DEALING WITH A MARRIAGE ULTIMATUM
DEAR MIDLIFE BACHELOR:
I am 42, and have been divorced for just over two years. I am fairly successful, own my own business, and have been fortunate to have been able to afford my alimony and child support without major hardship. For the past 8 months, I've dated a really wonderful younger woman (she's 29). We get along great. She comes from a good family. She can be a little selfish in her thinking at times but overall she is not really unreasonable with what she tells me she needs from me. I think we have good communication. If something is really important to her, I can tell because she will get really emotional quickly if I don't react the way she thinks I should. So it works, and it is a lot better than the relationship I had with my ex-wife which was boring and sexless with constant nagging and fighting.
My issue is that my girlfriend is now insisting that we get married. This seemed to pop up kind of suddenly a week or so ago, somewhat out of the blue. She has not been married before, and says she wants to get married and have two children before she is 33. When I first told her that I am not sure if I am ready to do that, she got really upset and started crying uncontrollably. Then she got mad at me and said I had better not be wasting her time. She said if I don't marry her, then it's over. That was our first conversation on the subject last weekend, and since then she's brought it up on each of the three evenings we've been together. And each time, she gets really emotional and mad, except this last time when I told her that maybe I can think about it some more (and did not shut her down).
I really don't think I'm ready to get married again. It's not that I don't love her because I do. I just don't know if I want to rush into getting married, and I already have two children from my previous marriage and I don't know that I want two more. Maybe one more, someday. But not right now. So my question is - how can I coach her into going more slowly without upsetting her?
MIDLIFE BACHELOR ANSWER:My advice is - don't get married unless you are really ready, and unless you truly believe in your heart that is the right thing FOR YOU.
There are a lot of details you left out - like if she is your first girlfriend after your divorce. Usually, we midlife bachelors who are fresh out of a long marriage are subject to rebound behavior (see the midlifebachelor.com section on Rebound - Does Fear of Being Single Drive Your Behavior?). My point here is - don't do anything simply because you don't want to be alone, or are afraid of losing her.
Here are some observations to consider. You have dated this woman for eight months - that is really not long enough to truly KNOW her. I'd say it is likely that she has been on her best behavior - because most people are on their best behavior at the front-end of a new relationship ... especially if it is a really hot relationship. [You didn't mention anything regarding the hotness of the sex between the two of you - but if I had a 29-year old girlfriend, I know what I'd be doing. ha ha]
I'd say that there are several big warning signs that this woman is exhibiting. First of all, you said that she gets emotional quickly when things seem to be important to her, and you are not responding the way she thinks you should. That PLUS the fact that she brought this whole marriage ultimatum thing up suddenly, and has pressed you, and has become so emotional and unrelenting about it so quickly. My guess is that this is the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of how you can expect her to behave about things in the future. In other words, I would bet that she has been a "closet psycho" - which means that she will increasingly pitch fits or throw tantrums in the future if she does not get what she wants, and that she has hid this type of behavior from you thus far in your relationship. You may wish to check out these articles here on midlifebachelor.com:
Types of Women - Psycho (from Midlife Dating Advice -> Fundamental Truths section)
What Makes a Woman Turn Psycho? (from Short Midlife Articles section)
As far as a marriage ultimatum goes, my advice is that you tell her in the firmest possible way that you are not ready to get married, that you might be someday, and that you don't want to discuss it again for at least a year. If she cannot handle that, then I'd say let her go ... because she won't be happy with you, and you don't need to keep dealing with this drama when you clearly are not ready to get married again. Observe her behavior when she is not getting what she wants - multiply that behavior times two or three ... and know that this is what you can increasingly expect from her in the future. Good luck - be sure to let us know how this works out. Consider joining our Midlife Forum - where we discuss a lot of relationship issues - just like this one.