The words repeat in my head: I love him, but I don’t want to marry him; I love him, but I don’t want to marry him yet; I love him, but I don’t know if I can give him what he wants – if what he wants is the traditional commitment of marriage.
The words circle again, though twisting their tune slightly: I love him, but I don’t always like him; I love him, but he’s driving me crazy; I love him, but I don’t know if I can live with him; I love him, and I know I don’t want to live without him.
I started with a premise of “I love him, but…” and used our favorite auto-fill feature of you-know-what, hoping to see what queries popped up first, second, and after.
To my surprise, the phrase that appears in Google and strikes me first is one I have used at various times in my life — I love him, but I don’t want to marry him. I imagine others are familiar with these words, knowing the realities of relationship challenges and especially, what can happen after “I do.”
What Drives Us Nuts About Our Partners?
Our feelings about a much-loved partner will depend on the latest kindness or tiff, the current tranquil mood or period of stress, a happy compromise or an unresolved conflict that plagues us time and time again.
A few of my “love, but…” phrases:
I love him, but I need more time to myself; I’m a relatively solitary creature at times. (How does he manage to live with me?)
I love him, but there are a handful of core issues on which we disagree; we can navigate around them now, but what about in the future?
I love him, but I don’t want to marry him for at least as many reasons as I can imagine that I might, someday, feel differently.
I am not ready to marry — make that remarry. I do not “need” marriage. I don’t know if I will ever need marriage, though that may not be the case for him.
When We Aren’t Ready to Marry
When I was younger, I sensed that I wasn’t ready to marry. And this was before I had been through the experience of divorce, which has surely impacted my ability to ever see myself remarried.
My reasons when I was younger:
- I love him, but I’m not ready and I haven’t lived enough. (I was 22 at the time.)
- I love him, but we haven’t been together long enough. How do I know how we’ll weather the storms? (I was 30ish.)
- I love him, but I don’t know if I can deal with his children and his ex. (Legitimate concerns; I was 32 then.)
And then there came a yes, with flickers of awareness that I ignored.
I love him, but I’m uneasy when he acts so selfishly, when his friends seem more important than spending time with me, when he discounts what I want though he charms his way out of it, and then… I see his family… they show me so much and it is good, and yes, we have a shot… I love him, I love his family, we’ll live halftime in Europe and halftime in the US or some similar arrangement and that suits us both. The rest? It will work itself out, there is no perfect, there is no couple with “no problems,” so yes… I will marry him, yes, I said yes, I say yes, I live the consequences of yes.
I Should Have Paid Attention
On that one, that yes, I should have listened to my “buts”… but… then I wouldn’t have given birth to my amazing sons.
When we are tangled in inner dialog, wrestling with what we know and see about ourselves, our circumstances, our partners – shouldn’t we listen?
I love him, but I don’t want to marry him may apply to this day, this month, this year – and if he sticks around, may no longer apply in the next. We ought to focus on our non-readiness, but more importantly, the reasons for it.
- Will those reasons change?
- Do we want them to change?
- Is there something specific making an indefinite engagement an excellent solution for now?
- Are we making excuses for some other reason we have yet to articulate?
- Are we making excuses out of fear? Not only of our level of commitment, but of our partner’s?
- What is the worst that can happen if I say yes?
On that last, the “worst” can be pretty terrible. “I can always get a divorce if things don’t work out” is not as simple an option as one might think, and for marriage, not a particularly positive attitude going in.
The process of disassembling a publicly declared and legally established family unit is far trickier than if you haven’t publicly declared yourselves, much less invoked the jurisdiction of state law.
And if there are children?
It’s exponentially more complicated – financially, logistically, emotionally.
12 Signs You Shouldn’t Marry Him (or Her)
Signs you shouldn’t marry him – or her?
- Trust issues – with cause. Your infidelity; his infidelity. Big. Red. Flag.
- Substance abuse issues – alcohol, drugs, gambling. He or she denies or tries to kick it, to no avail.
- Any inkling of physical abuse – even once is TOO MUCH; walk away – better yet, run!
- Verbal or emotional abuse / manipulation – passive-aggressive behaviors, withholding, disrespectful or diminishing language; you or what you care about is belittled.
- Clash of values / priorities — children, importance of career, money. When a couple’s values are out of synch, it can only get worse.
- Lies – anything other than pertaining to your hair, your singing voice in the shower, how much he likes your mother / brother / best friend — another red flag.
- Communication stalemates — Touchy topics are avoided rather than discussed – over and over again.
- Persistent dislike or discomfort on the part of your kids — often, kids have great instincts. Pay attention.
- Emotional distance – if it’s there now and persists, what will it be like after marriage?
- Libido — This is less an issue of how you like it; more an issue of how much / how often.
- Your kind of sex – how you like it. If you go for everything in the Kama Sutra and he’s missionary all the way, you’re headed for a disconnect – literally.
- Something in your gut says “no.”
No doubt there are more signs; no doubt you sense them. Don’t bury your head in the sand.
What Do You Do With Your “But” When You’re in Love?
- I love him, but he’s driving me crazy.
- I love him, but I don’t always like him.
- I love him, but he doesn’t give me what I need.
- I love him, but I don’t give him what he needs.
- I love him, but I worry that his first family will always take priority.
- I love him, but his career always seems to come first.
- I love him, but he doesn’t take what I care about seriously.
Those first two? Join the crowd. None of us carries on a long-term relationship without driving the other crazy occasionally, and vice versa. None of us lives a blissful existence during which we don’t feel dislike for the other person at times, especially when we ourselves are under stress, overtired, or possibly, in physical or emotional pain.
Worrying about what he or she needs — and not just what we need? That’s essential. Relationships must be a two-way street. Concern over priorities? You’d better find out where you fit before you seriously consider a next step. You can successfully work through some conflicts, while others will persist. Ask yourself: Can I live with these differences? Should I have to?
Then there’s this: “I love him, but I don’t want to marry him.” If these are the words of your inner voice, then pay attention — especially to your reasons.
And if the words are these — I love him, but I don’t want to marry him yet — communicate your sentiments with all the tenderness and compassion you can possibly manage.
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