Carolyn Hax: Weddings bring out the worst in an unmarried couple

Carolyn Hax
Columnist April 20

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Bit of an introvert here, all tuckered out from wedding season. My friends mainly got married one to three years ago, so we’re now onto attending the weddings of my boyfriend’s closest friends.

We fight at every other wedding, triggered by a combination of too much wine and my own impatience about not being engaged yet.

At the next wedding we attend, I’m going to try sticking to soda and see if that helps, but the real problem is the impatience. Is there something wrong with me/my relationship if this is happening to us? We love each other and get along in other settings, but on days designated to celebrate the progress of other people’s relationships, I just find myself a lot more vulnerable to petty annoyances, and then things unravel.


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Anonymous

“[M]y own impatience about not being engaged yet”: So, what’s this about? Boyfriend not as into you as you are into him? You’re more hung up on checking the box than you are on the person Boyfriend is, and Boyfriend on some level recognizes this? Boyfriend can’t even settle on which socks to wear without naming a blue-ribbon panel to weigh in on his options? _______?

There’s an underlying something here; couples of long-enough standing who are suited to each other and mature enough to enter into a declared commitment to each other tend to do just that, so when they don’t, it usually means they’re not suited to each other, not mature enough, or some blend of both.

For what it’s worth, the drinking and brawling say you’re not quite up to the “marriage-ready” hash mark on the maturity stick, but it also sounds as if there’s more to it than that.

Plus, I wonder whether you’ve actually just talked about it in a non-charged setting and, if you have, why one or both of you isn’t accepting the outcome of that talk as your current reality. “Fighting” is really just a nickname for an attempt to renegotiate what you already know is the truth but don’t want to accept.

Re: Weddings:

Even in very healthy relationships headed in the right directions, attending weddings or baby showers can add an element of stress and urgency to decisions about your own marriage and/or family planning. It is totally normal. Heck, a few years into a relationship when you’re 31, even a mention of marriage in a TV commercial can lead to awkwardness.

Societal pressure exists, even if it is best to ignore it. So the question for the poster is whether she (and he) feel the relationship is on track and moving at the right pace when these outside influences aren’t so apparent. If so, try not to stress over the wedding trauma and do indeed cut out the wine. Alcohol does fuel these anxieties.

Anonymous 2

Peer pressure isn’t just for middle school. Thanks muchly.

When I was unhappy in a relationship, I cried at weddings. When I was happy with someone or happy alone, I either enjoyed the wedding without any big emotional spillover, or I felt a strong impulse to skip the wedding because I preferred my status quo to getting pew-sore and shouting over reception music. Just one last thought.

Tomorrow: Hits and Mrs.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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