DEAR CAROLYN: I’m 25 and engaged to the guy I’ve dated since I was 20. I feel like I’ve always been the one pushing the relationship forward, from wanting to be exclusive to giving an ultimatum that I was going to leave him if he didn’t propose by the time I turned 25 last summer (not my best decision, and I had been pressuring him for a proposal long before that as well).
He moved out of my condo once without telling me while I was on a business trip, then moved back in a year later, a few months before the engagement. Then a couple of months ago he told me he wasn’t sure he wanted to marry me, and I flipped out and said, “Fine, move out,” before leaving on yet another business trip. He then changed his mind before I got back.
We’ve been to a therapist twice, and he swears he’s committed to me. But now I’m thinking that for some unknown reason, I was so busy chasing him when we were dating, I ignored a lot of flaws (he’s great on paper — Ivy League lawyer, good cook, attractive).
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How do I tell if this is just pre-wedding jitters or something we could work out, or if my worries are not just what a normal person feels before their wedding?
DEAR ENGAGED: Your honesty about yourself is refreshing. The conclusion you draw, though, doesn’t go far enough.
Specifically: You say you “ignored a lot of flaws” — as if, ultimately, your fiance’s shortcomings are the problem. They’re a problem, sure, since there’s troubling cowardice in his actions, but the problem needing your attention above all is your own frailty.
You didn’t love a person, you pursued a trophy. That’s a serious admission you fall just short of making. (Lost your nerve, I suspect; it’s hard to snitch on ourselves.)
It’s also a serious problem for both of you, because you don’t curl up with a skill, or converse with an achievement, or identify with a symmetrical face, or raise children with snooty insignia sportswear. You interact with the whole person and whatever habits, quirks, smells, opinions and truths ride along.
I’d say “flaws,” but I’m not prepared to validate your use of that word. Since I don’t have specifics, it’s possible what you’re labeling as such are just traits of his that don’t excite you the way his résumé does. Let’s say you have different senses of humor or different priorities and goals, just to give two common examples — it’s not that one of you is right and the other’s wrong, or one’s perfect and the other flawed, but instead that the two of you don’t match up well. Dishonesty, possessiveness or rudeness? Those are flaws. Not getting along, that’s a flaw in your relationship, not in him.
So take a hard look, both at him and the relationship. Do you love who he is, not just what, as he deserves? When you’re alone, are you comfortable, safe, yourselves? Are you willing to test that by admitting to him what you’ve written here? And offering to call things off, without drama, out of respect for him?
You’ve done some obvious growing up to get to this point. For your sake and his, please finish that process, stat.