Democracy Dies in Darkness

Style | Perspective

Carolyn Hax: He gave her a ring but now has her running in circles

By Carolyn Hax

October 4, 2017 at 11:59 PM

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Three months ago my fiance proposed to me. We had been together over four years at the time, and we own a home together. It's now apparent he proposed only to keep me happy — possibly even to get me to leave him alone about marriage for a while — and he speaks only negatively about weddings and marriage in general. He has done nothing but impede wedding planning and wants to put off the ceremony for another year.

But I don't feel like waiting around and twiddling my thumbs for a year if marriage is the end goal. I think I'm the only one of us who has a goal of actually being married to my partner.

How do I approach the question of whether I want to marry someone who doesn't seem to really want to marry me? I'm not willing to stay not-married forever. I was very close to leaving for this exact reason, and when he realized I was serious, he quickly worked to get me an engagement ring.

— Invested in Marriage

Invested in Marriage: You sound less like partners and more like roommates with specific objectives. Different objectives at that. How much do you guys talk, and how deeply? Where's the intimacy here?

Try, please, to have the conversation: "You say _____, ______ and _____ about weddings and marriage in general. I plan the wedding, you postpone the wedding.

"I would rather you tell me the truth about what you're thinking and feeling than to have it come out in bits and pieces like this." Your words of course, but you get the idea.

If he won't tell you what he really thinks and feels at this point, then the marriage is not happening, even if it happens. The point of marriage is intimacy, and intimacy is about sharing yourself honestly and mutually. Not grumpy deflecting.

I am advising a conversation, but, in the interest of full disclosure, your whole description of this relationship screams "over." People don't propose insincerely "to keep me happy"; they propose insincerely because for whatever reason they don't want to disrupt their day-to-day lives. It's so selfish.

And it sounds for your part that your "goal" of marriage is no longer about him anymore, or about what the two of you create together emotionally, but instead about formalizing a vision you formed years ago.

Think big, speak honestly and be brave enough to let the right outcome reveal itself, instead of pushing for one you think you want. Or pushing away from one you're afraid of — which is so often the case.

Re: Marriage: "I was very close to leaving for this exact reason, and when he realized I was serious, quickly worked to get me an engagement ring": No matter what happens, you can't ignore that detail.

He's willing to string you along indefinitely until you threaten the status quo he enjoys so much. Then he's going to give you whatever you want (in gesture only) while going back to being himself.

Even if you two get married, that doesn't bode well for a happy life, with him doing whatever you want so he doesn't lose you and nothing more.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Yes — transactions, not trust. Thank you.

Write to at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.


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.

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