Ask Celes – Should I Marry a Guy I Don’t Love?

Ask Celes

Dear Celes,

Thank you very much for your wonderful blog. I feel that you are very sensible woman. As you have found your true love, I’ve decided to ask you for advice — should I marry a very decent guy if I don’t feel anything more than respect and friendly feelings to him?

The reason I ask is that I’m 28 but I haven’t had any relationship before this. I’ve fallen in love several times before but the guys either turned out to be marriednot interested in me, had a very unstable mind, or were irresponsible and let me down..

I would love to listen to my heart but even till today my heart is used to making the wrong decisions..

Now I met this guy and he fell in love with me immediately. He is very responsible, caring, perceptive… But I simply don’t feel anything for him..

I’ve told him that already but he asked me to give him a chance and to see if I would change my mind… I’ve given him that chance but I simply don’t feel emotional or physical compatibility… I just can’t imagine having a spousal relationship with him…

Should I give him a straight-up “no” and continue to wait/search for someone while living my life? Or is there a chance that love will come after marriage?

Thank you in advance,

Hey M, I read your letter and knew that I had to respond to you right away. Unfortunately I only saw your letter now even though you sent it a few months ago, as I had been stuck in writing hell. I hope this reply reaches you in time.

Some people will give you a straight up “NO YOU SHOULDN’T MARRY HIM!!” as they believe that marriage should only be based on love. These people are the hardcore romantics and idealists, which in a way I am as well.

On the other hand, you have the more realistic and pessimistic of people who will tell you to just marry and settle because it’s hard for a good man to come by and this guy seems exactly that. “Even if you don’t love him,” they will say, “at least he’ll take care of you. You can work on cultivating the love after marriage, over time.”

But rather than give you a straight “Yes you should marry him” or “No you shouldn’t marry him,” the more important question here is: “What is the role of marriage for you?” Because your decision will be directly impacted by your answer.

Why Marry?

While I used to think that marriage should only be borne out of love, I’ve realized over time that it isn’t the case for many.

For example, some people marry for companionship. For such a person, it doesn’t matter if he/she doesn’t love the other party; as long as that person is sincere, reliable, and loves him/her, he/she is okay with marrying him/her. I knew someone who married her then-boyfriend under this exact circumstance, though (ironically) he later divorced her as he developed an interest for another. I believe most people in my parents’ generation married for companionship too, then worked on cultivating love after marriage.

Some people marry with the sole objective to have kids. My friend is one of them. (I mentioned his example before here). In my friend’s case, he really wants to have his own kids — and he doesn’t think that he’ll be able to find his match in the coming years. Since he’s not getting any younger, he’s totally okay with getting a mail-order bride just to have kids by a certain age. After that, both his wife and him can go the Ashley Madison route – he really doesn’t care either way.

Then there’s people who marry because they feel that they have to. To them, marriage is a rite of passage, a necessity of life, and a fundamental part of being human. They even have a target on when to get married and they strive to realize that! Hence, the significance of marriage comes from its very occurrence by a certain time frame, rather than who they are marrying. As such, they don’t have overt expectations of how their partner should be. As long as he/she looks okay, falls within a suitable age bracket, comes from the same social strata, and have the same religion (all superficial factors), they are okay with getting married to that person.

Last but not least, you have the people who marry out of love. These people marry because they love the person they are with and they want to only be with him/her for the rest of their life — not because of societal pressure, not because they feel like they are at a marriageable age, and not because they want to get a house. Thus, they are okay with remaining single for life if they don’t find someone they love. It’s more important that they marry someone they love, than to get locked in a marriage with someone they don’t love.

Marrying Out of Love

Now M, if your expectations of marriage is just to have a life-long companion — someone who will be with you and take care of you even when you’re old with white hair — then this guy seems to fit the bill. To quote you, “he’s reliable, caring, perceptive,” not to mention that he seems really patient and sincere because he still wants to be with you despite you not sharing the same feelings for him! Assuming nothing changes after marriage, then it seems like this guy is a keeper.

However, let’s say your expectations of marriage is that it should be based on love. You can’t imagine being with someone whom you don’t love.

If so, we have a problem. Because not only do you not feel a physical compatibility with this guy, you don’t feel an emotional compatibility either. Not to mention that you said you can’t imagine having a spousal relationship with him! All these point to a very fundamental issue, and I’m not sure if you should be talking or considering marriage with him until this is resolved.

What Happens When You Marry Someone You Don’t Love?

So let’s do a little scenario planning now, which is also method #1 in How To Make Life’s Hardest Decisions: 3 Useful Decision-Making Methods to Solve Current Dilemmas. Say you marry this guy despite not having feelings for him right now. Two possible scenarios can happen.

The first scenario is that everything happens the way you hope it would. He treats you very well after marriage and he is exactly the man he was before the wedding, if not more. He continues to be responsible, caring, perceptive, and most importantly, loving. You get to know him more as your husband, and you begin to see him in a light that you never have before.

Touched by his love for you and impressed by the man that he is, you begin to fall for him. Since both of you are now in love, your problem of a loveless marriage is now resolved.

The second scenario is that you don’t fall for him despite his efforts. Try as you might, you simply have no feelings for him, and feelings can’t be forced at the end of the day.

What do you do now? Do you pretend to love your now-husband so that you won’t disappoint him? Do you let him know that you still don’t love him but continue being in the marriage out of guilt and fear, as you don’t want to face a backlash from your family and friends? Do you divorce him and try to find love again, but now as a divorcee?

Deep Implications

Obviously, the second scenario has some pretty sticky implications.

A divorce isn’t as simple as breaking up with a boy/girlfriend — there are legal proceedings to go through, families involved, and fees to be paid. There are also prerequisites that need to be fulfilled before a divorce can be filed, such as the marriage being at least three years long (in Singapore), and so on. Length-wise, a divorce proceeding doesn’t just happen overnight — they can stretch on for quite a while, ranging anywhere from six months to over a year. That’s not even talking about the emotional drain that happens with such proceedings.

Let’s say you don’t divorce and you want to stay on in this marriage. The questions then come to these:

  • Will you be happy in this one-sided relationship? 
  • Will you be betraying yourself?
  • Will you be thinking ‘what if’s’ every other day?
  • Will you feel regret from marrying this guy back when then?
  • Will your husband feel any resentment or hurt?
  • Even if not, will you be fair to him by marrying him when you don’t love him — even though (I presume) he’s okay with it?

So many questions but with no straight answers. For sure, this will not he an easy situation to work through. You would be trapped into a dungeon that you created for yourself, with no way out but to continue through. You will have to continue to live in this marriage with a man you don’t love — for the rest of your life.

The Future has Yet to Come

The great thing now is that Scenarios A or B have not happened yet. You are here in the present moment and you have yet to marry the guy. There is still a chance to think over this carefully and make a conscious decision.

I believe the biggest reason why you are having this dilemma now, M, is because you aren’t sure if you will ever meet the perfect guy for you. Deep down, you may feel that if you pass up on this chance to marry this guy, you may well never meet someone else that comes close. What would I do then? You may wonder.

I can’t tell you whether you’ll meet your perfect match or not, M. What I do know is this: When you agree to marry someone, you should be doing it because you genuinely want to marry him and because this is the guy you want to spend the rest of your life with. You shouldn’t be considering marriage because you are fearful of the alternative — being alone, not being able to find your perfect guy, and not having anyone to take care of you for the rest of your life. To do so would be to make a decision from a fear-based, scarcity mindset, and decisions borne out of this thinking rarely have a positive outcome.

I also know that it’s never a wise move to marry in hopes or expectation that something else will happen (in this case, love). That’s because if what you are expecting never happens, then what are you going to do? Are you going to deny that the marriage has ever happened? Are you going to go back on the vows you made during your wedding day? Are you going to let the other person down?

My Advice: Hold This Off

Marriage is a serious life-long commitment, M. Not only is it serious for you, it also involves others deeply.

My recommendation is to hold off making a decision and give the relationship more time to play out. This may be three months, six months, or even a year — however long is needed for you to get the answer that you need.

If you realize that he’s the one for you after X amount of time, then you can agree to his proposal and get married.

If you realize that he’s definitely not the one for you, then both of you can go your separate ways. No real loss here except for the X time invested in the relationship — even then, this time doesn’t compare to potentially making a life-long commitment that you will regret.

If you’re still undecided after a long time together, than maybe he’s not the one… for now. If love can blossom, it would have blossomed long ago. You don’t need to wait for two, three, or even five years to decide if someone is the one. Unless something dramatically changes in you, him, or between you and him, chances are your feelings will remain the same no matter how long you wait.

If he is the good and understanding man that you say he is, then I’m sure he’s okay waiting for a while for you to assess and make up your mind about the relationship. If he gives you a timeline and ultimatum (e.g., “I can only wait for a month; if you still don’t have an answer, then I’m afraid we’d need to break up”), then he probably isn’t the guy for you.

If this relationship doesn’t work out, then it may well mean returning to the dating field. Sure, dating may be frustrating sometimes. Trying to meet new people and find your right match can be draining too. But I guarantee you that nothing will ever be as terrifying, heart numbing, draining, and unhappy as being stuck in a marriage with someone you don’t love.

That’s all I have to say M. I hope you’ll find this post useful. Let us know your choice and how things work out for you. ♥

Related articles on dating:

For those of you facing some hard decisions like M, this post will help: How To Make Life’s Hardest Decisions: 3 Useful Decision-Making Methods to Solve Current Dilemmas

This is part of the Ask Celes section. If you have a question to ask me, proceed to the Ask Celes page. Check out past Ask Celes questions here.

  • Glenn Thomas

    Hi Celes, nice article. I just hope the girl’s waited long enough to read it before making a bad decision.
    I’m curious though, why is your friend so desperate to have kids if he’s happy to marry someone he doesn’t know to do so, possibly leading to a dysfunctional upbringing for those kids? As far as I know, parenting is a big job. And what if the mail order bride were to be given custody of the kids if they split up?

    • Celestine Chua

      Hey Glenn, great questions! I wouldn’t use “desperate” to describe my friend in this situation; it’s more like he just has a very detached view on relationships and he’s totally okay using marriage just as a means to have kids. And I guess it’s subjective as to whether it’ll lead to a dysfunctional upbringing for his potential kids; I can totally see where you are coming from but I don’t think he sees this as a potential outcome or even possible issue.

      As for the bride trying to get custody of the kids, I don’t think he’s thinking of divorce after marriage, just going the Ashley Madison route. By that I mean like having affairs outside of the marriage.

      This isn’t the route I would go myself, but I wouldn’t say that I disapprove him of doing this, just that I can understand why he has this consideration and that different people just have different views and needs that lead them to select certain paths that fit them best.

  • Alberto Rubín Martín

    The answer of the question in the title is clear: of course not. It is a very important decision and every man and woman should think a lot before do it

    • Celestine Chua

      To each his own though. As I explained in the post, there are people who are perfectly okay with marrying someone they don’t “love,” because they never thought of marriage as borne out of love. Some see marriage as a source of companionship, some see it as a means to starting a family, etc. Myself, it’s a definite no too, but there’ll always be people who have different needs and stances on marriage than I do.

  • M

    Hi Celes!

    Thank you a lot for your reply. I appreciate it even more knowing you were writing it while you were preparing to your wedding! Thank’s a lot and congratulations!! Wish you and your husband very happy interesting and fulfilling life!

    I was thinking a lot on your reply and frankly still thinking what shall i do.

    From one side i see his qualities and understand that he might be good husband… Also family pressure taking place where they tell me not to be silly and marry him, what am i waiting for, i’m almost 30, who will need me after that ha ha :) Everything that many families would say here….

    But deep inside Celes i feel we are not compatible neither emotionally nor phsysically and not very much intellectually…

    What made me spend almost a year with him? I felt really good around him, it was nice to experience care, attention and all this stuff.

    Actually i do care about myself a lot too, i have my life, my dreams, goals, purpose and hobbies… I can travel, have good job and life is interesting to me, i want to grow and so on… But deep inside i want family too…

    i want those noisy weekends together, taking care of kids, husband, receieve care too. somewhere inside i feel that woman should be protected and cherished inside family.

    I just can’t imagine what life will be completely alone.. when all relatived die and friends are busy with their own families… of course i can travel and run my business and so on.. but will it be fulfilling i don’t know unfortunatelly..

    Still i don’t want to marry just because i’m afraid to stay alone, nothing good will grow out of it…

    So the answer seems simple – to break up.. But you know i found out i can’t right now… Though i explained it all to him and he was very upset he said let’s wait and see, may be it’s mood change or what…

    I got attached to him during the time we dated and now literally don’t know how to solve it. I simply don’t have stregnth to break up and to go through this hell after.. Really scared and i feel it would be extremly painful..

    But thank you a lot for your reply once again, will try to achieve courage level one day and sort this out!

    Kindest regards,

    • Celestine Chua

      Hey M, it’s great reading your reply! As you mentioned, you know what you need to do, and it’s about figuring out how to execute it.

      It sounds like your decision to stay with him right now is driven by fear (fear of repercussions, fear of the pain, fear of being alone, etc.) as opposed to love (love for him, wanting to spend the rest of your life with HIM only as opposed to any guy, etc.). The only thing that I can comment on is that decisions borne out of fear typically attracts fear-based outcomes in the end, not to mention the journey will likely be fearful and painful as well. IMHO I don’t think it’s fair to him as well if the reason to stay with him is because of self-driven reasons (i.e. not wanting to be alone) as opposed to wanting to be with him. I know that I wouldn’t want to marry or be with someone who wants to be with me because he doesn’t want to be alone as opposed to because he loves me. I think I’d probably feel somewhat insulted and used as a “tool” or “proxy” if it’s the former reason, but that’s really just me actually.

      IMO if there is any pain to be experienced now, it would be because the “right” decision was not swiftly made in the past (if there’s even such thing as a “right” decision). This pain is only reflective of not making the “right” decision before, and shouldn’t be the reason to delay the decision. Because dragging on the situation will only lead to more pain in the future. I think it’ll be worse if you get married with him and have kids in the future; it almost creates a “deadlock” situation especially if you’re in a culture/family where divorce is unacceptable.

      What I just said sounds like a “tough love” reply, and I’m only saying it because I felt it’s necessary. For what it’s worth, perhaps it’s possible that you’ll grow to love him in the future — who knows? But basically it leads to everything I said in my article-”If you’re still undecided after a long time together, than maybe he’s not the one… for now. If love can blossom, it would have blossomed long ago. You don’t need to wait for two, three, or even five years to decide if someone is the one. Unless something dramatically changes in you, him, or between you and him, chances are your feelings will remain the same no matter how long you wait.”

      The ball is in your court M, and it’s up to you on what you want to do next. Remember that this is your life; you make the decisions and it also means that you live with the effects of your decisions too, so just think carefully and act accordingly.

      I appreciate you sending the letter in and giving me a chance to share my thoughts. (Who knows, there may have been readers who benefited from this piece too!) Do keep us posted on how things go; we’d love to hear how things are on your end.

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