Why aren’t we engaged yet?

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Dear Meredith,

I’m a lurker – but now it’s my turn to ask for help. I'm in love with a guy I've been with for five years. We have an apartment together.

Recently, we started talking about marriage. Outside pressure has me thinking about it almost daily (people asking why we're not engaged, when we'll be engaged, etc.). I thought we were on that path ... we've obviously talked about it. We even went ring shopping. Truthfully, I thought we'd be engaged by now. And the fact that we aren't is starting to take its toll on me, and making me doubt our relationship.

Recently, we decided to sit down and talk about it. My partner isn't a big talker, so I thought something like drawing out a timeline of our lives would be helpful. I did so eagerly ... he wasn't so into it. He said that while he wants to spend the rest of our lives together (and I believe him), he's unsure about when he wants to get married. It may be five years or ten years or three months ... who knows?

If he doesn't know, how am I supposed to know!? This is not only disappointing, but upsets me deeply because if you say you want to spend the rest of our lives together but can't commit to a timeline, why do I have to wait around for that? We're at an impasse, and as I see it, I either have to leave the man I love or settle for a relationship where we are committed but not the way I want to be. Do I stick it out and see if his timeline begins to agree with mine or should I say goodbye?

– Waiting

It sounds like it's time to rethink the conversation. You're talking about timelines and rings, but it might be more helpful to discuss how he thinks marriage will change the relationship. He says he's not ready to take the next step, but what does getting married mean to him? Is he concerned about the stress that comes with planning a wedding? What does he want to do during those extra three months or ten years? You should find out what he's delaying and why. Maybe he's making assumptions about what married life would be like.

You also need to remind him that the decision to get married isn't his alone. He should think about how the two of you have made other choices – like where to live.  I imagine you both talked about your needs and what kind of housing would make you happy. You probably discussed geography, cost, and comfort. You worked together – because the decision didn't just affect one of you. Why would the conversation about marriage be any different?

I do have to wonder whether he's trying to make this cute. There's still a lot of pressure to be romantic about proposals, and to surprise the person who's waiting on the question. If you're not interested in that kind of romantic gesture and you'd rather make the decision as a team, let him know. Based on what you've told us, you don't want this to be a question asked by one person and answered by another.

– Meredith

Readers? Should the LW have to wait three months ... or ten years?