I’m Ready For Marriage, But My Boyfriend Isn't. What Do I Do?

Every time you look at him, you hear wedding bells. But it turns out he’s not on the same page. Here’s how you can handle this sticky situation tactfully.

By Keelia Clarkson4 min read
Pexels/Vlada Karpovich

Ever since you were a little girl, you’ve had no doubt that you wanted to get married one day. You’ve imagined your wedding countless times. You’ve thought about what kind of dress you’d wear, what food would be served, what song you and your husband’s first dance would be to, what kind of flowers you would use for your bouquet, what music you’d walk down the aisle to, which color scheme you’d go with… You’ve dreamt about all of it.

The only missing piece was, of course, the man who would be waiting at the end of the aisle, the man who you would be sharing that first dance with, the man who would join you in pledging to stay by each other’s side for the rest of your days. And then, you met your boyfriend, and it seemed as though the final puzzle piece had magically fallen right into place.

You’re in love with your boyfriend, there’s no denying that. He’s exactly the kind of guy you’ve always hoped to be with. He’s kind and loyal, handsome and funny, hardworking and loving. You can imagine building a life with him that you’d be happy to live. You sometimes daydream about what you might name your future children or what they might look like. There’s absolutely no doubt in your mind that he is the man you want to call your husband.

But every time you’ve mentioned that a random celebrity or a relative or a friend of yours has gotten engaged, he has started to act kind of funny. And that time you decided to nonchalantly bring up the subject of marriage after going to see a romantic comedy, he got squirmy and said he wasn’t ready to think about getting married. Understandably, your feelings got hurt.

While you can’t not think about marrying him, apparently, the mere thought of marrying you seems to make him want to run for the hills. That brings up an endless stream of questions, worries, and doubts. You’re not sure what to do from here – you don’t want to be the girl who waits around forever only to end up getting broken up with, but you also don’t want to pressure him to take a step he’s not ready for right now. Still, you know that eventually getting married isn’t something you’re willing to compromise on. 

So what should you do if you’re ready to make that lifelong vow but your boyfriend isn’t quite on the same page?

Initiate an Honest Conversation

While it’s tempting to just wait it out, and either hope that you’re wrong about your boyfriend’s attitude toward marriage or count on things somehow working themselves out eventually, there’s no way to move forward (whatever the outcome might end up being) without initiating an honest conversation.

Mentally and emotionally prepare yourself beforehand to hear him out, especially if he’s expressing views on marriage you don’t share.

When the subject comes up naturally, ask him what his thoughts are on marriage. So he won’t feel like you’re “testing” him, make it clear where you stand on the issue, but let him know that you genuinely want to hear his unfiltered thoughts on the matter. Invite him to expand on his thoughts by asking follow-up questions. (“Have you thought much about marriage before?” “Why do you think you feel that way?” “Could you see yourself being a husband one day?”)

Mentally and emotionally prepare yourself beforehand to hear him out, especially if he’s expressing views on marriage you don’t share. Don’t assume this will be solved in just one conversation. It might take a few talks before you’re both clear on what the other person is feeling, where they’re coming from, and progress in either direction is made.

He Might Have Perfectly Good Reasons for Wanting To Wait

One positive thing that could come out of the conversation? It might help to shed some light on the good, practical reasons he has for wanting to wait on tying the knot. Before you know what’s going on for your boyfriend, it’s easy to fill in the blanks and assume the worst, but it’s entirely possible that he has perfectly acceptable motives – ones that let you know he isn’t just stringing you along but is trying to do what’s best for both of you.

Maybe your boyfriend wants to wait until he finds a steadier job so he can begin his life as a husband with fewer financial concerns, or maybe he first wants to make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to where you’ll live and the kind of life you’ll lead, or maybe he made the mistake of rushing into marriage once before, has since recognized the weight of making a lifelong commitment, and doesn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

But He Might Not Have Good Reasons

On the other hand, though, you might come to find that your boyfriend isn’t just trying to be cautious and wise in his reticence to pop the question. It’s possible that, through your conversation with him, you’ll discover that you and your boyfriend hold entirely different desires and that his reasons for not wanting to get married feel hollow to you.

There are a few reasons that should give you pause. If he says he “doesn’t see the point” of getting married or that he’s “just as committed” to you now as he would be after signing a marriage license, this indicates the lack of value he places upon marriage. If he says he isn’t interested in marriage after seeing his parents divorce, while this is an understandable reaction that you can have empathy toward, it’s also one that shows an unwillingness to work through difficult issues. If he simply says he’s not ready to even think about it (or worse, that he’s never even thought about it) despite being a full-fledged adult, there’s a possibility that he isn’t mature enough to step up to the role of husband.

If You Have To Beg, He’s Not the One

It’s not the end of the world if you’re the first one to feel ready to take the plunge into marriage. And it’s not necessarily a sign that you aren’t compatible, or that there’s no hope, if your boyfriend needs a little more time to get there than you do.

If you have to convince your boyfriend to marry you, there is no clearer sign that he’s not the one for you.

But here’s where we’ll caution you: If you have to convince your boyfriend to marry you, or beg him to even consider marriage, there is no clearer sign that he’s not the one for you. First, because you shouldn’t ever have to persuade someone to want to spend their life with you. Second, because he has a right not to want to be anyone’s husband, just as you have a right to pursue marriage with a man who does want to be a husband. If he truly does not want to get married, he shouldn’t be talked into it.

How Do You Know If You Should Wait Around?

You never want to be the girl who waits years for her boyfriend to pop the question, only to either get dumped or become a forever girlfriend. But you also don’t want to throw in the towel too early and miss out on a man who would’ve been a wonderful husband. So what are the signs that you should wait around? How do you know if it’s wise to stay with him or if you’d end up regretting it?

If your boyfriend doesn’t express negative views on marriage and even shows interest in one day calling you his wife, then give him some time. Things aren’t progressing according to your schedule, but there’s promise that they’ll move forward. Not to mention, it’s a good idea to get used to compromising now, since much of marriage entails taking your spouse’s needs into account (and even putting them above your own at times).

But if he has said something along the lines of “Let’s just see where things go,” without giving you any indication of how likely he is to consider marrying you, it might be wise to reassess the relationship and your evaluation of your boyfriend. By not offering you any assurance, he’s showing a lack of concern and interest in your desires. And if he has communicated downright negative opinions on marriage? Well, he’s basically telling you not to wait for him. He most likely won’t change his mind, and you’ll only frustrate yourself trying to do so.

Closing Thoughts

It’s not always a red flag if a guy isn’t ready for marriage, but it’s definitely an indication that a conversation (or three) needs to be had. You might find that his reasons for wanting to wait make sense, or you might find that he never planned on proposing in the first place. Either way, you’ll be one step closer to the aisle and whoever the man at the end of it will be.

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