The topic of marriage is one that will eventually arise in most relationships. Even if you decide early in the relationship that you aren’t interested in marriage, there is still a chance you will want to revisit the topic in the future.
Having honest and open conversations about your feelings is an essential part of a healthy relationship. And this includes conversations about your future.
If you’re putting off having this conversation because you are afraid of what the outcome could be, you could be simply delaying the inevitable. This is particularly true if the conversation reveals that you want to get married but your partner doesn’t.
If you’ve discovered that your partner doesn’t want to get married, these are the next steps you should take.
Understand their feelings
The first step is to get to the bottom of why they don’t want to get married. There are many reasons an individual might reject the idea of marriage and it’s important that you understand their motives before you make a decision about your future.
Do they reject the idea of marriage in general, or are they simply telling you that they don’t see a future with you in particular? If they want to spend the rest of their life with you, but don’t feel the need to go through the legal process of marriage to secure this, then you will have to decide if this is a future that interests you.
However, if they are simply telling you that they don’t see a future with you, in particular, then it’s time to ask if this relationship has a future.
Ask if you really want to get married
Once you have determined their feelings on the topic, it’s time to turn the lens on yourself. Do you really want to get married? Is marriage important to you? Are there religious, moral or practical reasons you would like to get married? Would you be happy to remain as unmarried partners?
It’s impossible to determine if you can stay with someone who doesn’t want to get married unless your own feelings on marriage are very clear. You might need to speak to a professional counsellor to get to the bottom of your own motivations.
Often, our own thoughts and feelings are hidden from us. We have surface reactions to things, but we don’t understand the underlying motivation. If this is the case, you’ll struggle to determine if this is the right relationship for you.
Decide if this is something you can live with
Once you know that your partner doesn't want to get married, it’s time to ask if this is enough for you. Are you happy to stay as unmarried partners? For some couples, this would be a dealbreaker, because they are waiting for marriage before moving in together and starting a family. For others, the idea of remaining unmarried isn’t such a dividing issue.
Be honest with yourself if you are happy to continue with a relationship that is not heading towards marriage.
Look for a compromise
You might not be headed toward marriage, but perhaps you could find another way to take your relationship to the next level. If your partner simply isn’t interested in the wedding, you could still get married but host a pared-back ceremony. And if your partner isn’t interested in the religious aspect of marriage, you could agree to a civil partnership.
You could also agree to a long engagement, or to remain engaged. You could take the next step in your relationship by agreeing to move in together or have a child. You could even agree to continue the relationship and revisit the idea of marriage in a year or so.
Don’t assume they will change their mind
It’s tempting to stay with a partner under the assumption that they will eventually change their mind about marriage. Some people will even claim that marriage isn’t important to them, and hope that their partner will “come around” to the idea of marriage. This is a risky move. Once someone has shared their intentions, you have to assume that this will remain the same.
If you are in denial about the fact that they don’t want to get married, this could lead you to stay in the relationship for longer than necessary. Ultimately, you will be wasting your own time and their time if you stick around in the hope that they might change their mind.
The only situation where this would be acceptable would be if you are open to the idea of changing your mind about getting married. You could stay together and continue to work on the relationship and be open-minded about the idea of staying as an unmarried couple.
Be prepared to walk away
Once you have sparked up a conversation about your future, it’s difficult to backtrack and pretend that you don’t have this information. While it might have been a mystery before, once you know their intentions, you need to be willing to act on the information.
Ultimately, the relationship could be healthy and loving, but if you aren’t on the same page about your future, it isn’t going to be right for you in the long term. Walking away from a relationship because of practical reasons like this can be one of the hardest things to do, but it will benefit you in the long term.
Discovering that your partner doesn’t want to get married can be upsetting, but it can also be a positive move. Having open and honest conversations about your future is a healthy trait in relationships. Learning that your partner doesn’t want to get married doesn’t have to be the end.
As long as they are telling you that they don’t want to get married in general, and not just that they don’t want to marry you, there is no reason you cannot continue this relationship and learn to adapt to this new future. If you are willing to adapt and compromise, this could be a healthy move.