Recently I was seeing a Christian couple who attended church on a regular basis. They had three children and had been together for more than 10 years. On their initial paperwork the lady indicated that she was his fiance. In contrast, the man indicated that he was her “old man.”
It had been so long since I had heard the term “old man,” I couldn’t help but comment during the interview. So I asked him what that meant.
He said, “I’m her man, she is my old lady. We’re one. We handle life together. We make things happen.”
I then asked her about her indication that he was her fiance. She said, “Well, he’s not my husband because we are not married and he’s not my boyfriend because we have been together for so long, so I just say fiance.”
At that point therapy had begun and they were beginning to realize that their current issues were highly impacted by their personal views about marriage. So we began to explore those views; this is what we discovered.
1. Commitments are not made where commitments are not warranted.
If a man can live with you like he is married to you without marrying you, he will. It’s not necessarily his fault. Although men are naturally inclined to want to lead some things, they are often looking for the woman to give direction and then they follow to satisfy her. So, if you don’t lead him towards marriage, you may never get there.
2. People are afraid to put themselves in situations that might not work.
Marriage is risky and in many cases, it doesn’t work out. Instead of taking the risk at having a failed marriage, some would rather not marry in the first place. That way, they don’t have to face failure. These people are driven by fear and don’t make real commitments because they are afraid to lose. They don’t really realize that if you don’t play, neither can you win.
3. People are held back by the idea that something better will come along.
This is one of the main reasons people don’t marry. They have this ideal that something better than what they have might come along. They keep the door open for escape by not getting marriage. They perceive marriage to be the key that locks the door to having other relationships, so they don’t want that key. They want the door cracked open for escape. Not only do they run from committed relationships, but they run from life as well.
4. They can’t trust anymore.
Some people have been married before and once the first, second or third marriage doesn’t work out, they give up on marriage and settle for relationships. They blame the failure on the institution of marriage rather than the parties involved. They say things like, “I’m done with marriage” or “I’m never getting married again.” Once a man who is not interested in a covenant committed relationship knows that about you, he will “date” you for the rest of your life.
The couple that came to see me had some serious relationship issues going on that threatened their relationship success. But underneath the issues they were facing were some deep-rooted fears and anxieties that prompted them to settle for just living together, or as they called it, “shacking up.” Internally, because of abuse and heartbreak, the woman had lost her esteem and value for who she was. The man, because of a lack of male guidance in his life and unresolved issues of fear, had given up on commitment, which is one of the fundamental tenants of manhood development.
Couples have to ask themselves why they are not married? There are always deep issues that prevent you from getting what you know you do deserve. Once you figure them out, you will be brave enough to move towards marriage and determined enough to stay married.
—Leroy Scott, MS, MDiv, NCC, LPC-LA, LMHC-FL