I am afraid my fiance is not really ready for marriage. I feel he does not always treat our relationship as his top priority. I feel he lets the needs and wishes or his family come first sometimes. His family gets together frequently, much more often than my family does, and he expects me to attend every single gathering with him, even if it’s not a special occasion or holiday. He also wants his family celebrations to take priority over my family celebrations, which is completely unfair and upsetting to me. I told him his family is not more important than mine, that there needs to be a balance and we should alternate who we spend holidays with. He does not seem to understand this, and even suggested that we spend holidays separate from each other with our own families. I told him that is not the answer, that as a couple we should want to spend our holidays together. I told him I feel like I am not the number one person in his life, although I treat him this way. I told him that as my future husband, I expect him to “leave and cleave”, and create a new family unit with me that is separate from his family, and I expect him to treat this new family as his first priority. He said that he does not agree with that concept, that he thinks I am marrying into his family and need to be part of them and accept them. I explained that I do accept his family, but that our focus should be on our future, that will hopefully include a home and children of our own, and that no one or nothing should come between this. I really love my fiance, but I am afraid he is not really ready to fully commit. I think my expectations of him are completely reasonable, and that if he cannot see that, I need to end the relationship. Do you have any suggestions? Does it sound like I am engaged to a commitment-phobe and I am wasting my time? I need an objective opinion and advice. Thanks for your help.

A: If you two were in your 20s, I would see this as a part of young people’s typical struggle to define how they are going to relate to their own and each other’s families once they set up their own household. But you two are in your 40s! In that case, what you are talking about is a much more established difference in philosophies. I don’t think you are engaged to a “commitmentphobe.” I do think you are discovering that the two of you have bigger differences than perhaps either of you understood when you decided you wanted to marry.

If you two are to come to any compromise, you have to stop arguing about who is right and instead work together to figure out how you are going to make a bridge between two equally legitimate but very, very different conceptions of family. This is important work. It is when a couple has to collaborate on issues of basic values that they discover how well they can work as a team. How you work on and resolve this issue is likely to become the template for how you work through other important differences in the future. That is why it is so important that you not ignore the issue, sweep it under the rug, or deny that it is happening.

If the two of you want to save, and indeed enrich your relationship, you will work at this until you are both reasonably satisfied. If you find that you get stuck in the process, I hope you will consider working with a couples therapist to help you learn new ways to negotiate your differences.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Oct 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). My fiance doesn’t agree to put our own family first. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/10/05/my-fiance-doesnt-agree-to-put-our-own-family-first/

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