Dear Ms. Frances,
My boyfriend and I have been together for five happy years. He said his New Year's resolution is to marry me. I'm very afraid of marriage because my father cheated on my mother constantly. How can I tell if my boyfriend, when he's my husband, won't cheat on me? You said you were also afraid of marriage but you never said why. How did you finally agree to marriage? How do you know Sir Vince will be faithful or that you yourself won't ever cheat on him?
Dear Fearful of the Unfaithful,
First of all, I think your guy is awfully cute. I've never heard of a New Year's resolution like that! The problem with his resolution, however, is it all depends on you and you happen to be resolute in remaining unmarried.
I think that it's unfair of you to keep him waiting, considering that you have, as you yourself described, five happy years as proof this guy loves you and you alone. But I am familiar with this fear of marriage so I won't condemn you.
The past is a powerful thing. So witnessing your father's infidelity and your mother's suffering can leave a horrible scar. Maybe it hasn't even healed. And now it's a wound that continues to hurt you... and your man. Look, your boyfriend is not your father and you are not your mother. Not all men are scumbags and not all women take shit. So don't let someone else's past affect your future!
I was afraid of marriage because, like you, I saw my mother suffer. My father never really took care of her--he didn't put that roof over her head, didn't provide for her and her children. But my mother never left him because she believed, as I do, that marriage is till death. Besides, he was the one man who made her laugh. However, she kept telling me, up to the last time we talked, that if she were to live her life all over again, she would never have gotten married. That's why I was deathly afraid of marriage. So you and I may have different reasons, but it led to the same results.
How did I finally agree to marry Vince? Well, I loved him. Still do. I believe I always will. Still, it seemed love wasn't enough of a reason to take that plunge. What made me finally marry him was my realization that life will never be perfect but, with Vince, it's going to be pretty darn close!
Still, it haunts us, my indecision. One time, I told Vince that that famous line from When Harry Met Sally made me cry: "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." Vince replied, "Then why did you wait so long?"
That hit me in the gut. Why did I wait so long when I knew from the start he was The One? Because I was afraid, and fear, as a wise old Jedi once said, is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. And you, my dear sad frightened girl, are now suffering. You're afraid of the past. You're afraid of the future.
How can you tell a guy won't ever cheat on you? Well, you can't. It takes faith to marry. Faith, as the Bible says so eloquently, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). So in marriage, all you have going for you is hope--hope that he'll be true to you always, hope that you'll honor your vows, hope that your love will last forever. And hope, as Stephen King's Shawshank Redemption defines, is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
Aside from that wonderful word "happy," you didn't describe your relationship a lot but I think what you and your man have is a good thing. Don't let that good thing die. I think you know that, too. And I think you know exactly what to do.