Getting engaged should feel so right, but why do my guts ache when I think of my future life?
June 16, 2008 8:08 AM   Subscribe

I got engaged a couple of weeks ago, but ever since I have been having huge nagging doubts that I am doing the right thing. I worry I am settling for companionship, caring and safety but without the feelings of passion or true love I should be feeling. I am like the character in the film "Marty" who describes himself as "a short, fat, ugly man" (except I'm not short). What to do?

I have been feeling ill with worry about my choice to get engaged. Things were coasting along, we were a bit of a sad-sack couple who didn't go out much for lack of money and had no sex life (due to my impotence) but were the first long-term relationships either of us had ever had (both now in our 30s - social anxiety was the main thing holding us back before) so we gave it every chance. She seems resigned to having little in life and thinks this is our best shot, so was pushing for engagement. Feeling I would never meet anyone else who would accept my impotence, I agreed to marry (well it was me who asked the question but she discussed it first and suggested the ring). Now I am wondering if I am settling and setting myself up for heartache in the future. I was happy to drift in my slightly depressed way but it seems the action of getting engaged has brought up all these feelings of resistance in me. She is a very good friend to me and very caring and good company, but not my type physically much as I wish I could persuade myself somehow to appreciate her more that way. I thought I was being superficial to want to be attracted to someone, after all looks fade and I am no male model, but the lack of passionate feelings makes me feel like I have been in a marriage for 20 years already. I don't think I could "do better" but my question is, if I don't love her fully the way she deserves to be loved, do we have any hope for developing a happy marriage in the future? We have been going out for 4 years and the day we got engaged is the first time we said the words out loud "I love you" so you can tell this is a low-passion relationship.

Where do I go from here? Obviously I am not going to be rash and throw away four years right away but I wonder if anyone in the hive mind has had similar feelings and what did they do in the long run? Please help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Dear God.

This has gotta be the most depressing relationship description I have ever seen on AskMe. The two of you sound like two drowning people trying to stay afloat using one another when you should be learning to swim instead.

Break up with her. "Because I won't find anyone else" is the WORST fucking reason to get married EVER. You need to work on your depression. You need to work on your insecurities. You need to find out how to become a guy who is confident and believes love and passion can be in his life, instead of maintaining a low level of apathetic depression. Jesus Christ, is that really all you think you want or can have out of life?
posted by Anonymous at 8:17 AM on June 16, 2008

Response by poster: I mean, you don't sound like you love each other at all. It sounds like you're just looking to attach yourself to somebody so you won't have to be single. That's pathetic on both of your parts. "Pathetic" is not a word you want describing your marriage.
posted by Anonymous at 8:18 AM on June 16, 2008

What schroedinger said, in spades. Break up. Then: Therapy, therapy, therapy.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:19 AM on June 16, 2008

If you haven't already, you should see a doctor about the impotence. I can't imagine a sexless marriage.
posted by at 8:20 AM on June 16, 2008

You described yourself as fat. Well, you should lose weight. Exercise treats depression and being in shape can make you feel good about yourself and you'll become more attractive and maybe attract someone who does turn you on more. Plus there are all sorts of other benefits, being in better health might help with your ED, and also they have pills for that now (which are advertised constantly, have you tried any?)
posted by delmoi at 8:30 AM on June 16, 2008

Nthing schroedinger. Find joy and passion not resignation and depression.
posted by pixlboi at 8:31 AM on June 16, 2008

Obviously I am not going to be rash and throw away four years right away

I don't think there'd be anything rash about it. Without passion, you can't really have a relationship, and right now, it sounds like you don't. Seek therapy and medication for your depression. Seek medical help for your impotence. Get more exercise, and that need only be as little as a half-hour walk every day (or twice a day). You'll feel better.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 8:33 AM on June 16, 2008

Congratulations on becoming engaged. It's a big step for anybody. No wonder you're scared about the decision.

1. Try to get the physical side of the relationship working before you make any decision either way. See a doctor about it.

2. You said "She seems resigned to having little in life and thinks this is our best shot, so was pushing for engagement." You need to talk about this to her. Sounds like she could be as unhappy as you in all this, or that you're over exaggerating the issue. You really need to speak to the girl.

3. "I was happy to drift in my slightly depressed way but it seems the action of getting engaged has brought up all these feelings of resistance in me." Engagement makes all people question their relationships. This doesn't mean the relationship is broken. It just means you're under more stress and you've got the relationship on your mind.

4. "She is a very good friend to me and very caring and good company" There are people who would kill to get this in a relationship. Don't trivialise it. It's an important part of who the two of you are & should be given some respect.

I think you're making a bigger deal out of this than you need to. Discuss it with your partner, try to sort out the sex stuff & try to work out properly how much she means to you. If you don't care about being with her & you can't sort out the sex & the discussions state that she is unhappy too, then maybe you should break up. But you need to fight to save the relationship first.
posted by seanyboy at 8:38 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

This must be extremely difficult and you are brave to face your fears and doubts.

Don't you think both of you deserve more happiness, individually? From what you describe, that's where the work needs to start. Only when you are happy and at peace with yourself, and able to love yourself warts and all, can you begin to consider companionship. I think marriage or partnership is best when it is a meeting of two whole people who are happy with their lives and delighted to share that happiness with someone else. You can get there! So much of who we are and what we experience is made up of our attitude and decision to be happy. You really can get there. Also, it isn't too late - most people really begin to discover who they are in their 30's.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Punctual at 8:39 AM on June 16, 2008

All I have to add is that even unattractive, overweight, impotent men (the first, likely all in your mind, the last two things fixable with some work) deserve to have some feelings of passion and desire for their partner. Sure, that feeling waxes and wanes but it seems you've never had this .... and it's so amazing when you actually have that.

What makes you think you are any less worthy of real happiness in your life because you're not ... uh who's hot now? Is it still Brad Pitt? You deserve to be happy, my friend. Please, do as others here have suggested and get some counseling quickly. Check the 'net for free or sliding-scale counseling in your area and get there immediately. And while I would suggest taking a break from the relationship, if you feel that is too "rash," at least don't move forward with any actual wedding planning.

Check back here. You sound so sad and I think that's probably not the emotion you should be feeling right after you get engaged.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 8:57 AM on June 16, 2008

"She is a very good friend to me and very caring and good company".

This is a very important attribute to have in a long term relationship. People change a lot physically over 30 to 50 years. However, it sounds like you have a lot of other concerns about this relationship. Commitment in the form of marriage is a serious thing for most people so you aren't being ridiculous for having some doubts. I think most people are self-deluding if they don't have some concerns.

With that said, the time to sort out your problems is before the wedding and before money is spent on the wedding. You do need to consult with a doctor and a therapist.

Good luck to you.
posted by mmascolino at 9:02 AM on June 16, 2008

I think you both really really need to work on yourselves before you go and get married. It sounds as if you are resigning yourselves to a situation that you can both change. That is not good.

I can speak on one aspect of your question, the fat part. I used to be pretty large and always just kept telling myself that was who I was and there is nothing I can do about it. Which of course was a lie. Then one day I took a long hard look at in the mirror and said 'thats it, i don't want to be like this anymore'. I dropped 50lbs over the course of six months and eleven years later I am still thankful that I made that decision. It was absolutely life changing. I could go up a flight of stairs and not break out into a sweat and start breathing heavy, I could wear normal sized clothes, I could take my shirt of at the beach. Seriously it was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced in my life. It is really hard to lose the weight, it takes time and some discipline but you will be so very thankful if you stick to it.

I will also second the suggestions of therapy.
posted by WickedPissah at 9:17 AM on June 16, 2008

Now I am wondering if I am settling and setting myself up for heartache in the future.

You are, if you view the situation in the way you currently do.

but my question is, if I don't love her fully the way she deserves to be loved, do we have any hope for developing a happy marriage in the future?

Of course, if you're willing to let go of your potentially unrealistic romantic dreams (and only you can decide if they're unrealistic) and really look at the person you have in front of you. No, she's not perfect or not what you imagined, but the question you should ask yourself is "Is she what I would call home?"

I mention this as someone who went around looking for that person that was in my head and almost missed the person who was standing in front of me. This required a bit of maturity and growing up on my part and realizing what mattered most to me. You marry a person, despite their faults (which we all have), because the total package is more than the sum of individual parts.

So think about this and ask yourself if you're being foolish for rejecting her for not living up to the dream in your head and then decide.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:19 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with most of the above. A marriage beginning on the premise that both parties are settling and being settled for sounds like a recipe for long-term heartache.

It's cliched, but true -- if you don't have a healthy relationship with yourself, you're not going to be able to have a healthy relationship with someone else. It sounds like both of you could work on your self-esteem and ability to be happy. You don't say whether your impotence is known to have an absolute physical cause. If it's all, or in part, psychological, you'll probably want to pursue that, too.

Best of luck.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:50 AM on June 16, 2008

If you do decide to get married, please think hard before having children. I see nothing wrong with a marriage based on companionship alone (as long as both partners are honest about their expectations). However, I think it would be a shame (and potentially damaging) for your children to grow up believing that love and passion are not an integral part of a life-long relationship.
posted by jrichards at 10:17 AM on June 16, 2008

Is this you? I thought you wanted out of it.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:27 AM on June 16, 2008

It's good that this engagement has shaken you out of your old patterns and shown you that there's more going on in your life than you may have expected.

Now you've got to run with that and work on developing those aspects. You've got a personality and wants and needs and desires under all this inertia. Whether or not your rediscovered personality will end up being *anything at all* what you thought you were like, and if that's still compatible, longterm, with your fiancee's needs, wants, and desires...

...that's a different question, but that's not one you can really get to until you know who you really are under there. Good luck.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:43 AM on June 16, 2008

They call it "settling" for a reason. It's what you both seem to be doing, and you're hardly the first folks in the world to do/consider it. Heck, you're arguably in the majority.

The question you need to ask yourself is: "am I willing to risk what I have to try and find a better life for myself?" It sounds like she has already made her decision, hence her "resignation" -- she's adrift psychologically speaking, and she has decided that grabbing on to what she can reach and stay afloat is preferable to drowning. Congratulations, you are preferable to a lifetime of loneliness! You're in a similar place, but you're wondering if you might be strong enough to swim over to one of the pretty lifeboats on the horizon... or perhaps you're actually trying to decide whether giving up and going under is preferable, and just haven't admitted it to yourself yet.

Given how little we know of you and your relationship, it's unlikely anyone will toss out the perfect answer... but whatever you do, shelve that "she deserves better" crap. Invoking that as a reason for ditching someone is the kind of excuse people use to try and make themselves somehow feel better, a weak justification for knowingly hurting someone. She made her choice, she's an adult, she knows what she's getting... she definitely does not deserve is to get THAT line thrown at her.

Getting some help is a very good idea no matter where you go from here.
posted by Pufferish at 11:47 AM on June 16, 2008

I can tell you this from personal experience: if you are not happy now, a change in your relationship will not change that. To enter into a long term commitment feeling the way you do now will cause so much more heartache (and expense) down the line that I would urge you to figure out what you need to be happy before you take the plunge.

Passion is a faulty indicator of the quality of a relationship, but there should at least be attraction and excitement about the marriage - the lack of these is a major warning sign and should be heeded.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:36 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Love doesn't require passion, but it does require generosity, and if you can't give your love freely and fully, it will soon turn into resentment. Being married to someone you resent, or who resents you, sounds like the worst kind of hell to me.
posted by desjardins at 9:16 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

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