Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: In Monday’s column, a man “wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to get married.” Are there people who actually think this, or does everyone use it as a way to continue enjoying the status quo without further commitment?
I’ve seen it SO often in your column and in my own life that now when I hear it, I think, “Ugh, another excuse for selfish behavior from someone who won’t [poop] or get off the pot.” And if people do legitimately think this, then how on earth do you explain why they marry OTHER PEOPLE later on? It’s so insulting to the ex.
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DEAR ANONYMOUS: A more charitable way of seeing it is that these pot-dwellers actually believe what they’re saying, maybe because it’s less upsetting for them to think they’re unsure of an institution than to admit they’re unsure of a person they care about (albeit not enough).
It’s still a bad choice, but not all bad choices are made out of selfishness or malice. Denial is a big player.
So is, perversely, kindness. Remember, there are also countless examples here of people who think it’s mean or selfish to break up with someone who has been good to them.
Re: Not Sure:
Yes! There are people who think this. My beloved boyfriend and I have been together for eight years and are 100 percent committed to being together for the rest of our lives. We also aren’t sure about getting married — the hassle, what our families and friends expect, the criticism if we don’t, all the weird misogynistic moments at most weddings, the idea of inviting the government into our private lives. Every time we start to talk about it, we decide we’re happy with things the way they are.
Now, maybe this isn’t the typical situation where one person wants to get married and the other doesn’t, but it’s completely possible to be committed to a person and still not sure the institution of marriage is something they want.
— Anonymous 2
DEAR ANONYMOUS 2: An outlier perspective I suspect, but, OK.
Fundamentally, it’s uncertainty about a life commitment versus an uncertainty about marriage-the-institution. Fair?
Re: Not Sure:
Fair enough, Carolyn, but you have to admit that when one person wants marriage and the other is “unsure,” it’s not fair to drag out the relationship into infinity. I remember when my ex kept saying he wasn’t sure if he was ready about getting married. Finally, one day I snapped and asked, “What does ‘ready’ look like?” He didn’t even know! That’s when I felt like a complete idiot for waiting around.
Seriously … if he didn’t know what “ready” meant, then how would he ever know if he was or not? Ugh.
— Anonymous 3
DEAR ANONYMOUS 3: No, it’s not fair to drag it out, I’m merely saying people can do it without intent. And unfortunately it takes two to drag, as you know — one to stall, and one to keep waiting.
This brings me back to what I ask people who say they’re tired of “waiting”: Do you like what you have right now? If you do, then what’s the rush, and if you don’t, then how likely are things to change?