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Relationship strain - pressure to propose

Community Member

Hi all

I need help. I have been with my partner for nearly 5 years now. We've had a relationship with lots of ups and downs. Early in, we had issues with intimacy - I was on anti-depressants- unfortunately that resulted in difficulties on my part - she took this very personally and became extremely upset and angry. I was screamed at on more than one occasion. This resulted in a phobia of sorts of intimacy that I still struggle with. For the almost 5 years we've been together, we were not physically intimate for most of that time. It's only been in the last few weeks that we've actually started being physically intimate, in the normal sense. Super pleased with this break-through though.

The above never stopped me from loving her and we in spite of those issues, we have stayed together. I've worked very hard to try and resolve my issues - I have pre-existing moderate/severe depression, and have generally managed that well. She is a lovely person, although certainly not low maintenance - often things have to be done on her terms. This is something I've so far been able to manage, and despite there being some seriously bad times in the relationship I stayed, and we for the most part have worked through these things.

A couple of years ago as a last ditch attempt to make her happy during a very dark period with her- I put an engagement ring on layby. I know this was a bad decision in hindsight, but I though that if I could prove to her I loved her enough, she would reciprocate I guess and make me feel loved.

She was upset last weekend, as she didn't think we were going anywhere. She is 36 and I am 28. I love her, but I'm just not ready. We don't live together yet- we have only just started to round the corner of those physical intimacy issues. Up to that conversation I was happy with how things were going. Now I feel like I am under so much pressure.

My anxiety and depression has started to spiral out of control in the last few days. I want to make all the effort I can to give her what she wants, but I don't want to do something I'm simply not ready to do just yet.

I'm seeing my counsellor next week, but I'm just struggling with the pressure I'm feeling. I keep ruminating about what I should do/shouldn't do/what will be/won't be. It's like a whirlpool in my head I can't seem to escape from. I have no clarity and no plan and feel entirely hopeless. I can't bare to lose her as I love her so, but at the same time I want to propose when we've reached that point.

27 Replies 27

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

hi, welcome

I'm very glad you are seeing a counselor next week. Some things are best left to him/her but in the meantime some opinions could be helpful although very subjective.

Do you think her age might be a catalyst for much of her feelings? (having children comes to mind)

Do you think 5 years is long enough to know your future?

Assistance from a GP with your intimacy problems is readily at hand nowadays. Have you discussed this with a GP?

Do you want children?

Back one or two generations 28yo was not young to start a family nor get married. Now it seems mid to late 30's is the norm to start thinking about these things. Perhaps she is worried her time clock is ticking.

Repost anytime and thanks for being here.


Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear balticus,.

I think TonyWK has a good idea of maybe she wants to start a family and her time is becoming to get shorter....in terms of her having a baby...Is this something that you have both discussed at all?...starting a family...

Idk really what to suggest to you batticus ...except to go with your heart.....feeling pressured into doing something that you’re not sure if your ready for...only to prove to her that you love her and to keep her happy....doesn’t sound like it’s from your heart....

Be true to yourself and your feelings...You shouldn’t need to give her an engagement ring to feel loved.....You should feel her love for you, whenever you’re together....

My kindest thoughts dear batticus..


Community Member

Hi. 36yo female speaking. - Just to clarify, not that 36 year old female!

I am glad you are off to the counsellor on this one - I certainly can't help you with exactly what to do!

I can tell you that my body clock is ticking - I know that if I want kids of my own that, for medical reasons, it's got to happen sooner rather than later. However, for me personally, it won't be happening with just anyone. There are lots of potential conversations that need to happen between the future father of my children and I, and if they weren't happening or there were lots of real battles to have them, that might indicate to me that he wasn't the right person. That's not to say we aren't allowed to disagree, we just need to be prepared to be open, honest and share with each other.

Like I said at the top - can't give you your answer... so please keep that counselling appointment!

Good luck with whatever direction life takes you!

Community Member

Thank you everyone for your replies, I am very grateful.

I should have mentioned re. kids... she doesn't want children and neither do I, so that's not really part of the issue.

I'm not sure what to do. It's hard, but she is a very difficult person to be around at times. There are times where she is lovely, she is very affectionate, funny and a kind soul. But very often she is distant, cold, and barely speaks. She is a good person - loyal, trustworthy, but sometimes she is just so cold and distant I feel so awkward around her. I don't know what to do about this.

I've had serious mental health issues in the past, and have managed to cope well for the most part. However when I have flare-ups - I'm having one now... she is not always sympathetic. She doesn't understand anything about depression/anxiety, so she provides very little comfort at times.

My plan I've sort of come up with is to try and communicate my needs better. I'm not very assertive and that needs to change. I think if I communicate my needs clearly, and she responds badly, I guess I know things may not work out. Today we had a nice day, went for a nice outing etc. but she was cold and aloof at times. It makes me feel so sad. I try so hard but nothing makes her happy.

Right now I just feel so anxious and tense, it's like my chest is going to explode. I'm trying to hold myself together but I'm struggling.

We don't live together, she has never wanted to stay at my house. If marriage is on the cards... we have to be able to compromise and ultimately live together for it to work. She has agreed to stay over at my house tonight - I'm pleased with this, but I still feel like I'm hurting. I don't even know why.

I'm sorry I'm rambling and don't make sense. I just don't know what to do, and I feel terrible.


Try asking questions. When she goes into her shell ask questions like anyone else would.

  • How are you feeling?
  • Are you sad or something similar?
  • Why are you quiet?

When you get an answer ask another

The reason this is important is that these are normal questions. If you dont get any response or her response isnt substantial enough to sooth your concerns then you indeed have issues that need relationship counseling. That course is essential in your case because you'll either become more satisfied with her answers or you will get greater clarity and move on.

One way or the other will benefit you but mid way is not allowing your anxiety to subside.


Thank you Tony

She stayed over at my house on Sat night - I was so happy. I tidied up and made everything look nice. When she arrived, she was in a huff and wouldn't talk to me. It was as if I had done something seriously wrong. It was sad as earlier that day, we had a nice outing - and I was feeling positive.

We had a big , very emotional talk the next morning. It was pretty harrowing. I'm still struggling. She basically said that she's too old for 'sleepovers' and is sick of dating, she wants marriage ultimately. I completely understand this, and I ultimately want to get married too. But what else can we do? We don't own a home together yet, and talks about that have never started. What concerns me is that over the last five years, I've always had to stay at her house. She would never stay at mine. My house is tidy, comfortable, in a pleasant spot - but she would basically never stay over.

She described her idea of marriage - and to me it sounded more like two housemates living together, doing separate things for a lot of the time. My view of marriage is that it's where your life is shared with someone else, obviously you have different interests and hobbies, but you are a team. I don't get that feeling. I get a feeling her idea of marriage is quite different to mine.

She also has ambitions of moving interstate. She has no real pressing need to but it's something she wants. I'm not ready for that. For me I need my family, support network of friends, and ultimately being 'home' to keep me healthy and safe with my mental health situation. Maybe one day I'll be doing better and can contemplate such a thing, but right now I wouldn't last long - I'm afraid I may well end up in a mental health facility without that support.

We are going to try and talk more about these harder topics and hopefully navigate through them. I know this is going to be challenging and may well make or break us. What I'm scared of right now is how my mental health has deteriorated so rapidly and I don't know how much longer I can function like this. We have gone through so much together over the last almost 5 years, lots of bad things, but nice things too and we got through it. It hurts so much to see my life unravel like this.

Hi again, glad you're still chatting here.

There seems an awful lot of "hope" going on in your relationship. She hopes you'll move interstate with her, she hopes for marriage soon, you're hoping one day to be more stable mentally and that might lead to wanting to move interstate to satisfy her wishes and you are hoping her ideas on marriage will blend with yours.

Being a community champion here means supporting those that need the support and give limited advice. My concern with that is that in this case to support you might not result along the lines of giving false hope. In my view there is too many "hopes" and not enough natural areas of compatibility. In that case the compromises you both seek is not going to "cut the mustard" (enough to satisfy long term).

  • She hopes you'll move interstate with her- If you move interstate and you find it alienating as well as needing family close by will she move back with you? Will she understand?
  • She hopes for marriage soon- Will she settle for a continuing defacto relationship like moving in together in a home she feels comfortable in?
  • You're hoping one day to be more stable mentally and that might lead to wanting to move interstate to satisfy her wishes- hoping to be more stable mentally is a dream/goal we all have here but rarely does that dream result in any significant reality
  • You are hoping her ideas on marriage will blend with yours. This needs more investigation. Her dream of a wedding might be (and rightly so) something she's watched happen with family and friends for near 2 decades. A wedding should only take place if it develops into a natural course by both parties.

In some ways I sypathise with her. She's mid thirties wanting marriage but she might be ignoring the hurdles pointed out above to complete that dream. A couple of years post wedding that dream becomes a memory and all the other issues grow from issues to road blocks. Love does not conquer all, weddings dont solve differences and empathy for us the mentally ill can be frustrating for the other person.

So to support you I've aimed at clarity as to what is the course that will avoid potentially bigger problems down the track. The only other way to avoid them is heavy continuous counseling for both of you together. If she refuses that then it displays lack of a quality you need for a future. But still go yourself to extend the clarity either way from a professional counselor.

Repost anytime. I hope that helps.


Thanks Tony

I sympathise with her too, that's partially why I'm feeling bad too - I feel guilty I can't just give her what she wants. That's what I strive to do for her, and what I've basically done the last five years. I really would like this work for us both, but there are some roadblocks in the way that will be very challenging to get past. The fact we've had an open conversation about what we want/need has been good - and to me feels positive.

I think we need to talk more, and actually get used to having harder conversations when required. She tends to bottle things up, and I do the same - not a great combination. She bottles things up for so long, and suddenly she will explode. Earlier in the relationship, she was at times verbally abusive to me, and this still affects me in some ways now.

She had for a big part of last year issues with extenuating circumstances around her work - instead of allowing me to support her and be part of the solution, I was shut out. It was all top secret. To me this feels like in terms of the relationship , a year of nothing basically.

I think counselling for both of us is something we can benefit from, although I fear it is highly unlikely she would agree to attend. She distrusts counsellors/psychologists. And regarding depression/anxiety, she initially had a "get over it, man up" attitude. That has changes as she's got to know me, but to an extent I suspect she still thinks that way.

I'm going to try and facilitate things as best I can for now - depending where this takes us I will suggest couples counselling. Ultimately even if we don't live in the same house, I'd like to see us being together at either house most of the time. That would be a big improvement and hopefully help things. Me seeing my counsellor is going to be helpful at least for me.

Thanks again Tony

Hi op. Well, 5yrs of rocky and with hardly any intimacy yet still here, l know many might see it differently but personally l think that's a real testament to you both hanging in there and refusing to quit. Even with all the differences that one thing in my book is a very big thing long term or married.

One other thing comes to my mind apart from things already talked about is though that things seems so much about her and her way and you making her happy. Thing is there's 2 people , not just one but anytime l've seen it just all about one or focused on ones happiness , it hasn't ended well . Just don't neglect your own happiness wants and needs too , and she should want you to be happy just as much as herself.

Good luck with everything anyway . rx