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Dating Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Get Married

A woman who's dating someone who doesn't want to get married holding his hand while they talk in a barn.

It’s safe to assume that by now we’ve evolved into a culture that respects someone’s choice not to marry. Marriage isn’t the end-all and be-all for everyone—their are singles who’d like to remain that way, couples who prefer to stay together without marriage, or people who have already been down that road before don’t want to go down it again. Whatever the reasons, commitment doesn’t always mean you need a marriage certificate, but for some people, putting a ring on it is the ultimate goal of dating. So what happens if the person you’re dating doesn’t want to get married or you do?

The discussion of marriage while dating is a tricky situation. You don’t want to bring it up too early, thus placing unnecessary pressure on a premature relationship. But on the other hand, you don’t want to wait until you’ve already planned your wedding on Pinterest only to hear your beloved say, “I just don’t see myself ever getting married.”

Differing on the value of marriage doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker in your relationship. However, it’s definitely something to discuss and evaluate with your partner so you understand how you both feel. Here’s what you need to consider:

1. How is their history affecting your current relationship. 
There’s some validity behind the old excuse of, “I don’t need a piece of paper to prove my commitment to you,” when your partner was previously married. Maybe his or her past experience has soured their view on marriage. Not because they don’t love you or want to be with you, but mostly because they don’t want to go through the potential fallout of a messy divorce. Another reason? Maybe they’re a child of divorce, and thus have a painful experience of marriage. Getting a frame of reference is essential to understanding your partner’s reasons for not wanting to marry. From there, you’ll be able to determine whether or not that’s enough reason for you to continue being with this person.

2. Are they even ready for marriage?
Sometimes someone says they don’t want to get married because they aren’t ready to marry at the present or near future. It doesn’t mean marriage is completely off the table, but only that they’re not in the right headspace to consider walking down the aisle with anyone. At this point, you’ll need to determine whether you want to continue a relationship with your partner. Maybe they’ll never be ready, or maybe they won’t be ready soon enough for your timeline. You can’t or shouldn’t wait for someone who’s not willing to give you what you need.

3. Are they worried your relationship will change? 
It’s cliché but true—a number of people worry that once they get married then their relationship will change. Sex will be sporadic. You’ll fight more over stupid stuff like chores and underwear on the floor. They’ll be held more accountable for things. Money might also be an issue. Some men don’t want to marry unless they feel financially stable and secure. Basically, they don’t want to be forced into something constrictive and would rather enjoy what they have—something that allows more freedom. This is a good indication that you two should discuss how you both see your relationship, and where it’s headed. Maybe you can eventually find a compromise, but if your values aren’t matching up, it might be time to split.

4. What’s your reason for getting married. 
You both need to figure out your why. You need to know why your partner doesn’t want to get married as much as you need to figure out why you need to get married. Is it just to have a big fabulous wedding, or is it because you want to spend the rest of your life with your perfect partner? Sometimes we assume we want marriage because that’s the social construct in which we’ve been raised. But if you’re with someone who checks off all the boxes of who you want in a life partner, then perhaps you might want to consider whether you could be happy with a commitment ceremony rather than an official wedding.

Ultimately, in order for a successful relationship to have serious staying power, your values and goals for the relationship are important to consider, but so is your ability to communicate and compromise. Be realistic with what you both are asking for when it comes to commitment, whether that means not pushing for marriage six months into your relationship or waiting six years before discussing marriage in your relationship. Most importantly, weigh your happiness. Does this partner make you feel happy, safe, and secure? Can you both see yourselves spending the rest of your lives together? If the answer is yes, then maybe that’s all you need. 

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