Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I got my girlfriend pregnant by accident when we were at the tail end of grad school together. We were both 27 at the time.
I was ambivalent and leaned toward not continuing the pregnancy, but she wanted the baby, so we had a son and continued our relationship but did not get married. Much was made of this by my family and hers for years. Even as she and I were living and raising a child together and finishing our grad work, the only question anyone ever asked us (or at least me) was, "When are you getting married?"
She wanted to and I didn't. That didn't change when we had a child.
I proposed under what I would call major pressure this year, but am realizing now that it's a decision I made entirely to please other people - not myself. I know I need to end it, but am paralyzed every time I think of how upset she and both of our families will be.
We are 32 now, and she wants another baby. She is operating on premises that I have let her believe are true when they aren't.
Where do I start untangling this? Moving out will be the worst part, hands-down, and I don't think I will have anyone happy enough with me to help.
I don't usually do this, but I don't think you should talk to anybody right now about anything - except a good therapist. You're now five years into not even recognizing your own truth, so I urge you to practice talking about it a bit before you start speaking it.
At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if there were a gap or three between what you think you're feeling and what you're actually feeling. That certainly can happen when so many outside voices drown out your own. You struggle not just to know what to say to others, but even to hear your own voice in your head.
I'm not trying to talk you out of anything here. Chances are you're representing yourself accurately and your heart isn't in this marriage-to-be and you need to call it off. For that reason, any time you take to run your thoughts by a therapist would have to be finite, even brief. Stringing people along is never an answer.
But, as I said, you haven't reckoned honestly with your situation. Though I believe you could go to your partner now and tell her the truth - starting is really your only hurdle, and your desperation will at some point push you over that line - a therapist would make a good, confidential, low-consequences audience for those first halting words.
Maybe just calling for an appointment will make it real enough for you to beat the paralysis. Any nudge will do.
By the way, moving out isn't the "worst part"; that's over in a weekend. The worst part is two households where your child knows only one.
Which is still better than a loveless union.
That's just another reason to run your thoughts and feelings by trained ears. Difficult conversations go better when you have a good idea ahead of time what your words really mean.