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Marriage is Not for the Faint of Heart, So Be Open to a Change of Heart

Posted Feb 16 2010 6:39pm

Teddy writes: My ex-girlfriend, who just broke up with me, sent me here to read this blog and this post, probably because I am not interested in marriage right now and don’t think I ever will be and when I told her that she got pretty pissed and walked. I don’t think I have “a paralyzing fear of commitment”; it is just that marriage doesn’t seem like something I would ever want. It seems that you think marriage is for everyone. Is there really anything wrong with not wanting to ever get married?

Dear Teddy: I actually say the opposite: marriage is not for everyone, not the kind of marriage that lasts. Many people do not have the emotional maturity to maintain a lasting relationship. To love and be loved over the long haul takes a focus that is far more about giving than it is about getting. Marriage is not for the selfish, emotionally immature, egotistical, or self-absorbed person. Marriage is not for the person who has given up on the possibility of a loving relationship, who dates merely for self-gratification.

I firmly believe in having the goal of a healthy, vibrant marriage - if you’re out there dating. Why? Because it is the model for relationships that seems to provide the most stability and the best platform for growth, provided you approach it that way. Are there other forms of lasting commitment? Perhaps. So far, I haven’t seen any that work the way marriage does for binding your hearts and intentions on one common life and spiritual path.

In your situation with your girlfriend, I would ask you this: If not marriage, then what? Why date someone romantically and intimately unless you’re working toward something more lasting? And if you’re not working toward marriage, then where are you headed? Dating is wonderful, but it’s meant to be a means to something greater. Couples who date with no more commitment than “I like/love you but. . .” tend to have relationships characterized by instability. With no commitment and no plan to move toward commitment, there’s an underlying tension and insecurity on the part of one or both people.

I’m wondering if this is about self-gratification for you, Teddy. You receive all the goodies of a loving girlfriend but you don’t have to put anything on the line in the form of a real commitment. You say you don’t want marriage but you’re all for having a relationship. This takes great care of you but leaves her without an emotional platform on which to stand. If you don’t love her, then let her know that so she can move on.

But if you love her, then courageously challenge your own thinking. Ask yourself why you don’t want marriage. The feeling “I don’t want” something means moving away from something. What are you moving away from? For many people, moving away from marriage is an attempt to avoid the pain of a divorce, especially if you have divorce in your family or your own personal history. But life isn’t fully lived in a state of avoidance. Vibrant living requires moving toward things that have meaning for you, having a vision that motivates and inspires you. What’s your vision for your life? Look at that and talk about it with your ex with an open mind and heart. Stop defending your position and be open to change and growth.

Even if this isn’t the right relationship for you, being open to marriage will help you develop your own emotional maturity. If after lots of honest self-reflection you still feel that you don’t ever want marriage, then you should tell that to anyone you date right up front. It’s not fair to a woman to let her think that possibility exists until she’s emotionally hooked. If you know you’ll never marry, you may want to consider getting out of the dating scene altogether. Dating leads to emotional attachment and that leads to the quest for greater commitment.


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