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My Fiancé Has Asked Me for Some Space


Dear Athena,

My fiancé recently asked me for some space. I love him so much, but he says I'm smothering him. He says he's worried our relationship will feel like a duty for him. We had an argument about a strip club. I really don't like the idea of guys going to a strip club, but he says I don't let him do anything. What do I do? I don't want to lose him. I cry myself to sleep.


Engaged and Confused

Dear Engaged and Confused,

Abort mission, abort mission! Or, at least, pause mission!

Maybe there are some wonderful bits about your connection that you haven't shared here — but your letter raises major red flags that you need to address asap. I know you don't want to lose him, but I'm really put off by his negative comment about marriage feeling like a "duty." Here's the thing: It is a duty.

Relationships are a responsibility. Marriage is many things, but it is, at its core, a lawful contract between two consenting adults. It comes with terms and conditions — set by both of you — and it means honoring those agreements.

You two need to sit down and make a list of what a happy marriage looks like to each of you. What are the traits of a successful relationship? What can you offer each other? What do you expect of one another? If you think strip clubs are gross, make that part of your terms. Assert yourself and get the clarity you need.

Listen, it's natural for a proposal to generate jitters and doubts — marriage is a big deal! Maybe he's feeling overwhelmed about the whole "forever" part. Fear sometimes comes in the form of claustrophobia, and that might be why he's feeling smothered. If you're noticing his nerves, you might, in turn, be holding on to him a little tighter than usual — see the cycle?

But if he really feels that your expression of love is smothering and is concerned about your relationship turning into a job, space may be just what both of you need.

The great Nina Simone sang, "You've got to learn to leave the table when love's no longer being served." Instead of shedding tears over how you're going to keep him, focus on what he needs to do to keep you. This is the rest of your life, too, my dear.