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Dear Demetria:

My boyfriend of four years finally proposed six months ago. Now he refuses to discuss wedding plans or set a date. He wants to go to premarital counseling. I want to start planning the wedding. Should I force the issue or be patient and wait until he is ready to discuss the wedding? —Anonymous

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I’m unclear why this is an either-or proposition. You can do both simultaneously. I checked around with my other married friends, and it seems common that couples who do premarital counseling do so while also planning the wedding. But if you have to choose between counseling and planning the wedding right now, choose counseling.

I’d suggest counseling even if your man were gung ho to get to the altar. I suggest it even for couples that have been together for years, own property together and have children together. As an unmarried person, you can think through a million scenarios that might come up in your married life and you will still miss 10,000 of them. You need a professional—a married one—to point out scenarios and issues that may arise, and ask, “What would you do?” or “How would you handle XYZ?” and “What are your plans for ABC?” You and your relationship will be better for it.

But in your specific case, yes, the counseling is a good idea, but it sounds as if your man is stalling. He put a ring on your finger and now he won’t even have a conversation about the next inevitable step before talking to a counselor? Perhaps he’s a more rigid, step-by-step kind of guy and counseling is his first step on this marriage journey. But you would know that about him after four years of dating, right?

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Something’s going on, and you need to find out what that is instead of “forcing the issue,” if that’s even possible. Stop focusing on the wedding and think about the marriage. To “force the issue”—does that mean proceeding with planning when you have a partner who won’t participate or even discuss the wedding?—is risky, and it could get you a wedding. Maybe. But how’s that marriage going to work out? That’s what you need to be focused on. Also, being patient but refusing counseling isn’t the best move, either. You need the counseling.

Do yourself a favor: Tell your fiance that you’ve given his perspective some more thought and now you’re looking forward to speaking to a counselor. Ask who he has in mind and when he’ll make the first appointment. Or does he want you to set it up?

You should be eager to find out what your man has to say in these counseling sessions. Is the counseling a formality and he just wants to make sure all the bases have been covered before proceeding further? Does he have a completely normal case of cold feet about this huge decision?

Maybe he has some real concerns about the relationship that he wants to address before marriage. If so, I applaud him for bringing them up now. It’s far better to bring up concerns or grievances and work through them before the marriage than after the wedding. Your man may have a bomb to drop on you—a secret baby, significant debt, a prenup—that he wants a counselor present to tell you about. You don’t know because you’ve been avoiding counseling the way he’s been avoiding setting the date and planning the wedding.

After four years and six months in this relationship, I understand your excitement and desire to move forward. I do. But in your anticipation to get to the altar, you’re overlooking what could be a huge red flag. You’re engaged to a man who doesn’t want to set a date or plan a wedding with you.

I also understand your hesitation to go to counseling. You may think he’s just being difficult because he’s nervous and his hesitation isn’t worth addressing. You may have a valid fear that something will come out in a counseling session that will derail your plans to get to the altar. I get it. And yet, it’s really important that you find out for sure why he’s not willing to move forward before you proceed any further.

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What you don’t want to do is brush his feelings aside, proceed with booking a venue and vendors, send out invites, and then have him hit you with “I’m sorry. I can’t. I tried to tell you” before the wedding. That’s honest but hurtful, and an embarrassing and unnecessary financial loss for both of you. Or, worse, you don’t want to ignore that something’s wrong, get married and be a miserable Mrs.

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. She is also a blogger at SeeSomeWorld.com, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Previously in Ask Demetria: “The Guy I’m Dating Wants to Put Us on Pause While He Studies. Should I Be Offended?

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