*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Dating, getting engaged and deciding on a partner to get married to means putting your trust in someone and feeling their goals for a life together match yours.
But what happens when you've been postponing discussing an essential issue, and it suddenly becomes a condition for all your plans and the wedding itself? Would you make a compromise to keep your partner from leaving, or should you go for what makes you happy in the long run?
My friend Andrew has been engaged to Tina, his fiancee, for eight months. They met at his sister's birthday party and have been talking ever since.
In the beginning, they were just friends and met for coffee or just to go shopping. As time went by, they exchanged phone numbers and texted daily. They called each other over the weekends, too, and went for nature walks or on short hiking trips.
"I gradually felt like he was more than a friend, and I liked him a lot. He was positive and kept me laughing most of the time. It was great to be around someone like that, not worried about bills, and always ready to try something new," Tina said.
Andrew was happy to be close to Tina, and they had many mutual friends, so it was never an effort to get together, and their schedules generally matched.
"She wasn't like my other girlfriends. Tina didn't go out of her way to make me do anything or get presents from me. I still liked to get her little gifts, but there was no obligation or expectation," Andrew said.
His parents liked Tina too, so they invited her to family occasions and celebrated birthdays together. Her mom and dad included Andrew in family barbecues, and they helped him fix his car when he needed help.
"Our families liked each other, and we were all happy to be together. And everyone felt we were an amazing couple. There was no stress about getting liked or accepted. And I didn't feel like my future in-laws were judging me or that I had to convince them to be nice to me," Tina said.
They kept dating for a year, and they learned more about each other and what they wanted. They both intended to get married, have successful careers, and raise a family with the right person.
"I felt like he understood me, and he supported me in working and earning well. That wouldn't exclude being a mom; both things could fulfill me, and that's what I wanted. Andrew didn't criticize me or even suggest I should stay home. I loved him more for that," Tina said.
After one year of going out together, Andrew asked her to move in together in Phoenix, Arizona. Tina said yes, thinking that would be the next step toward getting engaged.
"I was so excited thinking he was about the ask me the big question. I kept thinking about the ring too and what it would be like to say I have a fiance, not just a boyfriend," Tina said.
Two months after renting an apartment together and getting used to living in the same place, Andrew asked Tina to marry him. She said yes, and they set the wedding date two years after the proposal.
"We wanted a big wedding, so two years was a good time to get every detail set and include all the guests we wanted to share this special occasion with. And I would have plenty of time to find the unique dress I'd always wanted," Tina said.
Their parents wanted to be part of the planning, so they all got involved, went shopping with Tina, or looked into the colors, the menus, and the guest list.
"You could feel the excitement and how happy they were for us. And Andrew took part in all of it too, not like other grooms who just avoid dealing with that type of thing," Tina said.
After the first six months of their engagement, Tina wanted to talk more about their home and what their life would be like once they tied the knot. And becoming parents was one of her priorities. Unfortunately, Andrew wasn't as keen on it and tried to avoid the topic completely.
"I was surprised because he'd always said he wanted to be a dad one day. But now I couldn't even bring it up because he'd find something else to talk about and end the discussion," Tina said.
After several attempts to bring parenting into their talks, Tina asked him what was wrong. Andrew told her he'd only agreed to make her happy and that he didn't want to contradict her when they were dating but that he didn't really want a big family and lots of kids. He was actually doubtful he wanted any.
Tina thought it could be something temporary or that he was worried about his job and his salary, but Andrew told her again he didn't want to be a dad, and it had all been just to please her.
"That's not what I want at all. I thought we felt the same way, and now it turns out we might not even have a family because he's changed his mind or he never told me how he really felt. And I'm caught up in all this planning; is there a purpose to getting married with no kids, and could he eventually change his mind? He wouldn't say, and I'm not hopeful," Tina said.
They argued about it, avoided each other for a week, and then brought it up again.
"We just couldn't agree on anything, and he didn't want to be clear about it. I felt it was time to spend some days away from each other instead of constantly shouting and being sad," Tina said.
She went to live with a friend while Andrew stayed in their apartment, confused about what was going on.
"Why would she be upset when I only said how I felt? It wasn't to offend her, and it's not lying either. Before, I agreed because I wanted no arguments," he said.
Andrew is worried Tina might give up on him because he doesn't want to be a dad. He still feels the same way but realizes he might have to make a compromise to still marry her.
"She will go if I don't compromise on kids; I don't want to be a dad. Don't think I ever did. But I want her to be my wife. Is that enough to agree to have two or three kids like she wants? I'm not sure. I could try, but I'm not interested in being a parent. I just want to be with her. All those kids would make her ignore me in a few months," Andrew said.
In the meantime, Tina isn't sure she can trust him anymore because he wasn't open about the kids' issue from the beginning.
What do you think about this situation? Was it fair for Andrew to suddenly dismiss the kids' issue when they'd agreed on it before? Should Tina walk away, or is a compromise the right choice for them to have a happy marriage even if Andrew isn't excited about raising a family and just wants to be married?
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