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Feeling overwhelmingly torn re: impending engagement

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I'm new here and hae a serious situation at hand - will try to keep this in a relatively small nutshell.


The backstory is: My boyfriend and I met just ten days after my now-ex-husband announced he was leaving, two years ago. He was in town on vacation, lives 900 miles away. Neither of us was "looking", and we hit it off immediately, spoke for hours. We got to know each other quite well over the following few months, via marathon phone calls and emails. Our first official "date" was a week long visit, and I had never been happier in my life. Our relationship became very intense, and he was planning a move to NY (for me, yes, but it was something he had considered previously). We made lots of promises and proclamations pretty early on.

The caveats: we have a 17 year age difference; his "attempts" to move here have been thwarted repeatedly, mostly for logistical reasons, but two years later, he still ain't here; there are some issues involving physical intimacy, which I won't go into, but I will mention that there is no infidelity or immoral behavior involved. On the other, larger hand, I know he truly loves me, and has been nothing but supportive, affectionate, patient and understanding (truth be told, I'm a bit emotionally labile, and his unwavering acceptance has done wonders for me). I know he feels a lot of pressure to keep the relationship on track despite the distance, and we've been discussing marriage from very early on. Thing is, I believe he will pop the question over the holidays, and though I was previously all for it (with bits of doubt woven in) I am now experiencing serious cold feet, but I don't know if it's merely that or something more serious. I've got a little flirtation going, which I tend to do often and harmlessly but this time I am actually interested to some extent. I'm very focused on the negatives in our relationship, and am feeling absolutely torn. Perhaps I still just don't know myself well enough, am not mature enough, or maybe he's not the right one. Maybe I need to experience more before settling down again. I love him - he really is my best friend, and I really can't imagine my life without him. He's provided such love and security, which is so important for someone like me - that much I know. And he trusts me implicitly, as I do him. Thing is, I can't seem to figure out or decide what is truly and ultimately best for me, no matter how much soul-searching I do, which has my head spinning on a virtually constant basis now. Any words of wisdom as to how to go about finding the answer?


(so much for the nutshell...)

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I think this might be more than cold feet. The fact that you've never lived in the same town is dangerous. You keep mentioning all this doubt repediately. Maybe you're subconsiously worried about somthing. But either way, it doesn't seem to mee like it's just "cold feet". "Cold feet" is a term applyied to men in their early 20s, not to women in their 30s.


I would just tell him that you love him, but you want to iron out a few problems you think you might have before you settle down. And it wouldn't hurt to be in the same city for once. I mean people who go from the LDR -> living together transition usually have a horrible time. But for someone who does a LDR -> marriage, well I can't imagine what that must be like.


I'm sure it will be ok!

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Hi there,

Well, there are two things I think of here. One, is this the only relationship you have had since your divorce? Two, if you feel that you are not ready for the next step then don't do it. You should trust your instincts and if you feel you want more time then ask for it.


I think Tiger is right about the distance and jumping into marriage without ever living close to each other. I would dare say you know each other only at your best because you have only seen each other briefly..you haven't seen each other at your worst-- If a conflict were to come up can you be certain that you would be able to work it out?


Trust your gut feelings and don't do something you don't feel right about.


Good luck

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First, thanks for your replies; they were very helpful though a bit unsettling (the truth hurts). So, we all know that most relationships have some degree of codependency to them, even the good ones. My question is, barring abuse and addiction issues, how do you determine where you fall on the continuum? What I mean is, if you've never before been in a healthy relationship, and the only thing you know for sure is that you can't always trust your own emotions, how do you distinguish need from love? How do you recognize old patterns when they may be cleverly disguised within the context of a new relationship? Pop psychology and observing other couples seem to offer only shallow information. And wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age.

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That's a great question. You want to distinguish love from other factors. If you have no history to go off of (if you've repediately been wrong in the past) then you can't look to that. And you can't look at the facad of other relationships--good on the surface doesn't mean a good relationship.


I think you really need to try and understand yourself. You may not have a good relationship, but maybe you know a bad one. If you keep doing the same things, and are in the same vicious circle then you know that you need to do something. So you may not know what love is, but hopefully if you had enough bad relationships you'll know what a bad one is.


The only analogy I can think of is this: The first time I seriously dated a girl she had lots of experience being in a relationship. I had none. Now I had no idea how I compared to her previous bfs, so it was basically hit or miss. Now I can look back, after a lot of heartache and realize what she wanted in a relationship. Where I did well and where here pervious bfs did better. Looking back, I could say to myself, "I should of been more mature, I see now why women like that." etc.


I suggest you try and do some deep self reflection from all angles. Search "Dependent personality disorder" (or just "personality disorder"). Not that you have said disorder, but maybe you'll learn more about yourself, think about psychological problems born out of your childhood, think about your defense mechanisms (look up introjection). See if this wishy washyness is just regular cold feet or if it really is something else. Then try and think about if there really is something wrong with him. Maybe he really is a great catch but you cant see it.


I'm sorry. I know you've done a lot of soul-searching, so my advice might just be more of the same. But I really don't know what else to tell you. You need to find out if this is something that is you or him. And baring tharepy, only you can find the answer to this question. (Well, unless all your friends tell you he's a jerk, then maybe you should trust the consensus.)



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Very insightful, Tiger. And I have to say, 'intrajection' is one of those words that I seem to have passed over through my psych quests, and boy, does it open up a few dozen cans of worms. I do have a therapist, and of course it is her job not to give me any answers - I think she enjoys the drama almost as much as I do. But this isn't fun. He truly is a good guy, everyone likes him, and he is very, very good for me. Given what I know about myself, this really should be sufficient. He is largely responsible for the personal progress I have achieved over the last couple of years, and having that one person you can depend on is worth it's weight in gold. But I am not sure if what I need is what I want, and whether there is a real message hidden somewhere inside or if I'm just being an immature commitmentphobe. Naturally, neither you nor anyone else can answer this for me, but I wonder how some people are able to reconcile this kind of conflict (and have it actually work out). There is so much potential for loss, no matter what direction I choose, and that scares the hell out of me. There's also the issue of his feelings, which I cannot ignore, since he is almost as needy and insecure as I am though he hides it infinitely better. Tricky, ain't it...

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I think it's easily handled:


Your gut, heart, head, whatever, is telling you you aren't ready to get married to the guy. Unless you think you are stringing him along, then you have no pressure on you.


I would however disagree with the "flirtation" and that there is no infidelity. I agree that you haven't taken any bad acts, and that's great, but you're flirting with another guy -- doesn't that suggest to you that you don't like your b/f that much?


And if he is going to ask you to marry him, shouldn't he know that you have other attentions in other places?

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My, you don't pull any punches, do you...


Well, Cecelius, your response did unexpectedly strike a chord in me, and that's because there is a major guilt factor involved here. While I can't seem to distinguish my gut from my heart from my head at the moment, I'm starting to think that's not the point. Though the fact that I'm not ready to marry him is kind of what's so disturbing - when, if, to whom if not him (when it seems obvious on many levels that he should be the one). And the fact that I have all these serious doubts and he doesn't (as far as I can tell) makes me feel absolutely terrible. That's why I joined up here - hoping some outside advice would help me clarify my own feelings so as not to string him along, because he absolutely does not deserve that.


As for the line between flirting and infidelity, I don't agree with all you said. The fact that I mentioned I have a flirtation going, while I have to admit it's sort of fun, bothers me in that it symbolizes one more barrier I have put up. It is definitely amusing and good for my ego, but it is minor at best, and no lines have been crossed nor will they ever be. Even if I really wanted to, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. And so, while it does feel indicative of a problem, I do not consider it infidelity, and it in no way reflects how much I like my boyfriend - the two are completely unrelated. If I really didn't like my bf, this would be a no-brainer.


As far as his right to know about my attentions, I believe that would only hurt him, and that is precisely what I'm trying to avoid. This other guy is entertainment, and a sign that I need to closely examine and deal with my own struggle. This much I know.

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We shouldn't worry too much about where the lines are, but personally, my line (and especially for someone who is engaged to me) is that a flirtation (byond any innocent, one time joke or something like that) of enduring time is not appropriate. The fact that you want it and that it's "good for [your] ego" is different from whether it's okay or not -- it is not. If it would hurt your b/f (which I think you said), it's not okay for you knowingly to do it.


But I agree with you that if you want it, that means something.


It means you should NOT get married. Your fiance deserves, as do you, to be marrying someone who has no reservations (and he can't fill the role just because you're ocncerned that it's getting late).


I don't think you've done anything wrong (mostly) and you seem to be exploring these things before you go too far with marriage. I would just come clean on some things:


1) You're not ready and/or

2)He's not the one (and there is no such thing, period)


Just be honest with yourself, don't do anything you wouldn't feel comfortable telling your b/f, mom, best friend about, and you'll be fine. As to why you're not sure? Maybe you have amazingly high standards -- is that wrong? Maybe he's not cool enough or good looking enough or whatever, but don't apologize for having standards.

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