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The Rules of Engagement

Dear Sugar
I have been dating my boyfriend for three years but we have been in each other's lives for the past ten years. We are each other's high school sweethearts and although we have had our moments apart, we have always made it back to each other.

It seems like everyone around us is getting engaged but me, and although we are only 24, I am ready to take our relationship to the next level. We have talked about marriage many times in the hypothetical sense, but my boyfriend always says we are too young to talk about it seriously.

Just last night I found out that yet another friend of ours is engaged after knowing his girlfriend for only six months and I just flipped out. I finally told my boyfriend about all the pressure I have been feeling and that his reluctance of talking about our future is extremely disconcerting and something had to change.

After hours of conversation and tears, he finally told me that he didn't want to lose me and although he isn't ready to pop the question quite yet, he loves me and knows I am the one for him. He is my best friend, my lover and the only person I want to be with too, but it is like pulling teeth to get him to open up and be honest about his feelings.

Am I being foolish by staying with him even though he can't make a commitment to me or should I take this behavior as a sign of a lifetime of more and more waiting and get out of this relationship now? I am so upset that I have been with him for three years and he is still unsure if he wants to marry me. Wishful Thinking Wendy

To see DEARSUGAR's answer

Dear Wishful Thinking Wendy
I am sorry you are feeling this conflict with your boyfriend. Is he from a broken home? Something tells me he has issues with a life long commitment. Feeling like you are the only one without a ring on your finger can be disheartening, but try not to get too carried away, and stay focused on the relationship at hand.

There is no right time to get engaged, everyone is different, but is important for you both to be ready. It sounds like you need to make sure you are on the same page for your future. Since your boyfriend is having a hard time expressing his emotions, try to make him feel safe and secure when you open the lines of communication.

The pressure of engagement can be extremely overwhelming so I understand your desire to want more security from your boyfriend. Since you have no doubt that he is the one for you, he needs to figure out if he feels the same way ASAP.

Three years is a long time to be with someone so let him know that although you understand he isn't ready for an engagement, you deserve to know if he feels his future lies with you. Good luck, I hope everything works out for you.

Join The Conversation
SugaSista SugaSista 10 years
I agree with Katie225 in that you should not pressure your boyfriend to marry you. As to the idea that "Marriage means nothing", I'm going to put that in one of those "off-limits" buckets, along with "is there a God" and "should George Bush recognize gay marriages". The point is, all three topics are really matters of personal opinion that don't technically affect anyone other than the individual people involved on a case by case basis. Here's a good piece of advice: If you think Marriage means Nothing, then don't get married. If you think otherwise, choose wisely. So Wendy: looking through all the comments, I think it's safe to say that no one here thinks you should pressure your boyfriend to marry you. I'm simply saying, be honest with yourself when you evaluate your relationship and make a decision as to whether you're willing to pass up another few years of meeting other eligible young bachelors while you wait for your boyfriend to make up his mind. If you decide to stick it out, great. If I were you, I would give it another six months and then start seeing other people if steps haven't been made in the right direction. But that's just me. Maybe I watched too much disney growing up, but I don't settle for anything. Lots of Luck!
katie225 katie225 10 years
oh how i hate the "get the milk for free" comments. no, you do NOT need a ring on your finger to be happy and committed for a lifetime. marriage means absolutely NOTHING. people get divorced so much now, the true meaning of "marriage" is worthless (so i don't get why the "sanctity" of it is under question these days. it's not sacred in any way! who cares who gets married?!). if you need a ring on your finger to feel like a guy is committed to you, the problem is YOU, not your boyfriend. committment is a DECISION not a rite (rite, as in ritual). you don't need to go through society's little steps (courtship, engagement, marriage) in order to be in a relationship where both people are fully committed. "prove it with a ring"?! this is the most ridiculous statement anyone can say nowadays. how about prove it with love, committment, devotion, fidelity, trust?! there are SO MANY relationships out there with a ring that aren't proving anything except that marriage means nothing! people break vows, people break up, whether they're married or not. i think that society is pressuring men and women into getting married when they aren't ready or don't need to. i can go through the rest of my life never married to my boyfriend and be perfectly content because i know i'm committed to him and he's committed to me. we could have children, own a home, be in each other's wills, or whatever without ever being married. marriage is a LEGAL DOCUMENT that has NOTHING to do with love. don't pressure anyone, not your boyfriend or YOURSELVES, into getting married. yes, you can drive him away because you just showed him that you're more concerned with a ring and a legal document than you are with your actual relationship. yes, you're young and have so much more time to live your life. yes, three years is a long time for you now but in the grand scheme of life it is so brief. but i would say don't pressure anyone into marriage because the social convention of it is silly and has nothing to do with committment. "moral security of your family"?! ugh. some people. i think living a life more wrapped up with conventions than with actual relationships is just pointless. work on your relationship. i think if you're committed and he's committed, you don't need anything else in the world. you don't need to prove anything to anybody.
SugaSista SugaSista 10 years
I agree with Valerie. Three years is long enough to know whether or not you want to marry somebody. Ever heard the expression, "Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" Since we're living in an enlightened age in which couples live together first, let's just consider these past three years as him "paying rent". Now he either buys or you walk. It's all fine and dandy for people to say women shouldn't "rush in" because they're young, but the sad truth is that it gets harder and harder as you get older to find a good guy who's not already taken and is willing to commit. While your man is keeping you on the shelf at home today, you're missing out on your best, most attractive years as a vivacious, young woman to go out there and find a guy who can't live without you and will prove it with a ring. Don't forget that marriage isn't just about love. It's also about finding a partner upon whom you can count to contribute to the moral and financial security you and your unborn family will need over then next 70 years.
Midnightkiss4u09 Midnightkiss4u09 10 years
I wouldn't rush into anything.
lickety-split lickety-split 10 years
hummm, my question is how long does she have to interview for the position of "wife"? if he isn't ready to make a commitment after 3 years what are they doing? if i was in a relationship where we had discussed getting married and the friends we had were all getting married i would be unhappy with the "i'm not ready" speech. my personal opinion is that you shouldn't tell him he has a deadline but that the deadline has come and gone and you are moving on. he is entitled to have what he wants (freedom) and you are entitled to have what you want (commitment). obviously these are mutually exclusive. after 3 years together what could possibly happen that would change his mind? change what you want or go after it.
kittycat kittycat 10 years
the pressure is of course always there when u approach ur mid 20s. but the winner is not how fast you get to the altar, but how long u'll last. dont rush it. he sounds like he's ready to marry you in the future, but now yet right now. that doesnt mean he doesnt love you. dont do anything in life "just because everyone is doing it" - never give in to peer societal pressure. be smart and wise.
bfly1133 bfly1133 10 years
I went through the same thing. All of our friends were getting engaged and I was like "what about me?" You kind of feel left out. But, you can't let their engagements make you feel like it is time for the two of you. We were the last to get engaged, but we got married with all the rest of them because they had long engagements. He said he loves and he wants to be with you, so take his word for it. Right now, focus on the communication. Get to the point where neither of you are holding back your feelings. That is the key to a successful marriage. When you get to that point, start to think about the engagement again. If he still isn't ready, then you need to think about how important it is to you. Hope that helps. Just remember, you want it to be the right time for both of you and not forced.
clarapl clarapl 10 years
I agree with all of the others who say that it sounds like your boyfriend really loves you. Unfortunately, the issue here (for you, if I've understood you correctly) is not love but commitment. You are ready to be engaged and he is not--for reasons that I am sure have nothing to do with you, but it really doesn't matter what his reasons are...there is no right or wrong here, but when he says he's not ready to get engaged, I think you should take him at his word...and, pay attention to how this makes you feel. Also, how would it make you feel if he did propose, knowing that it was a result of pressure or an ultimatum? You deserve to feel like someone's dream girl, not like you had to "nag" to get someone to marry you! I know it's hard to say goodbye to someone you have a history with, but remember: "Those who refuse to settle for anything less than the best, very often get it."
nycgirl nycgirl 10 years
Hi Wendy, you are both very young! Give yourself some time, make an informed decision. Maybe he is not emotionally ready, but maybe he is not financially ready too. I don't want to make sweeping generalizations, but I have found the men around are less likely to jump into marriage than women, ESPECIALLY if they are under age 28. You're young!! If he is confident and honest when he says you are the one, then it's in the bag, honey. Start pushing again when you're 26/27ish.
nicolepnks nicolepnks 10 years
Hello Wendy, You are both very young and should not rush the engagement don't think he's ready to get married, and the divorce rate is way too high.You don't want to force someone to marry you; please we don't need another (Britney and K-fed engagement). I'm sure your a beautiful girl, don't worry you will find your prince charming!!
tra tra 10 years
Hang in there. It will be worth your wait. My brother was given an ultimatum by my now sister-in-law. They were together 6 years when he proposed because if he didn't she was done. He is now in an unhappy marriage. I'm not saying this will be the case for everyone but my recommendation is that both parties should be ready to make that commitment or the time isn't right and things will not start out in the best way possible.
Christylicious Christylicious 10 years
I am in the same boat as you. In the past year or so, so many of my friends or family are marrying or having babies. It makes me sad, but my boyfriend doesn't like to hear me talk about it all the time. It sucks, but hang in there. :)
Marci Marci 10 years
I agree about not pushing the engagement. I think far too many people get married because they turn a certain age or because everyone else is doing it. Those are not good reasons to get married. So many people don't seem to realize just how long 'till death to us part' really is Marriage is a wonderful, intense, and sometimes difficult relationship to maintain. Things change when you marry. It's not just going out anymore. There are real and big responsibilities and worries and problems. So better that your boyfriend is really ready to tackle them with you than to back him into a corner when he's not entirely ready. That wouldn't be good for either of you. You want to marry when you're both ready. Otherwise, there will be resentment down the road from the reluctant party. Guaranteed.
lwoerther lwoerther 10 years
I am in the same position, almost exactly. Seriously, whenever I get anxious about (like when three people have gotten engaged in the past week!) I think about all of the financial and complicated things that come with getting engaged and married- I think, do I want that right now? Do I want to rush it, when we're just having a great life being together? I know one day it will all fall into place and everything will be right- for both of us, but I just try to enjoy day by day and being young and in love!
rubialala rubialala 10 years
All of these responses are great. Don't rush it. Your engagement should be special, not just because "everyone's doing it." Also, if you are planning on being with this guy forever, why does it matter how long was spent dating and how long was spent married? Forever is forever.
vmruby vmruby 10 years
Don't rush the engagement or you will surely push him right out of your life.If it's going to happen it will when the time is right and not before. I've known of couples who were dating alot longer than 3 years, and then again alot less than 3 years before getting engaged. It's a lifetime committment and sometimes it takes alot of consideration. I'd rather have it that way then to rush into a marriage without much thought only to end up getting divorced eventually.I don't know your boyfriend but judging by what you have said he sounds like a smart guy who loves you very much and wants to make sure that it's right for the both of you. Who knows it could happen alot sooner than you think. Please be patient.I certainly wouldn't leave him, but if you think it's taking him too long to committ to you, perhaps you should re-evaluate your relationship.However it turns out i wish you good luck!!!!!
E-Dubs E-Dubs 10 years
Considering how many young couples end up getting divorced(I know plenty stay together but still) he may be trying to protect your relationship by not rushing into marriage. I've been with my boyfriend for 3 years also so I know it's a long time but in relation to a lifetime and a successful marriage 3 years is really not much. I would not want to get engaged quite yet because I want my marriage to last. He might have a similar point of view. While I think it's great that you talked to him about it, please don't push him. I'm sure that when he realizes the time is right he will be prepared to put in the effort to have a loving and successful marriage. If you push him now, even if he doesn't show it, he could harbor resentment that could come out randomly at a bad time. Think of how wonderful you'll feel when he finally does ask you because you'll know it's what HE really wants too.
grl-in-the-world grl-in-the-world 10 years
It sounds like you two are very committed to each other. It was a good first step to be honest with him and tell him how you feel about everyone you know getting engaged. Maybe he has some reasons he hasn't shared with you for not wanting to get engaged yet? Some people feel they need to be in a financial situation to buy a house, or have the maturity to have a child, and at this point he may not feel ready for those things. He might also be worried that once you became engaged you would want to get married soon after, whereas he might want a long engagement. I would wait for a while and then try to have a mature conversation with him about these issues. Assure him you are not giving him an ultimatum and you don't want to pressure him, but that you are excited at this stage in your relationship to start planning for your future together.
Christina362536 Christina362536 10 years
Wendy--- Please don't take what I'm about to say wrong...I only mean well.. Pleaaaaaaaaaase dont push along an engagement until he is ready too. One of my closest friends got to the point that she treatened him "If you dont propose to me within _x amount of time_ I'm leaving you." ... I really hope you won't get to that point.. IF you are sure that you want to be with him forever..Why do you have to be engaged now- or married? Either way, enjoy the time with him and when the time is right.. He'll ask.. If you just simply cant stand not to be engaged and its making you question where your relationship is going.. Maybe you shouldnt be with him in the first place?
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