Bleak outlook on marriage; partners should celebrate each other’s victories
Dear Annie: I’m in love, 50 years old and frustrated.
I’ve been with my wonderful boyfriend for 10 years now. My ex tragically died a year before we met, and the current relationship was completely unexpected and refreshing, as I had no plans to ever love again. He, too, had been single (for a year) prior to our dating.
During our first year of dating, we agreed that neither of us was looking for marriage. Our guards were clearly on display because of previous relationship heartbreak. We are both single parents, homeowners, educated, never previously married and working in the same career field.
However, we’ve routinely and favorably discussed marriage since then. During a birthday dinner, surprisingly, he shared that he had selected the restaurant as a gorgeous, quaint venue that could accommodate both our desires for a romantic, small wedding. I was pleasantly surprised, and it appeared that we were moving in the direction we had planned. He suggested that he would one day ask me the big question when he got his finances in order, as he confessed he felt emasculated by my income. Since his confession, I’ve made every effort to routinely express how much I need and appreciate him, and now finances are only brought up by him.
Three years ago, while on our yearly Jamaica getaway, there were two spectacularly beautiful beach weddings for all bystanders to enjoy. Through all the oohs and aahs, he stated that “marriage is a contract and something people only feel obligated to do as a rite of passage.” Confused, I initiated the obvious conversation, to which he proclaimed that he’ll get married if it’s something I want, because he’s not going anywhere. Every year after this comment about his seemingly bleak outlook on marriage, he refers to me as his wife in public social settings, as he says it’s simply easier than explaining 10 years of dating.
I love him, but this breaks my heart, and now I’ve become insecure for the first time in our relationship. I’m not sure what’s next, considering that I increasingly feel more like a casual companion than anything more significant. Our conversations regarding this issue are cyclical, yet 10 years have passed, and the only progress we’ve made is that we still love each other and we have a decade of shared memories.
I understand everything in life is temporary, and one should just enjoy life’s moments while they’re happening. Is it time for me to eat my own words? – Disheartened
Dear Disheartened: While you are correct that we should enjoy life’s moments, we should not hide our achievements or desires just to make our partner not feel insecure. It is admirable that he was honest with you about feeling emasculated over you making more money than he does, but he needs to work on that, maybe in therapy or couples counseling. Partners should celebrate each other’s victories and successes in life and help each other achieve their goals, not make each other feel small. He needs to feel big through his own success, not through feeling bigger than you. That issue should be addressed first and foremost.
As far as marriage is concerned, you are allowed to change your mind. If marriage is something that is really important to you, then tell him that. You have every right to be married if you want to. Continue to express yourself openly, kindly and honestly. But always be true to your authentic needs, and never let anyone make you shine a little less bright so they feel good.
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