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Dear Mary: I'm afraid my sensitive fiancé has changed his mind about me


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Illustration: Tom Halliday

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I am in my mid-late 20s and engaged to a wonderful, kind, sensitive man. We dated for exactly one year before he proposed, and though we are very different from one another, happily agreed to spend the rest of our lives together.

We recently relocated 2,500 miles away for his job, where he travels most of the time and I am in a new job myself. We considered ourselves going through a "rough patch" in our relationship as the stress of moving, finding a job, a new home, and planning a wedding weighed on us quite a bit. While we've been here for six months now, the initial "rough patch" we encountered hasn't really gone away. In fact, he asked that we postpone our wedding to work on us.

As if this wasn't enough backstory - we know we are very different from each other. I grew up in a two-parent household, liberal, drinking at an early age, living free and without judgment on myself or others and I had been in long-term relationships.

He grew up in a single parent, low-income family, and he had never been in a relationship for more than a few months. You could say we were doomed from the start, but we fell in love and decided to learn and love each other for the differences in our backgrounds instead of forming any judgment.

In the height of this rough patch, I feel as if he's distanced himself from me, and that soon he is going to call it and ask me to move out.

Quite a hunch, yes, but we've got to the point of fighting and bickering and I feel no resolve. I've spoken to therapists, made promises, and am working to better myself for him and for myself. I am working to show him kindness and respect, which is my holy grail for working through this. I cannot, however, ignore that ever since we moved here, his demeanour has completely changed.

He gives me the impression that I don't do anything right anymore. We rely on each other a lot more, have not made many friends, and don't see our families as often. Weekdays he travels, so he does not want to socialise much on weekends. I work during the week, so the weekend is my social time. We've made compromises.

I'm willing to stay home, join church groups, running clubs, you name it, but he's just not interested. He now belittles me, acts distant, uses my imperfections against me, and constantly makes me feel like I'm not good enough. I said earlier we postponed our wedding to "work on us", but I feel like I'm the only one making any effort. I can't help but think he is afraid of the true commitment we made and is not ready. He just said the other day that he's glad I'm making friends in case we break up. I was obviously upset and am at a loss. I can try anything, but I can't make him want me and am not sure what to do. I hate feeling like the only person trying to be so positive! Any advice you have is more than appreciated.

Mary replies: What a really difficult situation to find yourself in. You had an awful lot of adjustments to make with a new job and a new home very far away from friends and family, and now you are quite rightly questioning your fiance's commitment to the relationship.

You have already done a lot to try to make things better between you but you don't say what he has done, other than asking for more time and postponing the wedding. He seems to criticise you quite a lot which must be very bad for your morale. You have to ask yourself what you would do if you were back home and he was behaving like this.

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Chances are you would be standing up for yourself a bit more and would not allow him to be so critical of you all the time.

You believe that it may be the differences in your backgrounds that is to blame, but it may be that something else entirely has caused his apparent change of heart.

You deserve to know whether in fact things have changed for him, as you suspect, and he now wants out of the relationship, or whether he is prepared to try to work things out.

Given the circumstances it would only be fair to you if he were to agree to attend couples counselling.

In counselling you would explore each of your backgrounds which would certainly contribute to your expectations as to how a relationship works. You would also look at what it was that attracted you to each other and when and why things started to go wrong for you.

The counsellor would then facilitate the exploration of both of your feelings regarding the current state of the relationship and your wishes and hopes for the future.

Decisions would ultimately have to be made and you may have to confront the fact that he wants out.

That would be absolutely heartbreaking for you, but I think it is far preferable to the way things stand right now. You would at least know where you stand and can make your plans accordingly. You are absolutely right - you cannot make him want you but you at least deserve some answers.


You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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