Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’m ecstatic to be newly engaged after three happy years of dating. We’re planning to move in together at the end of the year.
Recently, while talking moving logistics, he confessed that he’s not looking forward to having to “check in” with someone every day. I responded that I don’t need daily check-ins — instead, why not reserve them for when we actually have agreed-upon plans? He said OK, but that he still feels nervous about losing other aspects of his autonomy in marriage.
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This conversation escalated until eventually I asked him why he wants to get married at all, if he’s so scared to share his daily life with me. He answered that he knows “it’s what comes next,” meaning that it’s the natural next step in our relationship. I am afraid and aware that this isn’t a good answer. I know he loves me a lot — the strength of our relationship so far proves that in my book — but now I feel like I’ve unwittingly forced him into marriage. My excitement over getting married is deflated. What now?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Let him know, kindly, that “It’s what comes next” is no reason to get married, and that, while you love him and were excited to be engaged, you’re not going to marry unless and until you’re with someone who wants to spend the rest of his life with you. As in, day in, day out wants to, not because he thinks he’s supposed to.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Explain that you’re not doing this out of anger and will give him time to sort out his feelings. Then do it. (Not indefinite time, but, time.)
He could go either way with this — either feeling relief to be released from what felt like an obligation, or feeling like the idiot who allowed an adolescent-style freakout to sink a good thing.
About those “check-ins”: When you want to be with someone, and to share your days with someone, they are a moot point. Most of the time you already know where the other person will be, and vice-versa, because you have plans and routines that include and affect each other. When something comes up, sure, you have a choice: Take into account the feelings of the person who thinks you’re somewhere else/coming home soon/going to be at the restaurant by 7, or don’t. And really, if it’s such a burden to care how someone feels and not leave them to wonder or worry, then why not just stay unattached?
I have been married for almost 20 years and I honestly am not even sure what these people are talking about. If husband is doing something other than coming home from work, he lets me know as a courtesy, right? Often, with kids’ schedules to juggle, we have lots of conversations about who is driving whom where and all of that — this isn’t “checking in,” this is life. Am I missing something?
– Anonymous 2
DEAR ANONYMOUS 2: No, you’ve got it. Intimacy runs on mutual trust, of course: to be both willing to share everything, and not be required to. So, the prospect of joining lives with someone who insists on tracking your every move ought to scare you — a problem also solved, conveniently, by remaining unattached.