Ask Amy: Marriage on a timetable creates pressure

March 6, 2013

DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been together since we were 16. We are now 22 years old and have graduated from college and are working in our professional fields.

We moved in together last June. I am ready to get engaged and married and within three years start to have children. He, on the other hand, is not ready for any of that because he feels he’s still really young (and in reality we are).

We recently went to a friend’s wedding. He felt very uncomfortable about it (as did I) and we got into a huge fight. He said things that he immediately regretted. How do I speed up the process of getting that ring on my finger and carry on with our life together? -- Anxious

DEAR ANXIOUS: Let’s imagine that you successfully pressure your guy and get everything you want with the timetable you’ve attached to it. You get this by arguing about it and pressuring him. He relents because he loves you and wants you to be happy, because you’ve worn him down and because he can’t think of truly “valid” reasons to delay.

The years fly by. Your husband wakes up one day and realizes he’s 30 years old with three children. A vague unhappiness sets in. He can’t really put his finger on the cause. He wonders if he ever really wanted the life he leads. He wishes he was single, and he blames you that he’s not.

Of course, none of this might happen, but putting the pressure on now increases the odds that you both will have regrets later.

Table the topic for six months. Circle a date on the calendar where you mutually agree to talk about it again. The only power you should be prepared to wield is your choice to stay in the relationship or to leave it if it isn’t satisfying.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I get together with another couple quite often.

Something troubling has always occurred when in their company, but this problem is escalating. For reasons unknown to us, the wife lashes out with anger and insults directed at her husband. She does this freely in our presence.

This rarely has to do with events of the moment, and is usually an overall character attack. Her husband is a quiet and kind person. When these episodes occur, she speaks and we three remain silent. My husband and I feel sympathetic toward the husband, and I am feeling angry toward her.

I do not want to witness this. I cannot continue seeing them under these circumstances. I feel that I have to explain to her in private how I feel about this or I have to just avoid them. My husband does not agree. He feels that I will destroy the relationship if I talk with her about it. He suggests seeing them less. What’s your take? -- Frustrated

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Your friend may have a personality disorder, which causes her to lash out. Or she might be a domineering, rude, unfeeling person. The reasons for her behavior might be too complicated for you to divine.

Your husband could be right that saying anything will affect the relationship, but do you want to be held hostage to one person’s capricious behavior? (He should also reach out to the husband, but this is his choice to make.)

You should be kind, calm and respectful — and start by saying how much you enjoy spending time with them. And then you say, “I need to talk to you about the way you lash out at Stanley; this makes me uncomfortable and seems unkind and unfair to him. And I’m worried about you. Can we talk about it?”

DEAR AMY: “Concerned Friend” reported that her best friend was beautiful and yet always deflected compliments because of low self-esteem.

It would be great if we taught people to graciously accept a compliment. Maybe if she learned to do that she would stop reflecting on her negative attributes, real or imaginary. -- Caroline

DEAR CAROLINE: I agree. Saying “Thank you!” is a great start.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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