He still wants to get married next year

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Hi Meredith,

I met my boyfriend totally by accident about a year ago. He lives in the UK but was in the Midwest, where I live. He was visiting for work, just for one weekend. We bumped into each other at a bar the Friday night, sparks flew, and by Monday morning, when it was time for him to go home, we knew there was something worth pursuing between us. Flash forward a few months and he came to spend a month with me over Christmas. It's not an exaggeration to say it was the best month of my life. He's taught me what it means to have a partner, not just a boyfriend. I was supposed to go visit in May, after a busy season at work, but due to COVID-19, that was cancelled, as was his trip here at the end of July for our anniversary.

We're in such limbo right now and don't know when we're going to see each other again. We were already discussing, very seriously, the idea of getting married next summer and I can genuinely say that I believe he's the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. But ... we were talking about it when we thought we'd have more opportunities to see each other in the coming year. Now that we don't know when we'll be physically together again, I'm not sure I'm ready to take the leap – but I don't know how to tell him that. He's kind and gracious and genuinely the best person I know, and I'm so worried about hurting him. Getting married is our best chance at being together physically in the long term, but I've been thinking about so many factors lately. I'm only 23, and never really saw myself getting married so young. He's 28 and definitely ready to take the leap. He sends me pictures of rings almost every day to see whether I like them. How do I tell him that I need to pump the brakes without making him think that I'm not in it for the long haul?

– Not Ready (Yet)

You say he's ready. Maybe that's true. But you've had less than two two months together in person, right? I'm not sure either of you can say you're getting married because you know what you want.

It's OK to tell him you feel like you're missing a step – one that's too important and wonderful to pass over. You were supposed to have year of bonding, traveling, and making new memories. Now that's been delayed. Let him know you still want that year of being young and new together before you start a marriage. Yes, you can experience the world together as a married couple, but the tone is different. Instead of ring pics, you want pics of restaurants he wants to take you to at home, when it's safe to go. You want pictures of his old friends and a few ridiculous stories about how he’s isolating at home. You want to continue to get to know him.

Tell him what you told us – that all of this is difficult to say because you don't want him to think you've lost your enthusiasm. COVID-19 has put a lot of great things on pause; we can't pretend it’s not happening. You want to make up for lost time before you jump ahead.

If you're incapable of having a possibly awkward and complicated conversation about this, you're not ready for marriage anyway. Part of marriage – and friendship, for that matter – is about having these kinds of talks without a lot of fear. This is a good chance to practice.

Do not continue to hit "thumbs up" on those engagement ring photos if you want to rethink the plan. Honestly, if he pushes back, this might not be the relationship you think it is.

– Meredith

Readers? How can the LW talk about this without making it sound like the enthusiasm is gone?