Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My boyfriend and I have been together for four years. Heading into the holiday season, I fully expected a proposal, and I didn't get one. We've talked at length about getting married. We've lived together practically the entire time we were dating. We have a dog together. We share a car. I feel like we're doing everything married couples do – we just aren't married. I've told him very plainly that it's incredibly important to me to be his wife, and to solidify our commitment. Some of that comes down to legalities – I've heard horror stories where a partner gets ill or dies and you don't have any power or control in the situation. But more than that, I'm so in love with him. I love him, I want to marry him and have children with him, and I don't want to have kids if we aren't married.
I was pretty sad when he didn't ask me to marry him on either Christmas or New Year's Eve. He could tell I was upset but I brushed it off, said I wasn't feeling well, and I haven't brought it up since. I am in my early 30s. I feel like I am ready to take a big step forward. I really want to be a mother and have kids and I want to do it with him, but as more time passes I just feel like we aren't on the same page and I don't know what to do.
To make matters worse, one of my best friends got engaged at New Year's. She's only been with her boyfriend for a little over a year. I want to be happy for her but am so jealous instead. I don't know how to get past that. She wants me to help her plan a wedding and every conversation about it makes me feel almost sick, and just brings to focus that my partner doesn't love me enough to marry me, while hers does.
Any advice you have would be great.
First, let's talk about your BFF. Your feelings of jealousy are understandable. It's hard when someone else gets what we so desperately want. It may leave us feeling despairing and angry. Boy can I relate. In kindergarten, all I wanted for Christmas was a doll called Pretty Cut & Grow. This crazy cool doll had a nob on her back you'd turn to make more hair come out of her head, so you could give her various haircuts and styles. Alas, I didn't get the doll, but my best friend did. I was so envious that when my friend left the room, I took that doll, turned the nob until it wouldn't turn anymore, and chopped off all that doll's hair.
Did I feel better? Nope. I felt horrible actually. And you will likewise feel worse the more you act all frowny-face about your gal pal's great news. Covet your friend's shiny ring all you want, but it won't make you feel better; in fact, misery begets more misery, and throwing shade on her happy glow will only leave you feeling worse.
So as much as you can, try to be happy for your friend, as she would for you if the role was reversed. Relationships don't operate on the same speed, and just because they were ready to get hitched in a year doesn't mean your boyfriend is ready after 4 years. Frankly, he may not be ready, ever. Some people simply don't hold marriage as a priority or end game. Does he? This is an important conversation to have. In the meantime, it sounds like he's getting basically everything a guy could want out of a relationship without having to permanently commit. Or it could be he fully intends to marry you but has some of his own barriers blocking the forward progress – like he wants to first be able to afford your dream wedding, or earn a certain promotion at work, or have a certain amount of cash in savings.
These conversations can be awkward and scary, but the only way to know if you're on the same page is to have a frank conversation. You sound like you know what you want. It's OK to ask for it. And if he can't or won't give it to you, you'll have to make some hard decisions about whether to move on, or to postpone or alter future plans for present-day happiness.
Lesson 1: Don't leave your toys alone with Wanda.
Lesson 2: Celebrate, don't player hate.
Lesson 3: Don't assume your partner knows what you want if you haven't told her or him.
Right now, your boyfriend is feeling absolutely zero pressure. In his mind, you guys are basically married anyway. You literally listed all of the makings of your happily settled partnership. And you also internalized your disappointment and anger at not getting a recent proposal, as well as your frustration at your friend getting an engagement before you. So what do you expect him to do? He's cruising along relationship Easy Street. No way this dude is going to suddenly swing into the fast lane.
The last thing he wants to do is add stress to his life or shake up this relationship. You know what's stressful? Saving for an engagement ring, shopping for an engagement ring and buying an engagement ring. Also stressful: getting really creative and figuring out a way to propose that will knock your socks off. And then he's got to worry about how you'll respond to the ring and to the proposal, followed by quickly shifting concerns about how much the wedding will cost and how big of a pain in the neck the whole thing is going to be.
Unnecessary stress, man.
Unless he's struck by romantic inspiration, he'll ride this out forever. So the first person you should have a talk with is yourself. You clearly know what you want. So what are you going to do about the situation? And when are you going to let him know how you really feel? Once you have the answers, it's time to talk with him. If your partnership is as strong and easygoing as you make it out to be, it should be a pretty easy conversation that shifts him into high gear and kicks him to the curb of the nearest jeweler.
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