putting this all off on you. That's nice he spent a few weeks being chummy with you. Whatever.

Similarly, he needs to decide where he wants to live. Again, this is on him. If he would rather be in his home country, he should go. He can also break up with you, but stay in his current country.

These are mostly his problems to fix. Why are you working double time on his account?

Do your self-work to be a better person because that's everybody's main job in life. Otherwise, let him fix himself or move on from him. That's it.
posted by jbenben at 11:29 AM on March 1, 2018 [9 favorites]

This man has taken your suggestion of marriage and instead of seeing it as the greatest symbol of love you have towards him (you want to make a binding commitment to him! Forever!) he has twisted your love for him and turned it into something toxic. You're a nag! You're pressuring him! You're this, you're that!

Fuck this man.

At no point in the last six years did he put his big boy pants on and use his words to address any issues he had with you. No, he's taken it all and dumped it on you and thrown your love back in your face and your issues with you as a weapon to why he won't commit. But you know, he likes you well enough to stay for the sex and someone to play house with. You're just not good enough to marry.

Fuck this man.

He doesn't want to commit, and if he doesn't know after six years he never will. Picture your perfect man. Does it look like someone who can't communicate, who hides how he feels, who can't commit, who can't figure out where he wants to live much less with whom, who will string you along for six years and make you feel like a nag because you love him?

Fuck this man. Love is wasted on him. Don't waste your love any more.
posted by Jubey at 12:00 PM on March 1, 2018 [29 favorites]

My partner and I have been together six years (anniversary yesterday!) and we are not married. We probably won't get married. We aren't in any fashion wasting our time, thanks very much.

If marriage is important to you and it's what you want now, propose. But you are still living life even without it.
posted by deadwax at 12:58 PM on March 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Marriage here is really a symbol for, "is this really what we want?" WE. I haven't read the OP's previous questions, but apparently she has her own doubts. In the current question, however, she's putting herself forward as the victim only.

There's a lot of incompatibility here, and NEITHER party is taking responsibility for it. The "nagging" etc. is in response to the passivity and passive-aggressive behavior of the partner ("not doing enough," etc.)

"Dating" etc., for a month is, as many have said, superficial. A lot more discussion is going to be necessary before anything good happens here -- if that's even possible.

The fact that the partner isn't even sure if he wants to be in the same COUNTRY as the OP is saying, "I don't even know that, after six years, I consider you to be my family" and I don't know that I ever will. And I've thought about it -- for four years -- and it's not looking good. On the other hand, I'm in no rush, so let's continue." His saying that he doesn't even know if the OP is CAPABLE of a lifetime-long relationship because she's been divorced is --


Bottom line is, I'd get rid of this guy. It IS wasting time to be told, in effect, that your personality isn't good enough for the long haul, and you don't even necessarily live in the right country.

Move on.
posted by DMelanogaster at 1:33 PM on March 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I also found your assertion that no marriage = wasting time unfair. It is not a measure of commitment for many people, and in addition there are others who cannot, for legal or other reasons, get married.

Look at your relationship and ask yourself what difference it will make after the wedding is over. You have to go back to your "time wasting" of daily living together and a wedding will not magically fix the issues you had in the past if you've done nothing to address them. His "excuses" are serious questions for you about how you will commit to him that he's right to want addressed before considering marriage.
posted by hgws at 3:14 PM on March 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

I brought up the topic of where we were headed since he hadn't proposed. I basically said I wouldn't wait around forever continuing to play house and waste my time.

this is a really weird way of saying "I love you very much and want to spend the rest of my life with you; would you do me the honor of becoming my husband?" I mean weird enough that it would change my yes all the way to a no, if I'd been inclined to say Yes and then someone proposed to me that way.

you call his reasons excuses because he has so many of them. this, too, seems strange, although I'm sure it is painful to have someone say all those things to you whether they're fair or not. He might be terrible in many ways: if he can't enjoy himself drinking with you there unless you drink too, that is ridiculous and you should not be the one changing there. and other things too, probably. but it doesn't matter if you have an equal number of legitimate problems with him; his objections are real and belittling them as excuses will not change that.

stop thinking in terms of nagging and pressure. that's not what you're doing; it is a mental reframing trick to avoid the painful fact that you proposed and he said No. anyone who is asked such a question is permitted to say no. it's not an excuse, it's an answer.

You can ask again in a few months if things continue well, and if he says No a second time I think you should leave him for your own self-respect and self preservation. It's no more nagging and pressure when you propose multiple times than when a man does -- and no less -- but the more times you repeat a question, the less chance you have of getting a different answer.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:47 PM on March 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

OP, it is absolutely fair for you to feel that you'd be wasting your time if there's no progress towards a marriage. Especially after you've made it known that is something important to you that you want.

I think I'd just bring it up. These conversations may be hard at first but you need to know now. You've already spent 6 years with this guy, imagine spending another 6 not knowing how he feels or waiting around. Whatever the outcome, don't you want to move forward and grow in your life?
posted by driedmango at 7:36 AM on March 2, 2018

« Older Arches or Canyonlands?   |   My co-parent's new boyfriend is sharing a bed with... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.