Marry Me -- Or Else: The Ultimate Ultimatum

Dear Sherry:

My boyfriend and I have been dating for nearly 12 years. And though he says he loves me and is committed to me, he also says he is not ready for marriage. This is absolutely devastating to me. His parents are divorced, and he views divorce as the single worst thing that can ever happen. He says he is afraid to get married. I love him, but I'm very hurt by this. What can I do?



Sherry Amatenstein

Sherry is the author of The Q&A Dating Book and Love Lessons from Bad Breakups. She has taught dating seminars, appeared as an expert... Read more

Dear S:

Ready for some news that's both good and bad? Your feat just might qualify you for the Guinness Book of World Records in the category "Years of my life wasted while fruitlessly waiting for my partner to overcome his commitment-phobia." Here's a bulletin: It's time to relinquish your title.

Mummy and Daddy's divorce has made him afraid of marriage? Poor darling. Is he at least equally afraid of losing you? Because that's what you've got to tell him will happen if he doesn't QUICKLY attempt to figure out (possibly with a therapist's help) why, after 12 sweet years with the woman of his dreams, he's still afraid to give her a ring. Yes, I'm advising the tried-and-true ultimatum. Give him one and then don't back down. If you do back down, in 12 years you'll just be writing another letter to me or to whoever takes over this column. And won't your face be red then.

So tell him to deal with his demons, pronto, or prepare to deal with life without you. And while you're insisting that he start soul-searching, you might ask yourself why you've hung around so long without making a real attempt to assert your needs.

I'm not saying any of this will be fun. Change is hard. Change is scary. That's why people stay mired in emotional quicksand. But you've got to take a risk -- you won't sink. Truly. Because ultimately change is empowering. And if you weren't ready to take some baby steps out of the muck, you wouldn't have written to yours truly.

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