Navigating Complicated Feelings About Marriage
Marriage is a complicated topic for many of us. Some people dream about getting married, and make it one of their life goals. Others don't want to get married, or don't see themselves getting married in the future. Take this message I got from a young woman recently:
"I feel like all my girlfriends are so focused on getting married, but I just don't feel the same way they do. I've dated here and there, but I've never thought marriage was a good next step with the men I’ve dated. Sometimes, my friends make me feel like I'm weird for not wanting to get married. Is that true? I love my friends, but I don't like feeling this way whenever the topic of relationships comes up."
I really felt for her when I read that. I know it's frustrating to feel differently than your friends on something, especially something important to you, when they don't seem to understand. But you are not abnormal or weird if you don't want to get married. Not everyone feels the same way about marriage and relationships.
If you don’t want to get married, that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. Here are some things to think about as you talk through things with your friends. I hope this advice will help you feel more at peace with your decision and more comfortable talking about it with people in your life.
Don’t Give in to Pressure
This pressure to get married is probably strongest when you're dating. Friends and family want you to be happy. And for them, that equals getting married. But if that doesn't make you feel happy or fulfilled, don't do it. Don’t move forward in a relationship if you are not comfortable doing so. Your consent and your honesty are important. You don’t have to rush things. Be clear with those boundaries toward whoever is pressuring you.
You can say things like:
- "I know you want me to be happy, and I appreciate that. Staying single is very fulfilling for me right now."
- "I'm not comfortable thinking or talking about marriage right now. Let's talk about something else."
- "I need more time to learn about myself and grow as a person before considering marriage. Thanks for understanding."
Hopefully, once you've been clear with these boundaries, your friends and loved ones will respect them. If you're in a relationship, your partner may be feeling similar pressure. You can open up to one another, and figure out how best to talk about your boundaries and plans with others. It may be a good opportunity to deepen your relationship, and get clear on your goals together.
Honor Your Feelings
You may not want to get married because of struggles or painful experiences in your past. Here are some reasons people have given me over the years for not wanting to get married:
- My parents divorced, and it affected how I feel about marriage and long-term relationships.
- The last relationship I was in was unhealthy or abusive. I have no desire to be in another relationship right now.
- My last relationship ended with cheating. I’m not ready to let someone get close to me again.
- I don't know what I want from a spouse or a marriage yet. I'm still trying to figure that out.
It shows a lot of maturity to be honest when you feel that you don't want to get married, or aren't ready for that. It shows that you've thought about marriage and relationships, and that you're not planning on rushing into either. And it shows that you are putting your well-being first, before making big changes in your life, like getting involved in a long-term relationship.
Honoring those feelings and further exploring them is a way to find growth and healing. It can help you find greater peace and can strengthen future friendships and relationships.
Again, there's no need to rush through these feelings. They're complicated, and involve layers of your life, your character, and your relationships. It's good, appropriate, and normal to give yourself time to get to the bottom of these feelings, especially if there are painful feelings you need to let go of and heal from.
Work on Friendships
Marriage brings people great joy for many reasons. But it sometimes shifts your priorities and your focus away from others and toward your partner and the plans you're making together, which takes significant time and energy. That leaves some couples feeling like they don't get to spend as much time with friends.
On the other hand, many people I've talked with who decided to remain single have told me that doing so opened the door for them to work on friendships and make new friends. When you feel pressured by people in your life, or by the messaging you get from movies, TV, and the internet, to get married, you can shift your focus away from that. Instead, focus time and energy on friendships:
- Think of a friend you haven't seen or talked to in a while. Send them a note, or schedule a video call.
- Do you have a friend who's been feeling lonely? Schedule some quality time with them.
- Have you been wanting to make new friends? Think about where you might go to meet new people that share your interests, and plan to visit one of those places.
Bringing new friends into your life, or rekindling old friendships, can be so fulfilling. And filling your time with meaningful friendships means you don't have as much time to dwell on others' pressuring you to get married, or any social pressure you feel to do so.
Get to Know Yourself
Not being in a relationship, and not planning for marriage, gives you ample time to get to know yourself.
- Explore your interests on a deeper level
- Try a new hobby or craft
- Think about your purpose in life, and what you hope to do to realize it
- Dig deeper into questions you have about life and the world
Time alone can be so enriching and rewarding. You can learn so much about yourself and the way you see the world. And you can build a greater sense of confidence in who you are. When I have time to myself, it encourages me to think about how God created me unique. There is no one else like me, and there's no one else like you. If you're open to thinking about God, taking time to reflect on His creating you for a unique purpose, with gifts no one else has, can be a great source of contentment.
Keep an Open Mind
How you feel now may not always be how you feel about marriage. Keep an open mind, and explore your thoughts and feelings about marriage and relationships as they change. If you're unsure how you feel, or if the pressure of others to get married is still so great that it's overwhelming, you don't have to deal with these complicated emotions alone.
TheHopeLine offers mentoring from trained HopeCoaches who can talk through life, relationships, and your feelings about those relationships with you.
Talk to a HopeCoach today if you're frustrated by others' pressuring you to get married, or if you're looking for ways to find greater joy in being single. We're here for you, and we're ready to listen. No pressure, and no judgment.