Dear Carolyn: So, I had a wonderful boyfriend until a few days ago. He was so wonderful that I wanted to marry him. For the past year, instead of sending the message that I adored him and therefore wanted to marry him, I accidentally sent the message that I wanted to get married, full stop, and what the heck was taking him so long anyway?
This might be the biggest mistake I’ve ever made, and I didn’t fully realize I was making it until he told me I was pressuring him too much and asked me for a break (with minimal contact) to work through his feelings.
After a few days alone with my thoughts, I’m all too aware of how much I was pressuring him and am actually surprised he didn’t pull away sooner. I’m doing the best I can to honor the no-contact request (only two slip-ups and no more anticipated), and I otherwise plan to wait out the month, do some thinking of my own, and hopefully get back together with a renewed appreciation for what a wonderful man I had. Am I expecting too much here? Is this just the first step to breaking up for good?
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I can’t know what he intends.
I can counsel you, though, against “expecting” anything. It’s your preoccupation with outcome over process that put you in this place to begin with, so please break that habit.
It’s a hard one to break, I get it, especially when you are so close to a vision of what you want — but look at it from his perspective. Do you want to be the fulfillment of someone’s vision, or do you want to be you? In many, often subtle ways, they are mutually exclusive. When you pursue a vision of your life, your mind is constantly filtering information based on how it does and doesn’t fit the vision.
That opens you up to a couple of problems, including frustration with a guy for deviating from your vision when you’d be fine with his choices if you weren’t under self-imposed pressure to follow a script.
And, you also run the risk of just not seeing facets of him that don’t fit your vision. It is never a good idea to bet against the power of our own minds, and when you’re invested in seeing someone in a certain way, it’s not only possible but very common to mentally white-out aspects of his character, emotional makeup or lifestyle, or whatever else doesn’t fit.
But they’re still there, whether you let yourself see them or not, and eventually you will have to reckon with them. Often that reckoning comes years into a relationship that would have taken a different course if you had seen these traits for what they were from the beginning.
You seem to recognize your error, but I’m not sure you recognize the full implications of what you were doing. You don’t need just to back off on the marriage pressure; you need to let yourself see your boyfriend fully, based only on the understanding that wanting to marry him so badly automatically closed you off to crucial information. Use this time to dismantle your assumptions, and see whether that changes anything.
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