Don't let boyfriend rush you to the altar

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Don't let boyfriend rush you to the altar

Washington: I have a great boyfriend, but I am divorced and he's never been married. I love having a steady boyfriend, and if I were to get married again it would be to him, it's just that I am in the let's-take-it-slowly, what's-the-rush lane and he's driving the autobahn to the altar. I know it's probably not fair to hang on to him while I figure it out, but I've had two years of freedom, and I'm not too sure I'm ready to give that up — but I also don't want to lose a great guy in the thought process. What to do to get off the fence?

Carolyn: Nothing. Fences make for very uncomfortable long-term seating, and if you've been there awhile, then, sure, it's worth asking why neither side looks better than the other.

But if you haven't been there long, then it makes sense just to accept — and express to him clearly — that you're there for a reason and that your indecision is legitimate and justified. Then, you wait to see if the answer comes to you on its own.

By the way, his being on "the autobahn to the altar" is reason in itself to watch from the fence. Stores use limited-time offers to nudge people to buy whether they're ready or not; do you really want sales pressure to be the motivation behind your life partnership?

If freedom and a mate look like equally appealing choices, then always choose freedom. Why? Because reversing a decision to be single is almost universally joyful, whereas reversing a decision to be coupled is almost universally painful. When was the last time you were invited to celebrate a divorce with champagne, passed hors d'oeuvres and a band?

Single person here: I'd like to know what "freedoms" I enjoy now that I will have to sacrifice if I get married, aside from the obvious freedom to sleep with anyone I want. My married friends don't seem like prisoners to me, but maybe I'm just not fully aware of the terms of their imprisonment.

Carolyn: It's hardly imprisonment, but there are limits to what married people have a right to do or decide unilaterally. They can't spend big money on whatever they want; they can't just plan a vacation for themselves wherever and whenever they feel like it; they can't just up and change careers, or quit a job, or choose to relocate, or whatever else without weighing and discussing the impact that change will have on a mate. They can't tend to their own emotional needs without also tending to their mate's. They can't keep everything inside — or blab everything. They can't just paint a wall their favorite color without asking if the other likes it.

When it's a good partnership, these aren't burdens, they're privileges. But they are compromises in one's freedom all the same.

One way to see if you're entering a commitment that's good for you is to read your own thoughts on these "sacrifices." Does is feel like surrender, does it come grudgingly or not at all, would you define it as someone taking from you, versus your giving to someone? Committing either feels like a privilege, or isn't the right thing to do.

Don't let boyfriend rush you to the altar 02/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 3:30am]

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