I am 50 my boyfriend is 48. We have been dating 14 months, very involved in each other’s families especially the children. It appeared as though we were moving in the direction of marriage, although I never brought it up. He was very committed to our relationship, including me in every aspect of his life. He is a wonderful professional man, spiritual, and very family oriented. He has spoken often about our future together, his dreams and expectations, and wants to one day get married. I thought he meant me.

We worked very hard with preparations for his entire family (14 people) to stay at my house for thanksgiving holidays. It was wonderful but stressful. After all had left he began to pull back. I asked him where this relationship was going. He seemed a bit irritable with the question and says he doesn’t know if he can love me the way I need him to. He says needs a break, and I was hurt but willing to give this to him. Since then he still contacts me, spent Christmas with my kids and me and gave us all very generous gifts. He is seeing a counselor, has cried and says he doesn’t know what’s wrong, cant imagine not having me in his life.

He realizes he is depressed and has left for Texas to be with his family. He is very family oriented. I love him and want the best for him…He is worth waiting for and although it’s hurting I want to wait. Is he just afraid to take this step? Does he need this time for reflection before taking the plunge? He is sad and seems afraid. Can you tell me what does this mean? Please help with some insight.

Thank you…

Vacation

A lot of relationships can be tested on vacations.

Hello Susan!

First, I NEVER recommend that anyone make life-changing (or enhancing) decisions during the holidays! Things are just too stressful and the pressure to “do the right thing” is awesome. Yet, few people take this advice, and do just what you did; start trying to get some commitment from their partners during this confusing time – knowing deep down that this confusion exists – and that you may get him to commit beyond what you might otherwise.

Did you sense some anger from him when you asked? Probably (and rightfully) so! While most men can’t express this verbally, they intuitively recognize the pressure asserted due to the expectations the holidays bring. Along with the tensions created by the season including family, friends, parties, getting just the right gift, etc., etc., he now has to deal with his future with you! That’s a lot to heap on all at one time.

My suggestion is to give him (and yourself) a couple of weeks into the new year to let things settle down. At least by the end of January you both should have clearer visions of what you want. That would be a good time to start looking to the future.

Let me add this however: marriage is only one “format” for relationships! There is a natural tendency, (particularly on the part of women) to see everything progressing toward marriage. However, as I tell people all the time, there aren’t too many divorces, there are too many marriages!

If your relationship is otherwise good, (or even great), what do you hope to gain specifically from a marriage that you don’t already have? Marriages don’t necessarily make relationships better, and often do just the opposite.