Dear Neil: I’m in a two-year long-distance relationship, and we got engaged four months ago. But my fiance has become detached, and may have cold feet. We set a date one year out for our wedding. Then he became very stressed (finishing his masters degree, work, finances, etc.). So he postponed the date, and wants to keep it open instead of rescheduling it. He said he cannot handle the pressure, and he wanted to be stable in his career before tying the knot. I accommodated and canceled the date. We also agreed that I would look for a job in his city and then move in with him.
But then he became increasingly busy, finishing up his final paper for school and finding a job, and he has been very detached, unemotional and uninterested in this relationship. We used to see each other every weekend, but now he has decided with his workload that we should see each other every other week instead, and his behavior toward me has dramatically changed—from being loving, caring, compassionate and willing to make it work at all costs—to the complete opposite. He claims to still love me, but now he wants me to wait before moving in.
I’ve looked at my own behavior toward all this, and decided to be the hero and maintain my love, support and affection toward him. Yet that has not brought things to where I want them to be. I asked him how he thinks things can improve between us, and he told me he is so busy he doesn’t have the answers now. He seems to not be listening to me, or care that his actions are speaking louder than his words. Things have changed from “we” to “him.” He used to say “I love you” all the time, but now he barely says it at all. This has been going on for a month, and I’m feeling helpless, insecure and sad. I’m at my boiling point and want to call everything off, because it seems like he is calling things off, but doesn’t have the guts to say it. I feel extremely unloved, I don’t know what to do and am in desperate need of advice/guidance. Please help.
Feeling Rejected in Montreal
Dear Montreal: It sure sounds as if your instincts are right on. It strikes me the same as it does you: that your fiance has gotten cold feet—and therefore has withdrawn and grown distant in the hopes that you will get fed up and call the engagement off—so that he doesn’t have to. In fact, if you call things off, he can tell others that he was the one who was rejected.
But I could be wrong—and so could you be. Perhaps he feels the relationship is stable enough that he can devote his energies to finishing his degree and starting his career, and that he doesn’t need to put so much focus on the relationship right now.
If he feels that, he is clearly mistaken. You are saying that you need more of him, more love from him, more reassurance that you are his one and only, more of his time, more involvement and more of his day-to-day presence—and that he cannot just drop being loving and caring because he is stressed and busy. So my recommendation is for you to initiate a very honest conversation with him when you see him next time.
Tell him that his recent lack of involvement and loving behavior is unacceptable to you, that he has to find a way to juggle being stressed, busy, burdened—and in a vital loving relationship all at the same time. Tell him that he doesn’t get a free pass from the relationship because he is busy or stressed. If you’re willing to take that stance, you will know where he stands regarding his future with you. If he says he just can’t be there for you now, that his school and work are his priorities at this time, then you will have confirmed that he has indeed grown cold feet and has decided against getting married to you in the foreseeable future.
Some people are loving and attentive during courtship, only to drop those behaviors when they get engaged or married. But that makes the other partner, the recipient, feel like it was all an act, that the warmth, affection and loving gestures weren’t genuine or authentic. I don’t know if this is what your fiance is doing, but if it is, it’s in your enlightened self-interest to stop it now.
One other piece of advice: You want someone who wants you, and you don’t want a man who doesn’t want you. It hurts too much, and there’s not enough in it for you. Keep that in mind.