Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My live-in fiance is unhappy with my decision not to have our wedding in his church. I understand his disappointment and am truly sorry I cannot give him what he wants, but I do feel justified in my decision. (Marriage in his church involves hoop-jumping that I consider intrusive.) Any of the other options — civil or a different church wedding, courthouse quickie, staying unmarried and living together — are all suitable options to me and I’m sure one of them will be acceptable to both of us eventually, but right now he is really sad. I do not feel that he is badgering or trying to manipulate me, but I do feel yucky in his presence since things are very quiet and strained.
In my previous marriage, this would have caused a huge fight, but I sense that the mature thing to do is to let him come to terms with his unhappiness in his own way. I am tempted to take some time away, maybe see some friends for a few evenings, but I can imagine that this would come across as insensitive. I am afraid that if this goes on too much longer I will feel defensive about my decision and try to convince him to see it my way. Which doesn’t feel fair, since he isn’t trying to convince me, just not hiding his displeasure.
I guess my question is: How long do I just wait for him to come around? It’s been two days.
Never miss a local story.
I can’t give you a specific number of days, but I do think it’s fine to say, “I’m giving you space on purpose because I know you’re disappointed, but if you’d rather I did something different, please let me know — I’m happy to talk more, or get out of your hair for the night/weekend, or whatever else.”
If he doesn’t give you any clear direction and keeps brooding, to the point where you’re growing resentful, then you say you’re going to visit friends because you’re not comfortable with the silence.
In other words, you can give him room to deal with your decision and still keep communicating. They’re not mutually exclusive.
Re: Unhappy fiance: I was surprised at your response. She says she is willing to compromise, but only if compromise means getting her way. The entire tone of the letter is “eventually he’ll decide I’m right.” Why isn’t it up for discussion that she’ll change her mind and decide, while the church wedding might make her uncomfortable, it’s something clearly very important to her fiance?
I didn’t see it as “eventually he’ll decide I’m right,” but instead that he’ll accept it — big difference. Because there’s no “right” here. There’s just someone deciding there’s a line she (presumably) isn’t willing to cross. She’s entitled to that.
She’s also showing respect for his right to be upset. And she’s offering him alternatives, demonstrating her commitment and flexibility. I won’t urge her to “compromise” further on a matter of principle. She’s willing not to get married over this.
The real issue is that there is no compromise, thus my quotation marks. The answer to which I’m standing by: to keep respecting his needs and keep communicating until it shakes out, however that may be.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.