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: I can’t give you a totally objective opinion because I don’t have your fiance’s point of view. What I can tell you is this: There are many legitimate ways to make a family. Some people “leave and cleave” as you suggest. Others marry into one or the other’s family. Still others carefully balance time with one family, time with the other. The model you choose isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing is that the couple works together until they are both reasonably comfortable with how they are going to relate to each other’s family throughout life.

Blaming your boyfriend for being a “commitmentphobe” or “unready for marriage” isn’t going to advance your conversation. He has a point of view. So do you. My guess is that the more you negatively label his approach to family, the more he digs in his heels. Back up. Apologize for your part in polarizing the discussion and start over. Try to talk together about what each of your wants and needs from a marriage and what you are concerned about — with no blaming or labeling. At 41, you and your guy have probably worked through other disagreements with other people who count. Bring those skills to this conversation.

How the two of you manage this disagreement will tell you a lot about how you will manage others. If you do love each other enough to consider marriage, it may well be worth it to get a little couples counseling to learn some new tools for staying in loving relationship while you work through a problem that really, really matters. There will be others.

I wish you well,
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Oct 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). My fiance doesn’t agree we need to make our own family. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/10/22/my-fiance-doesnt-agree-we-need-to-make-our-own-family/

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