I’ve been with my boyfriend for two-and-a-half years. We’ve discussed marriage and looked at rings, at his request. Recently he’s been conflicted about whether marriage (as an institution) is for him. He says he loves me and doesn’t want to break up. I don’t know if this is a normal fear and I should give him more time, or if I’m being foolish. Help! —Anonymous
There have been a lot of marriage questions lately. I’m guessing it’s because wedding season is upon us. Statistically, most American weddings take place during the warmer months of the year. Weddings are somewhat notorious for making unmarried couples, especially the women, wonder “Where is this going?’ about their own relationships.
So here we are, in August, after you’ve spent two—and a half—years in a relationship, only to discover that your boyfriend is on the fence about whether he wants to get married. Conveniently, he’s wavering after you two looked at rings. The best-case scenario here is that he saw the price of a decent diamond, had sticker shock and is embarrassed that he can’t afford a ring. The “I’m not sure I believe in marriage as an institution” line may be his way of saving face for not being able to get you a ring in a timely fashion. The good news is that he would still be proposing at some point.
That’s a manageable scenario; it also may be a farfetched one. The more likely explanation is that he really isn’t all that into marriage or he isn’t all that into marrying you. Neither bodes well for you. It’s just as likely that you two went ring shopping, and the experience got him to thinking about “Forever, forever” and he realized that he’s not built that way or he doesn’t want to spend it with you.
I keep emphasizing the “with you” because the type of guy who genuinely doesn’t believe in marriage is usually pretty up front about that. At the very least, he doesn’t have long conversations about marriage and go ring shopping with his girlfriend of two-and-a-half years. Unless your boyfriend has just been lying by omission about his real thoughts about marriage all along, something happened, and he’s had a change of heart.
It might be confusing for you that while he’s not sure about marriage anymore, he says he loves you and doesn’t want you to leave. I’m sure he does like you and wants to be with you and even loves you. But you should understand that you may not be his “one,” and even if you are, marriage still isn’t in the game plan for him, or you, as long as you’re with him. What he’s asking of you right now is what Being Mary Jane called a “fundamental shift.” He’s a man with a nontraditional perspective on marriage, one that you don’t share, and by asking you to stay, he’s asking you to “shift” what you want and adapt to his perspective to remain in the relationship.
If you believe in marriage and you want to be married, which it sounds as if you do, you need to have a frank “Exactly what do you want?” talk with your boyfriend. Ask him where all this “I don’t believe in marriage” talk is coming from. Is this about money, does he not want to get married to you or what? Tell him flatly that you believe in marriage and want to be married. If he can’t give you a straight answer that he wants to be married to you, walk.
Honestly, you may need to do that anyway. Marriage is not easy. It takes an extraordinary amount of work. If it is to have any chance of going the distance, both married people need to value marriage. If you value marriage, then you should marry someone who feels about it the same way you do. Not someone who isn’t even sure whether he believes in the idea of it.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. She is also a blogger at SeeSomeWorld.com, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “My Boyfriend Refused to Wish Me a Happy Birthday”