Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Case of the Nagging Girlfriend

It’s so easy that even Carolyn Hax will see it clearly. So I thought to myself after reading a letter written to the Washington Post advice columnist. As rarely happens, I was wrong. Hax, who is considerably more woke than your humble blogger, whiffed on the question. I’ll present the letter and you will see whether you can do better than she did.

Here goes:

I have been seriously dating my boyfriend for over two years, and we live together. I have expressed more than once that I want to be married, and that it is something I value and want in life, and we had a lengthy conversation about it a couple months ago. He always tells me he's "not ready, but maybe one day," and says the same thing about having kids.

We've had our ups and downs, and lately I feel as though he doesn't actually want to marry me or make any big commitments. I am almost 30, and don't want to wait around forever for him make up his mind. It took about nine months for him to just call me his girlfriend.

I've also written him notes to fully articulate my feelings without him interjecting, and he doesn't usually write much back. It is either defensive, or he will say something like "thanks for sharing." Truly, I don't know where most of his feelings lie about any of this, and I am being very transparent.

Should I just start to accept that we in fact do not want the same things?

What does Hax say? Of course, she mumbles about a lack of intimacy, about a failure to commit, and an inability to communicate. In short, she blames the boyfriend.

In these words:

Or accept that even if you do want the same things, you won’t know that because he doesn’t talk to you. Except, apparently, either to interrupt you while you’re trying to talk or to be dismissive of what you take the trouble to write down.

What you describe isn’t the absence of an engagement or of common goals — it’s an absence of intimacy. Intimacy takes two people who are being transparent with each other about their feelings for each other, and about their hopes, goals, fears, doubts and frailties. So if it’s intimacy you want, then this isn’t the person you want for a life partner, even if he proposes to you today.

Of course, this is psychobabble. It fails to address the problem. 

Hax continues:

But judging from your letter, you’re pressing to formalize a relationship that flat out isn’t working in some fundamental ways — “thanks for sharing”? seriously? — and this says you’re due to revisit your principles on commitment.

Yes, but why isn’t the relationship working? Has it crossed your mind yet—it certainly hasn’t crossed Hax’s—that the letter writer has become a nag? She nags her boyfriend all the time about marriage and he has shown her that, if she really wants to get married, she should shut up about it.

Surely, you recognize that this poor woman has imbibed therapy culture wisdom. She expresses her feelings, all the time, orally and in writing. She has learned to lean in. She says what she wants, clearly and unambiguously, and she assumes that because she keeps nagging about it, her boyfriend is going to accede.

She thinks that she is a modern woman. She has overcome the old habit of waiting for a man to propose. She thinks that she can nag him into proposing, and that if he doesn’t, it means that he does not want to marry and does not respect her words. Hax thinks so, so it cannot possibly be true.

Here’s the bottom line: her rhetorical infelicities have made it impossible for him to propose marriage without feeling that he is giving in to pressure, that he is being controlled and manipulated by her, that she wants to push him around. She’s pushing him around, so he pushes back. Her nagging has deprived him of initiative. Thus, he must first save face, even if that means dismissing her concerns as so much nagging. If he gives in, he will manifest weak character. If his character is weak he will not be very much of a husband.

So, the solution to her problem is: to shut up about marriage. Even to say that she is not clear whether or not she wants it. Her current strategy, designed and sold by feminist leaders, is not working. She can blame the man or she can take some responsibility and change strategy, to shut the fuck up about marriage.


whitney said...

I remember the first time I read the Psalms and Proverbs all the way through and I was amused to find a lot of it was about the horror of nagging women and wives

JPL17 said...

Stuart -- Your take on the situation seems exactly correct. But how long should she wait to see if he comes around? E.g., if after 6 months of her not mentioning marriage, he still hasn't proposed, would you start thinking maybe it's time for her to move on?

Sam L. said...

I say the guy should tell her he won't marry her. She's a nag. She, on the other hand, should tell him to "shit or get off the pot"; marry me, or get out of my life.

These two are not for each other.

Anonymous said...

ed in texas
To put the negotiation at it's most basic level:
She's already giving him what he wants. She says she's approaching 30, which doesn't improve her position. She has begun to, uh, repeatedly bring up the same subjects.
At this point, his question becomes "Is she really committed to me, or I am a means to an end?"
It's a fair question.

Anonymous said...

If she is nagging like this before marriage one shudders to think about the degree of nagging that will happen after the brakes have been disengaged by marriage. One of the things a male, and females as well, is what takes place before marriage that is disturbing is only going to grow exponentially after marriage. These little hints about a person's characteristics should be taken seriously. An irritation now will be a large problem later.

Anonymous said...

I think people miss the point when they say it's about nagging. It's about similar feelings. It's simply a matter of "He's just not that into you."