advice: how do i tell him i’m not ready to marry him?

QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER: My boyfriend proposed to me two months ago. We have been living together for less than a year – and while he’s great, and I know he loves me unconditionally, I feel as though this isn’t right. I don’t think that he is a man that is mature enough for a marriage. Some of his friends don’t have jobs and have to borrow money from their parents to help pay rent. While I know this isn’t him, I can’t help but think it is a reflection of him. How do I tell someone who loves me I’m not ready to marry them?

straight up advice

I have questions of my own here: How old is he? How old are you? Did you say ‘yes’ two months ago when he got on bended knee? How long had you been dating before you moved in together? Do you think he’d be mature enough to get married if all his friends were married? 

From what information I do have, from the six sentences above, it sounds like you’re making excuses. You’re looking for an out. It doesn’t sound as if you want, more than anything, to marry this man, except you feel you need reassurance that he’s mature enough to be making this next step. Not at all. What it sounds like is that you know it’s not right, at least not now (the next question will be, when will you be ready?), but you don’t know how to have your cake and eat it too.

Look at your actual question to me: How do I tell someone who loves me I’m not ready to marry them? Notice that you did not ask, "How do I tell someone whom I love deeply that I’m simply not ready to get married to him, or to anyone, and still preserve the relationship?"

How you handle this situation speaks to your strength of character. Disappointing people, having to tell people things you know they don’t want to hear, takes courage. And it has to be said definitively, clean. You need to know the answers before you begin the conversation. You need to sit in silence and ask yourself, your deepest part, if this is you sabotaging a good thing. Or if this is you, the deepest part of you, struggling to speak out, looking for any excuse to break out because this relationship simply isn’t right for you. Or maybe it’s the right man, but the timing is wrong. You wrote that you’re not ready to marry him which is different than not wanting to marry him. Not ready implies that you want to stay with him. I only want to caution you on this: many people I know stay in relationships, for many many years, waiting for some epiphany. They’re afraid of making a mistake so they keep things status quo as long as they possibly can before their partner threatens to leave. And with the fear of loss and regret governing their decisions, they decide, "Okay, fine. We made it this long. Guess we’ll get married." They set a wedding date a year out, then try to change it, then come up with excuses, trying to leverage more time, all the while hoping they have an epiphany, that something might happen to make them KNOW in their deepest self that this is what they want. And what I’m saying to you here is that you shouldn’t be engaged if you aren’t rip roaring ready to be married the very next day.

So to answer your question in the most direct way, how do you tell someone who loves you that you’re not ready to marry him? You tell him the truth, as soon as you know it. And you do it at home, without distractions. You should be clear on your WHYs. Even if your answers are, "I don’t know why. I wish I did. But something in me just knows I’m not ready." Though, quite honestly, I think that’s a pussy answer. I think you do know, and I think you owe it to the person you’re with, owe it to yourself, to come to terms with how you really feel.

go ahead, ask

If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address. Nope, I’m not a shrink, but since people keep asking for my opinion, I might as well share it and air it, so everyone else can weigh in too.

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  1. I have to agree. Don’t waste everyone’s time. If it isn’t right – move along. Find your own peace. Love yourself thoroughly. Grow into the person you want to be. It’s not like marriage is the ‘prize’ or the ultimate goal. It’s just another stage and if you’re not ready, it won’t be a good one. And divorce bites…especially with babies.

  2. That is a stupid reason not to marry someone – that his FRIENDS are immature. If you tell him this, it will only make him feel sorry that he shared things with you about his friends’ lives (not to mention other personal things.) If you are not ready to commit, or not sure you love him, or you just want more time to grow up, then face those reasons and take responsibility. It has nothing to do with his friends. THat is a stupid stupid reason you gave.

    Tell him before he invests more of his heart and money in the wedding. But be honest and take responsibility, and like Stephanie said, figure out the REAL reasons you aren’t ready.

  3. This is an excellent response, Stephanie. One of your best. I’m not in this situation, but your words hit me on a few uncomfortable levels. Thanks for calling it like it is.

  4. It’s not your place to decide if your fiance is mature enough — if that is your real concern, you can talk to him about it, honestly. But as a guy, and the first of his friends to make a step like this, I doubt he decided to propose lightly. You can only decide if YOU are mature enough, ready, and if you ever will be.

  5. Ummm, know lots of people right now who don’t have jobs and are having trouble making the rent (or worse, the mortgage). It doesn’t mean that they are immature. It means they’ve been layed off or are underemployed. Economic crises aside…
    I consider my friends a level headed bunch, but that doesn’t mean they don’t ocassionally act immature / make a bad decision / screw up / whatever you want to call it, none of which has anything to do with me. I’d resent it if a mate held me accountable for their actions.

  6. Love this post and all these advice/answers posts, Stephanie. I have a total girl crush.

  7. So I’m going through a similar problem, although I have no excuse to not marry him. I love him and we’re in a very serious relationship– although we don’t live together. I don’t want to marry him simply because it doesn’t feel right. I think both of us have one thing to do… If we care about him (and I do) we can’t string him along….

  8. I have been engaged for a little over a month and have felt the same way from day 1. He is the greatest guy in the world but something doesn’t feel right. I don’t want to lose him but that is selfish, I am trying to convince myself to stay with him but I don’t know if I can believe that can happen. What you mentioned about waiting for an epiphany is exactly what I wrote in my journal yesterday… I’m hoping to wake up one day and actually be excited to be engaged. Your response was so real and so down to earth with out the nasty comments that so many other blogs give about breaking someones heart. Thank You so much… you have no idea how much you have helped.

  9. The most common source of problems in marriages is that the couple misinterpreted their mutual feelings of attraction as love. This normally results in the couple trying to keep up appearances after about 5 years, and wondering where the love went.

    It is important to know that attraction is an emotional feeling that may fade, while love is a promise that has little to do with attraction. If you are thinking of getting married, then please read “Attraction is a feeling. Love is a promise.” by Grenville Phillips, president of Walbrent College.

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