5 Possible Reasons Your Partner Doesn't Want To Get Married & What To Do
If you've been wanting marriage since you were old enough to form the words "I do" or recently discovered that you want your current partner to be your last, the worst thing that could happen is to discover that the love of your life doesn't want to get married. Or is it?
There are times when honesty is truly the best policy. When considering a commitment like marriage, learning how to receive and respond to your partner's true thoughts and feelings with a dose of objectivity could save you a great deal of heartache—even if the outcome is not initially what you hoped for.
Here are a few common reasons some partners don't want to get married and what to do in each situation:
Fear of lifelong commitment.
It's true that some partners that like to keep their options open have used "fear of commitment" as a convenient excuse. However, many individuals can make a legitimate claim to their fear of failing at sustaining lifelong love. Let's face it—no matter what timetable you use, forever is a mighty long time. Depending on your partner's family background, upbringing, and personal dating history, the idea of happily ever after may feel unimaginable or downright impossible.
What to do:
While it might feel like the odds are stacked against you, the good news is that your partner's fear really isn't personal. Take the time to listen and understand your partner's upbringing and relationship history. Some partners don't even realize their fear of committing to marriage is rooted in previous negative experiences they never properly addressed and healed from. If your partner is willing to self-reflect and seek help from a trained therapist, there may be hope for an "I do" in the future.
However, don't be surprised if it isn't easy to get them to open up. Many emotionally injured people build pretty secure vaults for their painful experiences. Timing matters, so proceed with caution and never do more work than your partner is willing to do to help themselves. At the end of the day, you want to know that your partner ultimately made a deeper commitment voluntarily. Providing too much of a push can feel forced and leads to distrust and resentment.
They value independence over interdependence.
Whether it's traveling on a whim, a demanding career, or simply wanting the ability to change their direction in life without creating a domino effect of change for their significant other, many partners prefer looser commitments that allow them the freedom to dance to the beat of their own drum. It can be quite difficult if not impossible to sell these individuals on the idea of marriage, despite the fact that their free-spirit and ambition may increase your desire to make the ultimate commitment to them.
What to do:
Consider what marriage really means to you. This is where understanding each other's expectations becomes critical. If your relationship is already fulfilling in its current state, then you may want to evaluate the actual need for marriage. If both you and your partner have an agreement to remain monogamous and committed to each other, will that be enough?
If you determine that you are looking for a more traditional lifestyle that some married couples build, then perhaps it's time to examine your long-term compatibility with your partner. If they have assured you that they won't change their desire for independence, trust that they know themselves. It may save you a lot of energy in the end.
They have political views or values that don't align with the institution of marriage.
Some people love commitment but don't like the institution of marriage itself. They may take issue with the idea of getting state approval for their personal relationships or with the idea of governments privileging couples over individuals or with the fraught, heteropatriarchal history of marriage. That said, while they don't like the idea of marriage, they may be very committed to the idea of a lifelong, monogamous partnership—just without the government papers.
What to do:
Really talk to your partner to understand what their point of view is. Understand whether they're open to the idea of a lifelong partnership, even without the formal marriage. This will help you with your decision-making.
As with No. 4, it's important to consider how important the idea of "marriage" is to you. If you and your partner are functionally doing the same thing—being together forever, monogamously, having kids, and growing old together in a house lined with white picket fences—does it matter if you don't use the words "husband" or "wife"? That's something only you can decide for yourself.
They don't feel financially prepared.
For some partners, the idea of marriage comes along with a huge price tag. Whether your partner has some unresolved debt that they would like to pay off or they don't believe they're earning enough to take on any added responsibilities that marriage might bring, some individuals won't even consider tying the knot until they have reached certain financial goals—even if they are far off.
It's also possible that they aren't comfortable with your financial situation and fear this will create conflict further down the line. If you and your partner haven't demonstrated that you can build trust or teamwork around managing money, it stands to reason that this may be a factor in your partner's lack of desire to get married. The idea of starting a life together as a cash-poor couple can create an emotional roadblock for some that even the deepest love can't maneuver around.
What to do:
Take your partner's concerns about finances seriously. Discussing money can be a sensitive subject, but if you haven't made serious strides toward outlining what a financial future together would look like, now is a good time to trade more information. Take an honest look at the state of your own financial affairs. If either of you could benefit from earning or saving more before taking the relationship to the next level, then you may need to consider adjusting your expectations. Your partner's no may actually mean "not yet," so decide if the extra work around finances is worth the investment.
5. They don't believe you're "the one."
It can be painful to learn that the person you envision spending the rest of your life with doesn't see happily ever after with you. No matter how much chemistry and potential for long-term happiness you may feel exists between you, they simply aren't convinced there's enough "something" to make the ultimate commitment. Despite the amount of time and energy you've previously invested in the relationship, your partner may convey that the relationship is best suited for right now versus the next level. They may not be able to explain the "it" factor that's missing for them, which can make it all the more confusing when your relationship feels incredibly stable and fulfilling.
What to do:
Marriage is such a serious commitment that you shouldn't have to convince your partner that what you've built together is worth committing their life to. If your partner understands your desire to be married and truly considers your needs alongside their own, they will do the work to explore what's missing and see if it's attainable or spare you the heartache of being in limbo by moving on. This may take time. While your partner develops a deeper understanding of their own needs, evaluate how long you can remain an active and willing participant in the relationship without becoming resentful if it doesn't escalate to marriage. Setting a personal time frame for making a decision can be helpful.
Should we break up?
Deciding if you should break up is a question that should be answered after you've identified your core values. Simply put, core values are our most important needs and beliefs. Many people choose a marriage partner based on their ability to live with most or all of that person's character traits and flaws. However, our core values also help us understand what we can't live without. If you determine that you can't live without being legally married to the person you're investing your life in, then it's time to make an exit strategy. Otherwise, if you discover that you value the relationship you've created together more than the legal commitment, you may feel comfortable staying right where you are.
Making decisions against our core values can leave us feeling unfulfilled and unsettled. Therefore, when your partner tells you honestly that they don't want to get married, you should thoroughly assess your core values and take heed to both your needs and theirs. After all, it could save you a lifetime of unhappily ever after.
Weena Wise, LCMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 15 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families. Her clinical advice has been featured at NBC News, The Huffington Post, Insider, Redbook, and many more mainstream media publications.
Wise speaks to local, national, and international audiences about relationships, money matters, parenting, and the role of spirituality in achieving your personal goals, and she serves as a moderator/facilitator for community-based panel discussions sponsored by local nonprofit organizations. She previously worked as an adjunct professor and clinical supervisor at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she obtained her master's degree in family studies, and she has intensive clinical training in working with trauma survivors. She uses empirically validated treatment modalities like cognitive-behavioral therapy and emotion-focused therapy with her clients.