“What do I do when I have been dating my boyfriend for a long time, and he makes promises, especially about getting engaged, but never follows through? I am getting very frustrated and resentful!”
Tired of Waiting
Thank you for your question and for your willingness to look at your situation and seek assistance. Your willingness is a real strength and a resource that you can utilize to work towards the changes that you are seeking. I would like to compliment you on that strength and encourage you to use it!
Whenever we are interacting with others, it is important to keep in mind that we want to be kind in how we treat them and talk with them. When we are kind, it paves the way for the other person to be able to listen to us and respond well to us. When we act or speak unkindly, the other person normally will react defensively and so will not be able to listen or take in what we are saying. They will usually respond in an unkind manner as well, and the potential for conflict and misunderstanding is greatly increased.
"When we are kind, it paves the way for the other person to be able to listen to us and respond well to us."
You expressed feeling some frustration and resentment that your boyfriend is not following through on his promises. It makes sense, given that you have been waiting, and he has been promising. However, what is important is how you handle those feelings of frustration and resentment. The key idea here is to be DESCRIPTIVE. You want to describe to your boyfriend how this situation makes YOU FEEL. You don't want to come after him or criticize or blame him. All that will do is make him feel emotionally unsafe with you, and he will withdraw from you to protect himself. For example, instead of saying "You make all these promises but you never follow through - you make me so mad! You are so inconsiderate and such a liar!”, say something like, "When we talk about getting engaged and then it doesn't happen, I feel really sad, unimportant, used, forgotten, not considered.
Of course, the most important thing that you can do is pray! Pray and ask the Lord to give you wisdom, direction, and guidance for your relationship and for your reactions.
The last thing that I would offer is to remember these two words, which basically sum up my suggestions: be KIND and be DESCRIPTIVE. Be kind in how you treat your boyfriend and be descriptive in how you are experiencing the relationship. In doing so, you will have a safeguard in place so that you will not be critical, blaming, or attacking, and you will make it easier for your boyfriend to share and be honest with you.
I am going to publish a longer answer to this question, which you will find on the CMR website soon! Stay tuned!
Willa Williams is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She works at the Biola Counseling Center as a therapist and at the Biola Center for Marriage and Relationships as a consulting therapist. She has a Master of Arts in Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL) and a Master of Arts in Counseling in Psychology from Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL). She is Level 3 Trained in the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy. Before coming to Biola, she served overseas at the Spanish Bible Institute in Barcelona, Spain, where she taught a class on counseling skills for pastors and served as the staff therapist for the students. She has been married for more than 30 years and has two teenage children. She has a passion for healthy relationships and enjoys working with couples as well as individuals. She appreciates the immense impact that healthy marriages and relationships have on couples as well as future generations.