Q: I recently met someone who lives in a faraway state. We instantly hit it off and it's been a whirlwind of amazing ever since. It's not the usual "everything is new" excitement -- it's genuine "wow, you really exist" type of excitement, and the distance between us really helps keep the conversations focused. We talk for hours every night, and unlike people who are with each other all the time, we don't get lost in the physical side of things, and we don't take each other's time for granted. At any rate, I've gone to see her once, and she will be moving out here by the end of the year to live with me. She really wanted to get engaged -- she's been very vocal and excited about it -- so I planned a trip for her to come to Boston where I would propose. Well, she arrived and everything was perfect until I was ready to pop the question. She stopped me.
The next day, she was all excited -- had me posting pics of us with "future mrs. ___ " ... and then when the time came, she stopped me again. Then I wasn't in any mood to propose anymore, and as we were leaving, she said she wished we had one more day so we could do what we were supposed to. I traveled back to her state with her, and it was misery. I can't just put on a happy face because I'm hurting, and feel like she never wanted this in the first place. She's mad at herself and also frustrated because her family is on her case about why she doesn’t have the ring on. We both have to deal with our friends, families, and coworkers who all knew what was going to happen, and well, it's pretty awful for me to have to say that she stopped me from proposing. I know she didn't say no, but it still feels like it. She says she is scared, she says she still wants forever and to move out here and start a family; the ring just scares her and she doesn't know why.
Now I'm letting my stubbornness get the best of me. It's not going to feel more right and perfect than it did before. Yes, I love her and want to be with her, I've waited 33 years to meet someone like her and I'm so happy that we have something so special, but at the same time that's tarnished in a way for me, and if she said she wanted to be engaged and pulls this, how can I believe that anything else she says is true? I don't want to open myself up to that hurt and failure again. I hate to say it, but part of me just wants to walk away from this. I know I shouldn't, but what next?
– What Next?, Grafton
A: You use words like "perfect" and "tarnished." And you're both so focused on what other people think. That's troubling.
Things are only perfect when they're controllable and far away (or on Facebook). Once you have someone by your side all of the time, mistakes are made and life gets messy. But you get through it and are hopefully stronger for it. If you can't get used to tarnished, you're not ready for this kind of commitment.
You have every right to be upset that you were lured into a proposal that she clearly didn't want. But this is a great opportunity to find out whether you can communicate through the discomfort. Would she prefer to move without the engagement? Does she want to be engaged -- or is the pressure coming from her community? The answers to these questions are less important to me than her ability to talk it out. If she can't, that's a big red flag.
My advice (not surprisingly) is to take marriage off the table and to make a pact that you'll revisit the issue after you've been living in the same place long enough to know what things look like when they're good and tarnished. Because that's reality. You're supposed to fall in love with the mess and the flaws. Tell her you want to take the pressure off so that you can focus on the relationship as opposed to the proposal. If she doesn't like that, she's in it for the wrong reasons.
Readers? Should he walk? What happened here? Can they rally from this confusion? Were things really so perfect? Advise.
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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.