How do I deal with my doubts?

Dear Meredith,

I have been dating my boyfriend for almost seven years (since we were 21), and we have lived together for the last five. We are happy and in love and continue to enjoy each other's company. We are best friends and much more.

Recently, though, I have been struggling with nagging feelings of doubt and worry. We are in a season of weddings and many of my friends are head-over-heels in love with partners who they are committing to with what appears to be unwavering certainty. However, when I think about getting married, I feel mildly terrified (a sign I take to mean that I am not ready). Don't get me wrong, I do daydream about eventually (down the line) marrying and starting a family, and when I picture this future it is my current boyfriend who I absolutely imagine by my side. Yet I sometimes long to be single, and I feel a nagging worry that I will regret not having spent more time on my own and getting to know myself during my 20s (which are rapidly disappearing).

I also find myself frequently fantasizing about what it would be like to see other people, even though I suspect in my heart that it would lead me right back to the man I am with now. I want these doubts to go away, but they just seem to keep resurfacing. I have talked to my boyfriend about these feelings, and although he was understanding, it hurt him deeply. He said that he didn't share any of these types of doubts (or any doubts what-so-ever), and instead of making our relationship stronger, sharing my feelings just seems to have made him insecure and mildly paranoid that I am going to leave him or that I don't love him anymore.

I don't want to screw up and lose the love of my life, but I also don't want to ignore feelings that continue to plague me and may come back to bite me later. Should I try to get over my doubts and face up to what commitment really means? Do I have a classic case of commitment issues? Is this something that will just pass with time, or is it better to take action (despite the risk)?

– Needing Advice in New York


You don't have commitment issues, NAINY. You're just realizing that you can't have it all.

By having one great experience, you skip another. I figured that out in my late-20s, too. It freaked me out big time. I realized that by nesting in Boston in my 20s, I'd probably never travel the world. It's for the best; Boston is my home (and I get bad allergies when I travel a lot). Still, I had to mourn the loss of an experience I realized I was never going to have.

You mention doubts, but I have to tell you that your concerns are pretty tame compared to most of the "what-if" letters I find in my inbox. "I do daydream about eventually (down the line) marrying and starting a family, and when I picture this future it is my current boyfriend who I absolutely imagine by my side." That's a huge statement, assuming it's the truth.

You say that you might eventually regret not getting to know yourself in your 20s. I'd argue that you have been getting to know yourself -- very well. It's possible to grow up with a partner by your side.

My advice is to forget the married people. You're not on their schedule, and that's fine. Find out whether your boyfriend needs to get married soon or whether he can maintain the status quo. Make sure he knows all of the positives. Make sure he understands how much you adore him. Relax and see how you feel after wedding season is over.

Readers? Should she end this relationship and deal with her doubts? Should she have told her boyfriend about her concerns? Is this just about the stress of wedding season? Thoughts? Help.

– Meredith