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Parallax - Advice            October 2, 2000



  He wants to marry her, but she has cold feet

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I'm getting a little pressure from my boyfriend to get married. I'm twenty-six, he's twenty-nine, and he wants me to say yes. Although I'm very sure he's the guy for me, I'm scared of getting married because of many issues that go back to my parents' divorce. The thing is, he says he needs to know soon. He's been asking me for a year, and has subtly hinted that he won't wait much longer. I don't know what to do. I don't want to risk losing him - I'd never forgive myself if he went off and married someone else. However, I've asked him to wait so many times that I've run out of excuses. I'm terrified to say yes, and terrified to say no.

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Her view:

Dear Ms. Reluctant,

Well I think it's fair to ask you for a decision. Are you banning marriage altogether, or just decision-making? It sounds like he's the one for you but you're letting other nonsense interfere. So your parents divorced? Half of all marriages end in divorce - that's just life in America. Not your life per se, just life. So get over it, and decide if you want to be with him on his own merits. It's not fair to hold him accountable for all the divorces in the neighborhood.

If you love him and just need some time, you'll regret this indecision when he suddenly leaves you. He'll go on, get over you, and eventually marry. You'll sit at home (by yourself with your hang-ups), or have meaningless relationships for years on end, just because your parents divorced. I need not elaborate.

Here's a constructive suggestion. Say 'yes' if you love him (really love him and want to be with him forever). Suggest a long engagement, and move in together so that you can get over the shock and see how great it all is (because it will be great you know). That's how it's supposed to work.

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His view:

Dear Ms. Reluctant,

You need to figure out two things, and you don't have a lot of time.

First, you can't just say you aren't ready and use that as a universal excuse. Do some extra work and think about why you don't feel ready to say yes. Are the reasons truly more about you than him? Or are there things about him (or about the two of you) that resemble your parents' situation? Whatever the case, you can't just sit and wait for your concerns to fade away - much less with a boyfriend-fiancÚ waiting in the wings. Try to resolve the issues, and get him involved. Let him help you.

Second, consider your different schedules. If you agree to marry him now, (ahead of schedule for you), you are agreeing to life on his terms, and he will always be ahead. Next, he'll be looking for kids, and he'll want them sooner than you will.

I'll say it again - I don't think you have a lot of time. He's been patient, and he's asked you to make a tradeoff. If he is 'the one,' you may not get another chance. My colleague may advise you to wait - to stand your ground and call his bluff. Who knows? That might work. On the other hand, his patience might run out.

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