There are a few things in life you can put off and deal with later, like the laundry or calling your mom back. But some things have to be handled sooner rather than later, like paying your rent on time or (just in case my mom is reading this) calling your mom back. Let's say you're happily in a relationship when you learn that your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't believe in marriage and you do. Now what? Is this a thing that you can sweep under the rug and deal with down the road, or should you sort it out now, even if you're not looking to get married anytime soon?
I spoke to Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Host of "The Kurre and Klapow Show," all about this. He suggests to not worry about the when but to focus on the why. "You need to know exactly where your partner is, and why they are where they are. So much matters not on what your partner states they feel at the moment but what they are willing to consider down the road." So, while a big incompatibility possibly lurks in your future, Klapow believes that communication with your partner is key to understanding their perspective and notes that people's opinions do evolve over time.
Klapow elaborates, "A partner may say they don’t believe in marriage but are willing to consider it. A partner may say they need to think about it. A partner should be able to tell you why they don’t believe in marriage. All of these gestures tell you your partner is open-minded." So, while a productive conversation, or many conversations, about the subject of marriage can indicate an a possible way forward for you as a couple, it can also reveal a dead-end. "If you get a simple, 'I don’t believe in it,' with no dialogue, you have a partner whom for whatever reason is rigid in their beliefs and not willing to grow with you. If you are set on marriage, this is a person who is telling you it is not in their future."
Once you have an understanding of your honey's opinions and understand why they don't wanna do that ring thing, share with them why it's important to you. If you both still firmly land on opposite sides of this issue, what now? If you really love your partner and you want to get married at some point in your life, is there a chance that your partner will simply change their mind in time? After all, people's tastes and opinions change all the time — it's called evolution and growth!
If you're considering hoping your loved one will change in time, Klapow says, "Hoping someone changes is fine. Dating someone with clear understanding that they may or may not change is also fine. Pushing them to change, trying to force them to change, building the relationship around a focus of changing them is a recipe for relationship failure."
So, how can you tell if your partner is going to dig in their heels or be open to change? Klapow explains, "They must be willing to state that they love you and while they don’t want to marry now, they are keeping an open mind. The partner who shuts everything down in an absolute manner is not the partner you want to hope will change."
He cautions against having repetitive arguments, but instead to share with them why it's important to you and why you believe in marriage. For a person to change their mind, according to Klapow, "They need to see that it is important to you, and they need to see for themselves that marriage is an option." Mutual respect for each other's opinions and desires can strengthen your partnership and perhaps open either or both of you up to different ideas.
However, if your partner listens and understands your perspective but is unwavering in their own personal belief, you might then face a decision — do you keep dating this person, knowing that they'll never want to be married? Klapow advises, "You must decide – will you be OK with not getting married? It’s your life, your choice." So when deciding if this issue goes on the back burner or demands your immediate attention, first talk to your partner, try to understand their perspective, and share yours honestly. From there... you and only you will know what to do.
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