Q. My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years, living together for 6 months now. It is the most enjoyable and fulfilling relationship I have ever been in, no question. He is loving, affectionate, supportive, and fun to be around. We have been there for each other through some difficult times and have become closer as a result. He is my best friend — the first person I want to tell when something good (or bad) happens, and the only person I can see myself spending my life with.
We talk about the future and both want to get married and have children. I have told him that I would like to have a baby within the next two to three years, and that I want to be married before getting pregnant. He agrees with this loose timeline and has told me many times that he wants the same things. We are both in our early 30s now and do not want to be older parents.
My problem is that recent events have thrown a few roadblocks in our way that I am afraid will change our plans. A few months ago, my boyfriend lost his job. He has had to reinvent himself and is now starting from the bottom in a new career. It will probably end up being a good thing in the long run, but currently his income is significantly less than it had been previously.
Then I learned that I am going to need surgery later this year. When I found out about the surgery, I was more devastated about what it would mean for our plans than the actual pain and recovery involved. My boyfriend wants to be supportive and has tried to reassure me by telling me he knows we can get through this together and that he will do anything he can to try to make it easier on me (and I know he will be great — he has seen me through a different surgery already and was my rock).
He asked me what my biggest fear was, and I said that I was afraid of not having the things I want in life. He promised that I would and said that we just need to get through this first. He is very logical and I’m sure he feels like we ought to put everything on hold until after my recovery. But that could be two years from now, and I don’t want to put my life on hold for that long. My body won’t be able to handle a pregnancy until then, but I feel like there is no reason to wait to get engaged and married. In fact, planning a wedding would probably help to take my mind off the pain when I am laid up and healing.
So I guess my question is this: How do I tell him I don’t want to wait (and even possibly want to speed things up) without making him feel rushed or pressured, especially considering what buying a ring would mean given his financial situation?
A. This letter isn’t about your boyfriend, it’s about you. You can’t have everything you want right now and you’re frustrated. You’re an impatient planner, indeed.
Your boyfriend seems up for anything, so how about discussing a small wedding and a tiny ring? If your priority is starting the marriage, go for it. But be reasonable about your budget. Make sure you talk to him about what’s possible. That will help make the conversation less scary.
He has said that he wants marriage and kids. He has said that he understands and is up for your timeline. With these new issues, it makes sense that you’d have another conversation about how this will work. Come to terms with what’s possible, reset your priorities, and then approach him about a new five-year plan. Something tells me that if you’re being reasonable, he’ll continue to be a rock.
Which do you need more: the marriage or the ring??
Oh, boy. He is out of work and you need surgery and “planning a wedding” is what you want to do? I bet it is the absurd notion of an elaborate wedding that has stalled this thing.
Your fears are entirely understandable but you are working yourself into a complete tizzy about ifs and whens. Now is the time to stop, breathe, and care for yourself. Engagement and marriage won’t change anything but anxiety will impede your recovery and may slow your boyfriend’s new career plans. If you need help coping with your health issue, ask for a counselor referral from your doctor. Let your boyfriend work on his job plans and take each day as it comes.
Plans change. At least you have each other and it sounds like he loves and cares for you very much. Live the life you have now and don’t worry about the future because nothing is guaranteed.
In my opinion, your health and recovery are more important than a wedding and marriage. A marriage is just a piece of paper and will not change the relationship.
I know you probably want to have something to show off to all of your friends because they all have super fancy rocks and huge lavish ceremonies and omg you have to have an AMAZING DRESS but it sounds like you both have more important things to worry about right now. Keep it simple.
Consider yourself very, very lucky that you’ve got a supportive mate. It sounds like he’s rebounding from unemployment in a way that shows good character, even if it means a (temporary?) pay cut. Don’t push him away!
I had a minor sinus surgery and didn’t feel like getting up to get water for my medicine. Planning a wedding takes a lot out of you.
You are seeing what kind of partner your boyfriend is during life’s upheavals. He’s practical, reliable, supportive, and loving. What kind of partner are you during the same difficulties? Work on that. You’ll be a much better wife and partner if you do.
Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@