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Hax: Study yourself for marriage question

Fri., Oct. 22, 2010

Dear Carolyn: I have been with my boyfriend for two and a half years, living together for one. Things have been really great, and while a lot of our friends have been getting married, we have managed to keep out of the “timeline” craziness. Our approach has been “Things are great, so what’s the rush?”

But my feelings are starting to change. It’s not that I suddenly feel I want to be married now, it is more that I suddenly feel the need to decide about getting married – in general and to him.

Rationally, I know there is no way to guarantee this 100 percent, but I am putting our relationship under a microscope, trying to find a 100 percent type of answer. I want a guarantee that he and I won’t end up yelling at each other about who needed to get the milk (as some married friends recently did in the middle of a dinner party).

Is there something wrong with me that I can’t just relax? – Boston

It’s great that you recognize herd behavior (marriage during the magic window of age-appropriateness), and see other people’s meltdowns as lessons you can apply at home. But then you hit a wall.

That’s because studying your relationship won’t reveal guarantees – for example, that you won’t take your stresses out on each other forever. You need to put yourself under that microscope, to make sure you, personally, both manage your stress well and refuse, compassionately and firmly, to be the dumping ground for someone else’s stress.

Likewise, your home life with your boyfriend won’t tell you whether you’re destined to yell over milk. Your ability to articulate what matters to you, and speak up when you feel wronged, is what will keep your hard feelings from mutating into snippy competitive rage. People who feel understood and appreciated don’t argue their marital cases before a jury of their peers.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.


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