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Michael Jones, LMFT
Michael Jones, LMFT, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 105
Experience:  Over 12 years experience as a therapist, both inpatient and outpatient. APA Board Certified.
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After 6 years of living together my boyfriend 9 years

Resolved Question:

After 6 years of living together my boyfriend 9 years younger than me proposed. After I started planning our wedding he told me he couldn't marry me. He says he loves me and doesn't want to be without me. He doesn't understand why a piece of paper means that much to me. I am trying to be understanding. I am devastated. I feel unworthy.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Michael Jones, LMFT replied 6 years ago.
***** *****, LMFT :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** and I'm a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. I believe I can answer your question. May I first get some more information before formulating my answer?

Customer:

What do you need to know

***** *****, LMFT :

I'm interested in the dynamics of the relationship. Are you familiar with the relationship concepts of distancer and pursuer?

Customer:

no

***** *****, LMFT :

In many intimate relationships, one partner tends to push for more closeness in the relationship and be more compliant. That would be the pursuer. The other partner takes on the role of distancer, meaning they tend to focus more on the practical features of the relationship and tend to spend more time alone. Pursuers tend to go along more with the desires of their distancing mates. Do you recognize that dynamic in your relationship with him?

Customer:

no.

***** *****, LMFT :

Do you find that one of you tends to nag or complain while the other defends themselves?

Customer:

no not at all

***** *****, LMFT :

How would you characterize your relationship then?

Customer:

We do care about each other deeply. Go out of our way for each others happiness. Spend a lot of time together. We argue just like anyone else, but it ends quickly.

Customer:

We are very give and take

***** *****, LMFT :

Are you and he amenable to couples counseling?

Customer:

I would be. Haven't ever asked him.

***** *****, LMFT :

Thank you for the background. Let me formulate my answer and I will post it in just a few minutes.

Customer:

Thank you

***** *****, LMFT :

I suspect that your boyfriend is experiencing some anxiety about the impending wedding. The reason I asked you about the relationship dynamics is that many times, people will experience "cold feet," fearing the gravity of commitment by an impending marriage.
What I really suspect here is the fear of engulfment.The fear of engulfment is a type of fear of intimacy. It occurs when one exhibits a pattern of delaying commitment due to a fear of their lives being overtaken by an intimate relationship. It's often really rooted in a fear of rejection. For instance, one might fear rejection from their romantic partner if they say no or set boundaries, so relationships are characterized by seemingly endless giving up parts of their lives to satisfy their partner. This leads them to feel “engulfed” by their relationship and they eventually feel trapped.
The reason I suspect this is that you state you both, "Go out of our way for each others happiness. Spend a lot of time together." He is nine years younger than you, so 27 years old. It would not be unusual for a guy his age to quietly harbor these fears of engulfment. You wouldn't know this because he wouldn't reveal this information to you.
The best way to deal with this issue is through couples counseling. The underlying issues that are clearly making him reticent to get married would emerge in a safe, supportive environment where the two of you could work through them.
The good news, though, is that this is a very workable issue. I truly believe that, if the relationship is really as strong as you report, brief couples counseling would be very beneficial.
Another piece of good news: This is not about you. The likelihood is that this dilemma is about a man becoming aware and anxious when facing the prospect of making a lifelong commitment. As a clinician who has worked with hundreds of couples, I would be surprised if his hesitation had anything to do with his feelings about you. I sense that you are a very caring and understanding woman who deserves the very best.
So, hang in there and seek counseling. I think you'll be very happy with the outcome, certainly in the long run.

Thank you and I hope I have answered your question. Please remember to click the Accept button and leave your feedback for me. Should you have additional questions in the future, you may always contact me here at Just Answer.

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