Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Woman, 25, ponders marriage but is still intrigued by others
Q: I have been dating my boyfriend for a year, and I love him. We have been seriously discussing marriage.
I know I want to marry him, but in my less sane moments I still find myself intrigued by other guys. It isn't so much that I want to date them, but I still enjoy that feeling of "the hunt."
Are these feelings normal or am I just not ready to seriously commit? I never dated in high school or college, and this is only my second boyfriend (I'm 25), so I wonder if I am trying to make up for the "missed years."
In Love but Intrigued
Carolyn: These feelings are normal for someone who is not ready to commit. You're young, you're newish at this and paired off for only a year. While it's possible none of these things will ultimately come between you and Terrific, each of them is a reason to proceed with eyes wiiiide open to the possibility that you are in flux. As in, still maturing, still figuring out what you like (and don't) about yourself and other people, and still getting to know this guy.
Since noticing other guys can feel wrong, and being wrong is incentive to push it out of your mind, re-label it as just a symptom of flux. So much can change for you in a year or three. If you date this guy with nothing but "give it time" intentions, then you'll eventually see whether you're well-matched for real or just well-matched at the moment. When marriage comes up, don't be afraid to slow things down to a speed you can manage.
Anonymous: I totally disagree. I sometimes think about what it might be like to be with someone else, but I'm thrilled that I married my husband and couldn't imagine being with anyone else. I think it's normal. You can't perpetuate the myth that you will always get butterflies when you're with the one you love.
Carolyn: Thanks. To clarify, I'm not talking about butterflies. I'm talking about noticing other prospects. A little of that is normal, but Intrigued has a lot of it, and doubts her own perspective.
She doesn't need the false reassurance that it's okay to ignore these side attractions and what-ifs. Maybe she's with the right guy, but maybe she's rationalizing because she doesn't want to face the idea of breaking up. So I advised her to pay attention, give it thought and time. (Not where I would have expected to draw total disagreement!)
Intrigued again: Another factor might be that we've had to weather a lot together (unemployment, major health incident), so sometimes it seems like all we do is have serious conversations. Things are starting to lighten up now as his job prospects have improved and my health is better.
Carolyn: Having enough flexibility and range to make room for laughter during serious times is an important skill — as is the ability to forgive someone and carry on when a lightening-up attempt falls flat.
Before you make any decisions about your marriage readiness, try working on these skills with him, even taking risks by changing the tone of a conversation to more honestly reflect how you feel.