Promise Rings, Running Away, and Knowing the “One”

by A Married Dude

Please help: I’ve been married for 10 years, together for 12 to a guy eight years older: I’m 33, he’s 41. We have kids and are really great friends, enjoy hanging out together, and really ‘get’ each other. He is madly in love with me still and I can do basically no wrong. I love him deeply as well.

The huge problem is that he does not have it together on many levels. He constantly makes promises that he does not fulfill and does not meet expectations that he even has for himself. For many years I just believed that he would get it together, until I went back to school and now I’m trying to share the financial burden with him. This is not working because of the economy etc. (I’ve applied to 120 jobs). But initially the plan was that he would be the sole bread-winner anyway.

Other things have made life murkier, like his mental instability and dysfunction. Life is hard, and I want to run away. And If I will do it, I am still quite good looking and youngish. But I don’t want to throw him or his unconditional love or our intact family away. Is there a chance he will become the man he needs to be?

See, this is what people don’t understand about being married to Matthew McConaughey. Sure, everything seems like a dream, and you get used to that smell, but eventually you find yourself sitting on the beach next to the bonfire wondering if he’s ever going to get it together to get nominated for that Oscar, or is he just going to keep on making bad romantic comedies, which, come to think of it, he seems suspiciously excited about, and eventually the stress takes its toll and you begin noticing that, eh, his arms are awfully tyrannosaurus-like, and after a second watching, A Time to Kill wasn’t THAT good a movie, and before you know it you’re spending time with Skeet Ulrich, who’s not nearly as talented, but who at least you can count on.

This is all to say that it sucks eggs when “love” starts to get clouded by all sorts of “real” concerns, like money and security. Your question begins “I love him deeply” and ends with “I want to run away,” which, you know, telling.

A 41-year-old man still thinks of himself as young, but honestly, as somebody near enough that age, I can tell you it isn’t. In true math terms, and according to the average life expectancy of an American male, 41 is middle age. Middle age as one’s 50s is a myth propagated by the male-owned media as a way to make us all feel better about the fact that a 55-year-old is as near to death as he was to high school graduation when he was 40. There is that chance that he’ll turn around. The 40s are a ripe time for men to “wake up” and stop being 12. Just look at Brad Pitt. But you should see the signs soon.

Obviously, the advice-column question here is “Have you sat down and talked sincerely to him about this?” Because you should do that. And if he does have a genuine mental “dysfunction,” he may need professional help, and your support (but don’t let him use that as an excuse).

By the way, while “still quite good looking” is certainly a benefit, thinking in terms of that being your currency out in the marriage marketplace will probably only get you into more trouble.

I’m in a really awesome relationship. Like, if we were still in high school, we would TOTES be the “cutest couple.” We get along great, have good conflict resolution skills, are crazy about each other, have fantastic sex, and generally feel like we’ve found The One.

I’m divorced (nine-year marriage). He had a long-term relationship (about four years). When we first started dating — about a year and a half ago — we were both all “Marriage?!?! Psssh. We don’t need no stinkin’ marriage.” But since then I had an epiphany. About a month before our first anniversary. I realized I REALLY TRULY loved this guy, and REALLY TRULY wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I tearfully confessed this to him over dinner, and he said he has issues (fears) with marriage, but would work on it, and to consider my present (an engraved band) to be a “promise ring.”

A few weekends later we look at vintage engagement rings so he knows what I like.

Now, during this time, he was out of a job. My thought was that naturally, he’d want to get a job and get on his feet before planning anything. He got a job recently, and I made a comment about “when we get married” a couple days ago, and he seemed a little frozen. I asked if we could talk, explained that I was concerned that he wasn’t ready but was just telling me he was to — I don’t know — keep the peace? He explained that he doesn’t know why we need a piece of paper, that everything is just fine with us now, that he loves me forever and doesn’t need marriage to show me that. He says he’s got issues about marriage, and it has NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, and he still wants to be my forever boyfriend. You know, all the things that HJNTIY (he’s just not that into you) tells you to run away from. Stuff that is supposed to mean that he really doesn’t want to marry you but can’t/won’t say so.

It doesn’t help that during the joblessness, I supported us and put aside some financial goals of my own, because I thought “this is my life partner! It’s not easy, but I will support us because that’s what us life partners do for each other!” I realize that I’d made a mental switch to us being “almost married” in order for me to feel comfortable with the decreased financial boundaries I’d put in place during his span of joblessness, but now that he’s backing up on the marriage thing, it feels like I was punk’d.

So now I’m seriously confused and hurt and don’t know what to do. Am I a chump?

You know who doesn’t have “issues” and “fears with marriage?” Fucking SEAL Team 6, that’s who. Think any of those guys who jumped out of a helicopter in a country they weren’t supposed to be operating in, in the dead of night, and took down the most wanted terrorist in the world by shooting him in the head ever looked a woman in the eyes and said, “It’s just… I don’t know… I think marriage is valuable. And I love you. I believe in commitment. It’s just that… I’ve always told myself that I’d… I could just never picture myself married because, well, it’s a deep thing not about the commitment part but about marriage as an institution…?” Fuck no they never said that.

That women still buy the “issues with marriage” thing is the second greatest con job purported on American women after the statement “we have a multi-party system.”

Here’s how to know if a guy has a true “issues with marriage.” Does he buy into most of the rest of social norms? Does he watch TV and Hollywood movies? Does he work in a private, profit-driven industry? Does he dress stylishly? Does he forget to vote (even in those pesky off-year school board elections)? Does he spend at least 50 percent of his time meta-enabling pop culture? If he answered yes to two or more of these questions, then his “issues” are horseshit. His real “issue” is that he is a little boy.

If you still love him, this is something you’ll either need to work out or to come to terms with. And you’re not a chump, you’re just a woman (American, I suspect).

I have been happily (at times) married for 13 years. I love my husband and our sex life is good, he’s a good man, but I need more. I met someone a couple of years ago, initially as a one night stand, but we have been seeing more of each other. We have the most intense sex, but that is all it is to me. My Friend With Benefits has been hinting around that he is looking for more of a connection with me, but I am just not into that. Should I tell him or should I continue to avoid the topic? If you think I should let him know, how do I let him down easily?

Everyone would agree that it’s not easy to let down one of George Clooney’s two characters. But this sounds like it’s on the verge of being messy, and unless you want him to show up drunk at your townhouse some night, I’d honestly recommend you break it off completely. If you really must, find another prick. They’re everywhere.

This is possibly unanswerable, but I’d like the opinion of A Married Dude. I’ve been dating this guy for two years, and it’s gone smoothly for the most part. Normal ups and downs, talked about what we want for the future, etc. Now, I’m young enough to not want to be thinking about marriage as an immediate thing, but we’ve talked about how we’d like to end up married. I felt very sure about that at the time, about six months ago. Nothing has happened to make me feel differently, but I’m realizing more and more that I do. I’m not sure if I’m the well-rounded human I’d like to be when I get married, and I don’t want to rush into anything. He’s still just as sure as ever, which is good and bad, I guess.

So, the question: How did you know your Lady was the “one”? And vice versa? Most married people make it seem like a matrimonial meteorite fell out of the sky and slammed the knowledge into them, or they just found someone they felt comfortable with. Is there some kind of test? Obstacle course?

It was a late May day, and we’d had a bike ride. Kind of the perfect day you could never expect would be meaningful, even if, during the day, you catch yourself consciously noting what an unforgettably wonderful day it is. Well, we got back to the apartment we were sharing (in sin) and I knew she was the one when she looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m pregnant.”

Kidding! (But not entirely!)

Identifying the exact moment you knew somebody was “the one” is great for fairy tales, but, as I’ve long suspected, is subjective based on age and experience. The moment one would pick one year might not be the moment one would pick a decade later. And, generally, those who have one exact moment that they retell over and over again like it’s part of a reelection stump speech have always been suspect.

Christ, lady, you sound like the most sane well-rounded person who’s ever written in to an advice column, so I suggest you just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t sweat the rest of the zoo that you already seem well ahead of.

Previously: Cheating, Sex With Recovering Alcoholics, and Crushes.

A Married Dude is a married dude who doesn’t claim to know everything about marriage. Do you have any questions for A Married Dude?