Waiting Till You’re Ready To Get Married

Ok, who am I kidding? It’s kind of engagement week here at APW. Today we have a beautiful post from Seraphine on what being ready to be married looks like. She talks about waiting and waiting to get married and then realizing they shouldn’t get married after all. She tells us about the ways that this shattered her, and the fundamental hope of rebuilding her life. We often talk about waiting to get engaged or waiting to get married like it’s a bad thing. But the truth is, waiting until both partners feel really ready to get married is one of The Most Important Things you will ever do.Seraphine On Waiting

This is a story about calling off a wedding, but what is most important about my story is that there wasn’t actually a wedding to call off. I got engaged, and then spent three years waiting for my ex-fiancé to be as excited about marrying me as I was about marrying him. That never happened. Instead, I waited and waited some more. Three years after getting engaged (three years with no wedding planning), we split for good.

While waiting on my ex really sucked for me, I think waiting is often the right thing to do. Marriage is a huge commitment, and sometimes one person in a partnership is ready for that commitment sooner than the other person. It can be a tricky issue to negotiate because it’s easy for the person waiting to feel like the person who isn’t ready doesn’t love them as much, or isn’t as committed to the relationship as they are. While these things can be true, they aren’t necessarily true. When I look back at my own experience, I definitely felt like my ex didn’t love me, but at the same time, he moved with me to a new city when I got a new job, and he went with me to counseling to try to sort out our issues. His unwillingness to make the commitment that I wanted was not because he was uncommitted to the relationship.

And, initially, waiting made sense in our situation. Within a month or two of getting engaged, my ex started to have serious doubts about the relationship. He wasn’t sure if we were right for one another. He saw problems in our communication that worried him. While I didn’t initially recognize some of these issues, he was right that it was not a good idea to get married without addressing these concerns.

While I recognize that you do not want to jump into a marriage without being 100% sure that it’s the right decision, his uncertainty was hard. I was sure I wanted to marry him, he didn’t feel the same way, and this is painful even if you can see the rational reasons for putting a wedding on hold. Also, I have a fear that once people get to know me, they will abandon me because they will realize I’m unlovable. My ex’s reluctance to move forward with planning a wedding felt like a confirmation of my deepest fears.

While the wedding was put on hold for good reasons, our relationship got progressively worse because of the dysfunctional dynamics that developed after we put things on hold. Almost two years later, we ended up in counseling, realizing that if our relationship had any hope of success, we needed someone else to help us sort out our issues. While we were able to sort out some of the fundamental issues that were leading to our dysfunction, my ex decided that he needed to make sure there wasn’t someone who was a better fit for him before he could feel right about making a permanent commitment to me. And while I respected this (and didn’t want to pressure him into a marriage he didn’t feel right about), I realized that for my own sanity, I needed to shut the door on our relationship and stop waiting for him. We broke things off and cut off contact, and then I spent the next year putting the pieces of my life back together.

For those of you who are trying to sort through the complexities of waiting, here’s some advice:

  • Love, patience, and communication are key. If you are the one waiting, do your best to be patient and understanding—reasons for waiting can often involve difficult past experiences that your partner needs to work through before making a commitment. Conversely, if you are the one who needs to wait, make sure that you communicate to your partner not only your reasons for waiting, but also your love and commitment.
  • When you are the person waiting, do not give your partner ultimatums. Ultimatums will not get you what you want (or, if they do, there will be resentment), and they will put more pressure on an already difficult situation.
  • Waiting is generally not healthy if it’s causing your relationship to stagnate. Ideally, relationships should be progressing and moving forward. While this doesn’t mean you need to jump into commitments that you’re not ready for, your relationship should be getting stronger and not weaker (and let me clarify that I recognize rough patches can make a relationship stronger). In my case, the longer we waited, the more distant my ex and I got. Our relationship morphed away from the kind of relationship I was looking for, and this became one of the biggest sticking points for me. I was willing to wait when I felt like we were in things together and moving towards a common goal (even if things were rough). I wasn’t willing to wait when our goals were different, when I didn’t know how long I would be waiting, and when in the meantime, the waiting was harming both our relationship and my emotional health.

My story has a happy conclusion. Ending things with my ex completely shattered my life, but when I was able to put the pieces back together, I was much stronger and much more comfortable in my own skin. A year after my ex and I cut off contact, I started dating again. Not too long after that, I met my fiancé, with whom I am currently planning a wedding and marriage. And as difficult as everything was with my ex, I needed those experiences to be ready for the profound goodness of my current relationship.

The most important lesson I learned from my experiences with waiting was that I deserve happiness— not an “everything will be wonderful all the time” happiness, but instead, a “things are fundamentally good” happiness. When I was with my ex, I wasn’t happy because I spent so much time trying to save the relationship I thought I wanted, that I didn’t stop to realize it actually wasn’t the relationship I did want. Now I am in the relationship I’ve always wanted, and I am happy.

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  • Yes to all your conclusion. Thanks for this. While I was never engaged or pre engaged other than with my now husband, I had to go through this process before I met him, realizing I would be happy and putting pieces back together, after being disappointed for wishing relationships would turn and change into something that they weren’t and never were actually .

    • Laurel

      Absolutely. All the wishing the world can’t help if you don’t want the same things in the relationship or the same type of relationship. Definitely a hard lesson to learn when you love someone.

  • Nicole

    Seraphine, while I feel awkward saying that I’m happy about your relationship ending, I AM really happy that it brought you as much wisdom and growth as it did. Your post struck a chord with me, as the person in my relationship that caused the waiting. Just last night, we were talking about how the long-ish period of our engagement has provided fertile (and emotionally intense!) ground for us to hash out The Big Issues. For us, that meant learning how to deal with difficult family situations (90%) and working on our communication (10%). Our relationship is in an awesome place right now, largely because of the waiting that we had to/chose to do. Thanks for giving this a voice!

    • Seraphine

      Thanks–and it’s not too awkward. For what it’s worth, I’m really appreciative of the growth and wisdom I gained from this experience. Really don’t want to do anything ever like it again (though I’m sure there are other painful, life-changing experiences in my future). But I really like the person I’ve become because of the experience. I’m so much more comfortable being me, which is huge.

      And I’m glad that you’ve figured out that waiting has been the right decision for you. :)

  • JT

    Thanks for sharing what you learned from this difficult experience. I think when waiting on your partner to be ready, it’s easy to, at times, fear the worst- that your partner will never be ready. Your last piece of advice is a good reminder to focus on whether your relationship is continuing to move forward and become stronger. For me, your post demonstrates the difficulty and importance of recognizing when you’re fighting to turn a relationship into something it isn’t versus when you’re fighting for your relationship with your partner, to help it progress.

    Your post is super honest, brave and thoughtful. I’m so happy you had the strength to make the decisions that were right for you and that you have found the person with whom you have the relationship you want and deserve.

  • jessie

    My now-fiance suggested that we consider marriage a few months into dating. He was full on advocating for marriage by a year and a half later… and I wasn’t ready. It caused a lot (A LOT) of tension in our relationship at points, and more surprisingly, it made people in our lives feel free to comment about our level of commitment to each other. As the partner who wanted to wait until we had sorted our major differences out and aged a little bit (we were 19/20 years old when we met), I found a lot of people saying to me “Well, if it’s been 2/3/4/5/6/7 years and you’re STILL not ready, then maybe it’s a sign”. You know what it was a sign of? Understanding of the uniqueness of our relationship and not letting an imaginary timeline apply to my life. As someone in a mixed-gender relationship, there were also lots of assumptions that it was HE that wasn’t ready to marry ME, and a lot of people expressed concern for my welfare, gave me “hot tips” on how to “speed the process along”, and gave me very concerned lectures about “being that woman that pressures her man” a few months ago when I was saying “No, I’m looking for a man’s ENGAGEMENT ring, not a WEDDING ring”. Hmph.

    In the process of waiting, there were ultimatums and bluff-calling, and fights, and very long and important conversations, and tears of sadness and happiness. Here we are, about 3 weeks away from our 8 year anniversary, and I am more confident than ever that is the right relationship for me, and I am ready to be married to this man. That’s not to say that we don’t go through rough times, but waiting until we had sorted out some of the major issues in our relationship (most of which had to do with our future plans and goals) gave me the confidence to make this not only a relationship, but a partnership.

    I think this is a beautiful post with some important thoughts, especially about communicating the WHY of waiting and being respectful to your partner. Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m really glad that you brought up the imaginary timeline. My man and I were together for 8 years before tying the knot. We waited until it was right for us, which is something only we could know. It was hard to field constant questions about “are you EVER getting married?!”

      Even going through that myself, I sometimes forget that the imaginary timeline is imaginary. My older brother is almost 30 and in a long term relationship with someone that I adore. I am so tempted to ask questions about when they’ll get married, but instead I bite my tongue. Me asking questions or prodding won’t do any good. They should get married when they are ready.*

    • Anne

      Ugh, the imaginary timeline. You just can’t win, you know? At 25, I’m young (for my circle of friends, anyway) to be engaged, but we’ve also been together for over 5 years. I alternately get one of two comments: “oh, you’ve been together for so long that we wondered when you’d get engaged” or “you’re so young to be getting married.” I think that’s particularly important to remember when you feel pressured (by friends, family, whoever) to get engaged — you certainly can’t please everyone, so at least you should please yourself. I’m glad you stood your ground and did what ultimately worked for both of you.

    • Nikki

      THANK YOU! I feel like I wrote this! I am now engaged but have been with my man for over 5 years. I can not tell you how sick I got of everyone having pity on me that he hadn’t put a ring on it yet, assuming I was the one chomping at the bit. It makes me so mad that people automatically think thay the girl is waiting around hopelessly. He was definitely the one who was ready WAY before I was. We went through some really tough times because of it, but I think it has made our foundation so much stronger. I struggled a lot thinking that there was something wrong with me or with our relationship because we didn’t get married 2 years in. Thankfully, we waited because I am now so positive that this is who I should be with. If we had gotten married 3 years ago, I would have only been 22 and not emotionally prepared for what I was getting into, not to mention walking down the aisle with doubts. I do think communication is key though, so that the other person is aware that you are still committed. Because of that, he has been able to pursue and love me exactly how I needed, in a way I never thought possible.

  • Edelweiss

    “And as difficult as everything was with my ex, I needed those experiences to be ready for the profound goodness of my current relationship.”
    YES! I wish that could be on a billboard for all people in challenging relationships and break-ups.

  • You brought up some really excellent points in your post when it comes to the importance of waiting. While it isn’t necessarily easy to wait for your partner to be ready, it’s vital that you don’t rush into a marriage until both of you are certain it’s what you really want. I knew my husband was the one, but it took him longer to be sure, and it was good that we had the time to really talk about the big issues before deciding to make a commitment to be together forever. While it wouldn’t have been easy if we had decided to part ways, in the long run, it’s easier to end a relationship before a wedding than after one. Couples should focus on their relationship rather than the distant sound of wedding bells. If it’s meant to be, it may take longer than you’d like it to, but in the end it will be worth the wait.

  • Aquafine

    Thank you for this post and all of the posts about the hard stuff! I recently ended a long engagement yet I still read APW because of articles like this, it is so helpful to know that others have had to make the same choices and are better for them.

  • Sing it, girl! Your story reminded me about a relationship I was stuck in for most of my 20s. I wish we all talked more about decisions that led to ending relationships. I think it’s so easy to forget that 99% of our romantic relationships don’t work out. And that it’s not failure, but natural. It takes time to find the right fit and living through a relationship is usually the only way to figure that out. People aren’t villains for ending relationships or for them not working out. They’re just folks that didn’t fit. I truly wish the narrative outside of APW could reflect that sort of hopefulness. Thank you for sharing your story. Congrats to you and your fiance!

  • I went through a similar kind of experience, and I found the beautiful part of it to be I was much more patient with and understanding of and ready for the man who is now my husband. Those lessons that came from the previous one were so, so painful but so, so important for me nonetheless. I’m glad to know it worked out for you as well.

  • Lori

    AGREED!!!! My husband (of 2 months so still very weird to say/write) and I were engaged for 3 years before we started to plan a wedding. We called it off twice and then I finally tried to walk away. There were MANY factors of why, but in the end we couldn’t live without each other. Waiting most likely saved us from divorce. Now we have been together for almost 11 years, and are newlyweds- while this isn’t the way I dreamt of it when I was growing up- it is EXACTLY what I want. Everything happens for a reason!

  • Siobhan


    I was with someone for five years and people asked why we were not getting married. It turns out it was becuas edeep down we both knew we should not get married. We kept finding reasons to wait because our relationship was a mess. But by the same token though I have been with my fiance for less time I felt like we were waiting. But he was waiting to be in the right place and organised. And he told me that, and I told him that I was scared because before we had waited because we did not want to.

    The reassurances and communication don’t always hit home but they are vital.

    Also “When I was with my ex, I wasn’t happy because I spent so much time trying to save the relationship I thought I wanted, that I didn’t stop to realize it actually wasn’t the relationship I did want. Now I am in the relationship I’ve always wanted, and I am happy”

    Spot on. Absolutely spot on.

  • Seraphine,

    Wow. I am reading this in a Starbucks right now (instead of doing paperwork), trying not to cry. I am going through, right now, pretty much EXACTLY what you went through (but without the official engagement). Down to the counseling, down to my fears of being unlovable, down to his doubts about our relationship. I seem to be in the constant process of trying to work out if it’s time to go or if it’s worth waiting for. How can it be time to leave when this is still the man I want to marry? I really admire your courage in knowing when it was time to leave; I’m hoping I will realize it when that time comes as well.

    • Shannon

      You are not alone! Relationships are in a constant state of being redefined on a bigger cultural level in our world right now, and that means the little decisions we make in our individual relationships can be really tricky, and it can be confusing to know which of the voices in your head to listen to.

      And you are also so not alone in your fears of being unloveable – I think this is really common! Kudos for having the courage to share your vulnerability here in this discussion, and know that what you are going through right now will pass, and the difficulty and confusion will likely lead to clarity.

      If you’re interested in “going deep” into your sense of self worth, I highly recommend the work of researcher Brene Brown, most especially her book called I Thought It Was Just Me. It’s intense personal work, but VERY fruitful in the end!

      Good luck, my thoughts are with you!

      • Thanks for the encouragement!

        Funny thing–I just bought one of Brown’s book (The Gifts of Imperfection) about an hour ago. It’s on sale at Amazon and had been recommended by the Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab (which I’m taking right now).

        I guess I’ll have to start it as soon as I’m done with How to be a Woman. ;)

    • Having been through this as well, I just wanted to offer a virtual hug. It’s so absolutely hard to achieve clarity on this question in the middle of figuring everything out.

    • Seraphine

      Barbra, I’m so sorry you’re in the middle of a similar situation–I know how hard it is! I hope that you are able to recognize the time to leave too (if that ends up being what’s right for you). In my case, after months and years of agonizing and difficulty and saying we were done but keeping in contact, one day I woke up and the thought popped into my head: “I don’t have to do this anymore.” And I knew instinctually that I was done waiting. And for what it’s worth, I still wanted to marry my ex when I knew I was done waiting.

  • ASH

    You articulated something that I couldn’t for a long time and I want to thank you for that. Thank you for giving a voice to what I feel:
    “The most important lesson I learned from my experiences…was that I deserve happiness— not an “everything will be wonderful all the time” happiness, but instead, a “things are fundamentally good” happiness. When I was with my ex, I wasn’t happy because I spent so much time trying to save the relationship I thought I wanted, that I didn’t stop to realize it actually wasn’t the relationship I did want. Now I am in the relationship I’ve always wanted, and I am happy.”

    Just this morning, my hubby-to-be and I were having a big discussion and he apologized for being complicated. What I said, and know, is that he isn’t complicated at all and that is what I love so much about him. Our love isn’t complicated. It’s very simple and straightforward and that is what I love so much about it, especially having been in one of those “oh-so-complicated” relationships, which is really just code for not being right for each other. Now life, and navigating it together, that is the complicated part!

    I am truly happy for you and wish you and your fiance all the best!

  • Amy-Lou

    Love this post! Congrats on eventually finding the right person to be with.

    Sometimes it’s not even about the person. I know my boyfriend is The One, that he’s IT, and I have absolutely no doubts about HIM… I’m just not ready for us to be married. We have so much more to experience as ‘daters’ and I don’t want to miss any of it or fast forward through it. Especially being our mid twenties and attending over a dozen weddings in the last two years alone, witnessing so many people make those committments and say those vows only reinforces for me that I don’t need to dive in just yet, I’m not ready to say those things just yet (even if I feel them).

    • Anne

      Yep, I felt this way for a couple years before we got engaged. It wasn’t that I didn’t know (because I absolutely did), but I didn’t need to be married right away. After we moved overseas together last year (which was really for a graduate program for me), I suddenly didn’t see any reason to wait anymore. But I totally understand being in that place of knowing but not needing to get married yet.

      • Absolutely. Knowing that you want to marry your partner doesn’t have to mean that you have to get engaged right then and there. Jason and I both knew within a year of dating that we wanted to marry each other, but we needed another year and change to put in order the external and emotional things we needed before we felt ready to take that step.

        • Rock-me-HardPlace

          Coming late into this discussion, but I’m in a situation right now where the advice in this post is timely. My partner and I would like to get married one day, we are sure about that, but an opportunity has come up which has left us to decide: Should we get married now and move overseas together or live apart for a year or two? We don’t want to live apart, especially so far apart, but we also feel like the time isn’t right to get married. Tough decisions to make for us right now!

          • Cassandra

            Yeah… We opted for the live apart for a year or two (we’re three months in… sigh) for a variety of reasons, but it was a long and complicated discussion and a really tough (and often upsetting for me, since I’m the one who stayed put) decision. No real advice, but you’re definitely not alone!

          • *hugs* Ultimately the decision will be yours and I’m sure you’ll rock it either way. I think what’s most important is that you listen to what your gut is saying about marriage, without letting externals pressure you too much. My husband and I moved across the country a few days after we married for my grad program and had a blissful first year of marriage (despite all the conventional wisdom about not packing too much change into the first year). But I think that happened only because we were at a place of both being ready to marry and making the external circumstance work, no matter what they were. There’s definitely no shame in not being at that place.

  • Marguerite

    Thank you for posting this. It really resonated with me as I’m freshly out of a similar situation. I really appreciate hearing that it gets better and good things will come out of it for me.

  • I just wanted to say that I’ve heard of so many people (men and women) claiming that they need to “make sure there (isn’t) someone who was a better fit for (them) before (they) could feel right about making a permanent commitment.” I’m sorry, I think that’s such crap. I never hesitated with my husband, I never had a doubt that he was absolutely 100% perfect for me now and forever. But most of all, he felt that way about me too. If there was even a doubt or he still wanted to go looking around, I never would have stood for that or married a guy who wasn’t sure. I know this sounds harsh, I just don’t accept it. If you need to go make sure there isn’t someone better out there, that’s a huge red flag. I respect you for having the patience and dedication to your ex at the time for handling that so gracefully. I don’t think I could have.

    • Karen M

      I agree that if someone I’m with wants to go look for someone else who might be a better fit, I say go for it – without me. I have definitely been in relationships where it was like trying to force a round peg in a square hole. All that “trying to make it work” and “working at it” shows that this isn’t a good fit. Being with your partner should make you happy, you should be thrilled to come home to the person you want to spend your life with. In the past I tried so hard to make things work I didn’t realize how unhappy I was. Now that I’ve finally found someone who is incredibly easy to be with, whose smile makes my heart light up – and get this! – loves me exactly the way I am! Don’t accept anything less!

    • But by then you had both looked around to realize you were the fit you needed. Some people need to look around more some people need to look around less. Timing is just as important as the right person.

    • Marina

      While I respect your experience, if I had never had a single doubt that my husband was the right person for me, I would have questioned my own sanity. ;) I’m a doubter by nature, I question everything–I don’t understand how to be 100% sure of anything WITHOUT questioning it every way you can first. For me that didn’t take the form of needing to “date around”, but I did need to take a 3 month overseas trip by myself. Sitting at an outdoor coffeeshop in Croatia, thousands of miles away from my then-fiance, was the first time in our 7 year relationship I felt 100% sure I wanted to marry him. I don’t think that reflects negatively on my commitment to him or my love for him during those 7 years, and I do think that if I hadn’t spent those 7 years ruling out every doubt I had, I wouldn’t be as committed to our marriage now.

    • Seraphine

      Kim S, one thing that it took me time to realize was that I needed to be in a relationship with someone who wanted to be with me as much as I wanted to be with him. It seems obvious to me now, but the relationship with my ex taught me this lesson. And eventually I took a similar approach to Karen M.–I said “go figure out if there’s someone who’s a better fit for you, but I can’t wait for you while you figure things out.” Also, even though it’s easy to criticize someone for saying “I need to see if someone else is a better fit before I make a permanent commitment,” my ex was right in the sense that there was someone out there who was a better fit for me (and I’m guessing he has or will find someone who’s a better fit for him). :)

      • “One thing that it took me time to realize was that I needed to be in a relationship with someone who wanted to be with me as much as I wanted to be with him”

        Ever make a “list” of what you were looking for? In my condensed deal-breaker three item version of the list, one of the things on it was he needed to be someone who wanted to marry me and be with me forever. One of the other three was he needed to be someone I wanted to marry and be with forever. I think if you don’t have those two things, it’s going to be difficult to impossible.

  • “not an “everything will be wonderful all the time” happiness, but instead, a “things are fundamentally good” happiness.” yes. this. with regard to life as a whole.

  • I had several people tell me I needed to give my husband an ultimatum because things in our relationship weren’t happening on their time tables. I’m so glad we did things that were right for us rather than what was right for other people.

    Some friends of mine went back and forth for two or three years. He was ready and she wasn’t. Then she’d be ready and he wasn’t. Eventually they were both ready at the same time. And that’s when things worked.

    Waiting and being on the same page, not just in the same book, makes all the difference. And if you wait and realize you aren’t in the same book, find someone reading your book.

    • Marina

      I love that analogy. :)

      • Seraphine

        That *is* a great analogy.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    “And as difficult as everything was with my ex, I needed those experiences to be ready for the profound goodness of my current relationship.”

    I also got engaged to someone who was wrong for me, and was a mess for a long time after he called it off. So to the above I can say, EXACTLY!

  • Amer

    This was amazing. I think you’re so lucky to have gone through this and not only come out happier, but also wiser.

    A month ago today, my fiance, the day after I bought my wedding dress, told me it was a mistake to get married and left. No signs of anything wrong, no wanting to wait, he just packed a bag and left. I still have no idea what happened.

    I would never want anyone to go through that, but it is nice to know that this will hopefully make me a better and stronger person. Thank you for that.

    • Seraphine

      Oh wow. Best wishes to you as you deal with this.

    • Pippa

      Oh, the same thing happened to me (only I hadn’t just bought my wedding dress). My heart aches for you even though I don’t know you. You will find strength and courage you didn’t even know you had, and that will comfort you all the days of your life, I promise. xoxo

  • it’s this. “When I was with my ex, I wasn’t happy because I spent so much time trying to save the relationship I thought I wanted, that I didn’t stop to realize it actually wasn’t the relationship I did want.”

    i’ve been reading and here-and-there commenting for two years. took a break (from commenting, not reading, who am i kidding – can’t start the day without my dose of APW sanity) when my long term relationship ended last month. thank you for articulating some of my deepest fears and some of my (our) bravest realizations, and for reminding me once more that there’s always a place for me (and any woman – single, married, never-gonna-marry, widowed, the works) in this corner of the internets.

    • Seraphine

      Thanks. And sorry to hear you’re going through a difficult time.

  • Moz

    What a great post! All the best for you and your partner x

  • starkville

    At the risk of being unpopular, I gave my partner an ultimatum. Obviously, I was waiting. We had been living together for 2 years (dating for 4) and talked about marriage regularly, but he was not ready. One day I just realized that living together without a commitment was really bothering me (I’m an old-fashioned girl I guess). I told him that in 6 months, I was going to move out and get my own apartment. I loved him, and wanted to marry him, but I couldn’t live with someone without planning for the future.

    Personally, I think that it was fair– he expected me to wait, and I put an appropriate time limit on that waiting. All parties were involved ahead of time with no surprises. We got engaged in that 6 months and are so far living happily ever after for a few years now.

    It sounds manipulative, but I guess it worked for us. He’s *extremely* adverse to change, and just saying “time’s up!” one day would be devastating to him, and waiting around with no end in sight would have destroyed my spirit.

    • Amy Lou

      I think ultimatums can be tricky because there’s a difference between aggressively telling someone to piss or get off the pot and informing them of what you want out of your life and inviting them to either join you on your journey or take another train.

      Your description sounds more like the latter, which I think is completely reasonable. As per my other comment above: I myself am not currently ready for marriage, and until I met my man (one year ago) I had no intention of getting married at all. People constantly ask us when we are going to get hitched already and I used to say, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be ready to be engaged in a month, or 6 months, or 2 years, or ten years, or maybe we’ll just be happy the way things are forever. No biggie!”… well the boyfriend set me straight on that one. He said he would be seriously concerned if we’re together for 5 years without getting married.

      It’s kind of troubling for me to have a timeline attributed to our relationship, but I respect that it’s important for him to visualize our future in a more specific way. At the very least, his “ultimatum” opened the door for more direct communication between us and to help us better understand eachother’s position/perspective within the relationship.

      So as someone from the other side, I say, “good on ya for being truthful with your partner!” Marriage should never be a dirty word in a relationship.

    • Seraphine

      It sounds like you knew yourself well enough to have a healthy conversation about what your limits were. When I think of “ultimatums,” I think of conversations where you’re trying to manipulate the person into doing what you want them to (i.e. if you don’t marry me next month, I’m going to leave you). I *do* think it’s healthy to say I can’t wait indefinitely and to express what your limits are, so that the other person is aware of your very real needs and concerns. And it’s okay that when you hit or pass your limit (after you’ve clearly communicated it and given the other person enough time to process it, and after you’ve tried to work on a solution for meeting your needs), to make decisions such as leaving or moving on. Ultimately, that’s what I had to do with my ex, and it was a healthy thing to do.

  • RD

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been a long time lurker of APW. I was in a similar situation with a long time boyfriend and my first love. We dated forever, I’m embarassed to say how long. We both wanted to get married but there were a lot of factors (esp. family stuff) that kept us from moving forward. The waiting did cause our relationship to stagnate, and eventually I had to walk away. It was one the hardest and the one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It wasn’t until I walked away, that I realized how low my self-esteem had been with him and the serious inequalities within that relationship.
    I met a great guy who is now my fiancee. we’re happily planning our wedding and the rest of our lives together, both equally invested and hopeful for all that is to come…and that was worth the wait.

    • Seraphine

      “It wasn’t until I walked away, that I realized how low my self-esteem had been with him and the serious inequalities within that relationship.”

      Yeah, this was one of my realizations too. About two weeks after I decided I was done and my ex and I broke things off permanently, I woke up one morning and realized that I liked myself. And then I realized that I hadn’t liked myself in a long time because I was consistently internalizing the message that I wasn’t good enough.

      Glad to hear you’re in a better place too!

  • Seraphine

    So, I don’t have time to respond to everyone individually, but I just wanted to say thanks to you all for your comments! It was a crazy hard and painful experience, but I learned a lot of really important lessons. And my heart goes out to those of you in similar situations–it really does get better.

  • I needed to hear this!! I got out of a six year relationship this June and it was always me pestering him to propose the whole relationship. I gave him an ultimatum on Memorial Day weekend and he despicably gave me another reason to leave him the weekend after that. I so hope that I meet the right man someday.

    You give me hope girlfriend.

  • Viktoriya


    You cannot believe how much I needed to hear this. Sadly, I’m where you were with your ex years ago, having waited already a year, engaged without planning a wedding. Actually, I couldn’t take it anymore, and a week ago I broke off the engagement. We’re still together, and trying to work through it… sometimes I think we can, sometimes I think we cannot. It’s hard. And it hurts. And it meant a lot to me to read your thoughts, because the way you described feeling… you put into words what I feel.

    You made me feel sane for finding this so tough and painful. I had started thinking I’m somehow weak for feeling so hurt about it. Somehow wrong. But the fact another person went through a similar thing, and felt exactly the same…

    Thank you. I am crying now, but they’re good tears.


    What a wonderful post. A year ago, I called off my engagement to my long-time love, and I too had to pick up the pieces, as he moved on rather quickly. As much as it hurt, it reaffirmed that it was the wrong relationship\. It took me many months to get out of that hole, and I have begun dating again and loving my life.

    My fears still rear their heads. I am with a great guy who is way more compatible, but I still have doubts/worries, that I will get down the line and the same thing will happen. Did you struggle with that at all? Would love to hear.

  • Muister

    Thank you for this, I came onto APW today looking for some support and wisdom, and I found it in this post. Seraphine, I’m so happy you have grown from this experience and found someone who is just excited and ready to be with you as you are to be with him. I got married 5 months ago to my boyfriend of 8 years, and in the past 3 months he has gone through a kind of mid-life crisis (except we are in our 20’s) and is doubting everything about himself and his life. Obviously, this affects me and our marriage, and I have been playing the waiting game too. We are about to start marriage counseling, and we are already both in individual therapy. It’s so hard for me to figure out how long I can wait, and if there is something worth waiting for. That is, I am willing to do this work and push through this difficult time so long as he is too, and I don’t know that he has that answer yet for me, which makes this particular waiting period extra hard. I had no idea he had these issues to work out before we got married, otherwise I would have waited to get married. He seemed so excited and prepared, and I don’t think even he knew this storm was coming, which just goes to show you how much work he has to do. It’s been months since I’ve come to this website, but I’m so glad I did tonight. It helps to know that I’m not alone in this waiting, and that no matter what the outcome is, there is life on the other side.

  • jeff

    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.