Friday, 1 August 2008

Something For The Ladies #20

Ladies: If there's ever been anything about men you've wanted to know but were afraid to ask, or wanted a male viewpoint on a certain relationship niggle you're going through, drop an email to us at todger dot talk at googlemail dot com. Every week, we shall pick one out and answer it to the best of our capabilities.

This week's question...

Potential Barren Old Spinster of The Parish writes: Following on from an earlier post on Todger Talk, which touched on the subject of the 'Commitment Conversation', I would like to understand a man's view on the subject. I am currently in a relationship of 3 years and everything has been going swimmingly, subject to the usual ups & downs, and we have been living together for over a year. I have spoken vaguely with him about getting married & having kids but have recently brought up the subject again, with a more serious tone and am not very encouraged by the response, or lack thereof.

I want kids very much; it is non-negotiable for me but I do not want to have kids outside of wedlock (old-fashioned I know). Therefore, without these 2 things I cannot see a future in the relationship, no matter how good it is. He says that these things will just evolve naturally as the relationship progresses, but it's been 3 years already – how much longer are you supposed to wait? Also, how does it evolve if it is not spoken about? I also have to consider the fact that I am pushing 30 and don't have the luxury of time on my side with the baby issue. I know this is so not attractive, but what can you do?

He is 16 years older than me, already has 1 much-loved child and has had 2 broken engagements in his past, 1 of them due to the fact that his fiancée cheated on him. He rarely mentions it, but I think he was probably badly burned from his past relationship(s), which is what I feel to be the real issue, and while I can understand this it's hardly fair to tar me with the same brush. He's not going to say he will but he also isn't prepared to say he won't. I'm not going to be issuing any ultimatums, neither will I be 'forgetting' my pill as it's just not my style, but where do I go from here?

I would love to know why men react in this way when commitment is brought up and how / when they would like to approach the subject. Please don't all yell "NEVER NEVER NEVER" at once.

Sam says: OK, there are a couple of issues here, one about men generally and another about your guy specifically.

Let's talk about men in general first. Generally men will cruise along with whatever is going along, and if it is good, we are happy with the status quo. One client of mine was rather mystified when is partner of 7 years was getting miffed that he hadn't proposed yet. We figure if we can be in a relationship without all that marriage malarkey, why do anything to change it?

Secondly, let's talk about him. Humans are fundamentally simple creatures; we move towards pleasure and away from pain. When there are large amounts of pain involved, our brain massively imprints on the events and things happening and goes to pretty much any lengths to avoid them in the future. This can have some unfortunate consequences - e.g., your man’s brain has ‘Engagement = Massive Pain and Suffering” branded into his memory. Any time engagement comes up - even it is to a lovely girl like you - his brain goes "PAIN, PAIN, STAY AWAY, STAY AWAY'. A completely irrational (yet quite powerful) knee-jerk reaction.

So from his brain’s point of view, he's getting everything that he wants; he's got kids, a nice relationship and is managing to avoid something bad. Why risk all this niceness for potential pain?

The solution? Make it clear that if he doesn't propose, there lies the way of MASSIVE PAIN - i.e. you will leave him. But beware - people don't like moving towards pain, so expect some serious resistance from him; you are trapping him between a rock and a hard place. I know you don't like ultimatums, but it won't happen unless you take a stand. I would also advise that you start seriously thinking about your Plan B.

‘Mr Sex’ says: Well first off, you shouldn’t feel at all shitty about knowing what you want out of a relationship; you should be congratulated.

Let’s address his previous relationship, because I’ve been through something similar myself. Yes, him being shat on by an ex is going to impact upon every relationship, and it takes a long time to completely trust someone again, if ever. Not because he’s that ‘all women are deceitful slappers’ one – it’s actually because, in the deepest recesses of his brain, there’s a little nodule that keeps saying ‘She shat on you because you weren’t good enough – and if you weren’t good enough for her, after all the effort you put in, how the fuck do you expect to hang on to anyone else?’

So yeah, all the relationships he has after that is going to have to measure up to the colossal highs and gargantuan lows of his first proper one. And this isn’t a male-specific problem, either; when anyone gets shat on, it takes a lot of wiping from the next person (and possibly the next, the fifth, or up to and maybe even beyond the twentieth one) to get rid of it.

But having said that, that’s no excuse for him to expect you to hang around like a big sucky mare and deal with it. Truth is, your modern male can be an extraordinary ditherer when it comes to big decisions like marriage, mainly because they want avoid the risk of their partners saying no, and basically putting the tin lid on any chance of a proper, lifelong relationship. Certain partners don’t help, either, as they can send their chaps conflicting messages. I had an ex who would bang on for ages that she didn’t want to get married and be treated like chattel, and then when we were in bed later would take my signet ring off my finger and go to sleep with it on her wedding finger.

The best thing you can do is flat-out tell him that you want to spend the rest of your life with him, and you want to get married and have kids. Actually, fuck it – why don’t you propose to him? He has the right to say no, but you have the right to piss off and get what you want elsewhere.

People of TT: Comment!


Anonymous said...

Defintely i'd go for the propose yourself. it will either trigger a proper discussion of how the relationship is fairing or may be enough to show him how committted you are.
He will either accept, ask for time to address this, or say no. This means you have an exit strategy from the relationship, if required. Don't make him justify why HE hasn't asked you - awkward questions seldom reveal easy answers, likewise comments about "wouldnt it be nice to celebrate our reltionship with our friends and get married properly" basically shout "ALL I AM INTERESTED IN IS BEING A BEAUTIFUL BRIDE FOR A DAY".

Be careful - he might suggest a quiet civil service and no reception to test you. After all he will say surely that satisfies your requirement that you have children in wedlock.

i was, gently, coerced into getting engaged by my girlfriend's strict parents. This forced me to examine the relationship, and realise i couldnt be with this woman for the rest of my life and ended the whole thing a year before the wedding. okay 4 years of guilt ensued but it was worth it- small pain now or massive problems down the line.

Tallken said...

I vote for the "Propose yourself". Give him a month to decide or so, I think one week is not enough.

lovessex said...

My husband finally asked me after we had been together for nine years, and having children is not an issue. Even though he made the decision and we had been together for so long he told me that when he was walking into the jewellers he was shaking and sweating buckets. I think that says a lot about mens minds when it comes to committment.

TheRose said...

Only one point to add - if you're going to propose/deliver ultimatum/whatever, remember he might say no.

It's not certain by any means, but you might find that you don't meet anyone else in the next 10 years that you'd want to have kids with.

Or you might break up with him and meet someone wonderful.

But it's best to consider both possibilities.

Just how much do you like this guy? How bad would it be if he wasn't there any more? If the answer's "Meh, more fish in the sea", then that's one situation. If it's "world is over", then that's another.

Red said...

I'm surprised that no one else has mentioned the age issue. If you're pushing 30 and he's 16 years older than you with a child already, he may not want more children, and that could be a fundamental issue in the future of the relationship. He may feel that having another child in his mid 40's is just not a situation he wants to be in, regardless of how much he loves you, so that might be an issue holding him back since he knows you won't have children out of wedlock.

Just food for thought.

Anonymous said...

I second the things the others have already said, I think they've basically covered it all.

However, I would like to add another point:
keep in mind that not everybody progresses at the same speed. My (then girlfriend, now wife) waited for two years for me to propose, and I felt she wanted me to, but I stalled because I didn't feel ready yet.
At the time I finally got my act together and proposed, she was so disappointed we almost broke up (well, me being as dumb as I am, there was more to it than that, but hesitating too long was a big part).
Then she didn't feel it was the right time anymore and needed to make up her mind whether I really was the man she wanted to spend her life with, and I had to keep nagging for two years before we finally actually married.

So, you may well be going in the same direction, but at different speeds. And I'm not sure how much you can do about that either, except deal with it one way or another.

badgerdaddy said...

That's a great point from red - he'll be banging on the door of retirement if you have a kid right now, when it turns 18.

The key conversation is probably does he want any more kids, if that's the actual deal breaker for you - not will he get married. One thing at a time, because if the answer to that question doesn't match your ambitions, the marriage question is moot.

Of course, if he is fine with having more kids, you could always plan a short trip to Vegas, and while there, suggest getting married. All you need is some ID, rings (which you can buy there obviously) and your birth certificates, and it's job done. And you can have Elvis there. No pressure, spur of the moment and he can tell all his mates he got married in Vegas so he counds far cooler than he perhaps is.

Tanya Jones said...

I've got no advice, but just wanted to say how amusing the photo is. Thanks.

Rachel said...

If marriage with this man is what you really want, be prepared to propose. After all, if you don't ask, you don't get.
Good luck :)

Potential Spinster said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks very much for all the input – you've raised some great points. I actually posed this question to Todger Talk a while ago and there have been some developments since then.

We've talked about it further and while he would be quite happy to stay exactly as we are, he appreciates that this is not acceptable to me and has agreed that we could have a baby and that he also believes we would make a great parenting team - Yay!

However, he still has serious misgivings about the marriage business and the furthest he has been prepared to go so far is to offer to marry me if I got pregnant – Boo Hiss!

I was actually quite insulted by this and told him that this would not be an option as I actually deserve a bit more than a half-arsed, fat-dress, shotgun wedding (Even though I’d be more than happy with a small, low-key wedding). I have agreed to give him some time to think about it a bit more and that is where were are right now.

To answer some questions – even though there is pretty big age gap, he acts and looks much younger and is very fit, so he might end up being an older dad, but he would still be an active one.

I really hate the idea of proposing myself – I want to be asked. Also, if I did, I have no doubt that I would get the ‘rabbit caught in headlights’ look and he would feel massively pressured and it would all be horrible!

I have contemplated the idea of suggesting Gretna Green or the like, but it really matters to me that certain people are present at such an important event in my life so I’m just not feeling it.

My argument is that us getting married wouldn't really be that much of a big deal for him, but NOT getting married would be a massive deal to me.

Finally, I love him to distraction – we have a brilliant relationship and I have never been happier in my life, so to contemplate a future without him makes me feel sick. I am in no doubt that he feels the same way about me. We are bound in our hearts so what can I do? I could give in and have a baby without getting married, but I don’t want to! Do I stand my ground?

Any further advice / tips etc would be gratefully received!

Potential Spinster.

The Liquidator said...

As a man I have never understood why women are so bothered about marriage. This guy is loving, caring, a good father, wiling to have kids with you and most importantly, loves you. Think about his past, how badly he's been hurt before and the age gap - that's some commitment already, no? Why then, the need for the expensive ceremony that tells everyone what they already knew; that you love each other and want to stay together? Why is not being married while you have kids what you call a 'deal breaker'?

To be honest it seems that you're the one being unreasonable here.