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Why Won't He Marry Me?

Deirdre wrote:

My gentleman and I knew each other about four months before we started dating. There was attraction from the beginning on both sides, but we were both shy, and we worked together and believed dating coworkers was Not Good.

Not dating right away gave us a chance to be friends first, for which I am grateful. Fate intervened when we both got laid off on the same day. We were dating within a week. I love him dearly and know I am incredibly lucky to have found him.

We've now been together almost three years. He's in his early 30s, I'm in my late 20s. We've both been married before. We've lived together for most of the time we've been dating. We've both been completely faithful to each other. Even nearly three years, we say "I love you" to each other at least five times a day, and it's not just one of us saying it first most of the time, it's about equal. We have lots of common interests but enough separate ones that we can have alone-time as well as time together doing things we both enjoy. We don't have a huge social life, but we aren't cooped up in the house all the time either. We don't fight. If we disagree, we talk. He's never raised his voice to me, nor me to him. We make compromises that, as far as I know, we are both happy with. He says he is perfectly happy with me and cannot imagine ever being without me. We both work, share bills equally, and have some joint savings from the leftovers of each of our budgets for the house. We want to build a house when we find the land, and we've even got the design picked out.

Sounds great, doesn't it? It is. But ... I want marriage. He hasn't proposed. And the fact he hasn't yet saddens me, sometimes to the point of tears -- sometimes being as often as once a week. Of course, never around him.

Why do I want marriage? Believe me, I know it's not a guarantee of a happy relationship. It doesn't mean it's going to last forever. It wouldn't make him stay with me if he decided he was not happy -- and I love him and respect him enough that if he was not happy, I would let him go without contesting. I'd be perfectly happy to sign a prenup as I know his ex-wife took advantage of him financially in the divorce. Most of my friends are unmarried, so it's not the "last one to the altar" syndrome. I would be perfectly happy even without a ring, if we were making a step toward marriage by him deciding he wanted to do it and asking me.

Marriage, legally, is just a contract, a piece of paper. I know rationally that it is not that important. But emotionally... the fact he has not yet proposed seems to encourage my worst character trait -- low self esteem. I *want* to be his wife. I want him to be able to introduce me as his wife with pride, just as I would be proud to introduce him as my husband. While I know marriage is not a guarantee that people will stay together, it's declaration that you love, respect, and trust the person enough to promise to at least try to work things out when things get tough before walking away. I am ready to promise that to him, and to follow through as best as I can.

But the low self-esteem thing comes in when I wonder why he hasn't proposed. Does he not feel he knows me well enough to make that level of commitment? Does he really think I will deliberately hurt him after all of this time? Despite how often he says he loves me and wants to be with me forever, is "he just not that into me"? Is there something about me that he doesn't care for but won't tell me what it is? I know you can't change a person -- they have to change themselves. But if there's something about me that is causing him to have doubts and it's something I can change, I will do it gladly! (By "something I can change" I mean something that isn't a deep-seated part of me that without it I would no longer be "me".)

Or is it the ex-wife? Yes, she traumatized him -- she cheated on him repeatedly, took him for everything he was worth in the divorce, abused him mentally and physically... but that was her, and I am me. If he honestly believes I would do that, then he doesn't know me at all, and I think I would have a right to be offended if that's the problem. And why would he spend three years of his life with someone who he felt would act like her? It's not like I'm supporting him or that he couldn't live on his own, and casual sex isn't hard to find if sex alone was a reason to stay with a person who you think will treat you like ****. If he doesn't actually believe that I would do that but is still afraid of marriage.. he's been divorced for over five years now. How much longer is it going to take for him to get over it?

Sorry this is so long, but I've tried to think through both my reasons for wanting to get married (to try to actually be rational about it to some degree and to make sure I want to be married for the right reasons) as well as the reason I am reacting so badly to his lack of willingness to propose. What would you guess of the reasons I listed are the most likely ones, and what should I do about it? Or do you see something I don't? I appreciate your candor.

Sincerely,

An Overanalyzer Who Loves Her Man

Dear Deirdre

You are honest enough to admit you have a self esteem issue, but you are still prepared to use marriage to 'solve it'.

But it won't, will it? Marriage cannot - as you admit - guarantee anything. Why would marriage change your self esteem? There will be something else ... then something else ... then something else.

Marriage is fine for those who want to get married; it is not a quick fix for your personal issues; neither is having a baby, getting a dog or having cameras following him around all day.

I don't doubt your genuine feelings toward him, but don't manipulate him to try and deal with your personal issues, or you'll kill the love.

You know what the issue is; deal with that issue, don't pretend 'lack of marriage' is the issue.

Once you've started to deal with that, talk to him about marriage. Remember that for some people, one failed marriage is a serious deterrent to risking it again, while for others there may be moral or religious reasons. But talk to him.

Through all this, remember that you have a good solid relationship; regardles of your personal issues, you are a good team. Don't - ever - forget the old sayng "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and remember that seeking to change something that works well, always carries risk.

But the central point is recognise the difference between "My Problems" and "Our Problems"; if he is to share your problems, you need his agreement first!

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