Ask Margot-Dating Someone Who Won’t Wed

He’s falling for a woman who says she’ll never marry—should he keep seeing her? Here’s wise advice.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I’m a longtime bachelor in my early 40s who’s been blessed to meet the love of my life through church. I want nothing more than to marry my gal and call her my wife. However, she was married once before to a man who abused her both physically and mentally for 20 years. It took her most of a decade to move
She vowed to never marry again after she and her husband split.
on with her life and feel safe again, and during that time she found God and my church and our community.

Here is our problem: She vowed to never marry again after she and her husband split. Also, she worries that I am seven years younger than she is and that I will get bored or betray her somehow. As we are both born-again, we do not believe in divorce or living “in sin.” I want for us to be married in the church that brought us together. How can I convince her that what God has brought together, no man (past or present) can put asunder?
-Yours in Christ, Robert

Dear Robert,
So many of us have been in this situation. So if you think you’re alone, you’re not! Your girlfriend has one big issue, that’s certain. But I reckon you’ve probably got one of your own.

The most important thing is for you to realize that this has nothing to do with you (or even with marriage). Marriage is simply a symbol for all her self-doubt, fear and unresolved feelings. Despite her divorce, it sounds as if she’s still married to her former husband. He may be gone from her home, but she’s still letting him determine the course of her life. She’s so busy worrying about what she doesn’t want that she isn’t spending time thinking about what she does want.

It’s not unusual. I’ve been there. I kept thinking I was over my first marriage... until I got into another serious relationship and realized I still had a lot of unresolved issues and feelings. So that relationship would end and I’d spend a little more time trying to dislodge the baked-on grease from the first one. It took many hours of scouring, but I finally got there. Seems to me your lady friend just needs more time to clean up the mess of her former life.

You can certainly help her, but pressuring her into marriage won’t do the trick. But if her heart is open to the possibility, there
Maybe the two of you should talk about your visions of marriage together.
is a path you can suggest, a path she already knows quite well: The path of faith. In order to enter into marriage, she will have to make that classic leap into the unknown. But hasn’t she already done that once in her life when she put her faith in God?

Remember that what she’s afraid of might not necessarily be “marriage” but “being married” and being stuck forever in the kind of situation she was stuck in before. So talk with her about what your lives would be like if you were married. We all have different images of what married life entails. Maybe the two of you should talk about your visions of marriage together. That might help her get over her fears.

But that’s only half the battle. You’ve got to take a look at your own issues. Is it possible that you’re only attracted to her because you can’t have her? Or because she’s a damsel in distress? These are very common patterns for men, especially long-term bachelors.

To get at the crux of your own feelings, ask and answer these five questions:
  1. Do you have a pattern of “rescuing” women who are suffering emotionally—and could that be happening here?
  2. Have you ever been attracted to someone because they were emotionally unavailable, and might that be part of the attraction in this case?
  3. Why, after a life of bachelorhood, are you willing to work so hard to marry someone who’s afraid to get married?
  4. What will you do if she doesn’t come around?
  5. Is there a way to meet her halfway that wouldn’t involve giving up your dream or compromising your beliefs?
If you determine that you’re following your own bad patterns, it may be time to break up. If you realize you really do want to be with her, then you’ll need to invoke some compassion. Remember, lots of people have fears about taking the last step toward marriage. Most just need more time to finish their work around trust and other issues.

If she’s moving in the right direction, give her time and help her to keep moving. Focus on movement toward the goal, not necessarily the goal itself. Healing is a process, and, rest assured, we all have our share of it to go through.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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