Long-term relationships come with a certain set of expectations. When you’ve been dating someone for years, people start nudging you. Even if you’re not ready for marriage, they ask when you’re going to finally pop the question. They don’t know that you might not be ready for another five years, or maybe, you never even want to get married.
That’s OK, but it’s definitely a conversation that you need to have with your partner. You have to ensure that you’re both on the same page to avoid someone (or both of you) getting hurt down the line. Here are some helpful tips on how to navigate this minefield.
1. Find Out Where Her Head’s At
You might’ve avoided that awkward conversation until now, but if you’re reading this article, that’s probably a sign that it’s time to ask her what she wants. Not only is a proactive discussion the adult thing to do, italso means she won’t have to awkwardly drop hints such as “accidentally” leaving an engagement ring catalog in the bathroom.
You: “We’ve been together some time now, and I wanted to ask how you felt about the future. What do you see happening with us? What are your goals?”
Don’t be afraid to ask openly! Let her know she can be honest, no matter what. You’re not here to judge her answers.
2. Don’t Be Too Harsh
You: “Well, that’s just too bad that you want to get married, because I don’t.”
Her: “What do you mean, you don’t? Why not?”
You: “I just don’t.”
This is the kind of conversation that can turn ugly, fast.
Remember that finding out your partner doesn’t want to get married can be a very difficult thing to hear! It’s a bold declaration that has a lot of potential to upset someone, which is why you probably shouldn’t be so blunt. Instead, be gentle, and phrase it in a softer manner. This will help to de-escalate any tension around the subject.
You: “I don’t know how I feel about getting married. To be honest, I’m not sure that I’m ready for it. Let’s talk more about this because I want us to be on the same page with everything.”
3. Explain Your Reasoning
It might seem like you don’t need to explain your decision, but this isn’t like deciding on an ice cream flavor at the mall. This is something that will affect both you and your partner, so it’s only fair to provide the reasoning behind such a significant decision.
You: “I’m worried that I’m not ready for marriage. I’m not emotionally mature enough for it right now. Also, my career’s in a tricky place. It would be unkind to you to pretend otherwise, and marriage is such a big step. I don’t want to go into it with cold feet.”
The more you can do to explain your decision, the better. Just saying you’re not ready is such a vague, subjective statement that’ll almost certainly be frustrating for her. Provide context when possible. Do you have a phobia of commitment Have you seen your parents’ marriage break down? Do you simply not have faith in the institution of marriage? As a bonus, it’ll help her empathize with you if you speak your mind.
4. Emphasize That It’s Not About Her
You: “I want you to know that this isn’t about you at all. I hope you see that. I wouldn’t be ready for marriage no matter who I was dating. You’re wonderful, and I do want for us to be together long-term. This doesn’t affect that.”
When you say that you don’t want to get married, the other person might think it’s something they did, It’s hard not to take it personally, and she might think that you’re only in this for the short term, or that you don’t see her as marriage material. That would be a painful prospect for anyone to confront.
If you do want to be with this person for the long-term, tell her that. Explain why you have an aversion to marriage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t commit to her. Alleviate her of any fear and reassure her that you love her.
5. Be Prepared for a Difficult Reaction
Unfortunately, a fundamental disagreement like this is the kind of thing couples break up over. One person not wanting to get married could potentially be a dealbreaker. Whatever happens, it’s very possible that your partner will have a strong emotional reaction. If this happens, don’t freak out, and instead, Tty to provide verbal and emotional support as best you can. Recognize that, while to you, it feels like you’re just stating a preference, to her, she’s dealing with a powerful form of rejection.
You: “I’m so sorry that I had to deliver this news in this way. I wish I could have provided more. I’m here for you, no matter what.”
6. Resist the Urge to Lie
If you’re sure that you never want to get married, don’t tell her to wait a year in a misguided effort to spare her feelings. This will only lead to more heartache and confusion down the line. Instead, tell her the whole truth as gently as you can. If you do it with kindness, she’ll be much less likely to react angrily or to lash out.
Finally, tell her that you want to see if there is middle ground or any room for compromise. Couples often reach a halfway point on things like this, and it’s worthwhile to examine whether you have room to adjust, whether that’s by exploring the issue through more discussions, or even going to couples therapy. That way, you can get over this seemingly insurmountable obstacle, and have a happy, long-term relationship.