I'm thinking marriage but he isn't
Question: Dear Dr. Pam,
I’ve been with my partner for five years and we have a happy, stable relationship. I’ve always expected that one day I will get married, the problem is - I don’t know if he wants to. He’s never really been interested in marriage but I suppose I thought it was too far off and not worth worrying about.
Now I’m 30 and more and more I’m thinking ‘what if it never happens?’ I love him and I want to marry him, it means a lot to me, but I don’t want to seem pushy - I feel like it’s something that should just happen. We’ve had a couple of falling-outs and disagreements on the topic but it’s always been hypothetical, or related to other people. How can I bring it up without causing an argument?
Dear 'Don't mention the ‘M’ word',
I'm sorry you're in this position but glad you got in touch because many people face this. It causes enormous anxiety when you think you've got it all - the long-term loving relationship. But then you're left wondering why your partner doesn't want to get married.
And it's not always women in this situation as some men want to marry and their partner doesn't. The problem is it leaves you feeling somehow second-best. You ask yourself why won't he marry you, are you not good enough? Etc.
Often it's not about those issues with the person who's dragging their feet - but it can be. Some people genuinely don't believe marriage is worth the paper it's written on - that's their prerogative. However, I can understand at age 30 and after five years together you want the whole truth!
At least you have brought it up previously so that's a starting point. And you say you've argued but you don't give much detail. Often the person who doesn't want to get married uses anger to stop the conversation. Or the person who wants to gets angry when they see they're getting nowhere.
Here are some suggestions:
- Choose your time wisely to raise it again. A wise time is when you have plenty of time and neither of you is stressed out by anything.
- Make sure neither of you have been drinking excessively - if you've argued about this before alcohol’s likely to fuel another argument.
- Plan what you're going to say and keep it positive. Always begin with highlighting the best thing/s you share. For instance you could say how much you appreciate the way he’s always supportive of you when you face a challenge.
- So you've highlighted to him the most positive things that keep your relationship good. Now let him know that you'd like to simply 'discuss' where you're headed. Tell him you're really calm about it and see this as a positive chat.
- Listen to what he says - does he want to talk about it now? Does he suggest a different time? As far as possible if he's being reasonable go with his suggestion. The last thing you want is for him to feel you're taking over all aspects of this discussion.
- Now for the tough stuff. Let him know how much he means to you and how you feel insecure or undermined (whatever word best describes how you feel) about this situation. Ask for his reassurance and put the ball over to his court.
- As you see this becomes a back-and-forth conversation where both of you feel you're listened to.
- If things go badly wrong and he gets angry or upset - and you definitely want to stay with him - resist raising the M word for six months. In this time relate to him as best you can and show him that you're not going to constantly bring this up.
- At the end of six months you need to think about what you really need from him. Could you have children with him without getting married? Do you both want children? Is marriage a ‘dealbreaker’ for you or could you just live happily with him if he refuses marriage?
- When you've clarified such questions in your head you'll need to raise this again - and really ‘suss’ out where he stands. If you then feel you're an easy option for him - you live together, you probably do lots of the chores, there’s sex on tap for him, etc. – now’s the time to think about moving on.
Ultimately, it's one thing if someone is simply against the idea of marriage - but still shows you love in every way you expect them to, and another if they are using you for an easy ride.
Final tip: listen to your intuition during this time. Let it guide you - if it tells you you’re that easy option it might be time for a big decision.
Good luck, Dr Pam x
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