I’ve been dating my boyfriend now for a year and a half. He says he wants to marry me, but that he wants me to wait because he’s saving for school which means a ring can’t happen right now. … The thought of investing another 2 1/2 years with no commitment to marriage terrifies me. I’m 27 and I don’t want to date for four years. My question is this: Am I wrong not to want to date him for another two years unless we’re engaged?
-Lady in Waiting
Hello Lady, thanks for writing in and asking such a great question. A question that, I know, will certainly resonate with many others who are playing the waiting game with you. Before I answer the question of if you’re “wrong to not want to date him for another two years,” let’s explore all the angles.
Let’s talk about this boyfriend of yours. Now wait, before you roll your eyes and grumble that he’s making you wait forever to put a ring on it—let’s talk about his motivations.
First, he’s clearly motivated by you. We know this because in your question you casually dropped that “he wants to marry me.” Lady—THIS IS A BIG DEAL. Do you know how hard it is to overcome the fears of commitment and the voices of doubt in a way that actually allows you to express that you want to marry someone? Furthermore, do you know how hard it is for someone to state those feelings in a way that the other person (that’s you) just fully believes and accepts it as truth? He loves you and is motivated to be your husband. That’s significant.
Second, he’s motivated to be fiscally responsible in the relationship. This is a good thing, a very good thing. As any couple who has ever struggled with finances can tell you, stress over money is relational cancer. Seriously. There are very few things that can eat away at a great relationship like the perils of overspending and debt. The fact that he cares about this is yet further proof that the relationship matters to him.
But this isn’t just about him. What about you?
A year and a half is a long time. Now to an outsider, it actually seems like a somewhat reasonable amount of time to be dating. But for you, I can totally see how dating that long without engagement could be difficult. And of course, waiting another two and a half years seems like having the climb the Mount Everest of patience. It makes sense, you love this person and seem to be clear in your heart that he’s your husband—so why not be at least be engaged?
I mean, if you know you’re going to be married, why not be forthright about your intentions for each other? Even if he doesn’t have a ring (or maybe a less expensive one?) you could still consider engagement. It makes sense, Lady, that for you to stay committed for the long haul, a bit of return commitment might be nice. Four years is a lot of life to live and a lot of love to give to someone whose actions don’t fully align with his words.
So you’re right. And, he’s right. Which means …
You’re Both Right
Welcome to Marriage Training 101. Your first lesson: Figuring out what the heck you should do when there’s a stalemate in the relationship and everyone seems to be doing the right things. Oh yes friend, this will not be the first time you experience this issue. Life often hands great couples moments where things aren’t as they should be, even though, on paper, all is well.
Maybe it’ll be when you and your husband realize one day that you’ve become more roommates than lovers—and for no good reason. Maybe you’ll have a child and wrestle through parenting that kid in a way that feels right for you as individuals, but for some reason isn’t quite working for you as a couple. Who knows how it’ll look for you going forward. All I do know is that this won’t be the first time you have to do the hard work of coming to resolution when nobody is wrong.
In short, communicate. And if at the end of those conversations there’s no movement, keep communicating. And if that fails—well—you know what to do. Keep working, keep talking, keep having difficult conversations, and keep doing whatever it is you need to do to come to a better understanding of where the other one is.
Because from what I can tell, he’s a good guy with a practical desire to stay financially responsible, even in engagement. However, there may be more to that story. Maybe not. But maybe? Either way, you need to know this, and he needs to tell you. Conversely, you seem to be a reasonable person who wants to marry the man she loves—which is wonderful! But might his waiting on engagement signal something more than financial responsibility and trigger some doubt in you? I don’t know. But you do, and so should he.
The currency of great relationships is communication. If you are truly going to build anything lasting, you have to learn how to be brutally honest with each other and persevere through these seasons. You may learn that he’s not your husband, which would be hard. But, you may also learn that both of you want the same thing and simply need to reconfigure your timelines a bit to serve the other one better. In any event, the marriage you want begins with the ability to communicate honestly and effectively.
Good luck, Lady.
Have a question? Good! Send an email to [email protected]. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.
Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.