I don’t know if I want to marry him, which is ultimately my end goal, but can you really know after five months? If I were 22, maybe it’d be different. I’m not urgently rushing to get married but, sure, in the next four to five years, yes. He’s the first for everything sexually for me except kissing. It’s been fun. But I’m concerned that the hormones and oxytocin are clouding my judgment and since he’s my first and it’s new and exciting, that’s why I’m still feeling this “chemistry.” We have fun on our dates. He’s also really affectionate, which, I hate to admit, is nice.
There are some things we need to figure out, like culture and religion, though we have lightly talked about this. But there’s no point talking about it if I think we should break up. I know you don’t need a reason to break up with somebody, but if I had to pick one, the only reason would be because I can’t picture marriage yet. I’ve given myself a six-month deadline, though I dread that coming up. I also don’t want to waste his time or mine. But I’m just not ready yet to break up. I’m afraid I’m getting attached. What is chemistry? Are all his good qualities enough to outweigh some lesser physical attraction?
Thanks for your advice. — Not Sure about Marriage Yet
There’s something going on here that you need to get to the bottom of before you can have a happy, healthy, successful relationship. The facts that at 28 you’ve never, ever been in any kind of relationship until now, that you pursued dating this guy because he “didn’t disgust you,” that you’ve given yourself a six-month deadline — on your first relationship! — to decide whether you want to marry your boyfriend, that you “hate to admit” that the affection you’re getting is nice, and that you don’t seem to be very physically attracted to your boyfriend and think that any chemistry you’re feeling may be attributed to the newness of finally being physically intimate with someone all suggest some unhealthy attitudes toward intimacy, relationships, marriage, and, ultimately sex. You mention religion and culture only as some things you need to “figure out” with your boyfriend, so I don’t know how much religion and culture have played into your love life — or lack thereof — but is it possible you’ve been taught to feel some shame around affection and intimacy? Have you been raised to believe that marriage is the ultimate goal and that “good on paper” is the best predictor for a good match? I wonder if you’ve ruled out better matches for yourself because they didn’t fit into whatever box you thought a potential spouse should fit into. Do you even know what or whom you’re attracted to? Are you sure you’re even straight? These are questions that might best be addressed in therapy or, if you’re particularly religious, with a clergy person or other members of your faith.
You don’t need a reason to break up with someone, but if you did, you have a few reasons that are more compelling than not being able to picture marriage yet with someone you’ve known for five months. Top of the list, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the guy but entirely with you, and that’s that you might not be ready for a serious relationship yet. You have nagging doubts, you can’t decipher what true chemistry feels like, you’re concerned that the newness of the relationship is clouding your judgment — all of these things are related to your lack of experience and not really knowing what it is you truly want, and maybe to not giving yourself permission to experiment.
It’s like if you’ve been thirsty all your life and someone finally gives you a glass of milk to drink and your thirst is quenched to a degree, but you aren’t sure you even like milk or if you just like not feeling so thirsty all the time. You know there are lots of other beverages to try: water, juice, tea, coffee, lemonade, even alcohol. But for some reason, you’re like, “Nope, I’ve got this milk here and it’s not terrible, so I’m going to give it one more month and see if I want to spend my life drinking milk forever and never try anything else.” That makes no sense. Drink some damn lemonade. Try some coffee. Live on the edge and have a beer. There’s a whole world of liquid goodness and you might find one that satisfies you like you can’t even imagine because you’ve never let yourself think about that kind of pleasure.
Look, there will always be milk — if not the glass you’re currently consuming, then another. I know it may not seem like it because you were 28 before you let yourself taste it, but that was your own doing. You were afraid of the milk. You were afraid of all the drinks. Milk was the safest and so you tried it and good for you. But I think if you let yourself take some more risks and try some different beverages, the pay-off is going to be pretty great. Might you try something that isn’t so great? Sure. There might be a lemonade that’s too sour or a whisky that burns going down. You will survive. And you’ll learn about what you don’t like, which is as important as learning what you do like. Right now, all you know is that milk is fine. It’s nothing special, but it’s something and that’s better than nothing. I say keep looking for special. There are lots of varieties of drinks and there’s one for you that will not only quench your thirst, but also will erase all doubts that you’ve found your favorite.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.