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Expect proposal downer to be the start of many disappointments

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Proposal downer may be first of many disappointments

Kentucky: My boyfriend proposed in a disappointing way. How can I get over missing out on what was supposed to be a beautiful moment and memory?

He's not romantic in general (yes, I know I have to accept him as he is), but I can't help but wish I knew how he feels about me or why he wants to marry me.

When I have asked, I have gotten short or jokey answers. Our relationship is otherwise great.

Carolyn: I have a hard time believing the "otherwise great" part, because what you describe is (1) an inability on his part to handle intimate emotions, and (2) an inability on your part to feel content without expressions of intimacy.

To have intimacy, both of you have to lower your defenses and be honest.

His joking gets in the way of that, I imagine to some extent deliberately — but if you haven't said to him explicitly that you see his use of humor as a way around his feelings, and that it bothers you enough that you feel as if you're missing out on being close to him, then you're also part of the problem.

So, please say to him now, "When I ask how you feel about me, you give me short, jokey answers. It would mean a lot to me if you gave me a serious answer."

If speaking directly to your fiance about the jokiness elicits only a new set of jokes, then you really (really) need to broaden your thinking beyond, "How do I get over my disappointment about the proposal?"

It's not going to end here; it's just starting here.

Should you go on to get married, expect this: Every year, you'll have anniversary, birthday and maybe even Valentine's Day disappointments to get over, when your hopes of romance get dashed.

If you have kids, that tender moment when it's just the two of you and your newborn in the hospital might not happen, and that absence will be seared into memory.

When you celebrate other people's milestones, you're going to be reminded with each touching, nostalgic speech that your husband will never stand up to say those things to you, neither in public nor in private. And so on.

If seeing this all spelled out doesn't really affect you — if you think, "Good, I hate those awkward private/forced public moments," or if you think, "Nice, but not necessary, because I prefer his ways of showing he loves me" — then maybe your visions of the perfect proposal are at odds with your nature more than your boyfriend is.

But if you're one to get choked up at these emotional moments, and if, when you're brutally honest with yourself, you have to admit that you've already begun to resent your boyfriend for sharing none of these moments with you, then you absolutely have to say this to him.

Give him a chance to see exactly what these things mean to you, and to respond — either by lowering his defenses and letting himself feel and/or express intense feelings, or by making it very clear to you that you're not going to get that with him.

Tuesday: Romantic pragmatism and unfunny jokes.

Expect proposal downer to be the start of many disappointments 11/07/10 [Last modified: Sunday, November 7, 2010 3:30am]
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