What to do if your partner doesn’t want to get married
When it comes to relationships, not everyone is the same.
Some people want to take things slow and see where they go, while others jump into a relationship with marriage on their minds.
When you are ready to settle down, it is important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner with caring, curiosity, calmness, and respect.
It’s natural to feel an intense desire for commitment in your relationship, especially if it involves starting a family path together.
However, before taking this step forward towards marriage, take some time to reflect upon what both of you expect out of your partnership.
What are you looking for?
Although it might feel like you inherently know that you want to be married, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself what exactly you are looking for. Are you hoping for more security, recognition, acknowledgment of your relationship’s importance, or simply the ability to call your partner “my husband” or “my wife”?
Additional questions to consider: What does marriage mean to you? Where did you learn this, and is it a belief that is yours or your family’s or societal or religious teachings? What will marriage give to you that you don’t already have, and are these things only possible with marriage?
If you’re already in a committed relationship and marriage is simply a formality, then your answer could be that you want more security or the traditions that marriage brings (like a wedding, anniversaries, etc.).
Other benefits that marriage brings include:
- Legal and government benefits, rights, and responsibilities
- A change in tax status
- A sense of relationship permanence1
- Enhanced feelings of meaning and purpose, improved sense of self, and a heightened sense of mastery for some2
However, it’s also important to ask yourself what you are looking for if you are in a less stable relationship. Are you trying to fix the relationship through marriage? Are you trying to please someone else? Do you want to have children and feel that you have to be married to do so?
If you aren’t sure exactly what you want, pull out a journal and start writing down your feelings. You might be surprised to learn more about what it is that you want out of marriage. At the very least, this exercise will allow you to communicate your wants more clearly when it comes time to talk to your spouse.
1. Balance Your Needs
For example, if marriage isn’t something that’s a high priority for your partner, but they are still committed to you, they might be willing to compromise and move forward with the marriage. On the other hand, if they are steadfastly opposed to marriage, you may need to consider that the relationship isn’t going to work out.
The best part about balancing your needs is the chance to have real conversations about what you each want out of the relationship. Whether or not you resolve the issue of marriage, it should become clear how well suited you are to one another and whether your values and goals align.
2. Process Your Feelings
Use this time to process your feelings rather than try to change or influence your partner. Reflect on what you want in a partner and whether your current partner is the right person for you. Your relationship may not be as strong as it seemed when it began simply because you want different things out of life.
While love and attraction are key ingredients for a good relationship, compatibility in long-term goals is what makes for a long-term relationship that works.
3. Hear Their Perspective
A marriage is made up of two individuals with different perspectives. If you don’t have a conversation about those unique views, they could get in the way when it’s time to decide about the big stuff in life.
Have respect for your partner’s freedom of choice and individualism. You may disagree or wish your partner felt differently, but trust that they know what’s best for them. If you know that your partner isn’t interested in saying, “I do,” the last thing you want to do is make them feel like they have to come along for the ride.
4. Understand Their Fear
If you decide to commit yourself to one person for life, then that means taking on all risks, including not getting what you want or need at any given time. Commitment helps bridge gaps between differences; it provides safety nets against loneliness and can help grow connections as partners work together towards common goals.
Some people are so afraid of getting hurt again that they put up a barrier to commitment in their lives. They’re terrified and reject the idea because it’s too hard for them right now, or perhaps ever. Meanwhile, others may find themselves tempted but also fearful about committing. This might be due to past experiences that made them wary of trusting other people with all aspects of who they are.
5. Consider Couples Counseling
If your partner is not interested in marrying, you don’t have to break up right away. There are some things you can both do to work towards a more harmonious relationship. Waiting around forever isn’t advisable; rather, talking with someone who has experience on the topic may help bridge the gap.
Attending couples counseling could be an option in this situation to help get you both on a better path, either toward a breakup or toward a marriage.
Steps You Can Take
- Get curious. Think about what marriage means to yourself and your partner and why it means what it does to each of you.
- Get creative. Come up with creative and collaborative ideas and possibilities where each of your needs can be met and where both of your paces can be heard and honored, if there is a desire to continue committing together without a hard ultimatum either way.
- Learn about yourself. Explore your own needs and goals in therapy to learn more about why you might have an urgency to get married (or why you might not be ready yet).
- Work together. Working collaboratively, compassionately, and creatively as a couple can help you find common ground for continued growth and connection. Marriage may happen eventually, but when you are both truly ready.
6. Know When to Leave
At some point, you may need to decide on leaving the relationship if you can’t reach a compromise on marriage. You will probably experience a range of emotions, from sadness at the loss to anger at the time wasted.
However, it’s important not to dwell on “what could have been.” The best time to leave is when you’ve exhausted all options at making things work. At that point, you can feel confident that you gave everything you had. And when you’ve done your very best, there is no longer any reason to feel sad about the situation. If you can, try to focus on the better future that is waiting for you.