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Determine basis of marriage-phobic boyfriend's fears

Determine the basis of boyfriend's marriage fear

Q: I have been with my boyfriend for almost two years and love him very much. It is no secret that he doesn't want to get married in the near future. He has made comments that he wants to marry when he's very old so that he doesn't have to be married long. He thinks marriage can ruin a good thing and doesn't see the point when everything is great as it is.

We have joked about it, and I try to think positive because we have a very respectful and fun relationship. Right now I would rather be his girlfriend than anyone else's wife, but I can't decide if his position is a deal-breaker. I'm afraid if I tell him it's over because I want to be married someday, he will give in, and the last thing I want is for him to propose because he's cornered. I want to sit back and see what happens, but I'm afraid to wake up 10 or 20 years from now with a boyfriend.

K.

A: On the bright side, maybe by then he'll have outgrown adolescence.

"I'll get married when I'm old"? I suppose it's good that he's trying to keep your expectations in check. But that's as close as he's willing to get, apparently, to whatever fears, problems, hang-ups or ugly truths are causing his ring allergy.

There's nothing wrong with rejecting marriage for, say, political reasons, or legal reasons, or for just-not-liking-you-that-way reasons. Those are actual reasons, backed by thought, logic, fact. What he's bluffing around is a fear, and grown-ups don't dodge fears, they face them.

Likewise, their grownup girlfriends aren't afraid to touch those fears. There is a vast range of discussion between complete silence and blackmailing him into marriage, and it doesn't start with joking or trying to "think positive." It starts with calmly, patiently, lovingly and nonjudgmentally letting him know he's full of it.

Specifically, it starts with an inquiry into his reasoning. Why does he see marriage as an agent of doom, where (presumably) he sees cohabitation as safe? Is it about the wedding itself, the reopening of family wounds, the forbidding escape route, the expectations, the false promise, the specter of becoming his parents . . . ?

The risk here isn't that you'll be his girlfriend ever after, it's that you'll wake up 10 or 20 years from now and still be unable to broach a difficult subject — with this or any other guy. Calling attention to a problem doesn't end a relationship; the problem itself does. Waiting is nothing but that.

Cool torrid feelings by focusing on what you don't like

Q: Okay, seriously, is there a way, any way, to stop liking someone you can't have?

Anonymous

A: Think extremes. We covet what we see, so it helps to get away from someone.

If that's not practical, zoom in hard: Focus on every flaw. We romanticize things we want, so there's always room to de-romanticize. Dorky shoes, good; verbal tics, better; mole hair, jackpot.

(To sustain affection, reverse these directions.)

Either way, start investing yourself elsewhere — people, causes, hobbies, whatever.

It also can't hurt to check your history for counterproductive patterns — attractions to unavailable people, in this case. You can't win if you're fighting yourself.

Determine basis of marriage-phobic boyfriend's fears 12/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:48am]
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