Q. My name is Carrie and I have a situation with a man I have been dating for the last 5 months. In one of our conversations, I casually asked him about this thoughts on marriage in general. He said that he doesn’t believe in marriage but if he found the right woman and if getting married was important for her, he would be open to marrying her. I asked him why he didn’t believe in marriage and he mentioned his parents got divorced recently. The news of his parents’ divorce was a total shock to him because he always thought they were the perfect couple.
It seems his parents decided to stay together for financial reasons and wanted to wait until he and his brothers were independent adults. He feels cheated, duped and finds it hard to believe that all these years together, their marriage was merely an arrangement of convenience and a farce. To make matters worse, his elder brother’s marriage is also heading towards a divorce and this a fatal double blow.
I understand why he feels skeptical about marriage and I think these incidents may have caused more emotional and psychological damage to him than what appears on the surface. I am partly worried that he doesn’t believe in marriage, I am partly relieved that he is open to marriage with the right woman provided marriage is important to her. My bigger question is should I be worried about his outlook on marriage? Should I play a waiting game and hope his outlook changes over time as our relationship grows deeper and stronger? How do I discuss the fact that I am looking to settle down very soon and marriage is very important to me without being pushy and demanding?
A. First, let me say, you have asked a great question that I think many people will relate to.
I also would like to acknowledge how insightful it is of you to recognize that you and your boyfriend’s ideas of marriage could be potentially challenging to the relationship and for your courage to respectfully express how important marriage is to you. I often hear my clients identify this struggle of wanting to tell a partner how he/she feels without being perceived as “pushy” or “demanding.”
To answer your question – no, I do not think you should wait and hope that your boyfriend’s outlook on marriage will change over time as your relationship grows deeper and stronger. There are two things I find problematic about taking this stance. One, you are basing your plan of action (i.e. waiting) on an assumption (i.e. in time he will come around and change his views on marriage). This certainly could happen, but it is not guaranteed. Two, I suspect it may be hard for your relationship to grow stronger and deeper if you both are unknowingly working towards two separate goals.
First and foremost, I think you both need to gain a better understanding of what each other thinks a marriage is.
- What does getting married mean?
- What does a functional marriage look like?
- What are the expectations in a marriage?
- Why is marriage important?
- How would a marriage change your relationship?
I think when you discuss what marriage means to you rather than questioning why your partner does not want to get married, it allows a safe space for both of you to openly express your thoughts and feelings without being perceived as pushy or demanding.
Seeking a couples therapist who has experience in premarital therapy may be advantageous to you in asking these questions and helping you explore how each of you feels about this topic.
Marriage is a commitment that should not be taken lightly and certainly should not be agreed to because one person in the relationship wants it.
Marriage requires both partners working towards a shared goal with a shared meaning and continuously putting in time and work. If you put in the time and work, it can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling.