His wall is up

Dear Meredith,

I have been with my boyfriend for about two years now and I've never been happier. We've been friends since high school, have been dating since college, and are in our mid-20s. We have so much in common and have such a strong emotional and physical connection, and are planning on getting engaged soon (he bought a ring!).

However, a few weeks ago he approached me and talked about how his past with his father has built a wall between him and people he tries to have an emotional connection with. His dad was bipolar and was emotionally abusive to him and his family, and ended up leaving when my boyfriend was a freshman in high school. When I ask him to explain how the "wall" is affecting him and our relationship, he doesn't say much. He says that he loves me and is in love with me but feels like there's so much more he can give if only this wall was gone. One of the ways he tried to explain it was by saying that because of his dad leaving him and his family, he has always been worried that more people will leave him as well. I feel very loved by him, but now I'm just worried. He also said that he wants/needs this wall to be down before he proposes.

I asked him if he had talked to anyone else about it, like his mom or grandpa, but he hasn't. I then asked him if he thought it would help to talk to them about it, but he said no. How can I help him bring this wall down? How can I figure out the ways this is affecting our relationship? Please help. Thank you.

– Committed and confused, Texas

He's not ready to get married. If you want to be with him, you're going to forget about the proposal for a while. Can you live with that?

If you can, let him know, and then ask him what he wants to do about the wall. Does he need time alone? Does he need therapy? (That would be more helpful than talking to mom or grandpa.) And could it be that he's just as worried that he'll turn into his dad and bail on you?

He can't give you a quick fix for this, but he should be able to tell you what he intends to do about the problem. If he wants to make this better, he has to have a plan. And he has to explain what that plan means for you.

Readers? Should marriage be on the table? Is therapy necessary? Is the wall simply a way to delay the proposal? Why is this hitting him now?

– Meredith