You've seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel All Alone in Their Marriages, keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show Braxton Family Values. Now it's your turn to sit in her chair...
Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 12 years (I’m ashamed to say) and we have a 10-year-old daughter together. The problem is that I want to get married, but he doesn’t want to. When we first met, when I was 21, I didn’t understand the value of marriage. Now that I’m older, I just received my Bachelor’s Degree in Business, and I have a much deeper faith in God and the church. I feel that marriage should be the next step for us. He is 36-years-old, and he is a good man. He works really hard and provides very well for our family. When I bring up marriage, we always end up having an argument. His mom has never been married, and she has five kids. My parents were married for 32 years with four kids before my father passed away two months ago. Now that my father has passed away, I want that commitment even more. It’s not about the ring or a fancy wedding – I just feel it’s the right thing to do in God’s eyes. This has become such a problem between us that I’m on the verge of leaving him. Should I leave a good man just because he is afraid of marriage or should I give him some more time?
A: Have you ever heard the saying, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk free?” He has had free milk for 12 years and now you want to charge him. Try to see things from his perspective. Neither one of you initially placed any value on marriage within your relationship. It seems as if your relationship has been positive and you both have been committed to one another and your child.
You acknowledged that he is a good man and provides well for your family. Now after 12 years, you want to change the rules to the game as a result of your personal growth, especially with your father passing. That’s understandable. You had a reminder of the value of marriage with your parent's 32 years of success. He does not have this frame of reference. You noted that his mother was never married and had five children. I am sure he views his mother being single as a way of life for which he has modeled his behavior. You endorsed this by being with him for 12 years without the expressed desire for marriage until recently. I am sure if you had expressed a desire for marriage years ago, he would have innocently asked, “Why?” I am also sure he is confused. His resistance does not mean that he does not love you or is not committed to you. It only means that he is still not committed to the institution of marriage.
He has not changed, but you have. This causes a real dilemma for you: Do you leave and give up your family as you know it or do you stay and live with an unmet need for marriage? You may feel a need to put pressure on him until he says, "I do." But, is that what you really want? He is likely to feel resentful and angry with you underneath the surface if he agrees to marry you under pressure. I would suggest that you seek couples therapy in order for both of you to be heard and process your feelings honestly. It would definitely be better if he decides to marry you because of his love and acceptance of your growth rather than feeling as if he has to participate in a shotgun wedding. -- Dr. Sherry
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