In case you’re wondering why your serious ex-girlfriends have brought up marriage shortly before tearing your still-beating heart from your chest cavity, they did it in a last-ditch effort to end the stagnancy and make you pull through as a white knight.
Unfortunately, it was also the last thing she could talk about with you before realizing that you were never going to be what she needed to justify her waiting (longer). The awkward talks she conspicuously instigated along the way, about your hypothetical futures together, represented the steady bottoming-out of her respect for your capability. So, she used the momentum from her pure disappointment to bury a self-fulfilling prophecy in the hollow of your relationship. You just didn’t see it until everything exploded. Or, maybe you still don’t see it, as you sift through the debris. Either way, I’ll break it down.
One year in, she had faith that you would see how special she was and passionately close the deal by Christmas with a proposal that reflected her uniqueness. Then, years later she could gush to seemingly interested third parties about how “sometimes you just know.” There would be couples dinner parties and Pajama Sundays with breakfast in bed.
You’d find the perfect series of homes together. First, the tiny apartment where you’d grow as newlyweds and christen every square inch of the place, including the closets. Then her dad would help the two of you find a spacious condo with a modest mortgage, two parking spaces, and a stacked washer/ dryer. She’d get pregnant a year or two after the wedding and you would hunt for the ideal starter home with a small yard, one which you would mow while she gardened.
Two years in, she thought you might be waiting for a promotion, or maybe your brother to move back to the states from living abroad. The nervous energy was starting to dam up in her frontal lobe, but it was imperative that she keep her cool and let you bring it up first. So, she waited.
By year three, she had grown slightly hostile. She began to believe that your spine had actually left your body and was living its own life somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic, probably frolicking with like-minded single-celled organisms. While she was furiously mapping the outer branches of your respective family trees, and imagining the porch swing you’d share in your 80’s, you thought it was blissful being in a long-term relationship. But, for her, the dating was just a necessary evil, an annoying obstacle to becoming Mrs. [insert your last name]. You talked to your friends about how 26, 27, 28 was just too young to settle down. Sometimes you joked about never getting married at all. Meantime she and her friends were trying to figure out what the f-ck was taking so long. She vented a lot to her sister, who could sympathize. Their parents had gotten married after a month of dating and were still together, so maybe your relationship was doomed from the start because you couldn’t move in hyper-speed.
So the irritation and moodiness just festered. At first you thought maybe it was work-related stress, or an especially difficult period. Finally, you sat her down and asked her what was going on. Or, she picked a fight about dusting properly and you managed to identify the existence of a deeper issue. She hesitated, as some part of her subconscious recognized that there was no going back after she let this cat out of the bag. You pushed, and she blurted out something to the effect of “WHERE THE HELL IS THIS RELATIONSH-T GOING?!”
You either froze, having never really entertained the idea of marriage anytime soon, or you assured her that you loved her, and that the other things would come in time. Either way, she heard very little of your response. Mostly, she could not get past her utter disillusion. She had broken down, and broken countless promises she’d made to herself about staying strong. She had shattered every imaginary proposal you had performed in her head. That was something she would never forgive herself for, and looking at you was just a reminder of every time the relationship had and would fail her.
Somehow, you thought you had handled the confrontation rather well, because she didn’t mention it again. She got a little colder, even more distant, and dove into work. You tried to be patient, thinking it would pass. Unfortunately, every thoughtful date, every bouquet of flowers, every time you walked her dog, those were tragic efforts to buy time in her eyes.
Then she explained that it was not working and that she wanted something else for her life. Rather, someone else. She wanted someone who could take a chance with gusto and fulfill her notions of spontaneous romance, naturally paired with lifelong companionship.
What you never really understood was that she grew up playing with toy vacuums, easy-bake-ovens and baby dolls with obnoxious voice boxes. She spent years running from boys trying to marry her in grade school. Then she graduated from college and the chase stopped. She met you and you failed to pursue her with the vivacity of a Spartan warrior. You thought she would always be around. So, you lost her.
She catapulted you into limbo by breaking things off entirely because she finally grasped what it means to have grown up on Disney and be living in the 21st century with guys like you. There was no tunnel, and certainly no light at the end it. She lived through watching every romantic notion she ever had about you fade silently into the distance. You will never really get her back, because your hesitation made her feel completely flawed.
So, for next time, remember that if your special woman brings up marriage first, you might’ve already lost her.