What does a couple need to work out before marrying?

Ducky asks– Hello! So I seem to be having trouble in my relationship. We have been together for 13 months and became engaged 6 months in. I told her I wasn’t ready to be engaged, as I have been married before and I’m not ready for it yet. But she got mad at me and I gave in and said she could propose. Then she wanted a baby and I told her I wasn’t ready. I feel like I’m holding her back from her life. We also argue about a lot because she says a lot of things she regrets saying and when alcohol is involved (which isn’t too often) it gets worse. She goes through my phone because she doesn’t trust who I talk to, and I have trouble letting go of the arguments we have. Which has led to resentment, lack of sexual desire, and me being a robot. I’m also having trouble being attracted to her because I’m used to being with men. We called off our engagement privately because she knew I didn’t want it yet. She is very upset about going backwards. We are now on a break because she’s tired of being with a wall, she wants me to let go of my past and be ready for a future with her and figure out my sexual desires so we can either make this work or end it before it gets too far. I’m so lost. I love her so much, I just feel like I don’t know who I am anymore. How do I figure this all out?

Hi Ducky –


There’s so much in this question – way too much for one dog to be able to answer all at once (or probably even a brilliant couples therapist!). I’ll start by saying that I’m glad you two chose to put a break in your engagement, as this stuff is too much to take into a marriage (Marriage is work enough without starting this way!). But I’ll try to comment on at least some of these things.


  • If I’m reading your letter correctly, you used to have relationships with men, but then chose to get engaged to a woman. I don’t know whether you’re a man or a woman, but either way, I feel like this is a very big issue that has to be confronted first. Are you sure you want to be with a woman for the rest of your life, and just this one woman? Or are you still more drawn to men?


  • Marriage is, other than parenthood or being a pet, the biggest commitment most anyone makes (I point out that being a pet is a far bigger commitment than getting one, because we’re the only ones who plan to stay in those relationships for our whole lives; for humans it’s usually just a sizable portion). There are lots of good reasons to marry, but talking the other person down from being angry isn’t one of them. You both need to want this, more than just about anything, or it simply won’t work. So if you two get things working again, make sure you want to marry her before you offer to again. Making someone feel better is a great reason to buy her flowers, take her to dinner, or (what I do) lay my head in her lap and whine while looking into her eyes. Marriage is a bigger deal. (And I’m very glad you didn’t agree to a baby before you were ready. I love babies and parents, but we want that kid to feel wanted and loved from day one, not to feel like they were the resolution to an argument)


  • Trust! This is so often a problem! It was bad enough when people just had phones, but now with texting, people can even read your actual conversations. And an innocent comment, like when people see a picture of me as a puppy and say “Oh I’m in LOVE!”, can make all kinds of problems. You guys definitely need to work out some of these trust issues before you marry. It’s fine that she’s a nervous person who worries; she can live the rest of her life just fine that way. But we need her to fundamentally trust that you’re not cheating on her, or (and I’ve seen this so many times) she’ll manage to find all sorts of “proof” of it – even if it’s not true at all.


  • Which all leads me to one conclusion. If you two want to make a go of this, you need to go to real couples’ counseling. I’m happy to give advice, but this isn’t that sort of situation. This isn’t a case of a suggestion or two making everything okay. This is work. Work on yourselves and with each other. And if you both want this marriage, it’s SOOOOO worth the work.


If there’s anything else I can help with, I’d love to. But truly, with these issues, I’m not offering a solution; I’m offering a beginning.


All my best,



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