Really need advice. Thinking of ending 4-year relationship

posted 2 weeks ago in Waiting
Post # 2
15399 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2011

Time to walk.  You both are young and he doesn’t sound like he wants to get married to you.  Not now at least and who knows when.  4 years sounds like a long time, but personally at like age 17-21, just doesn’t carry the same weight as being say 23-27.  You’re both growing and changing that entire time and maybe not toward a future together. 

Post # 3
632 posts
Busy bee

I don’t necessarily think it’s “time to walk” (although it may be)… but 21 is still INCREDIBLY young and it’s natural for either or both of you to be hesitant about the idea of marriage, regardless of how long you’ve been together for. You’re about to embark on the next part of your lives (independently and together), and a lot is going to change before you’re 25… you’re joing to start careers and change your goals, and you might grow apart (or grow stronger together). 

It sounds like he’s not really ready for marriage… and I think that’s okay, considering his age (honestly, men aren’t usually ready for marriage until 26+, with some exceptions, of course). If that’s the only problem you two are navigating, then you just need to consider at what age you want to be married by. Maybe, instead of pushing marriage, you push a conversation about adjusting your timeline to be more in line with all the things that are about to happen in your lives post-graduation. 

NORMALLY I’d tell women to walk after their deadline date for a proposal, but you are still SO YOUNG and I think you could revisit the conversation if you felt inclined to. 

Post # 4
449 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2021

21 is so, so young. You’ve been in school your whole life. You and your boyfriend both are still deep in the middle of growing up and coming to know yourself. It’s not surprising that your boyfriend is anxious about getting married so young, and all of this lying and hiding strongly suggests that he’s really not mature enough to be married anyway. Strong relationships are generally built on good communication, even when that communication is hard or uncomfortable. 

Marriage is a big commitment. I don’t think that you need to break up with you boyfriend if your relationship is otherwise positive for both of you, but do you really need to get married so young? I think you should keep dating for a few more years and keep growing together. Maybe you’ll eventually go your separate ways, but if you do end up staying together, you’ll both have some time to mature, learn how to have an adult relationship, and build those communication skills.

Post # 5
1055 posts
Bumble bee

Oh Bee, please believe me that there is no rush. I know it may not feel that way right now, but you have so much growing and life to experience ahead of you. It will work out eventually if it should. 

Post # 6
2441 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: City, State

Bee, gently, this is a 21 year old man who isn’t ready to get married. His words and actions are screaming that he’s not mature enough or willing to get married at this stage in his life. Is he doing a poor job of explaining that these are his feelings? Yep. Should he have told you when you first started talking about a timeline that he didn’t feel ready to put one in place? Yes, in a perfect world, he should have. But… this all comes back to immaturity. He didn’t know how to tell you, wasn’t in tune enough with his own feelings to be aware of them, and now he is backpedaling because it’s all happening too fast and he feels powerless to speak up for himself. I’d imagine that the thing he’s being the most truthful about is how terrible he feels knowing he’s hurting you. 

I will tell you that it is perfectly normal for men in their early 20s to feel like they are not ready to get married. The couples I know who started dating in high school and made it to marriage are the ones who waited ten years to get married. It provided them with an opportunity to get established in their careers and grow into the adults they weren’t even close to being when they had just graduated from college. Moreso than any other time in your lives, you and your SO are going to change a lot during the time just after graduating college until your brains are done developing around 27-ish. Most people grow apart during this time, which is why many young marriages end in divorce. Others grow together, but this growth can be just as easily accomplished while dating and living together before getting married at 27/28 years old. 

A relationship is much more than a race to the finish line that is marriage. So, you are at a crossroads.

As I mentioned above, your SO is not ready. Don’t make excuses for his behavior. Acknowledge it for what it is. He wants to date for longer and be more established before committing to marriage with anyone, even you. At 21 years old, that’s more than reasonable. You are also 21, and even though it seems like you are mature and have a good head on your shoulders, you’re going to be doing a lot of growing and maturing in the next 5-6 years. 

Is lengthening the time the two of you date before getting engaged something you’re willing to do? Perhaps you could graduate and then move in together for a year or two to see how things go. Relationships should move in baby steps, and I personally would encourage you to look at one thing at a time and truly get to know someone without having to seal the deal with marriage right away. 

There are no guarantees in life, Bee. The one thing that’s certain right now is that he’s not ready, and if you want this relationship to continue, you need to tell him it’s okay that he’s not ready and that you will give him the time he needs to get there (without pressure or obsessive check-ins… if you say it, you need to truly allow him to get there on his own). If you give him time, he could be ready for marriage in three years. Or, the relationship may not last because the two of you begin to grow apart, and it ends. It’s up to you whether you think he is worth the wait. The grass may or may not be greener on the other side. Only you can decide that. 

Post # 7
532 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2022

I won’t dismiss your relationship because of your ages but it’s totally understandable if he doesn’t feel ready to marry at 21–22. It also makes sense that he’s anxious since he grew up in an unstable home (both financially and possibly with abusive parents). That really leaves a mark on a person; it can take decades to un-learn those behaviors.

So he’s decided not to honor the timeline. He has a lot of excuses, some of which are valid and some aren’t. You just have to decide if you’re OK with things as they are now. It may take years for this guy to grow up, if he ever does at all.

Post # 8
7868 posts
Bumble Beekeeper

It’s smart and reasonable to want to establish a career and build savings before getting engaged and planning a wedding. Reevaluating agreements made for the future when just out of high school is also reasonable. What made sense at 17 or 18 shouldn’t make as much sense at 21 if you’ve matured at all.

You are both soooooo young. If you see yourselves together in the future shelve wedding plans and work on developing communication and basic adult life skills before getting engaged. The end goal should be a good life and a strong marriage, not a pretty ring and a party.

I found the following very telling–you explain why he avoids conflict and then state you don’t understand why he avoids conflict:

He’s really reluctant to open up because his parents are emotionally abusive and will literally scream at him for hours on end just for expressing his (completely harmless) thoughts on anything if they’re in the wrong mood. I still didn’t understand why he had never brought it up before. 

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking your time and doing the work. 


Post # 9
340 posts
Helper bee

Forget marriage you are both still finding your way. Graduate, get jobs start your careers. Allow the relationship to progress as you enter the adult world and see where you are a year or two from now. You both maybe on different paths by then or you may not, only time will tell. Most people I know who married young (very early to mid 20s) have not lasted the course and those that are still together are restless and unfocused. 

Post # 11
136 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: April 2019

I am going to make a huge generalization here and say that I think since you both are very young (21). He is probably realizing that he may not want to settle down right now which he is not wrong for.

He is wrong for the way that he is communicating this to you though. He is lashing out, getting angry, and lying to you rather than just being up-front about his intentions. His actions are screaming that he does not want marriage right now.

To answer your question if its time to leave this relationship…it depends. First and foremost, he needs to learn how to communicate in a healthy manner with you. Right now, he is acting like a child and part of that is because he is one. No marriage is going to last if you cannot have an honest conversation with your partner.

Another issue is that you seem to be ready to settle down. Let’s say he finally sits you down like an adult and tells you he is not ready for marriage. Would you be okay with that?

Highschool sweetheart relationships tend to fail due to the two people in the relationship, growing up, and wanting different things when they become adults. It does not mean that either person is bad or wrong, its just something that happens. I am definitely not the person I was when I was 17 and now that I am 29, I am definitely different than my 21-year-old self.

I really wish you luck with this. Just remember to prioritize your needs and don’t settle for the sake of your relationship.

Post # 12
2945 posts
Sugar bee

He is 100% not ready for marriage… it is blatantly obvious. He’s feeling extreme pressure given y’all had agreed to get married after college and now that the deadline is approaching he’s just not emotionally ready. 

If you guys were 10 years older I’d say this is a huge red flag and you should walk. But you’re barely out of your teen years and have never lived in the real world (college is not the real world), so imo your boyfriend is actually being pretty responsible in hitting the brakes. I know it’s a cliche and the last thing you want to hear right now, but people change so much in their 20s. If your relationship is strong and meant to be, it will weather a few years while you get your bearings post college as adults living in the real world. If it’s not, far better to find that out pre marriage than post. 

I cannot tell you how many couples I know who got married right out of college and then divorced about 10 years later. I’m in my mid 30s now and seeing a lot of this. It’s so sad, many of them have multiple children too. No it doesn’t happen to everyone but it is common and the best way to avoid that is to pump the brakes and give your relationship a healthy chance to develop organically as y’all continue to mature as adults. Then revisit the engagement convo in a few years. 

Post # 13
1364 posts
Bumble bee

He’s not ready yet.  It sounds as if he’s saying the right things in front of your families because he doesn’t want to upset them, but when it comes to the crunch, he panics.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Guys are often later to mature than girls, so it’s not surprising that you feel excited to marry & settle down when he doesn’t yet.  

If you were 10 years older, then I’d say that after 4 years, it was time to walk away.  But at 21, it doesn’t have to be split up or get engaged.  The third option is that you spend a couple more years dating.  When you start your working life, you are likely to change quite a bit – you may find this brings you together or pulls you apart.  If it brings you together, time enough to talk about getting married at 23 or 24 – or even later.  If it pulls you apart…just be thankful that you’re not facing divorce before age 25.  

Whether you stay together or not, I would really recommend your boyfriend seek some counselling to help him learn how to handle conflict & stress.  I totally understand why he may be reluctant to raise topics that could prove divisive – his upbringing will make him very conflict-averse – but this is something that he needs to learn how to handle if he is to have fulfilling relationships in future.

Best wishes to you both, whatever you decide.

Post # 14
4257 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: November 2019 - Canada

View original reply
@feelingsadandhopeless:  You seem really mature and rational, kudos to you for helping your partner navigate healing from an abusive & toxic upbringing. It’s hard to be logical when it comes to emotionally charged topics, like proposals and marriage. There’s a lot of feelings tied up in those types of promises, so it’s not outrageous that you can see where his unhealthy tendencies stem from in a normal argument vs one about marriage. My advice to you is to decide what is more important to you; your relationship with him, regardless of the timeline OR the promises you made to each other regarding the timeline. Neither is wrong! It’s perfectly acceptable to not be OK with him changing his mind and not discussing it with you. 

If you want to pursue the relationship still, sit down with him and get rid of your initial timeline completely. Ask him what he sees for the future; not in an abstract way, but in a realistic & honest way. 21 is crazy young, you have tons of time! I know it sucks to hear that, its annoying when people dismiss your goals because of your age. It might be time for your bf to do some therapy and do some serious healing before you go take the next step. 

Post # 15
66 posts
Worker bee

Disregarding the age piece (because I don’t come from a culture/background where that is abnormal/a concern so I can’t speak on it).

In general, it sounds like you’re making a lot of effort to take ownership of your own behaviors/responses as well as contextualizing his responses through what you know about his upbringing/history. It’s amazing that you’re doing that. So many people don’t. It seems like you’re really working on building and fostering a healthy relationship.

I think you might benefit from giving yourself the same grace you’re giving him. You opened this up with “feeling hopeless,” which I think is incredibly important. Relationships shouldn’t make you feel hopeless. That’s awful. No one deserves that. They can be frustrating and complex and sometimes a little stressful, but hopeless is an intensely heavy and dark feeling and I don’t think anyone deserves any kind of relationship (romantic or otherwise) that makes them feel like they don’t have any hope. The world is already beating us all down with so many reasons to feel hopeless. Our relationships should be pushing back against that.

Regardless on what you chose, I think it might be good to think about what would actually remedy that hopeless feeling. Not what could possibly distract from it or what could allow you to push it down and away for a few more years til you’re in your mid-20s or late-20s and still battling it.
If there isn’t a way to achieve hope in this relationship, thank him for all of the good he’s done in your life and for his role in helping you become the person that you are today, and move on to something that works for you. He’ll be ok. And you will be too.

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