There comes a time in every dating relationship where you have to make some extremely scary decisions. Are you willing to leave things as they are, or risk ruining them by taking a giant step forward toward commitment and marriage?
How can you tell him “I want to get married” without scaring him off? And how soon is too soon?
“Hi Claire, I’ve been a fan of yours for over a year now, since purchasing Capture His Heart! Now, to my dilemma: My boyfriend Tom and I are 9 months into a dating relationship. We’re both in our 50s, and he has been married before. Dating him has been mostly wonderful, especially during those first 6 months. In the beginning, he showered me with attention (texts, mostly), but lately, not so much. I’m becoming less certain where, on his list of priorities, I fall. I continue to stay busy with my own extracurricular activities but in my heart, I long to spend more time with Tom. I want to feel that we are moving forward and growing in this relationship, but at this juncture, I seem to only be questioning it. Claire, how can I tell him I want to get married? Is it too soon? I don’t want to scare him away! How can I make him aware that I desire to move this relationship forward, and be a priority in his life? (I have recently expressed to him that he’s a priority in mine). I’m concerned that with all that he has on his already full plate, that it may leave less time to focus on us, and give us the chance to grow toward a commitment. Thank you so much, Claire, for all your words of wisdom, and inspiration!” – Maureen
Thanks so much for the kind words, Maureen. I have a loooong answer for you, but I think you’ll find some good things here…
How long are you willing to wait to ask?
FIRST, you need to know your own timeline for this. How long are you willing to wait to find out whether this fantastic man is the one who will commit to you for real, for the long term? I’m not saying what’s your timeline for the wedding date, I’m just asking how long you’re willing to wait to ASK him about this. Every woman has a different timeline, and it’s not something you just throw out a number for arbitrarily. It’s only been 9 months so far. Are you willing to wait until you’ve been together a year to have a conversation about this? Two years? Let me give you a little more info here. It sounds to me like the first blush of “falling in love” is over. Now the two of you are looking down the long stretch of the hard work of real love.
The power struggle stage of a relationship
It will take work to get the two of you from stage one (falling in love) to stage two. Stage two of a long-term relationship is kind of a power struggle, where you’re both working to figure out how the two of you will stick together for the long term. This is where you learn to communicate together, manage your differences, and figure out how to get through conflict together. By the way, stage three of a relationship is stability. Doesn’t that sound lovely? It is, but it takes – you guessed it – a lot of struggle and work to get there. And AFTER that comes the kind of deep commitment you see in long-term marriages. Don’t be too afraid to ask the question, because this sounds like an awesome man and the two of you aren’t in your 20s; you’ve been through plenty of stuff and you both know that real love and real life involve discipline, compromise, sacrifice… All those things. The ONLY way to find out how he feels and whether he’s interested in working toward the kind of future together that you dream of is to ask him, right? And it doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, the conversation can be filled with hope and love. Here’s what I mean.
I don’t think it’s “fake” in any way to start thinking about exactly what words you want to use to raise this subject with him. In fact, if you DIDN’T think this through, I would say you’re being irresponsible and not taking it seriously enough. These kinds of conversations are pivotal and important; they deserve your careful attention. Now, to the actuals…
1. Open by describing him.
“Tom, you are an amazing man.” Be specific, name 2 or 3 special things about him.
2. Lead in by sharing how the relationship has made you feel.
Now name some of the wonderful ways you have experienced the two of you being together.
3. Describe the future you envision.
You need to describe the dream to him in a way that makes it clear it’s YOUR dream. Don’t use his name; instead allow him to envision that mystery man being HIM and only him. This is the tricky part, so let me give you specifics. You can adapt it. “I want to be able to wake up every day to the man I love. I’d like to be there for him when he needs me, and know that he is there for me no matter what I’m facing. I enjoy having a boyfriend, but I don’t want to have a boyfriend – even one as marvelous as you – forever. I want to get married one day. Not right now, but in the next few years.”
4. Invite him to share what HE wants for the future.
It’s critical that you get the right mindset here. You simply want to know what he desires for his future. You already know what YOU want, but the real mystery here is what he wants.
If he doesn’t know what he wants…
That’s really got to be okay with you. This is his heart we’re talking about, not yours. So if he says he isn’t sure, invite him to think about it and ask him if you can talk about it again next week (or next month, you can choose your own timeline, or ask him to tell you his). Then you need to find a good, non-stressful time and place to ask him if he’s thought about it, and keep making tiny steps forward. Each time you do this you are going to get more information. Is he willing to do this hard work with me?
If he reacts interestedly…
It’s entirely possible that he will be very open to hearing you, and thinking about what you want. It’s up to you to keep the ball from being dropped, though. If you REALLY want to be married, and you know your general timeline for that, keep taking baby steps forward.
If he reacts negatively…
This isn’t cause for a screaming match. Or crying, or begging and pleading. It’s simply the first part of an honest struggle. He may already KNOW that he doesn’t want a long-term commitment like marriage and he hasn’t communicated it with you because he hopes to keep things like they are. Now you know, and you can get started thinking about how you’ll respond. He may simply react negatively because he’s scared. You can work with that. Invite him to share some of his fears, because fears should be heard out, but they don’t have to be the last word. And the two of you can get help moving through them.
And remember: you get to decide what your life will look like
No matter what happens, you’re in charge of your own life. At some point you might want to break the “exclusivity” agreement the two of you have in order to move on with your life. You get to decide! My very best to you as you take the next step! You can do this, beautiful!