Q: My fiancee and I got engaged in December and I’m having doubts. We have a history of serious fighting, mostly because of lying on my part and the subsequent trust issues. She can be controlling, and it seems like she wants to use my past mistakes to hurt me, rather than support me while I get help for the lying. I love her, but our intimate life is almost nonexistent, and we don’t see eye to eye on anything.
A: I admit to a certain curiosity about the decision to get engaged; this is not exactly the stuff of poetry (”Our fights are serious, you’re controlling as can be; our trust is nonexistent . . . will you marry me?”). I’m surprised your doubts didn’t start sooner.
I commend you for getting help for the lying, but you need time to learn more about yourself alone if you want any chance of being someone who can be happily married to anyone. It’s one thing for sexual intimacy to wane, or to have squabbles. But doesn’t it strike you as strange that your letter contains barely a single positive thing about your relationship? (You love her. I love my immersion blender, but we’re not compatible as married partners.)
Q: I’m always the one scheduling the girls’ nights out, asking co-workers if they’d like to join me for lunch, asking relatives if they want to get together. When I ask why someone else can’t take charge, I get lame replies like “I’m not a planner” or “I’m just so bad at getting people together!” I’m tired of toeing the line on one-sided relationships.
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A: There’s definitely a subset of people who are more than happy to let everyone else exert the effort of sustaining real connections. But the problem with your approach is asking them why they can’t take charge, rather than making them understand that they need to.
Let them know you’re bummed that it’s always up to you to organize things, and put your money where your mouth is: Decide which relationships are worth the extra effort, and show tough love to the ones that aren’t. So, for example, if the relatives don’t step up, you suck it up but let some of the other friendships die. And when you seek new friendships, mention casually from the outset your past experiences, and use their empathy and motivation and effort – or lack thereof – as a screening tool.