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botched proposal(s)


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My partner is a really sweet guy. He is well intended, but he struggles a lot with planning and being present with his feelings. He proposed to me about 2-3 years ago, but it was really a mess. It was totally rushed because he was really distracted at the time and despite our discussions about how we both wanted it to be he didn't take any of that into account. His father was very sick and dying and it was his fears and sadness about that loss that drove the rushed proposal. Instead of giving his father's passing space to be dealt with he proposed to me, the day after his father went into hospice. Then the next day his father died, we went into mourning and his family congratulated us between tears at the funeral. It really didn't feel right to me, there was no joy or time to celebrate. I also feel it took away from his father's passing, he needed his time too. My partner and I talked about it later and he admitted he was emotionally detached and avoiding the sadness by focusing on the proposal. 

Well now a few years later, take two. This time it is more focused on us and our relationship and he planned something really sweet. It was amazing really, he had one of our favorite singers from a local band come over and sing a few songs while we danced. It was magical. The only thing I'm really sad about is that he totally forgot to take any pictures or videos. He had his phone in his hand the whole time so he could have taken pictures, and I thought that he was, but he totally forgot. I just wanted something to commemorate this special moment, something to remember and look back on, and something to share with friends/family. It didn't need to be an elaborate photo shoot, I would have been happy with just one or two pictures. Anyway, then he wanted to take me to a fancy dinner afterwards but he didn't make any reservations so we couldn't get in anywhere and just had to come home. I should say that he has ADHD and I think it really affects his attention, prioritization, multitasking, and planning abilities. I'm trying to push down feelings of disappointment, and I feel bad for being upset at all, but this is a common theme in our relationship that does cause a lot of tension, disappointment, and frustration.

I really think the ADHD has a big part in all of this so I am trying to be understanding, but I feel like I end up missing out on really big life events. I have to take the lead on all the planning whether it's a date night or a big trip and it gets exhausting. I want to be surprised once in a while. If I want things to go smoothly, it is often the case that I have to be the one to do it. I don't know how to address this issue in our relationship, and quite honestly, it has been so bad that it has nearly ended the relationship. Does anyone have any thoughts, advice, or similar experiences?

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You have the memories of the proposal inside your head. Those cannot be deleted or misplaced. They're forever.

That being said, are you sure you can go forward with this marriage? Your life will be as it is forever, with you having to take the lead on planning and organizing. Can you commit to a lifetime of this? Does your love for this man overcome your wish to have him take the lead more often? After all, he may not be able to.

A friend of mine married a man who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. He will never be able to work or care for their children. But her love for him overcame these obstacles. Also, a former coworker's husband is unable to read or write, so she has to do everything having to do with forms and taxes and paperwork. The stress did get to her at one point and she had to take a disability leave from work. But they stayed married.

Please he sure you're on board with this before you marry your fiance.

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Totally agree with @boltnrun.

Also, I think if you are asking this on the forum here, that means part of your heart is already sad/deceived/wanting to let go.

I'd say keep check with your feelings, not just about the organisation of events but other aspects of your relationship too, and see of you're willing to live like this with this man for 10 years. Know that he won't change. He is what he is.

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1 hour ago, KitPanda said:

I feel like I end up missing out on really big life events. I have to take the lead on all the planning whether it's a date night or a big trip and it gets exhausting. 

 How long have you been dating?

Why not wait until you are ready to get married before you get engaged?

You need to reflect on if you want parties and surprises or a compatible spouse?

Marriage is a huge legal step and if you are already "exhausted", you need to think things over.

Why can't it be simple, like dinner and a ring? Marriage is not about parties and videos.

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Thank you everyone for the advice and perspectives. We have actually been together a long time (14 years). We get along really well and have a lot in common, but these planning troubles get in the way of bigger stuff life marriage. He does give me a lot of support. I don't have any family to rely on - and he pretty much feels like my only family at this point.

I'm not looking for a party or an elaborate video, I was just sad nothing was documented. And as far as it being simple like dinner and a ring, he really has trouble planning a simple dinner, as I said he forgot to make a reservation so we couldn't go to dinner at all. Unless you mean dinner at home like we do every night - but I like to instill these big life events with a bit more meaning.

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1 minute ago, KitPanda said:

I like to instill these big life events with a bit more meaning.

That's all fine and good so long as you understand that you will be the one who has to plan, organize, and take care of these big life events if you want them to go off without a hitch and be all that you want it to be. If you keep expecting him to take the lead organizing, you will be disappointed for the rest of your life. So be sure that you understand that these things will always be on you to organize, not him.

This is likely to bleed into many many other aspects of your every day life - picking up kids, paying bills, keeping up with whatever that requires planning and organizing. Be sure you truly think through what kind of a relationship dynamic you are signing up for and that it really works for you without you becoming exhausted and resentful about it.

Also, be careful that you don't get so caught up in the showmanship of these events that you forget what really matters - love, support, and respect for each other.

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12 minutes ago, KitPanda said:

Thank you everyone for the advice and perspectives. We have actually been together a long time (14 years). We get along really well and have a lot in common, but these planning troubles get in the way of bigger stuff life marriage. He does give me a lot of support. I don't have any family to rely on - and he pretty much feels like my only family at this point.

I'm not looking for a party or an elaborate video, I was just sad nothing was documented. And as far as it being simple like dinner and a ring, he really has trouble planning a simple dinner, as I said he forgot to make a reservation so we couldn't go to dinner at all. Unless you mean dinner at home like we do every night - but I like to instill these big life events with a bit more meaning.

But can you live like this forever, with you having to plan and organize everything?

Staying with him just because you have no one else is a bad idea.

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After 14 years if you're still continuously disappointed and things are tense between the both of you because he doesn't plan well, are you certain he's the right person for you? 

I dated someone who could never choose anything and was painfully clueless and indecisive. I married someone who was such a planner if things didn't go his way he would fall apart in complete anxiety and disappointment at the situation that the day or weeks would be ruined (unable to look on the bright side or bounce back). These are two extremes that at one point I thought were solutions to the issue. They ended up being too extreme for me. Find some balance in all this - so he's not good at planning but does he think well on his feet or does he let things get him down easily?

I think you have to figure out what your expectations are in the relationship and start being more honest with yourself about whether you're happy. 

Are you with him out of comfort and familiarity or because you are genuinely in love with him or respect him? It doesn't sound like you even like him. If you can respect your partner for his strengths you may be able to overlook his flaws but it depends on what those expectations are overall and whether his incapability to plan a night out is a dealbreaker. You may enjoy those things and this person might not be for you.

 

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It seems a bit unreasonable to me how upset you are over a picture or two. With that said, I think you're attaching a lot of disappointments to this one instance. So its much more than the picture.

I think you're having doubts about this guy. your gut is telling you that although you've tolerated his behavior, committing to it forever is not what you want.

You need a partner not a project.  

The truth is you could have probably found a restaurant. Not a fancy one but a walk in casual place does not take reservations. Why didn't you suggest that?

Maybe because you're ready to face the facts this guy is not satisfying you. And you're just not going to be the long suffering bride. This is one more item of a long list of items. 

Why have you been together so long and not married? Were you very young when you got together? 

Why hasn't this been an issue before? Or has it?  Sorry if I missed that part. 

I think you know the solution here.  It's just not pleasant.  but you can't make a square peg for a round hole. 

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I realize I have only the narrow lens of your post to go by, but from what you've offered I can kind of understand why he leaves the planning to you. Aside from it maybe being his default nature, here he went and planned something sweet and nice, taking into account that his first go-around left you thirsty for something with more sparkle. And what was the takeaway? He "botched" it, again, this time by not taking photos, by forgetting the reservation. 

That's not to say you shouldn't be disappointed, feeling whatever you're feeling; all that is valid, as all feelings are. But perhaps this is a good moment to be honest about how well you two jive, whether who he naturally is and how he naturally operates provides enough to sate you, rather than leaving you thirsty. 

Personally, I think a pretty good gauge of compatibility is when we can pretty easily tolerate the parts of another person that don't dovetail with our ideals, rather than putting them in the "botched" column where resentment metastasizes and respect erodes. Something to think about, especially given that you've had 14 years to get to know this man. He's not going to morph into someone else after saying "I do." 

Perhaps a good moment, too, to look within and ask some questions.

Do you, generally speaking, struggle when reality fails to meet your specific expectations? Do you find comfort in having full control over situations? Do you take on the "alpha" role—in work, say, or with friends, taking the reins and steering the ship? Do you often look back on situations in life and focus on what was lacking, rather than what wasn't?

I ask these questions with no judgement, but just to encourage you to look under the one hood at the one engine you have control over and see if there is any fine-tuning there that might lead to more harmony, within and alongside your partner. Often, or so I've found, what can be so "exhausting" in another person turns out to be parts of ourselves that we're reckoning with. 

Finally, a part of me wants to ask: If photos are so important to you, why not grab your phone and snap a few? Makes me wonder if you've already drifted into that place where you're more eager, if not consciously, to test and confirm a theory about his deficiencies rather than one about how you two can work, together.  

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2 hours ago, KitPanda said:

He had his phone in his hand the whole time so he could have taken pictures, and I thought that he was, but he totally forgot. I just wanted something to commemorate this special moment, something to remember and look back on, and something to share with friends/family. It didn't need to be an elaborate photo shoot, I would have been happy with just one or two pictures. Anyway, then he wanted to take me to a fancy dinner afterwards but he didn't make any reservations so we couldn't get in anywhere and just had to come home. I should say that he has ADHD and I think it really affects his attention, prioritization, multitasking, and planning abilities. I'm trying to push down feelings of disappointment, and I feel bad for being upset at all, but this is a common theme in our relationship that does cause a lot of tension, disappointment, and frustration.

So, by sounds of it... within your relationship, there's some tension & disappointment due to his ADHD?

 

2 hours ago, KitPanda said:

but I feel like I end up missing out on really big life events. I have to take the lead on all the planning whether it's a date night or a big trip and it gets exhausting.

I feel that what he did was very nice!  He tried.. so what, no pics happened, but it wasn't your wedding...

 

He is how he is.. but sounds like you feel what you find so important & special, gets ruined whenever he tries to do things.

If YOU are so disturbed over the way this guy is, why are you wanting marriage so badly with him?  When it sounds like you are truly not so thrilled anymore .. 😕 

 

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Over the time we've been together I've gone back and forth and we have worked to improve things (I feel both of us are engaged in that work in a good way). I come from a family where I had to be the responsible one (even as a child, because my caregivers were not addressing basic needs), so it is a role I can fall into, but I do not enjoy it. It seems like limitations due to my background can be difficult to balance with his limitations. 

As for some of the specifics, I didn't take pictures because it actually looked like he was since he had his phone in his hand. I do wish I had thought of it, I was very surprised in the moment. I put a lot of value on photos for myself since we sometimes have to live apart for months at a time. I carry those pictures with me and put them in my room and in my work space. When I am down it helps me to remember to see us smiling together. So it is more for us than for social media.

I do have my own issues to work out and that is part of what makes it difficult for me to determine the right path. I have a history of trauma starting in early childhood so it is difficult for me to access relationships. I am really working on it. Sometimes I feel like he is totally a great guy, other times I feel he can't meet my needs. I feel like some of that is natural to some point and it is difficult for me to determine where the limits are.

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3 minutes ago, KitPanda said:

 we sometimes have to live apart for months at a time.

I carry those pictures with me and put them in my room and in my work space.

Why are you apart for months at a time? Work? School? Military?  

How did you meet? Has it been long distance in general or just several mos., here and there?

How old is he?  Who do each of you live with?  Parents? Family? Roommates? 

 

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We have been apart because of school/career. I had a great opportunity in Europe to go to graduate school on a full scholarship and he had a really good job in the US. I want to go back to school so it may happen again. We are trying to coordinate things so that we don't have to be apart. We met in college and have lived together for most of the time. He is 42 and I am 36. We have lived with roommates in the past, but lately it has just been the two of us.

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2 hours ago, KitPanda said:

Over the time we've been together I've gone back and forth and we have worked to improve things (I feel both of us are engaged in that work in a good way). I come from a family where I had to be the responsible one (even as a child, because my caregivers were not addressing basic needs), so it is a role I can fall into, but I do not enjoy it. It seems like limitations due to my background can be difficult to balance with his limitations. 

As for some of the specifics, I didn't take pictures because it actually looked like he was since he had his phone in his hand. I do wish I had thought of it, I was very surprised in the moment. I put a lot of value on photos for myself since we sometimes have to live apart for months at a time. I carry those pictures with me and put them in my room and in my work space. When I am down it helps me to remember to see us smiling together. So it is more for us than for social media.

I do have my own issues to work out and that is part of what makes it difficult for me to determine the right path. I have a history of trauma starting in early childhood so it is difficult for me to access relationships. I am really working on it. Sometimes I feel like he is totally a great guy, other times I feel he can't meet my needs. I feel like some of that is natural to some point and it is difficult for me to determine where the limits are.

I’m no expert but I can relate to the responsibility falling on my shoulders as a child and teen. And I have been frustrated that it seemed to be the same for me as an adult and in relationships. What I realized a little while back, is that I kind of take charge, and choose to be the one responsible for everything without noticing, even though I don’t want that role. We are so used to it, that we kind of bring it on ourselves because it’s always been who we are and what we do. 
I think it’s way more important how well he did with this proposal. He was thoughtful and so wrapped up in it and you he forgot pics and food. It’s sad and disappointing you won’t have the pics but you have the memory of that happiness. Go out to dinner and celebrate the engagement with friends or just together. Who says you can’t have more than one celebration? Take lots of pics then. 

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How is it that you're engaged all this time with no wedding date? How is that being engaged? Isn't engaged when there's a wedding date or at least month -whether it means exchanging vows privately or having a big party to celebrate? Do you want kids?Take what Dancingfool said to heart - he is not your partner in some really significant ways -you will have to do all the heavy lifting or outsource-hire others- to do it for you.  So anything that has to be done around the house, or if someone has to be called to fix something, if someone has to be home to get a delivery -you will have to hire someone who does those things for you and that can get expensive - unless you don't need to work and are fine taking care of all of those things.  And yes of course one person can be a better planner or better at certain tasks (as I realize, for example, it's just not worth it to ask my husband to tend to baking potatoes tomorrow while I take our son to the dentist - while other wives would think nothing of it).  

But you will resent being the only one -again, unless you're comfortable with hiring people to do what he would typically do.  Especially if you have a child together.

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We didn't really count the first engagement since we didn't feel good about it. Besides, we have a bit of an unconventional relationship. A lot of people our age don't get married anymore at all, they just start living together and have a family. We decided we want to, just a bit later. It was also not practical to plan earlier because I was living outside of the country working on my graduate degree.

But I am feeling a bit better about things now, I think I just needed some perspective. He is willing to work on things and so I am which is very important. I think the main thing we need is more support around working with ADHD, which we are both looking into.

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24 minutes ago, KitPanda said:

We didn't really count the first engagement since we didn't feel good about it. Besides, we have a bit of an unconventional relationship. A lot of people our age don't get married anymore at all, they just start living together and have a family. We decided we want to, just a bit later. It was also not practical to plan earlier because I was living outside of the country working on my graduate degree.

But I am feeling a bit better about things now, I think I just needed some perspective. He is willing to work on things and so I am which is very important. I think the main thing we need is more support around working with ADHD, which we are both looking into.

I know many people your age who get married.  And also younger than you and older.  What kind of "work" is he going to do on "things?"  What kind of support is he planning to get for his diagnosis? I ask only because it's easy to say "work on things" but if I were you given how long you've been together, make sure there are nitty gritty specifics, plans of action, even if baby steps.  If you truly It sounds like you're not ready to marry him but enjoy having the "engaged" label.  Which is a very conventional thing certain women do - calling the guy "fiance" even though there are no specific plans to take vows. 

We planned our wedding in 6 weeks - location, officiant, rings, license, my dress, restaurant, cake.  It was an awesome ceremony in front of immediate family and a few friends.  Magical.    We were 42.  Became parents a couple of months later.  I will tell you -at least in my experience - I take the lead with childcare especially planning (until the pandemic, then roles shifted some)  - but I rely on him for certain types of planning, rely on him for picking up from certain activities (pre covid) and if I couldn't -- I'd have to spend a lot of $ hiring people and praying they were safe and reliable.  It would be incredibly stressful and also frustrating to have a partner who wasn't really a partner in the practical ways.

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Hey, OP. 

Narrowly-tailored question. Your partner has ADHD and that is affecting your relationship. And you've directly and unambiguously communicated that the symptoms: the distraction and lack of planning affect the relationship, no? What steps has he taken to treat these symptoms?  Has he sought out treatment from a psychiatrist or physician?

For some context, I have an anxiety disorder. But I wouldn't blame a partner for stressing out or leaving if I knew there was a cure/treatment, reasonably had the means to obtain it, and still knowingly let those symptoms adversely and materially affect our relationship.

Hope this helps.

Edited by Pleasedonot5
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Dating/being married to someone with ADHD takes a lot of patience. There is no cure for it and treatment in the beginning is experimental, trial-and-error. If he has to take medication, the effects don’t normally kick in until after 2-3 months with most prescriptions…. And he may need to switch around different prescriptions. What works for one individual with ADHD may not work for your fiancé. So even if he goes to gets resources to help manage his ADHD better now, that will take even more time… and there’s no telling how soon changes will happen. For me - a person with ADHD - it took me a year to find the right treatment.


You are in for a ride if you plan to marry him, and honestly… it sounds like you are looking for a way out but are too afraid to be alone. I’m not sure why as (according to you), he’s not in a position to be very dependable. Everything that has been written about him all points to your unhappiness with this guy. 14 years is a long time to be with someone… if you aren’t happy being with him now, marriage will not resolve it. There are so many posts here about being being with their spouse for 15 years before deciding to divorce.

You mentioned about wanting to go to graduate school. Do it before getting married. You might find a classmate to hook up with depending on what field you go into. I made the mistake of getting married while in graduate school, and it was Hell on Wheels. You have no social life for a few years while in grad school.

 

That’s my 2 cents.

Edited by Snny
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My first thought is that if you want to marry someone with ADHD is that you would have to fully accept their condition and the struggles they have. I'm not saying mental or physical health struggles are always an excuse for everything but having a certain condition may very well make the person simply not able to "do better". If your boyfriend has therapy or takes medication for his ADHD (or both) that would be the best he could do.

It's like with anything, if someone has depression they can do treatments but the depression will still be there and the person will probably still have their lows. Things like not being able to get out of bed some days and so on.

If there is anything further your partner can do to improve then by all means you should suggest it to him. Like, things he may not have done yet for his ADHD. 

My other thought was, no offence but I think you're getting too focused on smaller things. I understand you wanted a photo or video of your second proposal but you could have asked people around you to take photos or videos on your phone. If you know your partner can be disorganised and forgetful due to ADHD then if you want things unfortunately you need to take charge. 

The actual thought behind your boyfriend's proposal was very sweet and romantic. I understand it didn't turn out completely the way you hoped but it was still a nice evening by the sounds of it. If my partner got me a singer I'd be like WOW. He tried to make it special and it's the thought that counts, right?

Any human has limitations but if you love them and think you can overlook their flaws then you've hit the jackpot. Many people are single so to have someone who adores you for 14 years and wants to marry you sounds pretty good to me. 

Congratulations on your engagement  🙂

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Thank you everyone for your thoughts, it is really helpful to have so many perspectives! He has been active in learning about his diagnosis and how to improve his daily routines. He has a specialist he meets with to discuss medication, and he also sees someone who specializes in lifestyle support for people with ADHD. He is often reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos to get more ideas about how to improve. It is a slow process, some days are better than others, but he is certainly trying. I have a responsibility too to find ways to be supportive without being enabling.

I agree that I was being upset about little things, it is something I struggle with. Everything just happened so fast, I was totally surprised and there wasn't anyone else there to take any pictures, but it was really special and magical.

As far as being engaged, I didn't really want to do it until I knew for sure I wanted to go through with it. I guess I struggle with feeling unsure myself because I didn't have great examples of relationships growing up, so it kind of throws my own gauge off. That's why I wanted to get some outside perspectives. 14 years is a long time and we've had our ups and downs, but I'm realizing recently that I really think that majority of our conflicts are linked to the ADHD, which he is actively working on. To me it is encouraging that it is not something he is doing on purpose, and I am working on accepting his limitations. 

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23 hours ago, KitPanda said:

I don't know how to address this issue in our relationship, and quite honestly, it has been so bad that it has nearly ended the relationship. Does anyone have any thoughts, advice, or similar experiences?

Outside perspective. Kit, I couldn't do it.  Far, far too much of an effort. But, that's me. 

5 minutes ago, KitPanda said:

I struggle with feeling unsure myself because I didn't have great examples of relationships growing up, so it kind of throws my own gauge off. That's why I wanted to get some outside perspectives

Well-intentioned is fine, but not enough.  However, you must do what you feel you must do. 

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