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Am I manipulating him?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  November 9, 2010 09:16 AM

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Q: Hello Meredith,

I'll just jump right in. I've been dating "Tom" for more than three years now. He's in his early 40s and I'm in my early 30s. Neither of us have ever been married. We've been living together for about a year, the first for both of us. We've been talking about and looking for houses, and over the course of conversation about the houses, kids have been brought up (mostly by me, but occasionally by him).

Everything was going great until last night, when I brought up marriage. I said, "So we've talked about the house and the kids … what about that other thing that goes with it?" I honestly felt safe bringing it up since we'd already gone there in my mind. He freaked out. He said that I was manipulating him and backing him into a corner, and that the only thing that he could say to a question like that is "yes, I want to marry you." He also said that if and when he decides he wants to marry me is entirely up to him.

This is just absolutely crushing to me. I know that all of his previous relationships (and there were several long ones) ended because the girls wanted to get married. I honestly thought that since we had already been talking about houses and kids that we were on the same page, and obviously we're not. I'm at a complete loss. I thought that I could go there. The only resolution in his mind for the argument was for me to apologize for manipulating him. I told him that I could not apologize in good conscience for something that I honestly didn't feel like I was doing. My questions are as follows. Was it wrong of me to bring it up? Am I manipulating him? Should it be his decision solely if and when he decides?

– Susie, Boston

A: Susie, you're not manipulating him. The word "marriage" obviously makes him lose his marbles. You were not wrong to bring it up. He was wrong to punish you.

He behaved like a baby. He said some ridiculous things. But your question -- the "what about that other thing that goes with it?" question -- it was a request for a proposal, right? He might not be ready for that.

Don't apologize, but do have the conversation again. Explain that you're overwhelmed and confused by his response. You're not trying to trap him. You're just hoping that growing old together is a possibility. Why else would you be buying a house together? Marriage aside -- how does he feel about maybe spending the rest of his life with you? How does he feel about sticking around? What does the house hunt mean to him? My advice is to be as specific as you can with your questions. Tell him that "I don't know" is always an acceptable answer.

If he really can't have the conversation, well, then I'm at a loss, too. Manipulating him? Come on. You're allowed to ask tough questions. He doesn't have to have answers, but he's not supposed to yell at you.

Readers? Is this about how she asked the question? Was she being manipulative? Does his reaction mean that he’ll never commit? How can she deal with his irrational reaction? Should she apologize? Discuss.

– Meredith

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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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