Will I get a commitment?
I have been with my boyfriend for 7 and 1/2 years. He still hasn't asked me to marry him. We have talked about it, and I know he is scared. His parents divorced, and since then, have both remarried 3 more times. I try to make him understand that we are different - we waited - and he agrees that I am the one he wants, but he still hasn't offered me any kind of commitment. He's my best friend and I don't want to lose him, but I'm getting tired of waiting and I don't want to waste my life. Please help me before I lose my mind.
How long is too long to wait for a commitment?
It sounds as though marriage is very important to you and you are struggling with your partner's negative attitude towards marriage. You're feeling confused and unable to decide between sticking to your values or your partner. Have you thought about why marriage is so important to you? It sounds like you require marriage in order to validate how your partner feels about you and how serious he takes your relationship. Although he says that he loves you and is committed, you need proof. Perhaps you feel marriage is important because it would confirm the stability of your relationship to yourself and those around you, such as family and friends.
Although I can understand your predicament, I can also see the issue from your partner's perspective. It is understandable that if your parents have been divorced a number of times, you would develop a distorted view of marriage. He needs to separate the concept of marriage from the dysfunctional examples around him. Marriage can be as positive and negative as people wish it to be. After all, a marriage is a commitment between two people and it's up to them as to how much effort they want to put into their relationship. Perhaps discussing the idea with him that marriage is an individual contract that is only as strong and committed as the people within it may help him distinguish between your relationship and the failed relationships of his parents.
The lack of progress and validation in a relationship can cause a person to feel uncertain about the true feelings, goals and intentions of their partner. Some women resort to giving their partner's ultimatums which I strongly warn against. Would you really want to start your married life thinking that your partner was forced into the decision and is not fully committed to making the marriage work? An ultimatum marriage would also eventually prove detrimental to your self-esteem and confidence.
When a couple's ideas about marriage differ, the relationship is generally characterised by conflict, tension and mistrust, which manifests into arguments and threats. While the partner who wants to get married feels undervalued, taken for granted, anxious, impatient and angry having to wait for their partner to propose, the partner who is scared or hesitant will pick up on this vibe and quickly learn to associate the topic of marriage with a downturn in their relationship. It may be from your boyfriend's perspective that your relationship was plodding along fine until the topic of marriage came up, now you argue and get angry or frustrated with him more often. Unfortunately, he may see these arguments and negative feelings as a sign of things to come if you were to get married. Most people also don't like being forced or pressured into making decisions about important things like marriage, so often people find that if they give their partner some breathing space, they will eventually make a decision. You can't force him to make a decision, but you can try to discuss the topic with him and let him know how you feel and why marriage is important to you.
If your boyfriend is around the same age as you, it may also be that he still feels too young to take the very mature step of getting married. Many men don't even consider the idea of marriage until they start approaching their thirties. Have you also discussed other important relationship issues such as your future goals in terms of careers, children and finances? You may find that you have conflicting ideas on these issues, which would definitely need to be addressed before you even considered marriage.
It sounds like you share a loving and healthy relationship with your partner and you are willing to be with him, with or without a marriage certificate. However, you need to do some soul-searching and decide which is more important to your future happiness - your partner or marriage? In terms of the amount of time to wait, that is up to you and how much you believe in your relationship.
Karen Joy Pearen
This question was answered by Karen Joy-Pearen. Karen is a registered psychologist and crisis phone counselor in Australia. She uses various approaches - person-centered, cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused, gestalt and eclectic - to deal with anxiety, addictions, phobias and relationship problems. Her area of expertise also includes career counseling, motivation, and goal-setting. For more information visit her site or her compact information page in QueenDomFor more information visit: http://users.tpg.com.au/kpsd/