My Boyfriend Gets Scared When I Bring Up Marriage

Young couple having relationship difficulties, outdoor shot
Young couple having relationship difficulties, outdoor shot

Reader Patience Is Overrated writes,

I need some advice... I'm a 29 year old female, college graduate, and firmly situated in a great job. I've been dating my 29 year old boyfriend for a year and a half. I love him and I know he loves me. We have a great relationship, enjoy each other's company, and our families love us and emotionally support us.  We both are adults with our own homes. We don't live together. We have friends and hobbies. We're both physically active and take care of our bodies. He gets me and loves me for who I am. He defends me and provides a listening ear when I need it. He also isn't afraid to call me out when I'm wrong. He's become one of my closest friends. I love him for all those things.

He started college later than most people and recently graduated. He has a decent job and is job hunting to find something better and more within his degree path. Like me, he has a solid family, great parents who've never been divorced and a sibling married with kids.

He talks about us in futuristic terms. "Our kids, our someday house, our dreams..."  I believe he wants a future with me. However, whenever I bring up marriage he gets this "deer in headlights" look. He tells me the thought of marriage frightens and overwhelms him. Those conversation usually end with him frustrated and holding me while I cry. I wouldn't consider myself a clingy or overly emotional woman but when he says those things I get scared. I'm scared on some level of not being enough or unwanted, of being alone for the rest of my life, and of not spending the rest of my life with him. I've stopped bringing it up. I don't want to be a nag and I feel that I shouldn't have to be. Either he loves me and wants to spend his life with me or he doesn't.

I want to be married. I'm ready. I want a family one day. I want a family with him.

My question is this. How long do I wait for him to be ready? Honestly, I feel like the two year mark is the deal maker or breaker. But is that reasonable? I feel like I've been waiting for him... to graduate, to get settled, to become ready... do I keep waiting? I realize, "Love is patient." But how long does one remain patient?

I don't want to have a "you marry me or we're over" discussion. I'm not into ultimatums. But at the same time, I'm nearing my 30s and I do want a family one day. Waiting for years for him to "be ready" doesn't seem healthy.

Your thoughts?

Dear PIO,

Tough call. People are waiting longer and longer to get married nowadays, especially people with college degrees. And actually, women who marry later do better financially, probably because they didn't basically take off five years of full time employment to raise babies, not that I'm in that situation or anything.  Then again, older women face more issues with infertility, so your biological clock is ticking.  (Did you know I went to the same high school as Marisa Tomei? Are you catching my My Cousin Vinny reference or are you too young?  I bet the latter.)

Also, there are huge gaps in your back story here. Why does marriage frighten him?  Are his parents less happy than they seem?  Does he feel that there are issues in the relationship right now that will only worsen with marriage and kids?  What do you guys fight about besides this? Also, I'm concerned about you and your self-esteem. You feel so inadequate when he doesn't want to get married that I'm betting that low self-esteem has been an issue throughout your life.

In this relationship you're the pursuer and he's the distancer (read that link, that couple has issues you guys have).  According to imago theory, you had a parent who wasn't emotionally available and now you subconsciously picked a guy who isn't, in that he won't commit. Yeah he says "our family," but he's 29 and is distressed by even the thought of marriage.  Something isn't right.  Perhaps he says these things only infrequently, or when drunk, or when about to have sex with you, and you take them and cherish them and build them up in your mind.  Or maybe he's a narcissist and says what you want to hear and what makes you shower him with affection, but he doesn't really mean it.  I don't know.  But I do know that something here is fishy.

If you want me to just guess what I think the deal is, it's this: you have all the hobbies and friends and job and everything but your real true priority is love and family. He has all that stuff because he loves it and that's where he is right now: he's a happy single guy, with a nice girlfriend, who has a full life and doesn't want to change a damn thing.  If you stick around you're betting on his ability to change. And while 80% of people used to get married, it's down to 75% for you millennials.  So it's a 75% shot that he will marry you, but the question is when?

I say it's this formula:  when he starts to lose his hair/look less attractive multiplied by when 50% of his male friends are married multiplied by when you throw a huge fit and give him an ultimatum multiplied when either he, you, or one of your family members has a Serious Health Scare That Makes Him Reexamine His Priorities multiplied by when it gets embarrassing to have neither shit nor gotten off the pot (probably around four years dating) multiplied by when he has a steady well paying job. I'll say he'll propose Christmas 2017. But that's not scientific and it may also be 100% wrong.  Also, even if I'm right, IT DOESN'T MEAN HE WON'T HAVE COMMITMENT ISSUES AFTER MARRIAGE, ABOUT HAVING KIDS, BUYING A HOUSE, WHATEVER.  This is in caps so you take it seriously.  People's issues stay the same, mostly.

Here's one idea: wait around for another six months while you go to counseling and probe deeply into some of the issues surrounding your insecurities and upbringing.  This will help you figure out if you're seeing this situation clearly and if your own issues are hindering this relationship from progressing in any way.  And if he is still waffling when you're 29 and a half, tell him that your fertility decreases at 30 and you're going to have to start dating someone who likes the idea of marriage by then if you want the best chances of having a baby. Not as a bluff, as reality.  Unless you realize via introspection and therapy that you want to be dating him more than you want marriage and a family, in which case, stay.  Either way, make a decision that takes your own emotions and history into account.  This story is deeper than you're seeing right now, I believe.

Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, You Are My Spirit Animal Too, So I Feel You, Sister.  Even If You're Young and Your Body Is Unaffected By The Vicissitudes Of Childbirth And You Didn't Ever See My Cousin Vinny.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.