Dear Neil: I have been in a two-year long-distance relationship with my boyfriend. We always talk, I love him very much, and it feels as if he loves me. He is very caring and has always been there for me when I have needed him. I’ve never met anyone else who really cares for me like he does. He is a great partner who is supportive and loving, and life with him is what I want.
Because it is so great, I am constantly asking him for an engagement ring. He tells me his intentions are to be married, but things take time. I think my constant pressure about getting engaged makes him upset. I need some advice on how not to be constantly pressuring engagement.
If we get engaged, he wants me to move to his state so he can keep his job and be close to his son. I have been working as a manager for my family business. My brother, who works with me, wants me to stay. How do I decide what the best decision is for me?
Undecided in Eagle, Colorado
Dear Eagle: If you pressure him into proposing—and he does—will you trust that he wants to be married to you, or will there always be a seed of doubt in your mind about whether his proposal was willful, non-coerced and not browbeaten out of him? This is the problem with attempting to pressure a man into proposing: is he proposing to please you, or is he doing it for himself?
If you want to trust your future with him, he has to do this for himself, not you. And his proposal must be willful, unforced and deliberate. He has to want to be married to you, and ready to take that step—and the decision has to be his. If he proposes to please you, he may wind up resenting you for pressuring him to do something he wasn’t ready to do, and you’ve also taken some of the spontaneity, surprise and delight out of the experience.
Instead of pressuring him for an engagement ring, try reassuring him of your love, devotion and desire for him, and tell him you want him for your future. That will be more effective, and you then leave the choice in his hands.
Regarding moving to where he is, you say your brother wants you to stay in the family business, but you didn’t say anything about what you feel about it, whether you like what you’re doing and how hard it would be for you to leave. Don’t stay in the family business to please your brother—do so only if it’s what you desire. Your brother will learn to take care of himself, or he’ll hire someone to replace you.
But a potential move to your boyfriend’s locale does pose some interesting questions. If you quit your job and move to where he is, will he support you until you can get a job and be able to support yourself? What happens if it takes you a long time to get a job? How prepared are you to be a stepmother figure, and how will you handle it if his ex objects to you being around their son? These are decisions that you must look at first, and decide how you feel and what you want in each case—and then the two of you need to address these issues so there are no illusions about what such a move would involve, require or imply.
A note of caution: sometimes long distance relationships are far more romantic and exciting than being with each other 24/7. Being with each other day in and day out inevitably stimulates irritations and differences, and it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves. I’m not saying it doesn’t work—clearly it has worked for lots of people. I’m just suggesting that you be forewarned that the transition may be more tricky than you expect it to be.
Bottom line: Move because it is the right thing for you, not because of your brother. You can help your brother ahead of time with hiring someone else, training them and any other problem areas, but this is your life, and you have to live it the way you think is best for you. And let your boyfriend propose on his own free will, not because he is trying to appease you or please you. So stop the pressure on your boyfriend—and be very patient.