What to Do If Your Partner Doesn't Want to Get Married

Upset depressed young woman holding wedding ring indoors

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When it comes to relationships, not everyone is the same. Some people want to take things slow and see where they go, while others jump into a relationship with marriage on their minds.

When you are ready to settle down, your partner must know the truth about where they stand. If there are doubts or an outright refusal of marriage from them, you should address this calmly and respectfully.

It's natural to feel an intense desire for comfort in your relationship, especially if it involves starting a family path together. However, before taking this step forward towards marriage, take some time to reflect upon what both of you expect out of your partnership.

What Are You Looking For?

Although it might feel like you inherently know that you want to be married, it's important to take a step back and ask yourself what exactly you are looking for. Are you hoping for more security, recognition, acknowledgment of your relationship's importance, or simply the ability to call your partner "my husband" or "my wife"?

If you're already in a committed relationship and marriage is simply a formality, then your answer could be that you want more security or the traditions that marriage brings (like a wedding, anniversaries, etc.).

However, it's also important to ask yourself what you are looking for if you are in a less stable relationship. Are you trying to fix the relationship through marriage? Are you trying to please someone else? Do you want to have children and feel that you have to be married to do so?

If you aren't sure exactly what you want, pull out a journal and start writing down your feelings. You might be surprised to learn more about what it is that you want out of marriage. At the very least, this exercise will allow you to communicate your wants more clearly when it comes time to talk to your spouse.

Balance Your Needs

Neither partner should feel obligated to give up their needs to be in the relationship. Figure out what compromises you're willing to make on certain issues.

For example, if marriage isn't something that's a high priority for your partner, but they are still committed to you, they might be willing to compromise and move forward with the marriage. On the other hand, if they are steadfastly opposed to marriage, you may need to consider that the relationship isn't going to work out.

The best part about balancing your needs is the chance to have real conversations about what you each want out of the relationship. Whether or not you resolve the issue of marriage, it should become clear how well suited you are to one another and whether your values and goals align.

If you see yourself heading in different directions at this step, that could be a sign that marriage is not in your future regardless of whether you can agree on what to do.

Process Your Feelings

Use this time to process your feelings rather than try to change or influence your partner. Reflect on what you want in a partner and whether your current partner is the right person for you. Your relationship may not be as strong as it seemed when it began simply because you want different things out of life.

While love and attraction are key ingredients for a good relationship, compatibility in long-term goals is what makes for a long-term relationship that works.

Hear Their Perspective

A marriage is made up of two individuals with different perspectives. If you don't have a conversation about those unique views, they could get in the way when it's time to decide about the big stuff in life.

It may seem like trying to get an answer from someone who isn't ready will only frustrate you both; however, patience could help improve communication to gain more insight into why your partner feels hesitant.

If you can, set your defensiveness aside and listen with an open mind (empathetically without judgment), then your partner will feel like they have space to explore their deepest thoughts safely with you.

Have respect for your partner's freedom of choice and individualism. You may disagree or wish your partner felt differently, but trust that they know what's best for them. If you know that your partner isn't interested in saying, "I do," the last thing you want to do is make them feel like they have to come along for the ride.

Understand Their Fear

Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and co-author of "How to Be Happy Partners: Working It Out Together," advises that fear is often underlying these types of conflicts. She argues that understanding where your partner is coming from is key.

If you decide to commit yourself to one person for life, then that means taking on all risks, including not getting what you want or need at any given time. Commitment helps bridge gaps between differences; it provides safety nets against loneliness and can help grow connections as partners work together towards common goals.

Some people are so afraid of getting hurt again that they put up a barrier to commitment in their lives. They're terrified and reject the idea because it's too hard for them right now, or perhaps ever. Meanwhile, others may find themselves tempted but also fearful about committing. This might be due to past experiences that made them wary of trusting other people with all aspects of who they are.

Consider Couples Counseling

If your partner is not interested in marrying, you don't have to break up right away. There are some things you can both do to work towards a more harmonious relationship. Waiting around forever isn't advisable; rather, talking with someone who has experience on the topic may help bridge the gap.

Attending couples counseling could be an option in this situation to help get you both on a better path, either toward a breakup or toward a marriage.

If your partner will not attend counseling with you, consider going to individual therapy to talk about your feelings in a safe space. This could be particularly helpful if you have issues you don't feel comfortable discussing in front of your partner. For example, you may be concerned about timelines for starting a family. Through individual therapy, you can work through these issues and find the best solutions for your long-term happiness.

Know When to Leave

At some point, you may need to decide on leaving the relationship if you can't reach a compromise on marriage. You will probably experience a range of emotions, from sadness at the loss to anger at the time wasted.

It may not be easy for your partner to be open and honest about the reasons behind their hesitation, but if you can't learn more, then there is likely no chance of moving forward. Try asking them what they are feeling or talk out different scenarios together to have a better understanding.

However, it's important not to dwell on "what could have been." The best time to leave is when you've exhausted all options at making things work. At that point, you can feel confident that you gave everything you had. And when you've done your very best, there is no longer any reason to feel sad about the situation. If you can, try to focus on the better future that is waiting for you.

A Word From Verywell

Whether your relationship continues and leads to marriage is often the result of a complex interplay of the needs and wants of you and your partner. While it's always possible to reach a compromise, if there is a huge gap between what each of you wants, this is usually a sign that even compromises could lead to conflict down the road.

At some point, it's best to have an outside perspective on your situation, even if that comes from family and friends. When you can discuss your fears and worries with someone else, this often helps you see them differently. At the very least, discussing the problem with someone else will help you to feel less alone and make a plan for moving forward.

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