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July 8, 2011

Can we make it as a married couple?

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 8:46 am

idoordoiA long one from June 29, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

I met my fiance two years ago on the internet. I was sort of involved/on my way out of the relationship door when I met him and I explained that I would need some time to get over bad boyfriend before trying to date, have a relationship, etc. This worked fairly well since we lived across the country from one another anyway.

As my bad breakup wounds healed, my fiance and I became more involved (we were already more than friends despite my best intentions to keep it buddy/buddy only during the healing process). Oops. We became a couple, and later in the year, we started talking marriage. I felt it was too soon and bailed on the idea — Ye Olde Romantic Boy decided to go forward anyway and surprised me with the ring after Christmas. I said “yes” despite not being 100% sure, though my confidence that it was the right decision grew daily. We started living together over a year ago, and much to the surprise of my solo-time-lovin’ self, we make great roommates.

My fiance is unlike anyone I have ever dated. I am used to angsty, arty, intense boys. My fiance is mellow and sweet and stable. And extremely marriage and family oriented. The only thing that really gets his occasionally self-righteous knickers in a twist is his raging jealousy. Because he is so different from anyone else I have ever dated or been interested in, my love for him came as kind of a shock to me. And as I fell happier, healthier and more optimistic than I have in other relationships, the difference between my fiance and others I have dated sometimes disturbs me. I really love him — I am just wondering if it’s enough. Sometimes it feels like being rich and depressed at the same time — “Oh, filet mignon again? Sigh.”

When I meet men who are more like people I have dated in the past — guys who just “get” my dark humor, men who have more similar interests in music, movies, books, etc. — I can’t help but feel attracted — I crave the newness and the sparks — and wonder if I am doing the right thing with my fiance.

This actually led to some kissing-cheating on my part — which my fiance found out about and almost left me for. He admitted later that he “slipped up,” too, early in our relationship, and he apologized for acting so self-righteous and hypocritical about my little fling — he said he got incredibly jealous about my friendships with men, etc. because he knew, now, how easy it can be to say “she’ll never know.” Ever since then, part of me felt like my slipup was saying to my heart: perhaps I am not ready. My fiance is trying to move ahead and work on making us stronger, but something is still telling me I have some work to do before I am somebody’s wife.

So, I postponed the wedding, much to my boy’s disappointment and sort-of anger. He won’t wait around for me forever, I know, and feels like my unreadiness is a sign that I don’t love him. He is leaving the wedding decisions up to me from now on because he doesn’t want to set another date and put off the planning “just to be disappointed again.”

Basically, my question is this: can two very different people who love each other very much — people who don’t always know where the other is coming from but who talk as openly and honestly as they possibly can — make it as a married couple? I love my fiance and the thought of life without him is pretty grim. He has so much of what I feel I need, but not always all that I want. I know there’s no such thing as perfect, but I feel like those other boys wouldn’t turn my head so sharply if I wasn’t so worried about doing the right thing in my current relationship. Is this something that will come to mean less over the years? I sometimes feel like I need to dunk my cold feet in some warm water.

I really want to make this work — if it’s the right thing for me.

–Almost Too Tired to Sigh

Dear Sigh,

Here’s that warm water you wanted. Don’t get too excited — I’m not going to go so far as to say “marry the dude” or “don’t…” but I will make you feel like less of a freak about having cold feet in the first place. Which should help you figure out what steps those feet should take.

I don’t really understand at what point the relationship went from virtual to actual, or how you went from “across the country” to “more involved.” But — and don’t worry, I’m trying to help, not berate — I do have a hunch that you said “yes” too soon. Not in some absolute, objective time measurement, but you said it yourself: you were not sure. And everything since then — every moment of doubt, every blink of your roving eye, even one “slipup” — is now shown at 10,000 times actual size. (You’re onto this when you say that “other boys wouldn’t turn my head so sharply I wasn’t so worried about doing the right thing in my current relationship.”)

I have married friends whose heads get turned all the time — and even who miss the “newness and sparks” — but they don’t worry their heads over it one bit because they are 100% sure about their actual relationship. In healthy relationships, these blips are nothing, a reflex, part of being human, part of the deal of <gasp> permanent monogamy. Also, in your case, of course you miss the “newness,” because in a sense you never had it — at least not the kind you’re used to, not the kind you’ve stored and savored in the past. That is: the whole thing started online, right?. I am not dissing cyberromance as a pursuit. But let’s be honest here. In your memory, the “newness and sparks” phase is going to sound something like, “Oh, I remember that time when we first started dating, I was sitting at my computer. Oh, and there was that time early on when I was … sitting at my computer.”

I am impressed with the thoughtful analysis you’ve already done; I’m impressed that you two moved so smoothly from sharing a chat room to sharing a bathroom. About his being so jealous and self-righteous, I am a little nervous. About his being so different from the others, not so much. Worst case, you got a little too comfortable with him as Safe Sturdy Reboundy Port in a Storm, and just never left; but you sense that won’t carry the day — or the rest of your life — so voila, you’re antsy. Best case goes something like that of my friend Shannon, who was dating all sorts of Wily Band Boys while Steadfast Friend Boy loved her all along. “I don’t know if I’m done having exciting, annoying adventures,” she told another friend one day. Who responded, “Well, sometimes you have to grow up a little and decide what’s really important.”And reader, she married him. Steadfast Friend Boy. She adores SFB both calmly and passionately. AND Shannon is one of those married friends who looks around. Just looks, admires. AND actually enjoys hearing about her friends’ escapades, because, ruefully, she misses them a little.*And doesn’t worry about any of this one bit .

This couple also fits the description you present in your question about whether two different-but-open people can make a marriage work. Which is because this describes, like, 90% of all marriages. So the answer is yes.

So, listen. It is not weird or alarming that you have doubts. It is useful. Quit worrying about the fact that you have them, or why, and just listen to them. Take out your Life-at-a-Glance and set a date for setting a date. Give yourself some time. The whole relationship hasn’t been that long — as you see from some of the other letters here — and, though this may be small comfort, he isn’t going to wait forever. Meaning that he can go whenever he wants. Meaning that you’re not, like, keeping him hostage against his will while you sort stuff out. If you just can’t bring yourself to do the deed — and I mean, next year, not next week — well, that’s useful data, too. Ponder all this while savoring a filet mignon and a nice warm foot soak. Sigh.

Breakup Girl

*Hint for married friends: this is the welcome opposite of saying “Wow, I don’t even REMEMBER what it was LIKE to date.”

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