Ask Adrienne: Stubborn Fiancés & Giving Ultimatums

Adrienne Laursen, Licensed Marriage Therapist and nationally recognized relationship expert, answers your relationship questions via her advice column, Ask Adrienne.

Adrienne is the owner of THE ENGAGEMENT COACH, and provides exclusive, customized premarital and engagement coaching to her clients nationwide.

Q. Adrienne, I can’t get my fiancé to help me with wedding planning.  Every time I share my ideas or ask him to do something, he seems uninterested.  How can I get him more involved?

A. This is a great question, and unfortunately, an all too common one.  Here’s the deal, women are visual thinkers.  We love Pinterest, brainstorming ideas, and changing our minds.  In fact, I’m guessing you’ve probably changed the vision for your wedding multiple times, right?  And you probably told your fiancé every time you had a new idea, and expected him to get excited about it, right? 

Well here’s the problem.  While we’re visual thinkers (think gray zone), men are solution-focused thinkers (think black and white).  What this means is, women are typically more emotional, visual, sensitive, multitasking and creative.  Men are typically focused, one-thing-at-a-time, analytical problem solvers.  So, when you’re hurling nine hundred different ideas for the wedding at him, and expecting him to join in the fun, he’s likely becoming very overwhelmed and stressed out.

Some good advice is to scale back what you share with him.  Talk to your girlfriends about your different ideas and narrow down what information you’ll bring back to share with your guy.  And have some specific tasks for him to take over.  The reality is, most of the grooms I work with are more than willing to help, they just need a task list and typically work well with a deadline.  And probably most importantly, they need to be left alone and not nagged about it along the way.

I would also suggest having a conversation about how you’re both feeling, and what you both expect from each other during this stressful time.  Ask for what you want and need, and tell him how important his feedback is to you.  Remember to focus on his strengths of problem solving, and expect to get your inspiration and excitement elsewhere.

Q. I really want to get engaged but he won’t propose, and we’ve been together for 5 years!  When is it OK to give an ultimatum?

A. This is a tough one, and the answer is so subjective for each couple.  Some women wait a lot longer than five years, and are rewarded with a proposal when their boyfriend is ready to move forward.  Others wait and the proposal never happens, and they’re left having to end the relationship themselves. 

What does your gut tell you?  Yes, your gut! You know, that feeling inside you that is always right?  Five years is certainly enough time to understand where your relationship is at, and to determine if moving forward with marriage is the right decision.   Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Have you discussed what marriage means to you both? 

Do you currently have issues that need to be addressed before getting engaged would make sense?

Has he shared his concerns with you?  And if so, are they valid or do they feel like excuses? 

If you take marriage off the table, are you satisfied with your relationship?  Are your needs being met?

We all know that ultimatums don’t work, and if you use one, you’ll probably be at the losing end.  If you force his hand, and he says no, are you really ready to break up with him?  If it does work, you may get what you’re looking for in the short term, but do you really want him to propose based on a requirement?  Marriage is hard enough as it is, and starting out with a forced situation is just asking for trouble. 

My advice is to consider the questions above, and decide what’s most important to you.  A relationship with him that may not include marriage, or moving on to a new relationship that has the potential for giving you what you want.

adriennelaursenAdrienne offers both in-person and online premarital and engagement coaching, and is passionate about helping couples create a beautiful, successful marriage. Please visit her website, The Engagement Coach, for more information and to contact her directly.