Ask Shari: When to Bring Up Marriage in a Long Term Relationship
Q: I am a recently divorced woman that is having trouble adjusting to single life. I feel like I want to meet people but not sure if I am ready. It is a lonely feeling. Do you think I should take the plunge back into dating or wait until I feel ready? I worry that I will just keep putting it off.
A: Hello Recently Divorced, thanks for your question. I think its great that you are reaching out and questioning that lonely feeling that you have. You do deserve to be happy and your reaching out for advice means that somewhere inside you know that to be true. To answer your question about taking the plunge or waiting, the answer is yes and yes. I think the first thing we need to do is separate your question into two questions.
Firstly, lets look at feeling lonely and dating; one does not necessarily have anything to do with the other, have you seen Sex and The City? All humans need companionship and thrive off of human connection, but what does that have to do with dating? I would recommend “taking the plunge” and paying some attention to YOU! Connect with the things that interest you, challenge yourself to discover some of the things you missed in your last relationship? Are there any classes that may interest you? Sports? Yoga? HBO series? (I recommend Sex in The City). By pursuing your interests, you will undoubtedly meet like-minded people who are trying to connect with others as well. Trust me, the scene in a cooking class is a whole lot less intimidating than the dreaded bar or party! By the way, the dreaded bar may not be so bad if you’re with the people from cooking class.
As far as dating, I would absolutely wait until you feel ready. I think the process of expanding your social interest and support circle would be the first step. Think about the first time you entered the dating world somewhere between Junior High School and college, you weren’t alone, and you more than likely had support. Reintegrating back into dating after the demise of a marriage can be a very liberating experience, when a person feels ready. I say get to know you, go slow, meet new people and have fun doing it. It will be a lot easier to know what you are looking for in another, when you know who you are.
Q: My husband complains that he is married to an IPhone! I don’t feel like I am overdoing it, but he feels I am. I like to stay connected to all my friends online and it helps me relax after a hard days work. What do you look at as too much IPhone time?
A: Hi Mrs. IPhone, I am sorry to hear that you and your partner are struggling to find balance in the world of technology! Although it would be easy for me to recommend what “too much” phone use is, the only people who can give you a good answer around how much IPhone use is too much in your relationship is you and your partner. With that said, I am happy to make some suggestions to help you guys find some balance.
It is really easy to entertain and distract ourselves with our technology, sometimes I spend my lunch hour playing an amazing word on Words with Friends when really I could be talking to a friend I am not in touch with (or eating???). Let’s not start beating ourselves up about it and accept that interacting with others while being alone is a really nice way to relax alone while feeling connected. We all thrive off of connections to others, humor and entertainment (I think I just described Facebook…), even on a neurological level, let’s not apologize for that.
I also want to suggest that if your partner felt that he was getting enough of your time and attention, he wouldn’t care about how often you were looking at your phone. Perhaps it’s not that the amount of time you are on your phone is too much, maybe it’s the wrong times? A suggestion I can make is to make sure you have a long greeting after your work day with your husband, take care to communicate with him first about his day, your day and anything either one of you want to share. I would pay attention to eye contact and body language, take time to express some affection or a smile with no competition from the phone.
So often these days we talk to our family and friends while texting and checking Facebook, it’s not as if we can’t do two (or ten) things at one time but the person we are communicating to lose out a lot in that deal. Agree to some “non-phone” times with your partner like dinner or movie times, and really stick to it! I think if you take some time to make connections with your partner, and show a commitment to putting the phone away at times your phone will less of an issue.
Q: I’m in my late 30s and feel like the clock is ticking! I have been dating this great guy for years but he hasn’t proposed. When I bring it up I feel like I am pressuring him. I love my life with him but I am scared for my future. Any advise?
A: Hello Ticking Clock, thanks for writing and putting yourself out there! I am really glad you brought this up because it’s a very common issue that so many women out there face. This is a dialogue I have had many times in individual therapy; I imagine it can be very overwhelming when you don’t have someone to talk to. This situation gets uniquely complicated by two different pieces.
Firstly, the great partner you described is not high on the list of people who you would or could talk to about this. In general, your best friend/ partner is the exact person who you would avoid discussing this with. That is counter-intuitive for most of us and often leads to feelings of confusion, shame and/or doubt about your feelings. Often women will describe feeling like they are “crazy” or “going crazy” for this reason, THEY ARE NOT.
Secondly, this issue gets compounded by the idea that you have a “clock ticking” or time running out on you to fulfill your dreams. We all struggle to think clearly when we feel we are against a clock. Sheesh, talk about pressure! Although no one can say for sure that they have time or don’t to start a family, for most women the issue of running out of time is not the case. Sometimes it’s a matter of reestablishing for yourself what your priorities are, and what is non-negotiable for you.
It may be an issue of rewriting your childhood expectations for your life. Once you are able to get a handle on which potential life events are negotiable and which are not, you can have a discussion with your partner. I would not put this on him as it is and will always be your choice.
If you decide that true to your being you were meant to be a wife and mother a child, at some point you will need to let your partner know that about you, not because he has to make a choice, because you do. Chances are, he already knows who you are and what is important to you. Together you will be able to have a non pressured discussion about non-negotiables, priorities and what really matters to each of you. The hope is that you two come up with a plan to help each other live the lives you want to live.
Shari Hardies, LCSW, is a social worker and contributor to Sono Bello Style, that has a true passion for improving the lives of others. She will be answering weekly user submitted questions on the topics of dating, relationships and live.