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Dear Nicola...

Should I get married just to keep my partner happy?

Written by . Published on January 24th 2011.

Dear Nicola...

Nicola Mostyn

Friday 21 January 2011

Should I get married just to keep my partner happy?

Dear Nicola

My partner of eight years and mother of my two children has always wanted to get married. Problem is, I don’t.

Our relationship and life together is great as it is and marriage is something I’ve never believed in for numerous reasons. I’m not religious (nor is she) and if all you have to show for marriage is an expensive ring and a piece of paper then I don’t see the problem in staying as we are.

I know I’m going to spend the rest of my life with her and don’t need the outdated concept of marriage to confirm that. We don’t often argue but the marriage thing is a reoccurring gripe of hers and we’re both getting sick of it. She thinks I’m being selfish and should do it for her if not for me, but I don’t see why I should be forced to change my views on this matter when she’s known my stance on this from day one. What should I do?

Nicola replies:

This is quite a common problem. She says, “You love me, why won’t you prove it by marrying me?” He says, “You love me, why won’t you understand my feelings and accept me for it?”

Scratch the surface, though, and there’s much more going on here than a simple difference of opinion.

Take your reasons for being against the institution of marriage. It’s too flippant to say that marriage is just a piece of paper. If so, why not agree to a small, quick, heartfelt ceremony to maintain harmony?

You need to explore your feelings about this. What does getting married mean to you, socially, politically and personally?

If your decision is purely on principle, it might be useful to read ‘Committed’ by Liz Gilbert - a marriage sceptic whose exploration into the history of the institution reveals that, far from an establishment act, marriage is quite the rebellious gesture.

But, digging deeper, how does the idea of being married make you feel? Are you worried that things will change once you’re hitched? Understandable. There are puzzlingly numerous tales of couples cohabiting merrily, then splitting up just a year after the wedding day.

Also, people from divorced homes are frequently reluctant to add to the hypocrisy by walking down the aisle themselves. It’s certainly little wonder that you don’t put much stock in a marriage when, in these throwaway times, many spend longer discussing the event than they do staying hitched. I’m talking to you, Jordan.

And maybe you’re thinking that, sharing a house and two children with this woman, how much more committed can you actually be?

You have right on your side (your partner knew how you felt and if marriage was a deal breaker she should have tackled this properly several years and two kids ago) but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a commitment to making her happy.

That’s why, once you’ve explored your own reasons, you need to ask your partner similar questions. What does it really means to her to be married? Is it for financial security? For the children? Or perhaps she feels she needs that extra commitment from you?

The ‘piece of paper’ of a marriage is not important, but the ritual is. It is a way of marking a transition from one state to another, and perhaps your partner is feeling the lack of that transition, which is making her unsure of the strength of your relationship?

Once you’ve both aired your inner feelings, you might then find common ground.

For instance, many couples who distain authority find that a private symbolic ceremony and exchange of rings is enough to bring them to a point of mutual understanding and commitment. You can find your own compromise.

Don’t underestimate how important this ‘piece of paper’ might be for the foundation of your relationship and family life. An acquaintance of mine feels justified in snogging other men at work parties, claiming that her partner won’t marry her so she is effectively single. I’m not suggesting your partner is doing the same, but it would be lax to assume, that, if you are withholding what she needs to make her happy, she’s just going to put up with it.

So - why not put the same effort other people put into planning a big wedding to working out a way of you both getting what you need – or as close as possible?

My guess is, if you show your partner that you really care about the reasons behind her hankering to hear the Wedding March, it will bring you closer as a couple than any church do and reluctant exchange of vows ever would.

Disagree with our columnist's advice? Have your say below....

Post your problems, anonymously if you wish, to:

Nicola Mostyn
Manchester Confidential
Suite 2B, 2nd Floor Quay House
Quay Street
M3 3JE

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