What do you do if you want to get married but your partner is scared of marriage? I’m answering that very question on today’s podcast episode so stay tuned!
Ask Dr. Abby is the advice segment of the Relationships Made Easy podcast. Submit questions to [email protected]. (I keep it anonymous!)
Here’s the message I received (identifying information and names have been changed):
I am so grateful to have found your podcast, your straightforward, simple, and practical advice is the best I have heard.
I have been with my partner for over ten years and we’ve been engaged for eight. I deeply value marriage and he tells me this is the best relationship he has ever had, he loves me, and he wants to spend his life with me…but he does not want to get married because he says he thinks he will feel like he was “pressured” into getting married. We have been through a lot of growing together over the years. His most current therapist has encouraged him to “stand his ground” and do this for himself, although he tells me that he is working with his therapist to explore the reasons why he is so fearful of marriage. He’s been married before but has been divorced a long time now.
I have been loyal, committed, and feel a very good partner, patiently working through many of his communication issues, boundaries issues, and other trauma issues. I’ve worked on myself a lot over the years but fear my own abandonment trauma keeps me in this relationship.
In spite of all of this, we have a decent relationship, we adjusted to each other comfortably, but I still want to get married and don’t feel there is a full commitment from him without this.
Is it time to cut the cord? We love each other and this is ruining what we do have. I am afraid to leave. Please help.
Here’s a brief response (listen to the podcast for the full version about what to do if your partner is scared of marriage).
First and foremost, for anyone going through this, this situation can really suck. Love can bring out the best in us, but also our fears and insecurities.
There are so many things here to address beyond just a partner being scared of marriage. So, let’s get started:
No therapist (including me) can tell you whether to stay or go but I can say this: always focus on how you feel day-to-day. If you feel happy, cherished and loved the majority of the time, that’s a big indicator that this is a healthy relationship despite your partner not wanting to get married.
I’d then wonder why getting married is so important to you? What do you think getting married will give you that you don’t already have? I strongly encourage you to write this out in a journal and really explore what you think getting married means and what it will give you.
The next thing to think about is how you’re filling in the blanks and defining things. Why have you decided that his not wanting to get married means he’s not fully committed? In this case, it seems you’re defining something and filling in some blanks that are likely not true. It would be great to ask your partner what commitment means to him. How does he define commitment and how does he think he shows you that he’s committed to you?
In your case, the relationship sounds solid and healthy overall but “this one thing is ruining it.” I’d say that goes both ways: it’s not right to want to get married and wrong not to (and vice-versa). It’s all about where the want comes from. If you want to get married out of love, enthusiasm, excitement, and connection, then that’s wonderful, but if you want to get married because you’re fearful of being alone or abandoned, that’s not healthy. The same goes for not wanting to get married. Are you making the decision from a fear-based or a love-based emotion? That’s what makes something healthy or unhealthy.
Relationships are all about what you focus on. Why is this one thing ruining it? Is something else ruining it? Does this speak to deeper issues?
What conversations have you had about this? What if you changed the conversation from trying to negotiate to finding a new solution together? What else besides marriage could help you feel committed? Someone can marry you but then cheat on you – does that feel like commitment? What do you really need and want? What do you need to FEEL to have that?
Relationships need to be based on love, not fear and you say you’re afraid of leaving. What is this fear about? Are you afraid of being alone? Of never being loved by anyone else? Sometimes people feel like they’ve put in all this time and it would be wasted to leave. It won’t! It’s never a waste of time to love someone. It’s never a waste of time to learn who we are in relationships.
Answering these questions from an open, willing place is key. You can’t decide that one of you is right and one of you is wrong. This conversation with yourself and your partner needs to come from a place of enthusiasm for what you can figure out together.
Are you ready to have faith in love instead of fear in your relationship? Check out this video: