Relationship Advice

Not Seaworthy

young woman in thoughtful pose

I have a question that may be something I alone can answer, but perhaps you can assist. Here's hoping.

I love my boyfriend. He is a wonderful man, with a great heart and soul. No one else could care for me as deeply as he does. We've been together three years, and although marriage has been brought up in passing, we've never discussed it at length. It's reached the point I feel if I am not going to marry him, I should let him go.

He hasn't pressured me, asked about forever, or anything of that nature. But I know if I said today "let's get married," that would be all I needed to say. We have a good give-and-take relationship, but I still wonder. Would it work, would I be happy, would we end up like so many others in a dreadful relationship 20 years down the road?

I look at other men and think what my life might be like if I were with them and consider "trying them out" so to speak. I go back and forth on this and don't know if it's just my young age, 23, the fact that by nature I am indecisive, or if I am, as another of your reader's wrote, only 99% in love with him.

I don't want to wait until there's a big white dress in my closet to realize I'm on the wrong path.


Addie, we use the word "love" in this context. Love is what you feel for the one you want to be with for the rest of your life. That word in relationship to anyone else is not love. For example, I love him but he's hitting on my sister, or I love him but I can picture myself with other men, or I love him but anything else… That's not love. It's desperation, wish, hope, desire, innate need, or even a craving to be abused. But it's not love.

How do we know you don't love him? You are already predicting the relationship's demise. You are leaving yourself an out. You've left the hatch on the submarine open. If you marry, expect to hear the rushing of water, the bonging of the alarm, and the cry to abandon ship.

Some research has looked at who fares better in relationships: people who follow their gut feelings, or people who weigh pros and cons. That research tilts in favor of the gut feeling people. They are more likely to stay in a relationship which lasts. Why is that true? You have an emotional stake in your gut. The "reasons" for staying with someone are head stuff. Head stuff can change, and head stuff doesn't involve you personally.

Another way of saying this is Occam's razor. The simplest answer is usually best. There are no extra parts to go wrong. The complicated answer has failure built into it.

Wayne & Tamara


I appreciate your candid and prompt response. It confirms what I believed to be true. Although I feel pain and sadness for what I have to do, your response gave me the last bit of a push I needed to actually do it. Thank you very much, you are just wonderful!


Addie, your feeling of relief proves this is the right decision. Like all good people, you do not want to hurt someone else. But just as a doctor often must inflict pain in order to cure a problem, so you must inflict pain in ending this relationship. The greater injustice would be to do nothing.

Doing what you must doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you a mature person. Some days we get to dance all night. Other days we have to scrub floors. The test in life is that we do the appropriate thing, whether it is easy and pleasurable or not.