Dear Carolyn: Ive been with a wonderful man for two years. Weve discussed, at length, spending the rest of our lives together, including our thoughts on money, raising kids, our careers, and working to fix problems that arise in our relationship instead of quitting.
He has told me that actually getting married is not important to him and that our commitment is the same regardless. I greatly value marriage as a sacrament, and he said he was fine with getting married. This was a few months ago.
Last week he took me engagement-ring shopping and told me a few days later that he was scared because it was hitting home, and he isnt sure he is cut out for marriage. He says he is sometimes selfish and doesnt put me first. I say everyone is like that sometimes.
His parents have had a bad relationship all his life. Also, he sometimes puts himself down and says things like, You deserve better than me.
Now he says maybe we will get married.
I love this man, and Ive considered all his good and not-so-good qualities and decided beyond a doubt that I want to be with him. I believe he will be a great husband and father. Is there a way I can help him reach that conclusion? He is averse to counseling in general, although I havent suggested it yet for this issue. Please help. Maybe Hearing Bells?
Carolyn Says: Interesting how youve put yourselves in different versions of the same position: The (well-meaning) lies youve told yourselves are both coming due.
His is that the commitment is the same whether youre married or not. If the two were truly the same, then formalizing the commitment with marriage vows wouldnt be an issue.
Yours is that youve decided beyond a doubt that you want to be with him. If that were true, then skipping formal marriage vows wouldnt be an issue.
Both of you need to decide which you believe in more each other, or your opinions of marriage.
See? Solved, just like that.
Of course its going to be difficult, and you want it to be; ultimately your decision will be better for having to think your way through (or around) your own contradictory convictions. The mere act of calling bull on yourselves and each other can be positively cleansing.
In particular, you both could stand to scrub a dynamic lurking beneath the whole marriage-or-not debate: the You deserve better, No, no, dear, youre just right Mobius Strip of Doom. What happens when you get into that loop and it sounds as if youve been in it for a while is that each of you shifts the responsibility onto the other for taking the next step. To wit: Is there a way I can help him reach that conclusion?
Its easy to see why, too, since youre both at the point where you need to either agree to something youre not entirely comfortable doing, or break up. Painful, scary, hard, right? So, you both default to pushing the other to make the hard choice for you, you by reassuring him to say yes, and he by warning you to say no.
There are ways to help him reach that conclusion you so badly want, but please avoid that route. Instead, I urge you (both, if he reads this) to concentrate on reconciling your own contradictions. Consider taking a week, two weeks, a month apart to do that. Not only will that allow you to measure each others presence through absence, but it also will remove the temptation to look to each other for answers.
If that brings you together, great, but still consider a pre-marriage class. Remember, the outcome you want isnt always the best outcome; the best is the one that fits.
Mother doesnt need thank-you list
Dear Carolyn: My husband and I are newlyweds and his mother wants the wedding gift list, as in who gave us what. I think this is inappropriate and violates our guests privacy. He thinks there is no harm in giving her what she wants.
What do you think? She claims she wants to be able to thank people for their specific gift whenever she runs into them. But she wants the entire list, not just her friends and family, to make it easier on me. My husband and I are mailing thank-you notes promptly. T.
Carolyn Says: Im with you its not his mothers place to be thanking people for gifts given to you and your husband. Its an intrusive request.
I also disagree with your husband, though we probably have different notions of harm. Youre not comfortable with it and she doesnt need it. His choosing his mothers comfort over yours, be it right out of the marital gate or as the stakes go up with time, will do harm he cant even see.
Send email to Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org.