Is he anti-marriage or anti-you?
by Liz Garment, femail.co.uk, 12th October 2001

It's one of those situations that can seem utterly hopeless at the time. You want to get married and he doesn't. Deadlock, stalemate, impasse.

So what on earth do you do? Bite your tongue and wait, resentfully, till he's ready9 Leave copies of bridal magazines in the loo? Give him an ultimatum? Or do you simply dump him and find someone who does want to marry you?

Is he anti-marriage or anti-you?

The key to answering these questions lies in identifying one crucial factor: Is he against getting married to anyone or just against getting married to you?

‘This is vital,’ says counselling psychologist Anjula Mutanda. ‘If you're in a stable, loving relationship but your partner simply doesn't believe in marriage then there is plenty of scope to talk, negotiate and compromise.

‘But if he's obviously cruising with you, waiting for something better to come along and shows this by taking you for granted and refusing to discuss what you want, then you need to question why you want to marry him anyway.’

Question your motives

It's important to ask yourself exactly what tying the knot means to you and why you want it so much. Is it because marriage is meaningful and symbolic? Because your parents did it? Because you've reached a certain age and think it's time? Or is it because all your friends are doing it?

‘Dig deep and delve into your own feelings,’ says Anjula. ‘Is he the man you really want? Are you really happy with the relationship? Listen hard to yourself and be honest about how much and how often you actually moan and complain about him.

‘Getting married isn't a quick fix, something that will solve all your relationship problems or an excuse for a great party with all your mates there. It's a 40-year-plus commitment and you have to be sure you want it for the right reasons.’

Tackle him

Once you're sure he really is the man for you, that he loves you and that your relationship is rock steady and mutually supportive, then it's time to get to the bottom of exactly why he is dragging his feet.

‘It's worth exploring why he is so against marriage,’ says Anjula. If his own parents divorced it could be that he's not so much scared of getting married as scared of breaking up.

'Keep talking, find out if there is scar tissue there, what his real fears and concerns are. If he's worried about the ritual of a conventional marriage, talk to him about whether he'd like to write his own vows, what friends he'd like to invite or whether he'd really prefer just to go off to Gretna Green. Getting him talking is half the battle.’

Take it slowly

Rather than setting the date and booking the caterers at the first sign that he might just be warming to the idea of marriage, it's important to progress with care and caution.

‘A lot of men feel railroaded into marriage and that's the worst way to do it,’ says Anjula. ‘Instead, take it stage by stage and acclimatise him to the idea. Talk it over for a while then agree to live with what you've discussed for perhaps a couple of weeks before talking again to see how you both feel.’

Marry me - or else

Men hate being threatened, savs Anjula. ‘Issue an ultimatum and they'll just run away to their den, their shed or their garage and you'll get nowhere.

‘Don't jump in without thinking, all guns blazing, and say: ‘Marry me or I'm leaving’ just to frighten your lover into a response.

‘Instead, work out the things you can and can't compromise on and have a bottom line in your head. If after weeks or months of talking nothing has changed and you still want the relationship and marriage then it's fair enough to put your cards on the table - just make sure you know exactly what you're going to ask him for.’

The waiting game

Some women choose to brood in silence, hoping that in time their partner will simply pop the question of their own volition. Big mistake, says Anjula.

‘Don't suffer without saying anything because then the anger will build up and come out in unexpected ways,' she advises. ‘You'll find yourself yelling and screaming out of all proportion when he doesn't do the washing up because all you really want to screech is ‘Why won't you marry me?’

Let him think it's his idea

It may be old-fashioned, but a lot of men don't like the idea of a woman instigating discussion about marriage - they have a romantic image in their heads of getting down on bended knee, whipping a huge sparkler out of their jacket pocket and taking their lover by complete surprise.

The best way to get round this is to let him think it's his idea to get married by planting the seed of the idea in his mind and letting it grow.

‘It comes down to being a good listener, opening conversations without issuing ultimatums and about not getting defensive or aggressive which often happens when we feel hurt,’ says Anjula.

‘So say to him: ‘If we were to get married, what would be your ideal way of doing it’ and then when he tells you, you say: ‘Fantastic! Wonderful! What a great idea!’ It's called positive reinforcement, it's very easy to do and believe me, it works wonders!’

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