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November 27, 2014

When and How To Talk About Marriage With Him

# 1. The “marriage talk” is only appropriate at the very beginning of a relationship when two people are gently exploring their individual dreams or when the relationship has become established and talking about making it legal is only a formality

Dr. Randi Gunther

When people are newly connected, they are yet not invested in a mutual future, but usually have very strong thoughts and feelings about where they are currently in their lives and what they would ultimately like to do and become. If they’re not yet in a position of having to make any long-term decisions, they are much more likely to be open to talking about where they’ve been, where they are, and where they are thinking about going.

When men, especially, are not feeling cornered, they do not feel any down-side to sharing past relationship successes and failures, what they are looking for in a relationship, and when or whether they ever intend to commit to a “forever-pair-bond” at some time in their futures. They will also readily talk about what they need or want to accomplish before they settle down, how many kids, if any, they think they’d like, how important other priorities are to them, and why.

It is a common fallacy that these kinds of questions are “too pushy,” or that male partners, in particular, will be reticent to answer them. It totally depends on whether the inquiries are genuinely meant as interest and support, rather than interrogations as to whether that person will fit the script that has already been written. Think, for instance, that you’ve met an interesting guy at a party, at work, at the gym, or even at a social meeting place. You’re already in a relationship and feeling good about who you are but are not at all closed to meeting a new friend. You’d operate as you would in any non-threatening situation as a, hopefully, caring and hospitable person who enjoys meeting new people.

“My name’s Julia. It’s nice to meet you.”

“I’m Jerry. Here on a business trip from Philly. Nice to meet you, too.”

“Are you going to stay long?”

“Just for a couple of days, but might not be able to get back for my parent’s anniversary party in time.”

“Hey, that’s sad. I’m waiting for my boyfriend and I’d love for you to meet him. What are the things you love to do? Maybe you and he would have some interests in common.”

“I really don’t know anyone in this city. That would be great. I really appreciate your asking. I’m a tennis buff, and I love museums. Would that be a fit?”

And so on.

The attitude of welcome without the need to own or control brings out the best of authenticity and openness in others. Because neither person is in to making long-term plans, most questions, if not inappropriately framed, are not perceived as intrusive.

As a relationship grows in depth, frequency, and duration, those same partners begin to see how what they know about each other manifests in their daily connections. Some of the original answers might be very evident and others not so much. That difference provides wonderful data to explore. The eventual couple begins to create a history of its own, and finds new ways to create connections that neither partner may have known in the past.

If that relationship is transparent, present, and authentic, it will become very clear as time goes on as to whether both want to make it a long-term commitment and present themselves as bonded to the people they care about.

Society takes over at that point. “So, when is the date, you two?” “Okay, enough’s enough. You can’t just pretend you’re married and not let us in on the fun.” “You guys are so good together. Looks like this is going to last.”

As the outside world condones and supports, a truly intimate couple finds it very natural to start talking together about whether or not they should invest more in the possibility of a future together. They can talk openly as to whether either has misgivings, needs more time, or doesn’t really see themselves as ready to end being single.

If a woman is with a man who feels either of those three, or refuses to even talk about his thoughts and feelings about the subject, it is up to her to make an internal decision as to how long she wants to stay in an ambiguous situation and to be up front with him about her plans, without ever issuing an ultimatum. If he understands that she really will only stay as long as she loves him and is okay with the tentativeness, but not forever, most men begin to think about whether they want her to stay. If they choose that option, they most often make that move on four special days: birthdays, Xmas, New Year’s Day, or Valentine’s Day. If more than two of those yearly sequences go by in a committed relationship, the chances are very high that there is either no intent to move forward or the chance of losing her is the only reason he is likely to change that decision.

Don’t ever fall into that only-option is to give an ultimatum. Never plead or push to ask a man to commit to you. It is an admission of your own lack of valuing yourself as a worthy prize, and you might have to prove that for the rest of the relationship to a man who needs that much convincing. Simply letting him know that you must move on because you want to leave the relationship with both of you intact, and meaning it without anger, is enough.

Dr. Randi Gunther, www.randigunther.com

# 2. Be true to yourself

Kimberly Atwood

Unfortunately there does not seem to be a formula to determine when you are ready for marriage. Every person and every relationship is different. There are a few things you can use to help gauge your readiness however.

When determining a time for the marriage talk, be aware of your inner emotions and inner dialogue. Be sure you are interested in marrying this particular person, not just anyone with a suit. Ask yourself, “am I in love with this person, or are am I in love with the idea of love/marriage?” and “Do I feel pressured from your friends, family, or society as a whole?” These are not good reasons for getting married.

Notice if you are able to be your true, authentic self with your partner. Don’t play games. If you are not talking to him because you think he does not want to talk about marriage, you are reading him too much. Do what feels right for you.

Remember to remain more focused on the relationship than the wedding/party. Think more long-term than short-term and determine if this is really what you want.

If your answer is clear that you’re truly interested in marrying this particular person and it is definitely not about the idea of a wedding or labels, then you’re ready to discuss the idea with your partner.

I cannot stress enough the differences that exist in all couples. Some people jump in too quickly because they are feeling pressured from people outside of the relationship. Others take their time and may seem to take too long to legally bind themselves together (or never get married). Who’s to say what is right or wrong? Only the people directly involved can make the call.

Take my relationship, for example. My husband and I took over eight years to get married. This may seem like a very long time to some. For us, however, it was just right. As a woman, I was told by several people to give up and move on; he’s never going to marry you. I did not listen though because I did not want someone else. We were in it together and I was not even sure I wanted to get married for many years. We talked and listened and eventually both came to a decision when it was right for us.

Kimberly Atwood, www.KimAtwood.com

# 3. For a successful union each partner has to get there in his or her own time and way

Cynthia Pickett

Bringing up marriage with a partner can be a tricky thing because you don’t want to chance sabotaging a nice relationship by bringing it up too early and appearing clingy. By the same token if your desire is marriage don’t want to spend five years in a relationship with someone who has no heart for it.

It is important to enter all relationships with the perspective of friendship rather than interviewing, hoping or evaluating if each person is marriage material. Practice looking at everyone as a potential friend, which will help you to relax into enjoying the moment. It will take the pressure of “are they the one or aren’t they” off. Just enjoy the time and experiences you have with each other instead of looking ahead to the end goal of marriage. This is called being in the moment. If you are in the moment you cannot be fixated on the future.

At some point, later into the relationship but before living together the subject will naturally come up. A simple “at some point are you interested in getting married” will give you all the information you need. Don’t ever ask “when”. Pushing doesn’t make for a happy marriage. You will be the first to know when he is ready! If your curiosity is “when are we getting married”, again it is best to focus on the moment. If it has been years into the relationship and still no proposal a simple “where do you see us going” is all you need. Marriage is not something that can be rushed or reasoned. For a successful union each partner has to get there in his or her own time and way.

Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com

# 4. If chatting about marriage is difficult to broach, then communication between you and your partner is not up to par

Amy Sherman

You’re in a solid relationship for a year or two and are enjoying what you have with your partner. You see each other often and share common interests and philosophies. You are happy and want to spend the rest of your life with this person, but the subject of marriage has never been discussed. This issue is one of those relationship barriers you need to overcome. What do you do?

If chatting about marriage is difficult to broach, then communication between you and your partner is not up to par. After all, your boyfriend has seen you during good times and bad and knows you inside and out. There should be no subject you can’t discuss in an open and honest way. That doesn’t mean you should say, “Let’s get married, soon.”

What you want to be able to do, though, is discuss marriage in general terms, saying things like, “I’d like to be married one day and have a family. What are your thoughts on this matter?”

You could brush around the subject by expressing your feelings about a friend’s recent engagement or nuptials and listen to his response or watch his body language for clues.

If he is being evasive or sarcastic, you know that this is not a subject he wants to talk about. What if you ask him outright, “Do you want to get married?” and he says, “I don’t know.” What happens next?

This non-committed response will give you a clue as to what he really thinks. You will know he is making no plans for his own future wedding and that he is happy with the way things are. Your timelines are different, a common problem for couples who have expectations that are not shared or discussed. It’s up to you then, to decide if you want to stay or move on to meet a more prospective partner.

Ultimately, it’s not really about marriage. Marriage discussions are just that — a discussion. Nobody has to propose right then or plan a wedding, but what it’s really about is the commitment you are making to each other about wanting to build a future together. If you’re partner wants to be with you forever, talking about marriage, the future, family, etc. should not be a scary thing. Instead, it should be a wonderful discussion to get clarity and some new perspective on your ongoing relationship.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

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