Will He Ever Marry You?
You and your guy may be a better match than PB&J, but that won't make him propose. Psychologist Alon Gratch, Ph.D., reveals the tipping factor that will.
By Alon Gratch, PhD
Every chick knows how hard it is when she puts in serious time with a guy who refuses to commit ... until he moves on to his next girlfriend, and then suddenly, he's springing for a rock. Women assume that a guy will pop the question once he finds someone he's compatible with, i.e., The One. But that's not enough to push him over the edge, according to clinical psychologist Alon Gratch, Ph.D., author of If Men Could Talk. What, then, does it take?
"Being ready," says Gratch. "In my 25 years of experience working with men as a relationship therapist, it's 49 percent the right woman, 51 percent his readiness to commit." That means that compatibility is hugely important. But if he's not in a marriage mind-set yet, he's not going to commit to anyone ... not even Gisele.
In fact, 81 percent of the married men surveyed by the National Marriage Project said one reason they decided to wed was because it was the right time to settle down.
"Of course, even if a guy is ready to walk down the aisle, he still needs to find the right person," says Gratch. "But he is more likely to meet her once he's in that marrying state of mind." To help us figure it all out, we asked Gratch to explain. Here, he divulges the five factors that make a man want to take the plunge.
COMMITMENT FACTOR #1
The Capacity to Love
No matter how head-over-heels your guy is during the initial honeymoon period of the relationship, it doesn't mean he is ready to commit. A man might fall in love, which requires the capacity to idealize. That means thinking and feeling like his partner and the relationship are uniquely special, enabling him to ignore imperfections, which, in turn, makes him feel valued and special.
Loving, on the other hand, involves connecting with the other person, understanding her, and wanting to be with her for who she is, not who he'd like her to be.
While it might be difficult to decipher the difference between the two, one clue is the test of time. Falling in love happens early on in a relationship, when a couple barely knows each other. Once they become more intimate and learn more about each other's positive and negative traits and the initial love buzz is gone, a man who is only in love will lose interest. If he truly loves, he'll stay.
Another major telltale sign of real love is selflessness and the ability to care. Does your man make sacrifices for you? Is he able to put your wants and needs before his? Relationships are all about give and take, but love is more about giving.
COMMITMENT FACTOR #2
Being Able to Accept Imperfection
Intellectually, we all know that there are no perfect people and, therefore, no perfect relationships. But it often takes maturity and dating experience to actually believe it.
Take a client of mine, who broke up with a wonderful woman simply because he thought he could do better. A year later, he met someone else, who was also great but far from perfect. After two years of dating, he decided to propose. If he had met her a few years earlier, he would have broken up with her too. But now, he realizes that this is as good as it gets, though it took him several relationships to finally understand that.
Having unrealistic expectations makes it impossible for a man to develop a close bond. If a guy who isn't ready starts getting too close to a woman, he'll look for imperfections, either consciously or subconsciously, to create distance between them and, ultimately, to give him a reason to break up with her.
COMMITMENT FACTOR #3
He Truly Believes in Commitment
Even if a man tells you that he's in it for the long term, you won't really know the level of his staying power until you hit some rough patches. If he's not ready, he won't be able to handle the negative aspects of a relationship, and he'll either shut down — and shut you out — or bail. A man who is truly ready to bond will be willing to work with you to try to resolve whatever problems the two of you are having.
This doesn't mean that he'll never experience any doubts or even think about leaving. But at the end of the day, he'll realize that his relationship is a top priority, and whatever discomfort he might have to endure to work out the kinks is worth it. It's a trade-off he's willing to make.
COMMITMENT FACTOR #4
He's Sure He Can Be the Man
Even though stereotypical gender roles have loosened up and many men are no longer required to be the breadwinners, a lot of guys still worry, deep down, that they should be ... and a lot of women still expect it. So if a guy feels that he can't live up to his — or his partner's — expectations, he might put off getting seriously involved to avoid feeling like he's not capable. It's a way for him to protect his ego.
According to the National Marriage Project, 47 percent of men agree that they wouldn't want to get married until they could afford to own a home, and 40 percent would want to be able to afford a nice wedding.
But it's not just the money — or lack thereof — that will cause a guy to shy away from commitment. If a guy is putting all of his time and energy into pursuing a goal, whether it's climbing the corporate ladder or working toward finishing medical school, he just won't have anything left to give to a partner, both physically and emotionally. So he puts romance on the back burner.
Now that's not to say he will never want to pop the question. If your man is floundering careerwise or struggling to make ends meet, it might be in your interest to bide your time and wait for him to become ready. Of course, it depends on the dynamic between the two of you. But if he seems fully engaged in the relationship, clearly states that he wants to get married after he accomplishes whatever goal he has been working on, and his time frame is reasonable, your patience could eventually pay off.
COMMITMENT FACTOR #5
He's Tired of Playing Around
While there's no specific age at which men are ready to marry (nor do they all mature at the same rate), after a while, going from one superficial relationship to another begins to lose its allure, and they crave a deeper kind of bond with someone.
This more intimate mind-set may be expedited if all the guy's friends are starting to settle down. For one thing, it becomes harder for him to find buddies to party with. But more important, with everyone around him getting more serious about their relationships, he's more likely to reflect on what he wants in life. Though bachelorhood can be fun and exciting, it's often emotionally unfulfilling. And ultimately, at some point, most men want to have that soul-mate connection.
The Art of the Ultimatum
Three times when it might pay to nudge him a bit
He Has a Legit Excuse
If you really think the two of you click but he's stalling because he's temporarily focused on something else, like finishing grad school, give him a firm deadline (e.g., till he reaches his goal).
He Needs to Rethink His Priorities
Say he's a jock and you hate sports, but he wishes you had that in common. Is it so important to him that he's willing to risk losing you? (Note: If the answer is yes, you don't want him anyway.)
He's Chronically Indecisive
Some guys are reluctant because they can't make a decision. He's not afraid of committing to you; he's just afraid of committing. If that sounds like your man, he might need prodding to get off the proverbial fence. Just tell him that you want him to be in your life, but if he can't make a decision in the next couple of months, you'll have to move on. Warning: If you issue an ultimatum, you'd better be prepared to stick to it.