Annie Lane: Mortified by marriage

Published 5:39 pm Friday, July 29, 2022

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Dear Annie: I’ve been with my girlfriend for seven years and lived with her for four. She wants to get married and have kids. For the past three years, I’ve promised to propose every six months, but when the time comes, I back out. I even went ring shopping but couldn’t pull the trigger.

Although I want to get married and have kids one day, just the discussions of such a commitment give me serious anxiety to the point where I cannot breathe. I want us to travel the world before tying the knot, but she’s too attached to her job. My family says I am too young to get married at 27 and that if I need counseling now, before even proposing, things will only get worse when we have a mortgage and kids. My therapist says contemplating marriage should be exciting and happy, but all I feel is trapped. I love her, and living with her is fun, but marrying her feels like doom. She says I am stringing her along without a timeline as she is pushing 30, but I’m honest that I cannot guarantee if and when I’ll be ready. Do I propose with a five-year engagement?

— To Wed or Not To Wed

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Dear To Wed: If the idea alone of marrying this woman is leaving you short of breath and like you’re approaching “doom,” absolutely do not propose or continue promising her any kind of timeline you have no intention of keeping. It’s clear you two are on completely different pages — in different books, even — and for either of you to change your mind just for the sake of the other would be unfair and likely disastrous.

Your relationship has reached an impasse. I’d recommend couples therapy, in addition to continuing your individual counseling, to confront your commitment issues and see if there’s hope for building a future you’re both excited about. What you have to sort out is how much of this is your overall fear of commitment versus your feelings for your girlfriend. Do you think of all marriages as traps? Or is it just marriage to this woman that would leave you feeling trapped? With good therapy, you can sort this out.

• • •

Dear Annie: I’m a 36-year-old male. I moved away from home a year ago to be with my now ex-girlfriend. Things didn’t work out in the relationship, but I have a home here and love this small town. I took a job and work 76-plus hours weekly.

Now I have an opportunity to take a break and get away, so I decided to see my family back home.

But my father created a mess. He has a bunch of plans, as in driving a long way and only staying one night. I put a stop to that, explaining that I won’t have a ton of time on this trip. When I said that, he got mad and hung up on me. Now he is mad and telling my brother that I don’t have time for him, so he is done.

I’m thinking about canceling my trip altogether because this was a chance to get away from stress, but instead, it is adding more.

— Lone Wolf

Dear Lone Wolf: Your dad no doubt has the best of intentions, but he is clueless about how you want to relax with family after working your tail off for the past year. From his perspective, he is so excited to see you that he wanted to plan a visit that’s jampacked with fun activities and excursions for you to enjoy together as father and son.

The key to less stress here is communication and managing expectations. Your time at home is finite, and there are certainly better ways to spend it than driving all over the place for just one activity or outing. Call your dad and plan out the timeline for your visit. Allow him to keep one or two of his bigger plans on the agenda and suggest spending the rest of the time closer to home. What matters most is getting to reconnect and be with one another, wherever that may be.