Dear Dr. Chani,
My question is very time-sensitive. I have been dating a guy seriously for a few months and he recently told me that I need to make a decision about getting engaged or he will break up with me. I’m not sure what to do.
I have been dating for several years, and this is not the first time that I dated someone who wanted to marry me. Each time I dated someone over a few months, I came to the conclusion that I was not interested. I can understand why this guy is concerned that I will eventually break up with him, but I cannot bring myself to commit to him. I have some reservations and nagging feelings that something isn’t right.
The guy I’m dating confided that he previously dated a girl for a long time and then she ended it. He was very emotionally scarred by that experience, so he’s afraid to go through that again. The people he speaks to for advice told him to give me a deadline to make a decision to get engaged or not.
Should I push myself to make a decision soon? I’m afraid that if I let him go I will miss an opportunity and regret it later.
It is very difficult to go through many serious relationships during your dating experience. It can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. You probably wish that this guy is the one who you will finally marry, and you would love to get engaged. At the same time, something doesn’t feel right to you. You do not feel ready to make a commitment to marry him. In this case, you need to take the time to explore what is holding you back.
One of the reasons you might be demurring to get engaged is because there is something bothering you about the guy. While everyone will tell you that “nobody is perfect,” this does not imply that you should marry someone when you feel something isn’t right.
Before you make a decision, you need to clearly recognize what is bothering you. When you realize what is bothering you, you may determine that it is problematic enough that you do not want to marry him. On the other hand, you may choose to marry him anyway.
Either way, you need to be in touch with what is bothering you. Often, when you identify what is bothering you and you label it, you are able to see it in a different light or from a different perspective and resolve your feelings. You may see that what is bothering you as insignificant in light of everything that you like about the person you are dating. You may move past whatever is bothering you and decide to marry him.
Another major reason why you might not feel ready to commit is because of something within you that is unrelated to him. You may feel anxiety about making this monumental decision. You may not feel sure about what you need in a life partner and what is relatively unimportant for you. You may be worried about what other people will think about your decision to marry him. You may not feel ready to get married right now for many other reasons. It is essential that you explore your feelings about your relationship and about getting married and figure out what is holding you back.
Ask the person you are dating to give you the time you need to feel ready to make this commitment. Explain to him that you understand how he feels about dating you when you are uncertain if it will work out. Let him know that you are sincerely interested in him and in figuring out if you would like to marry him. You just need time to make this decision.
Ask him if he could give you another month or two before bringing up the topic of making a decision again. You both need to relax and enjoy getting to know each other better so that you will be able to make this decision. Hopefully, he will allow himself to patiently appreciate the opportunity to date you while you make up your mind.
It is important to bring up to him that even though his family, friends or mentors told him to give you an ultimatum out of their concern for him, it is his responsibility to have concern for you—the girl he is dating—and to understand and support you while you take the time you need to feel comfortable with your decision. If he is unable to withstand the emotional strain of dating you in the midst of uncertainty, he needs to find someone who can support him through the process so that you can have the time you need.
If he cannot give you the time you need, it might feel unfortunate, but perhaps it is best for you to move on. You cannot rush into what is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. While it may seem overwhelming to you right now, and you may feel like you are giving up a great person, it is better to move on than to feel pressured into committing to someone you are not ready to marry right now.
I hope that the person you are dating will give you the freedom to explore your feelings and clarify the direction in which you want to go. However, if he holds firm to his ultimatum, even though you might feel torn about giving up a great guy, do not rush to make a premature decision. Instead, grow from your experience by continuing to explore what held you back in this relationship so that you will be ready to joyfully commit to the right person in the future.
Wishing you much success,
Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist and relationship coach specializing in teaching emotional connection and communication skills for over two decades. She coaches individuals and couples, teaches courses on how to become a master of relationships and provides free relationship resources at chanimaybruch.com. Learn a step-by-step method to improve your ability to emotionally connect with her online course: The RELATE Technique™—Seven Steps to Emotionally Connect Through Conversation. Reach out to her at [email protected]