Q. I recently met someone who lives in a faraway state. We instantly hit it off and it’s been a whirlwind of amazing ever since. It’s not the usual “everything is new” excitement — it’s genuine “wow, you really exist” type of excitement, and the distance between us really helps keep the conversations focused. We talk for hours every night, and unlike people who are with each other all the time, we don’t get lost in the physical side of things, and we don’t take each other’s time for granted. At any rate, I’ve gone to see her once, and she will be moving out here by the end of the year to live with me. She really wanted to get engaged — she’s been very vocal and excited about it — so I planned a trip for her to come to Boston where I would propose. Well, she arrived and everything was perfect until I was ready to pop the question. She stopped me.
The next day, she was all excited — had me posting pics of us with “future mrs. ___” . . . and then when the time came, she stopped me again. Then I wasn’t in any mood to propose anymore, and as we were leaving, she said she wished we had one more day so we could do what we were supposed to. I traveled back to her state with her, and it was misery. I can’t just put on a happy face because I’m hurting, and feel like she never wanted this in the first place. She’s mad at herself and also frustrated because her family is on her case about why she doesn’t have the ring on. We both have to deal with our friends, families, and co-workers who all knew what was going to happen, and, well, it’s pretty awful for me to have to say that she stopped me from proposing. I know she didn’t say no, but it still feels like it. She says she is scared, she says she still wants forever and to move out here and start a family; the ring just scares her and she doesn’t know why.
Now I’m letting my stubbornness get the best of me. It’s not going to feel more right and perfect than it did before. Yes, I love her and want to be with her, I’ve waited 33 years to meet someone like her and I’m so happy that we have something so special, but at the same time that’s tarnished in a way for me, and if she said she wanted to be engaged and pulls this, how can I believe that anything else she says is true? I don’t want to open myself up to that hurt and failure again. I hate to say it, but part of me just wants to walk away from this. I know I shouldn’t, but what next?
What Next?, Grafton
A. You use words like “perfect” and “tarnished.” And you’re both so focused on what other people think. That’s troubling.
Things are only perfect when they’re controllable and far away (or on Facebook). Once you have someone by your side all of the time, mistakes are made and life gets messy. But you get through it and are hopefully stronger for it. If you can’t get used to tarnished, you’re not ready for this kind of commitment.
You have every right to be upset that you were lured into a proposal that she clearly didn’t want. But this is a great opportunity to find out whether you can communicate through the discomfort. Would she prefer to move without the engagement? Does she want to be engaged — or is the pressure coming from her community? The answers to these questions are less important to me than her ability to talk it out. If she can’t, that’s a big red flag.
My advice (not surprisingly) is to take marriage off the table and to make a pact that you’ll revisit the issue after you’ve been living in the same place long enough to know what things look like when they’re good and tarnished. Because that’s reality. You’re supposed to fall in love with the mess and the flaws. Tell her you want to take the pressure off so that you can focus on the relationship as opposed to the proposal. If she doesn’t like that, she’s in it for the wrong reasons
You mention wanting to be engaged like 45 million times in this letter, both you and her. Do you realize once you are engaged, it usually ends in marriage. Do you want to be married? Does she? DRUNKWITHLOVE2
I think you need to have a lot more in-person — i.e., real-life — interaction before you get engaged. I’m not against quick engagements — Mr. Sandwich and I got engaged 2 months after we met — but it has to be based on real interactions. ENJOYEVERYSANDWICH
She is crazy. And you aren’t too far behind her, letter writer. You have met this woman twice. Take the blinders off and stop trying to make her into something you imagine her to be.
I am so serious, this is the military. You guys are all confused as to how this happens. This is completely and totally normal in the military. He’s probably getting deployed so they’re rushing it and she’s moving in afterward because of the free house. DREAD27
Give up on this whole getting engaged idea until you have a lot more in-person visits. Unless you plan on getting married and continuing to live in separate states, in which case, carry on, son. DKCHOC
That instinct to walk away is the only reliable thing you’ve got going on, my friend. Forget the “shouldn’t walk away” rationalization. Her behavior is/was unpredictable, confusing, rude, and, in the case of posting “the future Mrs” but refusing to accept or wear the ring, contradictory and inexplicable. GMV2
Is there a return policy on the ring? Time to bring it back. MSENIGMA
Moving close to each other was not a good enough first step? MATN2C
It’s not that she doesn’t love you, LW. It’s just that she loves you when there’s much more of the continent between the two of you.
THE ARCHANGEL MICHAELColumn and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.