Update re: "What is WRONG with us?"

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-25-2003
Update re: "What is WRONG with us?"
9
Sat, 05-17-2003 - 1:57pm
(Sorry so long, but please read! I need advice!)

A couple of weeks ago I posted here about my boyfriend of 7+ years and how he was all of a sudden acting strange - wanting to spend all his free time with his friends, not wanting to be intimate, not talking/flirting with me as usual, and how I was starting to feel really uncomfortable living here in HIS house under these circumstances.... and how at the same time, I happened to know that he was searching for an engagement ring...

I got some great feedback here from you guys, and yes, we did have a talk about it. And he told me that lately he's been thinking we're ready to get married, etc. And that the thought of marriage and kids and stuff has him really freaked out. He doesn't totally understand why, because he's always wanted to marry me (it has been financial reasons, up until now, that has kept us from doing it). But he also admitted that he's just scared to death of it not working out. (He comes from a family that's been through two ugly divorces, in which he's been caught in the middle. And also, he is a PERFECTIONIST.) He said he doesn't understand why, but he is so focused and stressed about these things, that he just CAN'T get his mind to wander away from it, and hence, he can't relax enough to have sex.

Anyway, I told him I was going to back off, leave him be - that I felt much better knowing the cause was a good one, rather than that he just didn't want to be around me. So I said that it was no big deal and maybe he just needed time to think things through. But that I also need to feel loved and wanted, etc. because his behavior was making me feel like he just didn't love me anymore.

So he's been great, making sure to cuddle with me again, went out with me on several occasions, etc.

The thing is... now it's like I am totally just second fiddle to his friends. Like basically, he is only spending time with me if their plans fall through or if they have nothing going on. And when we spend time together, it's like we have nothing to talk about all of a sudden, when we used to be so chatty! I am letting him do what he needs to do, but it is making me feel so unimportant and so unnecessary to him.

Basically, the whole thing is making me depressed and sad. He has caught me silently crying on a few occasions and I can't explan why and it makes him upset. But the lack of communication is making me feel like we have grown so far apart that there's nothing left to talk about, and that we may be at the end of this relationship! In my mind, I know it's just that the things that we need to talk about (marriage) are so heavy that we just don't want to get into it until he's worked it out on his own. But I want it to be a happy occasion when we transition into the marriage thing. If it's this difficult and painful for him to think about spending his life with me now all of a sudden, then I truly feel like it's not something I want to do. Even though I am still head-over-heels for him, I don't want to marry someone who isn't excited about the idea of marrying me. And if he's not ready now, after 7+ years, then maybe (sob, sob) it is time for me to move on. (God, I hope I don't have to do that!)

Am I being a spoiled brat here? Please tell me - I can take it! I just need a little insight, suggestions, etc.

Perhaps I should just get involved in a lot of other activities for now so I'm not so focused on him and US all the time. That way, I'll be preoccupied while he works his stuff out? And perhaps my new life/activities will intrigue him and bring him back around?

I just don't know. I have never felt this way with him. As long as marriage was out of the question, everything was fine, fun, great, exciting. Now all of a sudden, it's like the weight of the world is on his/our shoulders and it's taking a serious toll on our relationship!

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2003
Sat, 05-17-2003 - 3:25pm
You need to stop thinking about marriage. Believe it or not, that is not what your problem is about. Your problem is communication, and it is going to take you some time to get it back. You don't want to marry someone when you can't talk to him about your feelings, and marriage is not going to make that go away. I have a feeling that you are "getting caught" crying because you want him to realize that his spending time with friends instead of you is hurting your feelings without having to verbalize it. Did you tell him that you were going to give him space because you thought that he might suddenly realize that he wanted to marry you and spend the rest of his life with you? That's what your actions are indicating. Look, you said you would give him space, so do it. It truly is what he needs. Yes, I do think it is a good idea for you to get some interests of your own to take your mind off of things...you will need to do that in order to be successful in following through. But don't just do it for him. Do it for you. Find something that you enjoy doing, because if you do get married you will soon realize that nothing will change. He will still hang out with his friends more than you. He will still be distant with you. Having a ring on his finger is not going to change that. Marriage is not to be entered into lightly. It may seem like the fix to your problem, but problems are only made worse when you've made a committment and there is no way out. If you even think that one of the options to this issue is leaving, you are absolutely not ready for a marriage committment.

April

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-25-2003
Sat, 05-17-2003 - 8:04pm
Thank you for your response. I heard you loud and clear, and agree with you. So that is what I will do then - follow through, make my own plans, start some new interests to take up more of my time...

Oh, I can talk to him about my feelings. It's just that we've already done that, he knows and I know where things stand, but even so, it just feels weird for him to want to spend so much time with other people, because in 7 YEARS, it has NEVER been that way. I mean, not one or two years - like the honeymoon phase. But ALL ALONG. So I've never had to deal with feeling sort of ignored by him before.

Yeah, maybe subconsciously I want to get caught crying. But I hide it from him as well as I can, so maybe I don't. I don't want to make him miserable - but rather want him to acclimate himself to the ideas in his head (marriage, etc.). I do know that am not crying about not getting married. That is the lesser problem here. I am crying because we seem to have nothing to talk about - which seems tragic to me! It feels like a big void, where just two months ago, there was no void.

But you are right. I will leave him his space, and then some. If I were you, I'd be telling me the same thing! So I'd better listen!

I have to disagree though with your comment that "If you even think that one of the options to this issue is leaving, you are absolutely not ready for a marriage committment."

For one, because I could be totally ready for marriage, but if HE is not and I've waited long enough, I am not weak enough to spend my whole life waiting around for someone to come around. I have the balls to move on and let him chase me then if/when he realizes what he might miss!

And secondly, leaving will always be an option with me. I will never stay in a miserable marriage just for the sake of staying in the marriage. I do not think ours would ever become miserable - if it's been this fun and sincere for this long, I anticipate that will continue after he gets through this "phase." But if it were to become miserable with no chance of repair, I would not spend my life that way. Life is too short.

That's just my opinion though, I know lots of people would disagree with that.

Thanks again for your help!

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2003
Sat, 05-17-2003 - 8:49pm
I think you misunderstood what I meant by the statement: "If you even think that one of the options to this issue is leaving, you are absolutely not ready for a marriage committment." Let me see if I can say it another way...

If the two of you are ready to be married, then you will not think about leaving as an option to any of your problems. Your problems have to be resolved in your relationship because when you are married, there is no going back. It is forever. If he starts acting this way again when you are married, you will have to resolve it in your marriage. It is too late to move on. You can't take breaks from each other. If you think that marriage is what is missing from your relationship, you are wrong. Nothing should feel like it's missing when you are ready to be married. If there is a void, it needs to be filled before you make that next step. That's not to say that you should stay with someone forever hoping that they will come around. In your OP you said something to the effect of if he doesn't come around it might be time for you to move on. That says to me that you (meaning the two of you) are not ready for a marriage committment. Why tie yourself to someone for the rest of your life if the two of you aren't absolutely sure going in? That's what I mean when I say that you should get your communication back on track before talking any more about marriage.

I didn't mean to imply that anyone should stay in an unhappy situation that has no hope of getting better. And I also didn't mean that you should never get married to him. I was just trying to say that before you do get married, the communication issues need to be resolved. I do hope that everything works out for you, because 7 years is a long investment of time, and it would be a shame to lose a relationship you obviously care so much about.

April

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-25-2003
Sun, 05-18-2003 - 8:22pm
Thanks for clarifying.

I hope you don't mind if I keep this string going with you - I am finding your advice to be very good, so hopefully you can help me some more...

What is so weird to me, is that according to him, it is the fact that his IS ready and wanting to get married that is freaking him out! I think he is thinking of marriage as such a huge thing, the ultimate thing he will do in his life... which is true. But I think he has built it up to be such a monumental thing, that is is scaring him now that he is actually ready. All these years it was sort of easy for us to not have to think about it, and simply talk about it in the "someday" dreamy kind of way, because we weren't financially ready to make the move. We both looked forward to that day way far ahead when we would be ready...

I think that part of this is me, of course. I told you that a few of the things I am missing most is our constant conversations, flirting, wanting to spend most of our free time together... do you think that maybe I am blowing this out of proportion in my head? I mean, it takes two people to converse and flirt, right? And I am holding back because he was usually always the instigator! Maybe I just need to become a little instigator! My quietness may be making him even more nervous and may be giving me too much time to think about how much I don't like this quietness! Ahhh!!!!

Or maybe it is time for me to now just sort of easy into the more relaxing pace of being with someone who you want to be with forever... I mean, maybe I am just expecting the excitement for longer than it typically lasts between two people? (the "7-year itch" phrase must comes from somewhere!) The love is still there, it's just that the thrill for him seems to be elsewhere these days - i.e., escaping, going out with the guys. Maybe I have been lucky having things so exciting for 7 whole years before it tapered off, and maybe I just need to relax and realize he'll come around when he comes around.... what do you think?

And no, I do not think that marriage is what is missing from our relationship. If I did, I would have given him an ultimatum or at least told him that this was something I wanted or needed to happen in the near future. I have never done this. I told him long ago that I didn't want to marry anyone unless they were good and ready and thrilled at the possibility of marrying me, and I've stuck with that. All along though, he's mentioned about when we get married, etc. The agreement was that when we paid off our big debts, we were going to get hitched. Well, we are a few months away from having paid them off (yahoo!), so that's why this is all happening now, I guess....

I just wish he wasn't so damned nervous! Because his ways of escaping his nerves are making ME nervous (and sad).

Strangely, the void, I think, only exists because we are in this nervous time, where the biggest thing on our mind is between us, and so maybe light conversations are difficult to have? So I don't know that it's a void we can fill, except maybe by taking that next step!

Boy, do I need to vent, or what?



iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2003
Sun, 05-18-2003 - 9:46pm
That's perfectly okay! We all need to vent sometimes...

I know that you have said that he is telling you that he is ready for marriage, but what is it that his actions are telling you? It seems to me that they are speaking a heck of a lot louder than his words. Just because you set this arbitrary "When we get this and that done, we'll get married" doesn't mean it has to be now. You just became adults. You are making your way in the world. What you are contemplating is scary and serious business; the most important decision you will ever make. If you honestly and truly believe in your heart that the two of you are going to be together forever, there is no harm in waiting to get married.

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but this "phase" he is going through is perfectly natural for a guy his age and will probably not be over for quite some time. Most guys his age, though, are not in committed relationships, so he is in a precarious position. His friends will want to go out drinking and partying, talking about women and their latest conquests, and just being guys. He doesn't want to be the one who's whipped, tied to the old ball and chain. He wants to appear to his friends to be in control of his life, not under your authority, but he still wants to be loyal to you. He might not be able to verbalize any of this to you because he might not realize it himself. It is necessary for him to get through this "sowing his wild oats" stage before he will be ready for anything serious.

Now, that is okay for him, but what about you? The funny thing is, most women your age are looking to get into a long-term relationship, while the guys are just looking for a good time. Isn't biology grand? You want to know for sure what your future will hold, but he can't tell you for sure right now. I have friends who were almost in your exact same situation. They started dating when they were 15, and about the time they were 21, the girl wanted to know where the relationship was going. The guy said he wanted to marry her, but at the same time he started hanging out with other girls. He didn't cheat on her, but he needed that attention at that time. Of course, when she found out she was furious and broke up with him. He realized after a month that he was miserable without her, and he begged her to come back. Eventually she did, and they got married when they were 22. They have been happily married ever since, and now have a boy and a girl. Now, I'm not saying that your bf is hanging out with other girls or cheating on you, but the same principle applies. She chose to leave because her needs were not getting met. She didn't do it thinking that he would come back to her, or that it would snap him back to reality and he would realize what he had lost. She did it thinking that it was over, and she started going to school. She now has her degree in early childhood education because that's what she wanted for herself. What do you want for yourself?

No one can tell you for sure what to do because no one knows your relationship like you. Still, I think that he needs a little space to get through this time, but he needs to make a compromise with you. Tell him to make a date with you at least once a week, where his friends are not involved. If he wants to go out with his friends a few times a week, then let him go, but let him know that he should also be spending a couple of nights hanging out with you. The two of you have run out of things to talk about, so what would he say to going out and doing something new with you? Go paint ceramics, go fishing, go to the zoo...you never know what the two of you might really enjoy doing together. It might bring back the fun and playfulness of when you were first dating. It's hard to bring back the newness of it, but it's worth the effort. Let me know how it goes.

April

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-25-2003
Mon, 05-19-2003 - 1:37am
April,

Your advice is both a wake up call and a comfort.

>>I know that you have said that he is telling you that he is ready for marriage, but what is it that his actions are telling you? It seems to me that they are speaking a heck of a lot louder than his words.

This is a good point. And his actions are so contradictory, so I don't know what to make of them. He is, on one hand, spending his time with the guys. On the other hand, he is working very hard at fixing up the house, trying to secure a mortgage to buy the house, shopping for an engagement ring... I tell you, he is so confusing these days! I'm not sure if these actions say he is or isn't ready. But he says to me that he is ready, but he is nervous. And he doesn't have any reason to be telling me that he is ready, as I haven't put any marriage pressure on him!

>> You just became adults. You are making your way in the world.

Well, the thing is... we are 30! I guess I never mentioned our ages. But we have been adults for some times, just behind in the financial arena for reason that were beyond our control. So we spent all these years getting them under our control! And all the guy pals he's hanging out with... they're all married guys too. So it's not like they sit around talking about their conquests, they mostly talk about guy stuff - cars, movies, games, sports, music bands, all that stuff. Regardless, your point is well taken. This may be a phase that won't be over for some time, so I'd better just decide to get over that and get used to it for some time, as long as he agrees to spend some of his time with me. (Which he has already promised, and he has followed through on.)

I think I am coming to the conclusion that I am overreacting and being sort of a baby, which isn't usually my way. So I am going to snap out of it, and take advantage of this free time to get some good solid hang time with the girls.

>>What do you want to do for yourself?

This is a tricky question, because I mostly wanted to just travel, read, be a free spirit... but since knowing him that has changed. I got a lot of the travelling and free spirit stuff out of my system in our earlier years together, and now I want to be a mom and a wife, and have a little family and my (our) own home. Ironically, these are the things he's wanted all along... I come from a big family and I miss being part of a family. This has sort of been both of our goals... we're not big career people. We're mostly family people. So unfortunately, my hopes at this point, are very intertwined with his so it's sort of hard at this time to break off and focus on other things.

But if that's what I have to do to give him his space, then that is what I shall do! Lord knows there were a couple of times when i told him I needed my space, and I can remember so well how he both gave me that space and let me know he was still there on the sidelines while I did it. I should learn from his example I guess. It obviously worked on me! Of course it was easier to give me space for him, because we didn't live together back then! Now, I am supposed to live with him AND give him space at the same time, which is a very tricky thing to try to do!

>>The two of you have run out of things to talk about, so what would he say to going out and doing something new with you?

This is a great idea and I'll have to work on this one. It's hard to get him to go do anything new these days because he wants to put all of his time and effort into fixing up this house, reading about real estate investing, and other serious stuff. But I'll try...

Thanks again for all of your advice. It is a wonderful thing to have someone throw you a rope when you feel like you are falling...

When I get my head back together I'll make sure to come back here and offer someone else advice to repay the favor!

Good night to you and yours, and happy trails...

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2003
Mon, 05-19-2003 - 11:52am
I am SOOO sorry. I got your background info mixed up with another post on another board. Next time I'll make sure to re-read the previous posts before I put my foot in my mouth. ;)

It sounds to me like you have a pretty good man there, and my opinion changes a little bit knowing that you are older than I thought...It seems that you have a good relationship, and that you know what it is that you want (i.e. family). It would have been one thing if you were in your 20's, like I thought (again, blushing), but now that you are in your 30's, I wouldn't give him very much more time to decide on marriage. I say this only because I advise that you be married a couple of years before you have kids. (I only waited 8 months before getting pregnant, and I wish I had held out a little longer.) You can travel together in that time, and just be a couple for a while. You will never get that back once you have children. Don't get me wrong...I have a 4-month-old that is just the love of my life, but my dh and I have little time to just be us. And the longer you wait to have kids, the more difficulty you might encounter in getting pregnant.

It does sound like your bf probably is past his "oat sowing" days, so you may just have to knock him in the head! I know that goes against everything that I said, but I now realize that neither one of you are at such an impressionable age that you are rushing into it unprepared. It's funny, but I am going to use the same couple as an example as in my last post...He took a long time to be ready for marriage, but after they were married a year he said to his wife, "I don't know why we waited so long!" My dh was worried before we got married that things wouldn't work out, like in his last marriage. Not long ago he told a friend of his that he knew that we were going to last because when he put the ring on my finger, I didn't change. I think that is what most men worry about, that the woman they have grown to love as they are will turn into someone totally different once they get married. And in their defense, it does happen. But I think it happens mostly to young men and women who do not have the history that the two of you do, and are not really ready to make such a serious committment. I still think that you should find something to do that makes you happy, but maybe until he comes around you can spend your time planning your wedding. If he sees that it really is going to happen, it might give him a chance to process it in his mind.

I wish you luck with whatever happens...you will always have a friend on this board!

April

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-25-2003
Mon, 05-19-2003 - 2:43pm
April,

No problem! I actually never mentioned our ages, which, I can see now was pretty important information. And your advice speaks to me even more now - you've got a great head on those shoulders! he he

It's funny what you said about men fearing that women will change when they get married... we have seen a lot of that happen with our friends and family - you're right, it DOES happen. But then again, all of them were married in the first few years (or months!) of knowing eachother. We've known eachother for so long that I think we've already seen every side of eachothers' personalities. But still, it's a good point...

When we had our talk, I tried to calm his nerves a little by telling him, we've pretty much been living like we're married anyway. I have never been a bi#$! in all these years, right? Do you really think I'm going to become one when we get married? (He's always telling me he's so glad I'm such an easy going person, unlike his friends' wives, girlfriends, etc.) So I stressed to him that what he sees is what he gets. This is me now, this is me after marriage. This made him chuckle and lighten up a bit, so maybe that addressed part of his fears. Who knows!

>>It does sound like your bf probably is past his "oat sowing" days, so you may just have to knock him in the head!

Okay, so I haven't been feeling bothered about this for no reason then. Whew. I hate it when you get into those times when self-doubt all of a sudden creeps up on you and makes you wonder aboutyour own gut reactions... funny thing is that he never did have "oat sowing" days. He tried it once and it made him feel awful. So he's only had two girls who he was faithful to, which I just love about him, since I wasn't much of an oat sower (or receiver, I guess) myself!

>> I still think that you should find something to do that makes you happy

I agree. This will help me learn something new and pass the time while he freaks out. ha ha

You have been an enormous help. Thank you so much! May your good karma come around in a wonderful way this week...

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2003
Mon, 05-19-2003 - 6:39pm
He needs to snatch you up before someone else realizes what a good thing he has!! You can tell him I told you so... :)

April