Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Q: Dear Dr. Ranjan,
I’d like to start out by saying I’m 36 years old, and I’m not getting any younger. I have been dating my boyfriend for 9 years now. He was my first kiss, first boyfriend, first love; he is my best friend. We occasionally talk about getting married, but nothing really comes of it. I don’t want to scare him if I ask about marriage, our future, etc. He was previously in a relationship with a woman that, I believe, he was very serious with and she broke it off out of the blue after so many years. I’m not sure if he’s nervous or unstable about relationships because of that experience, but I do know I love him. I know that from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes, he is the one for me. Maybe the reason he has not been open to me about marriage is because, maybe, he doesn’t feel the same way about me? I know he loves me, but maybe it’s not enough. What should I do- say something or keep my mouth shut?
A: Nine years is more than enough time for anybody to decide on a long-term commitment such as marriage. If your boyfriend has not yet indicated an interest in marriage, it could only mean 1 of 2 things. First, he does not want to commit or is not ready to be committed to ANYBODY. Second, he is not interested in committing to YOU. It really comes down to what YOU want out of life. Are you going to be content being with somebody without any formal commitment? If you’re not, then you should graciously get out of the relationship. You need to be decisive about it. If you are living with him, then you are at a greater disadvantage because essentially, he has you as his wife without the commitment of marriage. And he has all kinds of financial and other disincentives to marry you. A marriage takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Your boyfriend may be somebody great to hang out with, but he may not be the man to marry. On the other hand, I have known couples who have dated for a long time and then become happily married. However, those instances are very rare. Typically, if a man does not propose or plan a marriage after 2-4 years of dating, he most likely is not sure if he loves the woman enough to marry her. You should definitely find out what his intentions are and not deprive yourself of meeting a man who is equally committed to you.
Q: Dr. Ranjan,
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost 5 years. I think he is the best person I’ve ever known. He’s smart, he has a great personality, a great job, wonderful family, he isn’t selfish, and loves to make me happy. I think he may be on the brink of proposing to me, but in my heart, I don’t know if he’s my match made in heaven, or “The One”. After reading your article, he has everything you suggest a woman should look for in a man, but I feel like there is still something missing. I don’t know why I feel this way.
I’ve dated a couple of men before him, and to be honest, they didn’t treat me the best, especially compared to my current boyfriend. One of my ex’s I thought I was going to marry, but he turned out to be immature and selfish. Although we did connect in a way I’ve never connected with anyone before, not even my current boyfriend, I find myself comparing them at times and it makes me feel awful.
A: I really feel bad about your dilemma. Your boyfriend does seem to have many desirable qualities. My advice is that you should ask yourself: Does he make you feel better about yourself as a person? Do you feel he has already made or has the potential to make significant contributions to your personal growth? Do you also feel as though the two of you are committed to each other’s dreams? Most likely, the answer to one of these questions is “no”. Or it could simply be a fear of commitment on your part. If none of these apply to you, then it may not be out of line for you to see a therapist and understand your inner most motivations. If the answer to all of these questions is “yes”, then I would venture to predict that the two of you will have a very fulfilling marriage if you decide to marry.
Please understand no man is going to be perfect. You should ask yourself: What was it about your ex-boyfriend that made you feel connected to him? That could be a very important thing for you to understand. You should also ask yourself if you still feel connected to him. If you don’t, then you know your connection wasn’t long lasting. And that’s what you should be looking for in a committed relationship. If you still feel connected to him, even though he was selfish, then you need to work on your self-esteem. In my experience, often women confuse “connection” with “seductive charm” that certain guys seem to have. Once again, I would like to use the analogy of con artists who are able to easily “connect” with a good number of people in order to deceive them. I would also suggest again that you should focus more on virtues and less on skills as discussed in my articles.
Lastly, if the two of you have mutual respect and complement each other in ways that benefits both of you, I feel your connection with your current boyfriend is much healthier than your connection with your ex-boyfriend. And it is more likely to be longer lasting than it was with your ex.
The purpose of this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or psychiatric issue. Dr. Rakesh Ranjan is a practicing psychiatrist and a researcher. He is a recipient of several research awards and has authored several peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on psychiatric illnesses and their treatments. He is a national speaker for several organizations and serves on the medical advisory board for NAMI for Greater Cleveland. If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms that would lead you to believe that there could be a mental imbalance, please email your questions to Dr. Ranjan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each Wednesday, Dr. Ranjan will address some of these questions in this column. All contact info will be kept confidential.