Why does he freak out at any reference to marriage?

Dear Sherry:

I have a simple yet complicated problem here. I have been in an exclusive, wonderful relationship for 2 1/2 years, and I really believe that we could have a wonderful future together. We're both in our early 20s. The problem is that my boyfriend has slight tendency (okay, a HUGE tendency) to freak out at the most remote reference to marriage. Any ideas or tips on how to approach the move from dating to marriage, or even a way to just start talking about it? How do I find out whether he's scared of commitment or scared of commitment to ME? It's a touchy subject, I know, but any advice would be appreciated.



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 sharebear666:

If he's been dating you in an "exclusive, wonderful" relationship for 2 1/2 years, I doubt his commitment-phobia has your name attached to it. More likely, it's a free-floating bug that attacks men of a certain age range (say 20 to 70). Obviously many can overcome it, or the human race would be extinct.

You do need to talk. Over dinner one night -- preferably at a restaurant where he won't find it easy to just up and walk away -- say, "Look, honey, I love you and I don't want to put pressure on you, and I'm not saying let's get married tomorrow. We're both still young. But you always freak out when I bring up the possibility of a future, and that's not fair to me. I need to know if you think you'll ever be ready to make a commitment and if you can see yourself making one to me. Again, I'm not bringing this up to make you feel uncomfortable, but this is my life we're talking about, and its time I knew my options. If there are reasons why you're afraid of marriage, share them with me, and maybe we can eventually work through them. If you can never see yourself married to me, I need to know that too."

Hopefully this approach will lead to a long-overdue discussion of his feelings for you, the roots of his commitment-phobia, whether his aversion to marriage is too deep-seated to be easily dislodged and where you both eventually see your relationship heading. If he's too resistant to even discuss this topic, he's actually shouting an answer at you.

One caveat: Don't begin this conversation unless you're prepared to make a commitment to see it through, for good or bad.

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