We’ve all heard about him. The man who has been dating his girlfriend for years and years with no sign of a ring in sight. I was sitting in a cafe the other day when I heard him. His friends were chatting and laughing, talking about their escapades with women, as single men do, and then he said “Well I’ve been with my girl for seven years and I’m still not sure I want to marry her”. And they laughed again.
This is for the woman who is with that man. I can only hope that marriage isn’t a part of her future plans, and that she’s one of those independent, 21st century women of the future who do not aspire to be bound by law to any man. These women do exist perfectly in our society: they may desire to have a loving and long-term relationship with someone that somewhat resembles a marriage, but not necessarily want the full-on commitment, paperwork, or legal structures associated with being married to someone. But nine times out of ten, these independent women are not the ones who get stuck with the seven-years-still-not-sure man.
There’s something inherent about most women (and I said most, not all): the moment we are romantically involved with someone for even just a few months, naturally, we begin to picture whether we can see them in our lives in the long-run and if they would make a good fit for where and who we want to be in the future. It’s as instinctual as the practice of writing. It follows then, that after being in a long-term relationship with one person, a lot of women will start to shape and reshape their lives to make room for their partner’s hopes and dreams, especially when there is a promise of marriage in the future.
So when a grown woman who desires commitment has been with someone for seven years, you know damn well she has practically already picked out the style of her wedding dress, the flavour of the cake, and a few back-up baby names in case her man doesn’t take well to the ones she originally had planned. In fact, she has probably spent her half of the seven year relationship proving to him why he should put a ring on it – doing his laundry, cooking meals for him, packing his lunch for work, dealing with his difficult family, you name it. Busting her back for the same man who laughs with his friends in a cafe about how he still doesn’t even know if he wants to marry her or not. Tsk tsk.
I’ve seen it happen so many times. Women who, in due course, will start playing psychological games with their man to make him commit and get on one knee. Women who, drawn to desperation, will even have a baby with their boyfriend in hopes that it will keep him around a little longer and invite a marriage proposal. After a while, she gets to a point where she no longer subtly hints but blatantly asks and gets into fights with him over when he’s gonna put a ring on it.
The sad thing is that, when, or if, she finally decides to leave him, three months later, that same man could be there, smiling and waiting at the alter as another woman walks down the aisle to meet him. See, men are not confused animals. They know what they want, and when they want someone to be their wife, they make it known and execute. The risk of another man snatching that prize woman from them is too great.
(Un)fortunately, there’s not much that we as women can do to urge a man to put a ring on it. Quite frankly, this isn’t even our job. Where a lot of women get it wrong is when they mould themselves to fit the definition of what they think their partners might want in a wife. They change so much about themselves and even their personal goals that at the relationship’s eventual end, they are unable to recognize or remember who they were before. I’m not even sure the man can be totally blamed for this because some women tend to do this willingly, without being asked. That energy of desperation can be sniffed out from a distance, and ironically only attracts more deadbeats and non-committal partners.
I personally stand by a four-year max policy. What this means is, given that I’m now in my early twenties, I have no desire anymore to be in playful, “high school” relationships that don’t make it to Christmas, and I make this very clear. I observe very carefully the time and energy I invest into any serious relationship. If there is still no prospect of marriage after being with someone for four consecutive years – I don’t mean the actual wedding itself, but at most, an engagement, which is a symbol of commitment to marriage – and there are no plausible reasons for us not to get hitched, then that relationship will have proven itself to be overdrawn and not aligned with the end goal we presumably had.
An unpopular truth for our generation is that it’s so important to talk about your intentions with the person you choose to be with. This may seem daunting and make you look a little eager, but it ultimately avoids misunderstandings and makes sure each person is on the same page about what is driving the relationship and where it will go. There’s nothing wrong with being clear and upfront about what you are looking for and in what time frame. In fact, your partner’s reaction to this topic is a good sign of whether they are even at the right maturity level for you to be able to consider them being your husband/wife someday.
So to the woman who has invested seven years of her life into the unsure man: I hope you still know your worth. I hope you still know who you are and who you were before this relationship. I hope you do not fail to see the love you deserve when it comes your way because you are maybe too buried in the many years that you invested in a possibly fruitless tree. And sis, if another, more focused man comes around who knows exactly what he wants, and that happens to be you, don’t be afraid to lose those seven years for somebody who is ready to commit to you now.