If you’ve ever watched a romantic comedy, you know the drill. Boy and girl meet, fall in love, and all seems like it will be happily ever after.
Then, there’s the twist: She wants to get married and he, the man-child he is, wants to live a bachelor life without a ring tying him down.
Given that blockbuster dynamic, it’s no wonder the "she wants to get married, he’s not ready" stereotype exists. But what happens when it’s the other way around?
“Getting married, planning a wedding, finding a place to live together if you’re not already, learning how to share space, and everything that goes along with [marriage] is a huge commitment of time and effort,” says Jane Greer, Ph.D., New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship.“It definitely happens that you may not be ready for all of this because of how much it entails,” she says.
And regardless if your partner is a man or not, being unsure about marriage is totally realistic, and more common than you may realize. In 2014, 17 percent of women ages 25 and older had never been married, compared to just 8 percent in 1960, according to the Pew Research Center.
That said, it’s natural if you two aren’t in sync. “I don’t think any couple on the planet ever turned to each other in exactly the same moment and said, 'Let’s get married!’” says Ryan Janis, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist in Beverly Hills. “The reality is that one person is always at least somewhat ahead of the other in the process,” he adds.
If your partner has been dropping hints about popping the question, and the feeling is NOT mutual, here’s Greer’s advice for how to handle it: First, do some soul-searching and think about if you want to be married in the future or not. If you do, “Tell him that you ultimately want to be married but because of the demands of your current life and what’s on your plate, you’re not at a point where you can take on more,” she says. If marriage is not in the cards, “say you appreciate that marriage is his end game, but your values are different and you don’t place the same premium on getting married,” Greer advises.
And it's important to note, just because you don’t want to be married (right now or ever), doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner. Make it clear that you want to stay in the relationship.
That said, we all have our deal breakers. For some people, the desire to get married or not might be one of them. The disconnect in desire doesn’t have to break you apart but, unfortunately, it can. “I’ve had men break it off because the woman would not agree to marriage, while others say, no problem. It depends on if he’s that into you and the relationship in order to put this endgame of his aside,” says Greer.
That said, let’s hope that if you do agree to marry, it’s not because of pressure. “Pressure is a romance-killer, too, and if it is a significant part of your road to getting married, pressure will likely play a role in some other big decisions in the relationship later on,” says Janis.