NOTE: This archive only contains Carolyn Hax columns through March 2011. Her more recent columns are located here.

Carolyn Hax offers advice on reconciling differing views on marriage

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
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By Carolyn Hax
Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dear Carolyn:

For the past seven months, I have been exclusively dating a man whom I am crazy about. When we first met, he told me he had been single for 15-plus years and didn't "see the need for people to get married if they didn't want kids" (we are both in our 50s).

Guess what . . . now I do want to get married. What do I do?

San Diego

Be prepared to say why you want to get married. He sees it as a construct for raising kids. You see it as ______.

While you're figuring out what ______ is, also give some thought as to why this man, why now. There is heavy cultural programming to follow love feelings with marriage plans, and the better you can answer those two fundamental questions -- why this person? why now? -- the better your chances of a fulfilling relationship, be it with this man now, with another man later, or with yourself from now on.

As long as you're still pondering it, I suggest you keep your marriage yearnings private. It's always best not to escalate when you're not sure where you want to end up.

But if you're able to articulate why marriage matters to you, and if you foresee wanting to marry him, either now or after you log more time together, then tell him, if only because you both deserve to know if you have different destinations in mind.

Another thing to prepare yourself for, before you do speak up: getting shot down. That's true anytime you ask anyone for anything. However, you're asking for, essentially, the rest of his life, knowing his bias against that. That raises the risk of a "no," and with it the pressure on your next move. Will you stay with a shrug, leave in a huff, ask for some time to think? Not all rejections are created equal, so you won't know exactly what you'll want till you get there, but you can know your own mind before you go in.

Dear Carolyn:

For the past nine months I have been dating a pretty terrific guy. I haven't been particularly evasive or particularly honest about my past. There's a lot I think is private, at least at this point, and a lot I'd like to tell him but not quite yet.

We're meeting up with some of my old friends and I can't get out of it. I dread the occasion, as I think "old stories" will be told. These won't be flattering. I like this guy. How do you know when someone is ready to hear the unvarnished past?

Anonymous

There's no way to say this that isn't trite, so I'll type it while standing on my head: Someone is ready to hear your unvarnished past when it's the right someone for you, and when that right someone is a real grown-up who knows that we're the sum of our entire pasts, not just the photo-album parts.

For what it's worth, your chances of recognizing the right person are much better if you, too, are at that stage, where your past is just something that is; people read your cues. While I'm still on my head, I'll try to get the memo out to your friends.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com.


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