Boyfriend hesitant about marriage, commitment

All Woman

Dear Counsellor,

I am in my late 20s and pregnant with my first child for my partner of close to a decade. I didn't want to have my child out of wedlock; I made this promise a long time ago to myself, and my partner knows.

Since the pregnancy I have become closer to God and I am planning to make the commitment official. However, my partner has not shown any interest in making his commitment official through marriage. He has said “soon” and “next year” and that he doesn't want it to seem as if our commitment was only because of the baby. I have reasoned with him about the possibility of a private wedding until we do a larger ceremony, and he has still not bought into the idea.

I am beginning to wonder if I have invested these many years for nothing. Will he in fact make things official next year or he is just one of those men who will jump ship after years of being in a relationship? Then, of course, the most difficult thing for me is how I'll be able manage with my new-found love in Christ? I'm so confused.

It is always a difficult position to be in when your moral and/or religious values clash with your reality and you have to abandon one and embrace the other. This becomes even more complex when the situation involves someone else who has a contrary value system.

It is for this reason that it is recommended that when searching for a partner it is best to find someone with shared values and interests. Conflicts in relationships are inevitable, but couples who are poles apart in their value system will no doubt have greater challenges than those who are on the same page morally, ethically, and spiritually.

In your case you decided that you wanted to start your family within a marriage setting, but your partner obviously did not necessarily share your ideal and so is not motivated to have you realise your aspiration. I note that you said you made a promise to yourself to not have your child out of wedlock but as you are aware, a decision like this involves another person and so his/her position on the matter must be considered. So even though your partner was aware of your promise to yourself, it was just that, a personal wish rather than a mutual decision.

So now that you have broken your own promise you are putting undue pressure on your partner to formalise the relationship. Were it the other way around, would you be comfortable with your partner pressuring you to fast-track the wedding because his parents insisted, for example? In other words, the decision to get married should not be contingent on the pregnancy. So, it's important you separate the pregnancy from the marriage because while one is almost certain, the other may or may not happen.

If you both have been in a relationship for close to 10 years, what would have prevented the wedding from taking place during that period? Why now and not then? Does your partner wish to formalise the relationship? What message is he sending you by not taking the relationship to the next level?

As you contemplate how you will navigate your new-found love in Christ, remember that you are accountable for your actions and not his and so if he decides not to get married before the birth of the child he is still the father of the child and must be allowed to carry out his fatherly role. You must expect some amount of conflict and seek to manage rather than attempt to eliminate the tension.

Whether or not he will “jump ship”, no one except him knows for sure if this will happen. But a man in a good relationship for such a long time would not usually leave during or after pregnancy unless he has reason to believe the child is not his. However, stranger things have happened.

Continue the dialogue with the gentleman and share your concerns with him. Try to come across as if you wish to have him consider this as the opportune time for you both to express in a concrete way your love and commitment to each other. The truth is, after the birth of the child all the time and effort will be focused on the child with little time to do anything else, including planning for a wedding.

Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to agapemft@gmail.com or powellw@seekingshalom.org. Check out his work on www.seekingshalom.org and his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MFTCounselor/.

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