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I'll Leave it Up to You

by: Jim Duzak, JD.

Dear Jim: My boyfriend and I are in our late thirties and have been together for three years. He’s a real sweetheart, and he’s the only man I’ve ever seriously wanted to be married to. We met through eHarmony.com and we had both said in our profiles that commitment and marriage were what we were seeking. But now, he’s avoiding any conversation about our long-term future.

There’s no real reason he should be scared of marriage. His parents and older brothers all have great marriages, and he has never had a bad breakup or anything else that would make him nervous. There’s definitely no other woman involved, either. I love him with all my heart, but I don’t want to be in the same situation five or ten years from now, or even one year from now. Should I issue an ultimatum? Or would that be counter-productive?

Dear Colleen: You’ve got to be careful when issuing an ultimatum, especially to a man. If you make him feel under attack, he’ll go into defensive mode (“Are you threatening me?”) and shift the attention away from the issue at hand. Another problem with an ultimatum is that it paints the person making it into a corner. If you give him until such-and-such a date to make a commitment, and that date comes and goes without one, then what? You’re forced to either take immediate action (i.e., break up with him,) or have your credibility weakened. It would be hard to issue a second ultimatum in the future if you’ve failed to follow through on the first one.

Instead, what I recommend is making a simple statement the next time you have a conversation about marriage that’s clearly going nowhere: “OK, I’ll leave it up to you.” This is not an ultimatum, per se, because it doesn’t set a deadline or spell out any consequences. But it sounds like an ultimatum, and it makes the person on the receiving end a little uncomfortable. If he asks what you mean, tell him that you’ve said everything you can possibly say about marriage and how important it is to you. You’re tired of talking about it and you’ll just let him make the decision. If he wants to know what will happen if he doesn’t make a decision to get married, just say that you’ll have to think about it, but you’re not willing to have the issue drag on forever. Explain that you’d hate to see the two of you break up because of it, and that the last thing you want is to start over with someone new. But if you’re forced to — you will.

This way, the ball is in his court. You’ve let him know that this is something that could mean the end of your relationship, but you haven’t been more specific than that. If he truly wants a long-term future with you, he’ll take some action, even if it’s initially just opening up to you in a sincere way. But if he continues to avoid the subject, at some point, you’d be within your rights to say that you’ve waited as long as you possibly can and that it’s time to move on. For your sake, I hope it doesn’t come to that, but the last thing you need is to have your frustration grow with every passing month and year.

I hope this helps, Colleen. Good luck!

Here is another article by Jim discussing the hidden secrets behind an unsatisfying marriage.

Jim is a graduate of Boston College Law School, and practiced divorce law in Boston for over twenty years. After moving to Arizona, he became a full-time mediator for the family and divorce court in Phoenix.

His experience in working with divorcing couples, plus his own life experiences---he was a 20 year-old husband and father and a single father for several years after his divorce---prompted Jim to write a book entitled, Mid-Life Divorce and the Rebirth of Commitment, that helps people avoid divorce by teaching better ways to communicate and resolve disputes.

Jim is currently an advice columnist, relationship writer, and personal coach. He is a contributing expert atHopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, and LAFamily.com. He also puts on workshops dealing with marriage, divorce, post-divorce dating, and other aspects of men-women relationships. His website is attorneyatlove.com.

 

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