I know it's kind of a trend with these letters to start with "I never thought I'd be writing this letter," but now I empathize with everybody who does start that way. I guess I should also start by saying that this isn't strictly a wedding-related question, rather a plea for some straight-up ESB realtalk.
My boyfriend and I are coming up on four years together soon, and though money (isn't it always money?!) and other practical things like that are keeping us from being engaged, we agree that we're in this for the long haul. We do a good job of resolving any disagreements or problems or whatever you'd like to call them as they arise.
But as my education and career have really taken off over the past two-ish years, I've come to understand that the only way anyone ever gets anywhere is by getting out of her comfort zone. My BFF is a great motivator for me, encouraging me to apply for things even if I'm not sure I'll get it, and I was also raised the same kind of way -- apply for everything, you'll never know if you don't try, you can do anything you set your mind to, and if it turns out you can't do something well then at least you can cross that off the list!
Boyfriend, on the other hand, wasn't really raised that way -- or at least, it wasn't a priority -- and even worse than being scared of failure, I think he's a little scared of success. He is a writer by education (mfa) and experience, and a something-totally-unrelated-that-ALMOST-pays-the-bills by trade. As of yet, he's unpublished by anything bigger than university lit journal. He's been saying he'll submit to journals and contests and etc. etc. for ages, but hasn't, and when I make suggestions he dismisses them. He's picky about which journals he submits to, even though he has no "experience" to help get him into the more prestigious journals. He also talks about finding a better paying and/or more fulfilling day job, but does not actively go for it -- usually his rationale is, "I would apply, but I probably won't get it, so I won't bother." (Even if he totally would get the job.)
It's not that he's lazy! He's so hard-working! But he loves being inside his comfort zone -- he is even very much a homebody, something that is a whole other issue for us altogether (I'm a travel bug with a firm belief in moving around and DOING THINGS while you're young, able and untethered by babies [if you see them in your future]). I know he can be successful if only he would get out of his comfort zone and throw himself out there, setting himself up for some definite failures and (hopefully, probably) some heartbreaking successes. So while I always play editor and encourage his writing process, lately I try to get him out of this comfort zone with the publishing process -- "come on, just apply, don't be picky, it'll be fine" -- and sometimes I even end up taking a "wake the fuck up! throw yourself into this or else nothing will happen!" kind of approach. Which in print looks like an awful decision on my part, but I don't know how else to handle this stuff. But that makes him very angry and he says that I nag and that he's "always a step behind where I think he should be," which is awful and not how I THINK, and also not how I want to treat the man I plan on spending forever with.
So how do I be the most encouraging girlfriend ever without coddling him? Am I wrong in thinking that being inside your comfort zone will never get you anywhere? I want to be encouraging, but I don't want to let MYSELF down by apologizing for trying to force him outside his comfort zone (and into the success zone! jeez with the cliches already, I really apologize) when I'm not sorry at all. And I don't want to get to age 35 or 40 or 60 and feel like "if only he believed... if only I could have helped him believe in himself!" Not knowing what could have happened if you'd only tried sucks, I know that already, and I don't want that kind of regret for him or for US.
Help, please please please, from someone outside the situation who has nearly-infinite wisdom and also experienced in maintaining a healthy and fulfilling and loving relationship?
--Cheesy, Cliche-y, Cheerleader Wannabe