Man of inaction

We want to be together but he's balking at getting married, even though it would allow me to get a green card and a job in my profession.


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Cary Tennis
April 15, 2004 11:46PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I have a problem -- a variation on the usual heterosexual struggle over when to get married -- that I just can't find my way out of.

Four years ago, I immigrated to this country from Britain, not for financial reasons, but because there is more competition and higher standards for members of my profession here. I love being good at my job, and I hope to achieve more. Two years ago, I met the man of my dreams. Exactly the sort of caring, sensitive, smart man I've been looking for all my life. He fell for me hard, too, and we've been wrapped up in each other ever since.

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I want to marry him. I come from an extremely large family in which divorce is almost unknown, and I'm not as leery of it as many Americans seem to be. I've met my soul mate, so I'd like to take the next practical steps and get started on spending the rest of my days with him.

Of course -- here it comes -- he doesn't want to, just yet. He has said that we may get married some time in the future, but he makes it sound as if I'll be over 40 by then. (We're both in our early 30s, by the way.) He uses the angsty arguments that a much younger man would. I know that his parents had a horrible divorce, but somehow that doesn't soothe any hurt or confusion on my part. His mother hinted that she'd like for us to get married -- it can't have been so bad.

To make matters worse, the economy sucks and I'm having a difficult time with jobs and visa regulations. I may have to take a job that would be a sort of sidestep in order to meet all the visa requirements, and it would definitely affect our financial future. We simply won't be making as much money in 10 years, and I'll be pretty unhappy doing something I dislike. A marriage would make this all go away, in a practical sense. I mention this because as I slog away at crappy job over the next few years, even if we do get married eventually, I don't know how I'll stop myself from blaming him when my career hasn't progressed as far as I'd like. I don't want to go back home, because I'd be leaving him and the life I've established here.

I think the hardest thing about our relationship is how passive he is. It's one of his most prominent personality traits -- he rarely takes any sort of action. He's a very high-strung person and often gets extremely upset by everyday changes -- when acquaintances move away, when a temporary job begins or ends. He'll spend a couple of days moping in his apartment, drinking more than he ought. Usually I can live with this, but our situation calls for action. It's time for us to make some decisions, not a few years from now when I'm brokenhearted from singleness and drudgery. Life brings change, and he's about to let things happen to us, which is agonizing.

We've talked but have gotten nowhere. He freaks out and says that he wants everything to stay the same or, if he's really getting nasty, accuses me of trying to marry him to get a work visa.

What do I do? How do I get him to listen to me? I don't know what to do anymore. Please don't suggest that I leave him, because I won't.

Lost in Translation

Dear Lost in Translation,

You have to negotiate. To negotiate, you have to be willing to leave him. As long as you refuse to leave him, you have nothing to negotiate with. You have the carrot but not the stick, as it were.

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Since you refuse to leave him, I feel like you're asking me to tell you how to do the impossible -- to change how another person functions, instead of negotiating with him.

Very well. I'm tired of claiming I cannot do the impossible. So here is how you change another person. Go inside his head and look at the various patterns of behavior he has developed. There should be a map there somewhere. Find the template of those patterns and see what mechanism changes them. Perhaps you need to insert different memories, or change the way he responds to memories, or perhaps he has to experience different things. Go to a hardware store and buy the implements you need to change his imprinted patterns of behavior. They should have them in the back.

Then go into the past and view his life. Examine each instance where he developed those behavior patterns. Change those instances. If, for instance, he has had emotional reactions to his parents' marriage, and those have been imprinted on his physiological makeup, change all that. Make his parents happily married. Make them stay together. If there has been any death or violence in his past, go into the past and change that too. Include other seemingly minor instances such as unintended slights, bad dreams, childhood fantasies. To change some of these, you will need to read his mind as it was in the past, but that should be no problem. Then come back to the present and, using the implements you have bought at the hardware store, reset his being based on all the changes you have made in the past.

That should do it.

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If you find the time-travel aspect of this difficult, find Superman and ask him to do it. Superman might refuse. If he does, go inside Superman's head and find the mechanisms that govern his behavior, and change those. For the tools, you might need to visit a hardware store on the planet Krypton -- I think they're on the metric system. Then make Superman go back into the past for you and change all the events that molded your boyfriend's behavior.

When you have changed the past, come back to the present, go into your boyfriend's genes and manipulate his genetic code so that in the future he will respond differently to stress, trauma and new sensory input. While you're at it, go into the future and arrange events so that nothing triggers any emotional upsets in the future. Also while you are inside your boyfriend's head, you might as well remove his idea of free will. You don't want him thinking he can make up his own mind. You'd never know what he was going to do.

It's been good for me to think this through. I've been going along all this time like some automaton, saying you can't change people, you can't change people, you have to accept where they're coming from and negotiate. I've just been too negative. Dammit, of course you can change people!

It does sound like a lot of work, though. Negotiation would be easier, and less expensive.

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Cary Tennis

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