What to Do When You’re Ready for Marriage and Your Partner Isn’t

Two hands losing touch with one another against a hillside.

You’ve found the one. You can imagine spending your days with this person, growing old together and going through all the ups and downs of married life. In fact, you can’t wait to get started, to finally tie the knot and be a married couple. There’s just one problem: your partner isn’t ready for marriage.

This is a problem that many couples face at some point in their relationship. But the fact that it’s a common problem doesn’t make it any less stressful. When your partner isn’t ready to get married (or worse, isn’t sure if they ever will be), it can feel like your entire relationship is about to fall apart. For some, this can be a deal breaker…but it doesn’t have to be!

So, if your partner’s not ready to tie the knot, should you wait it out, or say goodbye? Here are a few tips to help you determine what’s best for you.

Figure Out What You Want (And Why)

Marriage is an institution that has been part of society for ages. For many of us, it just seems like “what you do”: you meet someone, fall in love, and marry them! However, it’s important to remember that marriage (like most things) is not a requirement for a happy, fulfilling life. Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying marriage is a bad thing (I’m married and I love it)! But if you and your partner have different views on when/if you should tie the knot, it’s important to take a hard look at your own reasons for wanting to do so. Ask yourself the following questions:

Are you reaching an age where marriage just seems like the next step?

Are all your friends getting married and you’re feeling the FOMO?

Do you truly feel that you want to spend the rest of your life bound to your partner?

The reasons will vary from one person to another, but it is critical to take stock of your feelings and understand why you want to spend your life as your partner’s spouse. If you can understand and explain why you want to get married, it will make talking about the subject much easier.

Listen to Their Feelings

A woman looking out the window as her boyfriend hugs her.

While you were taking a beat to reflect on your feelings about marriage, your partner was probably doing the same. Now, it’s time to hear each other out. Sit down with your partner and have an open, honest discussion about why you want to get married—and why they don’t. During this discussion, it is absolutely vital that you listen to your partner. The reasons they may have for avoiding the altar are just as complex and personal as your reasons to wed.

Maybe they lived through a messy divorce as a kid (or an adult), and it soured them on the idea of marriage. Maybe they want to accomplish a certain goal (gain financial independence, get a promotion at work, finish that novel they’ve been working on) before they commit to married life. Maybe they think that your relationship is working just fine as is, and believe that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Talking things out will help you both gain a deeper understanding of one another and of your relationship. Admittedly, this conversation can be very difficult—but ultimately it will lead to bigger and better things for you both.

Establish a Timeline

Let’s say that your partner is open to the idea of marriage…just not yet. They don’t feel ready for one reason or another, and you can empathize with their reasons. How long should you wait for them to be ready? Once again, every relationship is different. Some people are willing to wait as long as it takes for the love of their life, while others are ready to dive back for another fish in the sea. But if you are willing to give your partner some time, a timeline can be a great way to feel like you’re making progress.

Talk to your partner about what needs to be done before he or she is ready for marriage. Then, work together to take the necessary steps to make that happen. This might mean relationship counseling, supporting your partner in their personal goals, or even setting up a savings account so you both can pay for that big day. However it looks for you, a timeline (and a plan) might give you peace of mind as your relationship progresses.

Reassess… and Be Willing to Walk Away

A man and woman standing apart on a hillside.

Here’s the thing about plans: they don’t always work out perfectly. Maybe your partner achieves their goals, but still doesn’t feel ready. Maybe you realize that you aren’t willing to wait as long as you thought. Maybe counseling unveiled problems in your relationship—problems you don’t see getting fixed.

Keeping mindful of your feelings is an important skill in every relationship (your partner, your family, your job, etc.). Remember, the most important relationship in your life is the one with yourself; if you find that something in your relationship isn’t working for you, it may be OK to say goodbye and seek a healthier future. Of course, there’s always the chance that your plans do work out, and that you and your partner become a married couple. But whichever way your journey takes you, it is important to put your health and happiness at the top of your priorities.

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