03/31/2016 05:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

ADVICE 06: Is My Fiance Getting Cold Feet?


Photo Credit: Brent Stoller

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This week's theme of young love continues, as a bride-to-be is concerned that her fiance has become emotionally distant...

(Questions have been modified for space and clarity.)

I'm a 21-year-old female who's going to be married in October. My fiance and I have been together for five years. For the past six months, I feel like he is withdrawing. He is boring in bed, and he says more affectionate things to the cat than to me! I don't know what to do to make him passionate about me again. All he does is play video games. I'm not arrogant, but I know I'm not ugly. I am fit and put in an appropriate amount of effort into my appearance. He also isn't romantic anymore. It has made me cry in front of him because of his lack of passion, romantic gestures (not even ones that use money!), and his lack of pride in me. What do I do to make it better? He used to be totally different!
--bride2bNeedzHelp; Lancaster, OH

To me, there's one of two things going on here:

You and your fiance have fallen into a relationship rut.


He's having cold feet about getting married.

Five years is a long time to be together, especially at the age of 21. Relationships require attention, but when the chase has long since ended and security takes hold, it's easy to get comfortable. You relax, and you don't put forth as much effort, and you debut those boxers with the dissolving waistband. Sweatpants replace jeans as your primary lower-body accoutrement.

Suddenly, comfortable is too comfortable, and if you're not vigilant, you and your partner can drift apart.

To your credit, it sounds as if you've held up your end of the rope. You exercise to remain physically desirable, and you express yourself, so you've stayed emotionally available. You've even written here for advice on improving the relationship.

I hate stereotyping, but I'm going to anyway: Despite your tears in front of him, there's a chance your fiance has no idea he's doing anything wrong. Guys can be clueless to this sort of thing. I know I was at that age (assuming he's also in his early 20s). It's possible he's happy just playing his video games, having some fun in bed (even though it's not fun for you) and going about his life. You're still there, so in his mind, all could be well.

It's also possible that there's something more troubling going on. I'm wondering if, as the excitement of the engagement has worn off, your fiance has begun struggling with the reality of becoming a husband. And now he doesn't know what to do about it.

Withdrawal is often an early indicator of discord. I know I've been guilty of it. There's something bothering you, but you can't put your finger on it. You start to disengage, even though you're not entirely aware that you're doing it. As your concerns become clear, so does the magnitude of their potential fallout. You're scared of how the other person will react, so you keep everything to yourself for as long as you can in order to avoid the confrontation. And that's easier to do when you're closed off emotionally.

Ultimately, there's only one way to address your fiance's change in behavior, and that's to talk to him about it. Whether he's fallen into a rut or is having cold feet, all you can do is share your concerns, honestly and directly, and ask that he do the same.

When you do confront him, building on this previous answer on the dangers of the word "you," use as many "I" statements as possible: "I am not satisfied with our love life." "I feel like there's a lack of romance in our relationship." "I am hurt when you sweet-talk the cat instead of me." This tactic may sound silly, but it works. It won't put him on the defensive, and it gives you the best chance of being heard.

And you need him to hear you. Ignorance is not bliss in this case. You need to know what's going on. You need to know if he's ready to get married, if he's capable of listening to your concerns and if he's willing to modify his behavior -- and you need to know before you reach the altar.

COMING WEDNESDAY: My partner is plagiarizing social media statuses...

Need more ADVICE? Check out the most recent installments:

ADVICE 05: Should I Tell My Ex I Want Him Back?

ADVICE 04: Casual Sex; How to Confront Someone

ADVICE 03: Should I Contact My Ex?; Mourning Etiquette

ADVICE 02: How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

ADVICE 01: Autism and Religion; Should I Stay Married for my Child's Sake?

To send in a question, please complete this short Google form. All submissions are anonymous, even to the author.