The need for change
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Jane has been with her boyfriend Mark for many years. They are both in their early 30s-40s and last December they bought a house together. The logical next step, thinks Jane, would be an engagement. But things aren’t going to plan. Mark is spending more time out on the town and even when he is at home Jane feels sidelined and unappreciated. Meanwhile, she is aware that her biological clock is ticking and worries that if she confronts Mark, he will pack his bags and leave rather than take her down the aisle.
For his part, Mark has dropped the odd encouraging hint – crumbs Jane has seized on as hope. He’s been sweet with friends’ children and referred, albeit vaguely, to ‘if we were married’ –only to quickly back-pedal, refuse to commit to a time frame and even claim that he never said it. It’s a never ending circle of promises that never happen.
Jane is one of a growing number of young women being ‘held to ransom’ by the prospect of engagement and, as a result, allowing their partners to enjoy a relationship on their own terms.
When she finally plucked up the courage to confront the inequality creeping into their relationship, he snapped back: ‘I wish you wouldn’t make such a fuss or “it’ll happen stop bringing it up. I had been planning to propose to you.’ Looking back, she can see she was being manipulated.
Only too often women like Jane put up with imbalance in a relationship because they don’t want to rock the boat at what they see as a critical juncture. ‘I let Mark get away with far more because I know otherwise I might scare him off, and then what?’ says Jane. ‘I’d be in my mid-30s and starting from scratch, trying to find someone to have a family with.’
‘Men don’t always set out to be manipulative, but sometimes that is what ends up happening because the topic of engagement is so loaded. Men often see it as their responsibility to resolve a situation and so may say almost anything – even things that on reflection they don’t mean – to make it all right. They offer what she wants to hear – that they’ll do it tomorrow – and then they hope that tomorrow never comes.’
Any woman can be held to ransom, whether by a man’s manipulations or just the manipulations of her own mind – but the ultimate power play is to refuse to be.