Then there are the long-term relationships. These might be very stable couples, together for years, but who have never ventured forward into deeper commitment or marriage. These couples may be relatively satisfied with the state of the relationship. However, often one partner is anxious to move forward, while the other is resistant. We often hear from these couples that they are busy building careers or that they don’t feel financially stable. Financial and career stability are certainly positive things and I particularly encourage these pursuits prior to a relationship in young relationships. It is important for young adults to spend plenty of time discovering who they are to be in the world on their own, before bringing another person into the equation. But for the long-term relationships, I suspect something else is going on.
Marriage is a joint venture. In marriage, we commit to doing life together, hand in hand. We’re a team. Think of marriage (or commitment) as the center of life—the core. It is the place from which everything else pivots. Romance, family life, social life, spiritual life, personal growth, health and well-being, work and career, finances, home life. Though they are usually in various states of satisfaction and balance, these are the compartments that make up life. None of them exists to the exclusion of the others. Working through the compartments together is a valuable part of relationship growth.
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So if a relationship is just plodding along after a prolonged period of time, waiting for a change in one or two compartments to the neglect of the rest, I suspect that for one or both partners, the relationship has not been a priority. Career and financial goals may just be a really great justification that masks some other reason not to move deeper into the relationship. And we can speculate all day and night about those reasons. But the bottom line is that the relationship has probably run its course. Somebody isn’t invested. Somebody isn’t completely committed. And after investing all that time, the decision to marry is often made with a sense of obligation, instead of mutual adoration.
In either case, it’s a little like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. Whether it’s too little time or too much time, we are determined to make the relationship work. Never mind that the square isn’t meant for the round hole. Never mind that it’s frustrating and painful.
So before you decide if your relationship is ready to move on to marriage, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
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Are you the only one talking about future and commitment? I said it earlier: Marriage is a joint venture. You can’t do it alone. And if you’re thinking that “he will come around” or that something will change, you could be right. But if you don’t have mutual goals from the beginning, you need to keep that in mind. Square peg, round hole.