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Friday, August 31, 2012

SL Letter of the Day: Marriage, Maybe?

Posted by on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 11:12 AM

I'm on hiatus while working on a manuscript for a new book. In the meantime, please enjoy these classic Savage Love letters pulled from previous columns. I will be back October 1st, when the book is finished. —Dan

I am a 31-year-old gay male and have been with my 27-year-old boyfriend for a year. It's been absolutely amazing. He's everything I've ever wanted. We've had some issues concerning trust because our previous relationships failed due to infidelity and being lied to, but we've been working on that in therapy.

Where it gets complicated is that he proposed on our one-year anniversary. I told him that I thought it was too soon and that I wanted to resolve any and all trust issues before committing to marriage. Needless to say he was hurt, but he said that he would get over it and would ask me again in a year. My question: Is it possible that I have done irreparable damage to this relationship? Should I have said yes (as I do see myself marrying him someday)?

Did I Make A Mistake

My response after the jump...

Seeing as how something as trivial as an ill-considered comment or an unexpected facial can do irreparable harm to a relationship, DIMAM, it stands to reason that something as major as a declined marriage proposal can do lasting harm.

I'm not saying that you necessarily fucked things up irreparably—it's a good thing that you take marriage seriously enough not to want to rush into it—but if you do see yourself marrying this man one day, you might want to go back and say yes.

Accepting a marriage proposal, DIMAM (and all the other gays and lesbians confronting this issue now, thanks to California), only means you're engaged. An engagement doesn't obligate you to follow through with the wedding; it's going steady on steroids. It does obligate you to move toward marriage in good faith, and to work on "any and all" issues that can be resolved and keep your eyes peeled for deal-breaking issues that can't. But that's all.


Comments (28) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
by all means accept.
elope, even.
enjoy a few months of wedded bliss!
The 28th Amendment will be roaring up your ass before you know it so don't delay....
Posted by EatDrink&BeMarried for tomorrow we Annul on August 31, 2012 at 11:21 AM · Report this
I hold the opinion that if someone you're serious about asks you to marry them, the only correct answer is yes. Because, as Dan points out, you're only just engaged then. You can change your mind later. But an answer like "I don't know" or "ask again later" or "outlook fuzzy" all just means "NO!" in the asker's mind, and no one wants to hear that.

Say yes, save the relationship, make the guy or gal the happiest person ever when you accept, and then think long and hard about if you want to go through with it before you set a date.

If you see no future with the person, say no. But accept that by saying no the relationship is over as of that moment.
Posted by el ganador on August 31, 2012 at 11:27 AM · Report this
Your hesitancy to commit even to engagement is a fact about your emotional state and level of trust with him. I hope he's as willing as you to work with that and keep moving along at the pace you feel ready for.

If he's not, maybe that's a fact about his emotional state and level of trust with YOU. As Woody Guthrie might advise you both: take it easy, but take it.
Posted by gloomy gus on August 31, 2012 at 11:58 AM · Report this
Gosh, I dunno, it seems to me that being engaged is more than just "dating on steroids." I think accepting a proposal is a pretty serious commitment in and of itself. There's nothing wrong with saying'no' to that if it's a step that you are not yet comfortable with. There will be a lot more than hurt feelings to deal with in a marriage. Figuring out how to communicate honestly and make sure that you are speaking about your own needs ands desires seems pretty high up there to me.
Posted by M. Wells on August 31, 2012 at 12:02 PM · Report this
Yeah... not just 'dating on steroids.' You say yes, you're setting up expectations with consequences: the other person begins making actual plans. Backing out later won't be easier for anyone.

That said, "resolving any and all trust issues" is an unrealistic expectations. Do you expect, at some markable point in time to dust off your hands and say, "Well, that's taken care of."

Being alive means dealing with uncertainty; being in a relationship means jumping off a trust cliff of some height just about every day.

Don't say 'yes' if you're not ready, but don't make the conditions for 'yes' completely unreachable.
Posted by tim b on August 31, 2012 at 12:15 PM · Report this
Dan, you screwed the pooch on this one . . .
Posted by mint chocolate chip on August 31, 2012 at 12:19 PM · Report this
TVDinner 7
The best piece of advice I ever got was, "If you have any doubt whatsoever, don't marry him." This letter writer has doubts and he acted on them. That takes courage and conviction. Good for him for being honest about it.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on August 31, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Mattini 8
A year seems fast to me. I knew a few couples in similarly short relationships who got married in Portland when gay marriage was briefly legal. Now they're gay divorced. Good on the LW for not rushing into a commitment, and not lying to placate his boyfriend.
Posted by Mattini on August 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this
I asked my (now ex) BF to marry me. His response was "not yet." I heard "No." and began counting the days till he dumped me.

Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe I shouldn't have asked when I did. But to my mind there were only two answers acceptable to that question.

Yes or no.
Posted by DaveC75 on August 31, 2012 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Hmm. So you're still in therapy? Yeah. Why not finish that up first?

If he reeeeeeally loves you, he can probably get over this. Hell, he even said so, and he'd ASK YOU AGAIN LATER. Isn't that nice? I'm sure you're fine.
Posted by Gloria on August 31, 2012 at 12:52 PM · Report this
what are you worry-warts fretting about?

it's just a 'gay marriage', after all.

give it a few weeks and if it isn't floating your boat wash it right out of your hair.....
Posted by its not like its a real marriage, after all... on August 31, 2012 at 1:00 PM · Report this
very bad homo 12
It's perfectly ok to say "Yes, but let's wait a few years before making any plans." If the relationship is serious and stable, you know you'll still be together in 3 or 4 years, right?
Posted by very bad homo on August 31, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Wow, what terrible advice. You should never say yes to a proposal without being certain that you want to marry the person. (Ideally, that's something the two of you would have discussed at length before any proposal took place). A broken off engagement is FAR more traumatic and embarrassing than your average breakup.
Posted by Amanda on August 31, 2012 at 2:10 PM · Report this
I have to disagree. If someone says "Will you marry me?" and you say yes, you've just agreed to marry them. Not to be merely engaged, or to go steady on steroids, but to marry them. At that point it becomes about setting a date, picking a best man, and planning a wedding. Anything else is just a stall tactic, and frankly I would be insulted if I asked someone to marry me and they said yes with no immediate plans to marry me. If one wants to up the ante, but not quite get married, they should ask for an engagement, not for a marriage. If they ask for a marriage and you agree to it, you owe them a marriage.
Posted by charlie on August 31, 2012 at 2:50 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 15
Ditto all comments above- Dan blew this one.
I say the LW did right, should focus on communication x20, and if they're meant to be, they will be. If it's too soon for either party, it's too soon, period. I think the one year mark is a bit hasty myself, and this is from someone who hears wedding bells after a couple dates.... Fortunately, my partner of 20+ years was the voice of reason and we took our sweet time before making permanent commitments.
We've been married 3 times now, first (real for us) w/ friends in Cozumel, once in Portland (mentioned above) and now DP'd here in WA. We will be getting officially same-sex married before another year, regardless of R-74's outcome- I don't want either of us croaking without a marriage license, given that I see a near ZERO chance that DOMA can stand.
Posted by OutInBumF on August 31, 2012 at 3:17 PM · Report this
TVDinner 16
@9: Ouch. I'm sorry.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on August 31, 2012 at 3:39 PM · Report this
nocutename 17
Add mine to the chorus of voices saying that being engaged is not "dating on steroids." But an acceptance of a marriage proposal doesn't have to mean immediate plan-making for the wedding or it was just some sort of tactic (for what, I don't know).

In these responses, as in other comments, I never understand the arbitrary length of time rule, as in "we've only been dating for one year and it's far too soon." There's no hard-and-fast time chunk that guarantees the long-term viability of a relationship. Some couples know that "this is it" after two or three dates; some don't know it for a few years; some take longer still. Some people have dated/been engaged for many years prior marriage, and those marriages have still failed, and some people get married after a brief, whirlwind courtship and their marriages endure. For every couple who burn brightly and flame out quickly, there is another that is one that sparks quickly and then burns steadily. Length of courtship is no indicator and what works for some people doesn't work for others.
Posted by nocutename on August 31, 2012 at 4:03 PM · Report this
I wonder what happened with this couple since this letter was originally posted.
Posted by random_lez on August 31, 2012 at 4:37 PM · Report this
@18 that's right, this is from the wayback machine. Dan seems to be posting so much more often these days that even with the disclaimer intro it's hard to remember he's currently on hiatus from just the SLLOTDs.
Posted by gloomy gus on August 31, 2012 at 4:45 PM · Report this
Yeah, I thought being engaged was going steady on steriods too. I was wrong. It is an express train to the altar. Most men don't understand this, and it sure doesn't help to spread the misconception.
Posted by Learned Hand on August 31, 2012 at 6:22 PM · Report this
This letter should have a Special Guest Answer from Shelley Long.
Posted by vennominon on August 31, 2012 at 7:22 PM · Report this
nocutename 22
Posted by nocutename on August 31, 2012 at 8:42 PM · Report this
nocutename 23
@21: Well, something went really wrong. I tried to say you just made me spit wine all over my computer's screen.
Posted by nocutename on August 31, 2012 at 8:43 PM · Report this
Being engaged is not "dating on steroids." When you agree to marry someone, you're saying that if the plans were all in place tomorrow -- or later on this afternoon -- you'd take the vows and sign the paper on the spot. Emotionally speaking, you're married in all but name once you say "yes."

If you aren't ready to marry (and good on the LW for recognizing that he isn't), then don't say yes. I think the LW's boyfriend handled it in the most healthy way possible: "I'll ask you again in a year." That means the boyfriend really did hear "not yet" instead of "no." These two are doing fine, whether they get married or not.
Posted by Action Kate on September 1, 2012 at 3:51 AM · Report this
@24: Well, yes, but....

Practically speaking, unless you are planning to elope, you aren't actually ready or able to get married on a moment's notice. Realistically, you have anywhere from a few months to a year or more to continue to work things out (and frankly, to test yourselves with the stresses of planning the wedding). That additional segment of time should be part of one's thought process when contemplating whether to say "yes" today versus wanting them to ask again in a few months.

Still, it's less of a crisis to say "Ask again later" than to say yes, jump into the year of planning, and then find out as the date approaches that your cold feet are still too much to overcome.
Posted by avast2006 on September 1, 2012 at 3:07 PM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 26
If the LW needed to say no but wanted to find a way to make the partner feel loved, the LW could have said, "I'll ask you in a year."
Posted by Canadian Nurse on September 1, 2012 at 5:04 PM · Report this
@25: No, I disagree. If someone asks "Will you marry me?" that person is asking you to commit yourself to him/her for life. You should already know what your beloved is like under stress, and vice/versa. Marriage proposals really shouldn't be complete surprises, despite what rom-coms want you to think. It should be the logical result of a series of discussions and agreements.

If things aren't already "worked out" between the two of you when the question is popped, the answer should not be "yes." Engagement is not "marriage with training wheels." It's "the amount of time between 'yes' and 'I do.' " It's only because the wedding-industrial complex has turned a ceremony and dinner party into a $30K event that it takes a year to plan and execute.

Saying yes with the intention of using the "planning year" to work out doubts and relationship issues is, to me, like getting pregnant in the hopes that a baby will save a faltering marriage.
Posted by Action Kate on September 1, 2012 at 6:59 PM · Report this
Ms Cute - I suppose it's also only natural for Mr Savage to prefer the Tudors to the Ricardians, who, after all, build the whole house on a precontract.
Posted by vennominon on September 2, 2012 at 12:13 PM · Report this

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