Saturday 21 October 2017

This Life: 'Should I marry a man I'm not sure I love because I think he'll be a good husband?'

Happy ever after: In Hollywood movies, such as 'Bride Wars' starring Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson, there's always a happy ending, but real life is rarely so convenient
Happy ever after: In Hollywood movies, such as 'Bride Wars' starring Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson, there's always a happy ending, but real life is rarely so convenient

Orla Barry

I have been going out with a guy for four years now and although I love him I'm not sure if he is the one for me. I heard from a friend of ours recently that he had been asking her about engagement rings and now I'm terrified he's going to pop the question.

He's a wonderful man and much kinder than all my other boyfriends who were mostly losers.

Shortly after we met I had an abortion due to a fling I had with someone else and he was very supportive whereas the person with whom I had the fling was very unsupportive and hurtful. Despite this I can't help wondering if there is someone else better suited to me out there.

My parents separated a long time ago so part of me thinks maybe that's created a fear of commitment in me. I'm now in my thirties and don't want to wait too long to start a family and I believe he would be a great father.

I just worry that I'll wake up in 10 years time and realise I'm not in love anymore or that I've fallen for someone else. I'm not sure I believe in loving one person for life anyway.

Your last statement probably says more about your difficulty with this relationship than anything else. You have a great guy, he's been hugely supportive to you during difficult times and is happy to commit. Yet you spend your time wondering if there is something more than this.

I can't tell you if he is the one for you or not. We live in a society that encourages us to constantly demand more both of ourselves and others, which I suspect leaves us in a constant state of dissatisfaction. If you walk away from this chap now don't ever expect to have him back.

So much of life today is filled with stories and imagery of the perfect relationship. The biggest cinema hits will always be the ones with the rosy endings.

Mike Leigh may be one of the finest British filmmakers of this generation but his last film, 'Another Year,' would never smash box-office records despite the remarkable performances. His depiction of married life is far more realistic than anything we will see coming out of Hollywood but not many of us want that sort of realism when we go to the movies.

It's not just Hollywood and cinema that are presenting us with these images, magazines and television are filled with it too. For a generation that grew up with so much more than any previous generation it can be hard to accept that your lot is actually a pretty good one.

Your pattern in relationships says a lot about you. What was up with all your previous boyfriends? We don't tolerate someone treating us badly unless we think poorly of ourselves and believe that their behaviour is justified. Why did you put up with these losers? To what extent have you changed now?

Abortion

I am interested in your boyfriend's response to your abortion. It was a decent thing for him to support you during this. In my experience men often have quite different reactions to abortion from women. Most extreme anti-abortion campaigners that I know are men. Women, despite their opposition, are often more contemplative, perhaps imagining what it would be like to be unexpectedly pregnant.

It can be so easy to give an opinion on a situation that you will never find yourself in. I'm not saying men's views on the issue aren't as important as women's but sometimes I have found men to be too easily dismissive of the trauma a woman is going through when she discovers she's pregnant.

His support must have been vital to you at this time. To what extent was it crucial to your decision to embark on this relationship? You must have been feeling pretty vulnerable back then. It feels great to have someone care for you and be kind to you, particularly if you've wound up with some idiots before. It's not a reason to marry him though.

On the other hand are you the kind of woman who never feels a relationship is right unless you're living on the edge? If it is comfy and safe, does that make it less attractive? All relationships settle into a routine that needs to be challenged every so often.

Flops

The state of our parents' relationships can surely have a profound effect on how we behave but it's easy to blame them for our flops.

You are in your thirties now, it's about time you behaved like a responsible adult. That adult would make a decision soon about the future of this relationship.

If this man is not for you, then let him go so that he can be with someone who does want to share the rest of her life with him. He sounds like a decent fella who shouldn't be messed around by someone who can't decide if he is enough for her.

You say you want to start a family. Who says he isn't thinking the same thing. I know a couple who broke up a few years ago and when he announced his engagement recently she was distraught. She says that only then did she realise how much she loves him. At which point, it's too late.

It's time for you to make a decision on what's right for both of you. You're correct -- if things aren't right now, they won't be right in a decade's time.

I do believe there is such a thing as having just one love for life. It's not for everyone and it takes work, but for those who have it and cherish it, they wouldn't swap it for the world.

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