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He won't talk about it

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  February 1, 2011 08:30 AM

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I don't think this letter writer is lying about being a lawyer. Lots of evidence here.


Q: Dear Meredith,

I'm going to throw out a few disclosures to your readers, just to get some of the obvious concerns/details out of the way:

1. Me: 30, lawyer. "Dave": 32, engineer
2. Dating: a few years, friends prior
3. Live together, generally same values (family, financial, etc.)

Aside from the occasional discord, there are no major "deal-breaker" problems. Then again, there has to be something, otherwise I wouldn't be writing to you. I am certainly in no rush to get married, but Dave and I are floundering and need help moving in that direction.

We are both at the point in our lives where we want to get married. I've "known" since I met him that I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life; as he says, I'm much more in touch with (and likely to discuss and analyze) my emotions than he is. Totally fine. My parents' marriage was -- and continues to be -- awful. My mom used to confide in me a lot when I was growing up (OK, not healthy to do but that's in the past), and I became very aware of relationships at a young age, which carried over into the way I look at relationships today. Dave's parents had similar problems from what I can tell -- they never talked about things, would sneak around with finances, and eventually divorced.

A year or so ago, I started to ask Dave about his future goals, where he wanted to be in life, etc. If he felt the conversation starting to veer into the M-word, he instantly closed up. He admits that he closed up and proposed talking about one or two topics a week before thinking about getting engaged. Excellent, but he hasn't brought up anything over the last six weeks since this conversation came up again.

My questions are two-fold: (1) Do I have to get over myself and take the initiative to broach these topics again? (2) If so, does anyone have recommendations about where to start and what things (other than the obvious family/kids, religion, financials) to talk about? Counseling is probably a good place to start; I'm hesitant to suggest my pastor as Dave does not embrace my faith.

My biggest fear is that I feel like this should be easier to talk about ... and once upon a year ago, I wasn't really afraid to discuss. Perhaps I'm over-analyzing, but I just want to feel like I'm with someone who wants to be with me and is moving toward the same life goals.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

– Wanting to get married without pressuring, Quincy

A: Wow. I love when you read 90 percent of a letter and think that you know everything and then -- boom! -- there's talk of religious differences.

WTGMWP, I don't think that Dave's lack of interest in your faith is a deal-breaker, but it's certainly a big thing. Perhaps religion is on a long list of problems that he doesn't want to discuss because he fears that a conversation will lead to him losing you … or keeping you forever. Both options are understandably scary.

My advice is -- you guessed it -- to get some therapy. Not with your pastor but with a non-religious third-party. I'd also ditch the idea of talking about two marital topics a week. That idea stresses me out big time.

Here's the thing (and please repeat this to Dave using your best lawyer voice): This planning stuff -- it's supposed to be fun. Yes, deciding whether to commit to someone for life is scary, but it's also sort of cool. The planning isn't just about anticipating conflict, it's about choosing where you might want to live with someone, or whether you plan to buy a house with a hot tub. It's about imaging a life with kids -- or what you'll do with your money if you decide not to have them. These talks are supposed to be about figuring out everything you want, not what you don't want.

Get him to a therapist's office so that he can talk about the big stuff in a safe place. But before you do that, sit down with him and make the fun list -- everything from how often you both want to have sex in a marriage to where you'd take vacations. The cool stuff. Don't forget about the good because you're both so worried about the big questions.

Readers? Why doesn't he want to talk about this stuff? How have their families influenced the problem? What do you think of the two-topics-a-week idea? Can the marriage talk ever be fun? 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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