Fast forward to last year, and his younger brother gets married. Then my sister gets engaged, followed shortly by my brother. I’m super happy for them, but I can’t help but feel a little sad that I’m not there yet. My boyfriend and I have been together longer than either of my siblings have been with their significant others and only slightly less long than my boyfriend’s brother has been with his. I didn’t bring up any of this, but my boyfriend came to me and nervously “joked” how the pressure was on. I told him the absolute last thing I want is to be proposed to under pressure. I said I only want him to propose if he really, truly wants to marry me and thinks I’m worth it. He was relieved. He even said he was glad they got engaged, because now that gives him “another year, at least.”
Now as my siblings’ wedding plans progress, so do my worries about our relationship. I find myself scrutinizing my boyfriend daily in my head, getting frustrated over his lack of career (he hates work and has no ambition to do more with his professional life), his willingness to quit things early when things get tough (he left college when he was one semester away from graduating), his social anxiety (he can’t be anywhere crowded or he becomes beyond unpleasant), his frequent money management issues (I bail him out all the time), and even his relationship with his mom (I actually love his mom, but I do feel like she coddles him too much). I know I’m such a jerk for thinking this way, and I hate even more that I’ve become less attracted to him as a result of it. I know I’m not perfect either, and I keep trying to remind myself of that, but it’s not helping much. I wish I could go back to just loving him blindly.
With my siblings’ marriages pending, I just know that we’re going to have to fend off a lot of “when will it be your turn?” My family adores him, so I know they’d definitely like to see it happen. But at this rate, I’m now worried that if it ever does, it’ll be because he felt pressured and not because he genuinely wanted it. Am I just overthinking because of my siblings’ situations? Or, is my relationship doomed? — Stressed and Sad
You, like a lot of people in your position who’ve been in a relationship for a while and are watching their peers get engaged, get married, essentially move forward, are asking the wrong question(s). The two explicit questions you ask here get close to the real question but don’t hit the bull’s eye, and the implicit questions you’re asking are completely wrong for figuring out what it is you want to know.
Explicitly, you’re asking whether you’re overthinking things because your siblings have recently gotten engaged and whether your relationship is doomed. I don’t think you are “over” thinking anything, but it’s not a leap to say that your siblings’ recent engagements – to people they’ve been dating less than you’ve been dating your boyfriend – have triggered some contemplation on your part about the state of your own relationship. And if you’re thinking about your relationship through the lens of “why are we not engaged yet?”, then wondering whether it’s doomed isn’t such a leap either, especially if there are no signs of forward movement. In fact, your boyfriend, by saying that these recent engagements have bought him “at least a year” to put off proposing to you is suggesting that any forward movement is still a ways off.
It’s understandable, given all this, that you’re questioning your relationship. The questions you’re posing, though – to me, but most of all to yourself – are not the ones that are going to get the crux of the issue here. Instead, I suggest you ask yourself whether you want to build a future with your boyfriend, whether you want to spend your life with him. You focus a lot on your boyfriend’s feelings about proposing, and about your own feelings about his proposing – you don’t want him to feel pressured, you want him to propose because he wants to marry you, because he thinks you’re “worth it.” But what about your own feelings about getting engaged? What do you want?
As you think about these questions, I want you to pay particular attention to two things. The first is the issues you outline in your third paragraph. Your boyfriend isn’t perfect and you have a list of the things that you don’t like about him. But no one’s perfect, right? So that brings us to the second thing I want you to think about, especially in relationship to all the issues you have with your boyfriend: Is he worth it? It’s a question you ask about yourself in relation to him. You want to feel “worth it” to him. And I think of that term in two ways, and maybe you do, too. First is the idea that we all have value, and you would hope that in your partner’s eyes your positive attributes exceed your negative ones so that you are of high value to him, an asset in life and in love.
The second way I think of the term “worth it” is whether a relationship is worth the energy it takes to “make it work” and move it forward. I can’t tell from your letter how hard either of you is actually working at your relationship, and maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe you’re both in a holding pattern, withholding the effort it takes to move a relationship forward, because neither of you has decided whether the relationship is “worth” the energy it would take to move it forward: the sacrifice; the self-reflection; the honest and open communication; the compromises; the giving up of certain fantasies to embrace the reality – fully embrace the reality – of the person you love, limitations and flaws and all.
The question is not whether you are “worth it.” The question is not whether your relationship is doomed. It’s not even whether you’re overthinking things simply because your siblings are recently engaged. The questions you want to ask yourself are whether you want to marry your boyfriend and whether the relationship is worth the effort it would take to move things forward to a place where a marriage could be successful and happy. You can answer “no, not yet” to the first question while still answering “yes” to the second, and you can spend a while actually putting effort into your relationship to see if the answer to the first question changes. But if it doesn’t, or if your answer to the second question is “no” already, I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s probably time to MOA, move on already.