"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I'm in a two-year long-distance relationship with this girl. She's four years older than me.
We meet up for a weekend once a month - either she comes over or I would go over to her place (six hours away). We started off realising the age gap was wide, and she was fine with it as she wasn't rushing into getting married.
Recently, she brought up the question of marriage. She asked me to give a date that we could work on and formally talk to her parents about it.
I want to marry her but my circumstances don't allow for it at the moment. Firstly, my finances are in a bad shape right now due to loans and commitments. Secondly, I don't see myself settling down with my wife living away from me. I wasn't able to give her my commitment so she asked to be let go.
The following day, she came back to me and persuaded me to get back together with her. When I asked her what she expects of me if we did get back together, she said that we can work on setting a date for the marriage to happen. I told her that she was missing the point about what I said to her before, that due to those circumstances I couldn't give her any sort of commitment. She's been trying to convince me ever since, and it's been going on for more than a month.
Another issue is with regard to her family. Her parents aren't in a very stable marriage, as her father has had mistresses before. My own father was the same and upon seeing her father being like that and how her family is affected, it brings back the traumatic experience of how my parents eventually divorced. Is it selfish for me to put this down as a worry to settling down with her?
She turned 30 this year and I believe that's one of the reasons she feels the pressure to settle down. Some friends have advised me to work things out with her, while others advised me to just let go especially since I can't give her what she wants. I love her, but at the same time I'm afraid. What can I do? - Troubled Chap
Dear Troubled Chap
The big picture here is that you need to sort out what you want from your love life in the long-term.
So first see if you want to be married at all. To do this, imagine your girlfriend disappears and you move on. You never have kids, and you have a series of relationships until the end of your life. How would you feel about that kind of life?
If you think you'd be happy, then you need to consider that marriage may not be for you. In that case, the right thing is to talk to your girlfriend so that she can move on and find the life she wants with someone else.
Now, suppose you do want to be in a marriage, and maybe with kids. Then the question becomes, is this the girl you want to be with?
What comes to my mind is that you have been dating for two years, but as it's long distance, you've only seen each other 24 times. It's possible that you really know each other through thick and thin, but I think you should both consider that you may have been on a perpetual honeymoon.
I think it would be useful if you confirm that you both share the same views of married life. Sit down and talk about whether you want kids, how you would divide the parenting responsibilities, what you both want from your jobs, how you would handle your personal and joint finances… Really delve into what your life would be like.
Be sure to add in your particular concerns, your lack of money, your other commitments and the fact that you don't want a long-distance marriage.
Now, your girlfriend has made it clear she loves you and wants a lifetime commitment. But you are concerned because you both come from families where your fathers cheated on their wives.
Are you selfish to worry about this? Absolutely not. Family history is important because we pick up much of our behaviour and attitudes from it. However, we're certainly not doomed to make the same mistakes!
You are your own person, and you have free will. Also, let's be practical here: if you don't want to be the kind of man who cheats on his wife, then don't do it.
Really, it's that simple.
Although you haven't said so, I do understand that being the child of a not very successful marriage can really put you off the institution.
Look, you are not alone in this. Marriage is a scary prospect. However, if you pick the right partner, a lifelong commitment can be wonderful. Being with someone who you can share with joyfully and honestly is a source of happiness. As a bonus, it smoothes out some of the inevitable bumps that life throws at us.
So think over what you want, have a long conversation with your girlfriend, and see what your conclusions are.
If you find you need more input, talk to someone who has tonnes of experience listening to relationship difficulties. My suggestion would be a therapist, but if you're religious, then a priest, pastor or sensei can work too.
I hope this is helpful, and wish you the best of luck.