You've seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel All Alone in Their Marriages, keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show Braxton Family Values. Now it's your turn to sit in her chair...
Dear Dr. Sherry,
I have been dating my boyfriend for nine years now. We were high school sweethearts who (through the grace of God) found a way to keep our relationship going despite attending separate colleges. However, he and I are now both finished with school and moving into our desired careers. I wasn't raised to "shack up" with a man, but he seems to think that is okay. I have asked him when would we take the next step a number of times over the past year. His answers are always “soon” or “it's coming,” which are the normal answers a man gives to move past the question at hand. I refuse to live with a man that is not my fiancé or husband. Dr. Sherry, should I except his answer of soon and continue to wait? Or should I move on and chalk these past nine years up as practice?
Your boyfriend has had nine years to decide if he wants to marry you. The fact that he has not asked or given you an engagement ring is a clear indication that he has no immediate plans for marriage. I am sure that he knows that you are not the type woman who wants to "shack up.” Yet even knowing this, he has still not given any clear indication that he wants any more than what you already have in your relationship. If he really wanted more, you would not be the one who has to ask for it. After nine years, it would be a given that he was on the same page with you and you were both moving in the same direction.
When he answers "soon” or “it's coming” that sounds like delay tactics to me. While you deserve more of an explanation, he will not give you one if you continue to accept his canned answers. This is more about you than your boyfriend. How long are you willing to wait for him to decide if he wants to marry you? At this point, you should be asking yourself: Do I really want to marry him? Given that the two of you have been dating since high school, have you given yourself a chance to date other men? Your boyfriend may or may not be "the one.” How would you ever know with any certainty if you do not date other men?
Sometimes women settle for what they think they want because that is all they have ever known. Women often do not allow themselves to explore other options. While he is dragging his feet and buying time with you, this could be a great time to explore other possibilities. It is highly likely that this what your boyfriend is already doing. (Sorry!) That may be the reason he will not commit to anything beyond what you have now. After nine years, he may want to see what his options are too. Likewise, it may be time for you to do the same.
I would recommend that you have an honest conversation with him about where you both are in the relationship and what your desires are moving forward. Make sure that you do not pressure him in any way. Just listen to see if he includes you as part of his future goals and desires. That will tell you a lot and help make your decision easier. Remember, nine years is a long time to be in a relationship without knowing where it is going. He may not know what he wants but you definitely do. So stop settling and waiting! Okay? – Dr. Sherry
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