I received this comment in response to last week’s post, He Doesn’t Need More Time:
Cindy, why do you think that men string women along even when they know they don’t want to marry them? I understand that for a lot of men, it’s sex, but why would a practising Catholic/Christian man (whose girlfriend is, I assume, not sleeping with him) string things out?
I’ve heard the opinion that a woman should break up with a man after a year if he hasn’t at least mentioned marrying her (the opinion-giver added the caveat that the man and woman should both be finished with university in order for this rule to apply.) What do you think?
These are really two questions but I think they are linked together. A man will sit on the fence for a number of reasons but it is up to the girl to not let it drag on. The amount of time that a girl should allow a guy to decide is determined by the quality of the continued pursuit because the quality of the pursuit is a reflection of his intentions to marry her or not. Rarely is the pursuit strong and consistent when his intentions are to not to marry the girl. The symptoms are usually glaring.
But, he doesn’t break it off. Why?
What Is In It For Him and Why?
If sex is not the motivating factor for a guy to keep dating a girl he knows he doesn’t want to marry, then what is it? I wrote about this in the post, Stop Responding To Lame And Inconsistent Initiation. The reasons could be: she is meeting a need, she is a practice girl or the Veil
Meeting A Need
These needs can be physical (is the realtionship 100% chaste? because you know….), emotional or social needs. Or, it can be simply that you build up his ego by your strong interest in him. Your chasing, responding and flirtation are making him feel great!
If his initiation is lame or inconsistent, then move on. If he fails to reassure you about his future intentions, then move on. It may be the only way he can acknowledge to himself what his intentions are towards you.
Have you ever heard of the term practice girl? Sometimes, not always, guys like to practice on girls who will let them. They practice their skills in asking a girl out, calling girls, kissing girls, etcetera (yes, etcetera!). But, the guys know deep down that they are just practicing for the big game (marriage) rather than sincerely pursuing these practice girls. So, they manage the situation by pushing the emotional boundaries and then pulling back so that the girl’s expectations remain low and in check.
When this happens, you are a good-for-now girl. Ugh. Move on.
You may be wondering why he pursues you at all if his intentions are not on the up and up? Well, I believe that in addition to having his needs met, he also likes what he sees in you. But he can’t fully see you. I believe that we are all covered by a veil and only the one that God intends for us to marry, our Holy Spouse, can see us fully.
Is Age A Factor?
I was counseling a girl recently who is in her 40’s and dating a guy in his 50’s. They dated for 9 months before things fell apart. In my opinion, the guy had enough time to know if he wanted to marry her. I shared with her that Gregg and I met in September 2001 and were married in 2002. And, we were long-distance. Older men really have no excuse to sit on the fence. They know.
So, yes. Age is a factor on both ends of the spectrum. If the couple has not completed University, then it may be prudent to marry once they are done. But, I would link the justified delay to their age and maturity, not to their educational goals.
Warning: This is my opinion: If the couple is free to marry, then the marriage discussion should be on the table, prompted by him, in the first 6 months. Engagement should follow within a year of dating. And, the wedding should take place 6 to 8 months after the engagement. For each of these milestones, my question would be, “If not, why not?”
Free To Marry
What does free to marry mean? It means that he has a job and is free to marry in the Church (annulment). If he can’t afford to date, then he cannot afford to be married. This is why those still in college may not be free to marry. Also, if he is still married to another girl and is in need of an annulment, then he is not free to marry you.
We Must Be Observant
It is up to the girl to do what is in her best interest. Is his pursuit lame or inconsistent? Has he not mentioned marriage in the first 6 months? Has he not proposed in the first year? Has he proposed but not set a near-term date? Is he not reassuring when you point out the delay?
Then, you know. Move on.
Are There Exceptions?
Yes, there are legitimate exceptions. But, I think they are rare. And, there is usually a good reason behind the delay. Sometimes the guy needs a little itty bitty nudge:
One girl wrote to me and shared that her boyfriend of one year said he needed 6 more months to decide about marriage. They were completely chaste…..not even a kiss. I advised her to give him the six months, but if he has not proposed by then, she should break up with him. She talked to him about it and shared her feelings in a very rational, yet understandably emotional, way. It was not an ultimatum but instead an acknowledgement on her part of what is in her best interest. She was starting to feel very off-balance by the length time she had put into the relationship and they were both in their late 20’s. They were clearly free to marry. Anyway, she spoke to him and within 3 days he proposed to her. Their beautiful wedding took place 7 months later. He didn’t really need more time. He needed a gentle, confident nudge. 🙂
Sometimes the guy has to get his financial house or other type of ‘life house’ in order. If that is the case, then he should be having an open discussion with you about his intentions and he should reassure you with a reasonable timeline. Someday is not a date.
If I can help you assess your specific dating situation, please feel free to write to me at email@example.com
Next week: Even secular, non-chaste guys agree that a girl should not wait around for a guy to decide. I will share an article by a secular, non-chaste dating ‘coach’ who backs up the limited time factor.
God love and bless you!
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Thanks for the post! Another question – how old do you think people should be before they start dating? I used to think 18, but now I think that for a lot of people, under 25 is too young. I think people mature less quickly and are less ready for marriage at an early age than they were probably even 20 years ago.