Please help, I am at my wits’ end. My fiancé and I had been together for almost two years when he proposed in January last year. I love him, love our life, and love our home together so it was an easy ‘yes’ when he asked me to marry him. But now I’m not so sure. Since we’ve been locked down I've seen a very different side to him. He is lazy, he doesn’t shower that often and can get really grumpy which leads to us fighting a lot of the time. I know lockdown has been hard for everyone, but I can’t help but wonder if this is what married life is really going to be like. He's like a child when he doesn’t get his own way and only last week he got so angry when I asked him to take the bins out for the fourth time that he locked himself in the bedroom and wouldn’t talk to me for an hour. My parents have been married for 35 years and they don’t argue like we do; they are happy and still so in love. That’s the kind of marriage I want too. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I don’t want to feel like I am settling and I wonder if I could do better.
Okay, first things first, I need you to know that I am speaking from experience here. I got engaged after only a few months and married not even two years after we met. I can say with pure honesty, that I shouldn’t have done it, we were too young, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted in life but I was terrified I would never find anyone to love me again, so I went ahead with it, inevitably hurting myself and my ex-husband in the fallout. However, I am aware and can admit that it was nobody's fault, we just didn’t know any better. So, if anyone can relate to ‘settling’ it’s yours truly.
There are a few things that I think you need to hear before you make any life-changing decisions and you might not like them, but someone needs to say it. This past year has been absolutely unprecedented, none of us could have known how we would respond. Have you spoken to your fiancé about how he is feeling? The things that you have mentioned; lack of energy (laziness), loss of care in personal hygiene (not showering), and mood swings (getting grumpy) are not uncommon symptoms of low mood or depression. Have you considered that he might be struggling with the lockdown just as you have been?
Secondly, basing your ideals for a relationship, never mind a marriage, on someone else’s is never a good idea. You may well be using your parents as an example, but can you hand on your heart say that they don’t argue? I’m positive that in 35 years they have had their share of ups and downs so to put their relationship on such a high pedestal is unrealistic. You aren’t the same as them, you are your own people, not carbon copies. The things that make you happy in life will not be the same as them, just like the things they enjoy will not be the same as you. The grass is not always greener on the other side. And try to bear in mind that if your parents did have any worries or struggles, do you really think they would want to parade them in front of you?
Lastly, how have you been behaving during this incredibly difficult time in our world? Have you been all love and light over the last year, or have you found yourself struggling and getting down in the dumps? Getting annoyed with work, the government, the world perhaps and might you have taken out these frustrations on the person closest to you, the person you live with, the person who might also be fed up, so fed up that he can’t bring himself to take the bins out, even after being told repeatedly by his fiancée?
I’m not saying it’s easy; marriage never is and I do not condone settling, in fact, I am an advocate for the empowerment of individuals and against co-dependent relationships. But to base the decision to end your relationship on what can only be referred to as the most bizarre year of our lives is not a wise idea. But it’s up to you what you decide…
Baby steps – hold your horses
Don’t do anything rash and wait to see what happens once lockdown has lifted. Give yourselves the opportunity to fall back into a rhythm and then evaluate how you feel. Often when we are locked up with someone for long periods of time, it works like a magnifying glass and highlights all the tiny annoyances we have never noticed before. So hold your horses, because maybe you will feel differently once the lockdown is all over.
Head-on – talk it out
Get to the bottom of what is going on by talking about it. If you don’t give your partner an opportunity to speak his feelings then you won’t know if this is really what he's like or if he is suffering. Take time away from the house, something as simple as a stroll in nature for instance and then calmly explain how you are feeling. Speak from a place of I, starting sentences with ‘I feel…’ and avoid saying things like ‘You are…’. Be honest about your own struggles too, because being open and vulnerable yourself shows that it is a safe space for your partner to show his vulnerability. Once you open these lines of communication, I think you will be surprised about what you learn, not only about your fiancé but about yourself as well.
Full nuclear – bye-bye baby
If all else fails, you can just pack your bags and bolt. I’m sure your parents wouldn’t mind having you back in the house full-time and you might even get to see a different perspective of their relationship through your adult eyes. Leave the ring on the table (you don’t get to keep it if you bail, FYI), call your dad for a lift and get out of there. But remember, there is no going back once you have uttered the words ‘I want to break up’ and even if you can work it out, often there is no forgetting they have been said.
So, coming from someone who tried all avenues to make my marriage work, my advice is to give it some air to breathe, see what happens once we are no longer in lockdown and notice if things start to change. But if you do nothing else, please talk to your fiancé, because you never know what is going on in someone else’s mind unless you ask.
Got some shame you want to change? Message Hattie at firstname.lastname@example.org . Hattie is a confidence and emotional intelligence coach, Master NLP Practitioner and True-Self Advocate. She is so grateful for your emails and reads all of them but cannot reply individually. Names will be withheld if requested and letters may be edited for the wider audience. For a private chat or in-depth consultation find her at www.hattiesloggett.com
Names have been changed.