I am a 30-year-old single male. Over the last five or six years I have dated numerous women who say they want to marry, settle down and start a family. Since I want the same thing, I figure the relationship is off to a good start. After a while, though, when it comes time to start thinking about long-term plans, or even taking a serious approach to the relationship, the woman decides she doesn't want to put the time and effort into it, wants to date recreationally, etc. This scenario has become extremely frustrating for me. What can I do to encourage a woman to follow through with what she already said she wants: marriage and family? Or what can I do to "separate the pretenders from the contenders?"
Maybe they're pretending, and maybe they're not. Most women do want marriage and a family, but they come in different categories: those who want marriage and family eventually, but not right now; those who want to begin pursuing marriage and family now, but not necessarily with the guy who is pursuing her; and finally, those who want to begin pursuing marriage and family now and are open to exploring that with you. Obviously, it's that last category that matters most to you.
It sounds like what is happening could be exactly what you want to happen, maybe just not timed or accomplished the way you'd like. If, when you begin spending time together, she indicates that she has no interest in recreational dating, then you can probably take her word for it; there's not much reason for her to deliberately lie about that. And her ending the relationship doesn't necessarily mean she was lying when she expressed interest in marriage.
Let's say that somewhere along in the process of getting to know you she becomes convinced for whatever reason that you're not the man to marry and ends the relationship. That doesn't necessarily mean she was pretending; she's probably just acting on what she thinks is right. That's what dating is — spending time getting to know someone to see whether to move toward courtship.
Now, if the reason she gives for ending the relationship is that she's had a change of heart and has suddenly become disinterested in marriage, then she might have been a pretender, or she could be trying to find a way to not hurt your feelings. Sometimes to avoid the possibility of hurting someone personally, we target something else — in this case an idea, the "pursuit of marriage" — hoping to avoid an awkward and possibly painful situation. I'm certainly not condoning that approach, just making you aware that it happens.
The best way to avoid confusion about relationship intentions is to talk often and clearly about where things are and where they are going. And don't forget, one person's "courtship" could be another person's "just getting to know you." Could it be that you assume the relationship is already in the "courtship" stage — intentionally moving toward marriage, while she thinks it's still in the "dating" stage — still getting to know you enough to see if she wants to enter "courtship"? The transitions from stage-to-stage in a relationship can be foggy territory, and lack of communication makes it even more difficult. Keep the conversation going to make sure that she's not merely interested in marriage and family eventually with somebody, but interested in pursuing that now and open to exploring that possibility with you.
Copyright 2006 John Thomas. All rights reserved.