How Do You Know If He’s Ready for Marriage BEFORE You Get Involved?

young attractive lady having a date with a guy over a cup of tea

Hi Evan,

I am a 30 years old woman recently out of a 2 year relationship. I hope to get married and have a family. I don’t want to be in another LONG term relationship without a possibility of marriage or finding out too late that the guy is just not ready for marriage.

So, how do you find out BEFORE you start a relationship with a guy 1. is he at a point of his life when he is ready to get married? 2. if he sees marriage potential with you?

I know that you don’t want to bring up the “question” or bring up commitment. But is there a way to find these important facts BEFORE you get involved with someone? Or would you just make the guy run away…..

Also, would you specify on the profile interested in “marriage and children” only (as you do on your profile), or would you also list “long term relationship”?



Dear Susan,

There’s a fine line that you have to walk in any romantic relationship. Especially early on. You want to be vulnerable, yet you’re trying to play it cool. You want to show that you’re interested, but never want to act like you’re needy. You know that true love means being real, but that being real can sometimes scare people away.

Whether we acknowledge them or not, these paradoxes exist. And whenever you’re dealing with something that is inherently contradictory, there is no easy answer. Human nature is far too complex, and people are rarely even in touch with how they feel themselves.

Consider the philosophical differences between the serial monogamist and the serial dater. You don’t have to guess which one I am.

I’m a guy who has always broken up with women I didn’t intend to marry after three months. It’s not that I wasn’t content in those relationships, but rather, that I felt that it was a) unfair to her if I already knew I didn’t have long-term intentions and b) unfair to me, because every day I spent with her was a day I wasn’t looking for my future wife. Strangely, I’ve always been proud of my spotty track record — as if it was a badge of honor to pull the plug quickly, if only for the sake of integrity.

On the other hand, my girlfriend has had a series of long term relationships. Three years, five years, two years. One of them, she actually married. Did she stay too long in the others? Did she know, at any point, that they were doomed to fail? It’s not my place to say.

What I am saying is that nobody wants to waste time on a relationship, but everybody has a different definition of what “wasted” time is….

Two very reasonable people might have completely different views on what is at stake in a relationship. He might think that spending a year with someone he has no intention of marrying is cool. You might think it’s selfish. There’s no right and wrong.

What you’re looking for is a method to gauge things about men that they probably don’t even know themselves. I think we all have friends who are in serious relationships — 2 years plus — and still aren’t positive they want to get married. So if you think you can figure out after a few months what a guy doesn’t know after a few years, let me know the trick.

All you can do is pay attention to the signs — a guy who won’t say he loves you, a guy who never talks about a future, a guy who has no interest in having kids… these things can tip you off. But only you can know when it’s time to cut bait with a guy who won’t step up to the plate. Being the “cool girl” is a valuable skill, but don’t take it so far that you’re costing yourself three quality years of your life.

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  1. 1
    Marc F.

    Susan, I think you’d be best served by telling men very early on that you’re interested in marriage. A man who is seriously marriage minded will not be turned off by a woman who is of a similar mindset. You don’t necessarily have to bring up marriage 5 minutes into the first date, but you can bring it up subtly during the course of the date.

    1. 1.1

      Except that doing that guarantees you nothing. I thought I would do that to scare away the commitment phobes, but instead, a commitment phobe got told me that he was on the same page and after a couple of years he just didn’t know (but didn’t want to leave me or end the relationship, and kept trying to go back with me if I left, and kept telling me that he loved me and I was the love of his life).


      The truth is, you never know for sure. It is a little bit of a lottery, but I would just give myself a time line, maybe date 6 months to 1 year and see if he mentions something (honestly a woman shouldn’t have to mention it or “convince” a man, if he doesn’t want to, just free yourself from him and don’t look back). If a guy really really is ready he will marry you within a year if that is what it takes (and before someone says something about needing enough time dating, my mom met my step dad and they got married the same year and they have been happily for 17 years, whereas the marriage with my dad was awful even after a long dating history).

  2. 2

    welcome back evan. we wanna hear about your vacation. post pictures!

  3. 3

    Even men who are interested in being married might not thing you are in the running to be his future wife, so what good does it do early on to even talk about it? And don’t think getting married means it’s for keeps either. I was in a luke warm marriage and am now divorced. And he really wanted to marry me. We made it four years. Then it was up in smoke. And there are guys out there that will play along just to get what they want and then just move on and say things like, “I just need some space” when what they really mean is, it’s been nice, but I’m feeling a commitment coming on and I don’t want to have to hurt your feelings. But the sex was great, the meals wonderful, and I really enjoyed your company. Next.
    There just are no guarantees. Any sign of neediness or desperation and you’ve blown it. I’ve been a straight shooter all my life, almost married three times before I was 45 and then I really did it. Back in the single life now, all I can say is that it’s at least on my terms, and you have to stay true to yourself. You’re not for sale.

  4. 4
    Internet Dating Advice

    Some things to consider:

    – Has he been married before and if yes, why and how did his marriage end

    – His current situation (whether he has kids, at which point in his career he is, etc.)

    – His age (30 to 40 year olds who has never been married are more likely to consider marriage than a 20 to 30 y.o or a 50 y.o. who has never been married)

    and many more factors that can somewhat give insight on whether he is at a point in his life where he is seriously looking to have a family

  5. 5

    You really need to look for the signs like Evan says! If you rush n too fast it will scar him. Men are finiky creatures you have to do things at the right time or you’ll blowthe whole relationship. The funny thing is they may say they are not ready for a commitment but if you notice they are always up for the sex!!! Protect your emotions and find out in a discrete fasion what he is ready for!

  6. 6

    With internet dating I think it is a lot easier to ask these questions and screen early on. Though individuals are sometimes ambiguous with answers, generally speaking those who say they want marriage and children and indicate that they are at a time in their life when they are ready to settle down, are indeed ready to settle down with the right person. If you are both at a place in your lives where you know what you want and share similar goals and values I don’t think if takes long into dating to decide whether there is a chance for the development of a long-term relationship with the potential for marriage. That doesn’t mean the two individuals would become engaged right away, or that difficulties won’t prevent their relationship from enduring but being on the same page and being honest with each other as far as what you are both looking for and communicating along the way can be a great way to avoid wasting time, and help build a solid foundation for marriage.

  7. 7

    I think getting information from men is a much like doing reconnaisence; you keep quiet but be a shrewd and keen observer. People will reveal themselves through actions and behvior. That’s not to say you deny your wishes and desires, but you keep your eyes and ears open. I don’t that’s being cynical, manipulative, a gamer player, etc. You are merely studying the other person to find out what they are about.

  8. 8

    gosh, what a good question, how many times have i asked myself that also. I am not sure ladies, dare i say some men   and women even become men who want to get married midstream of a relationship.   Is it all about timing   in hise life? is his career where he wants it to be, has he “sowed his oats” can he financially handle marriage? or is it about the person who he is with at the time. we all have heard of those boyfriends who happily cohabitated witha   girlfriend he wouldn’t marry but married the one after her.

    I am not going out on a limb and saying wh at drives men to marry, i know there are many reasons, but I think men feel it the same way we do, when we just know that a guy is right for us, we could picture ourselves with him years down the road.   Inherent chemistry, sense of humor, etc.     I think at some point you will know if he plans on marrying you or not, the key is, what  will you do after you know that.

  9. 9

    Hi Susan – think about YOU. What do YOU Susan want. This is a good place to start before getting into or even entertaining the thought of a relationship. Once you have this figured out the rest will fall into place.

    You cannot run off a man! A man who wants to be with you whether long term or short term will keep pursuing regardless. If he runs for the hills once you declare your goal then good riddance, he has allowed you more time to meet other potentials.

    I say go ahead and declare your intentions from the onset. Why wait 1 week, 1 month etc. If he is not ready the amount of time you will have spent with him will not matter, he just won’t be ready.

    Go get your man Susan!

  10. 10
    Karl R

    Kalya said: (#10)
    “I say go ahead and declare your intentions from the onset. Why wait 1 week, 1 month etc.”

    Let me turn this around. You’re on the first date with someone you barely know. Right away, he starts telling you that he wants to have sex with you, and describes explicitly what types of sex acts he likes.

    Most women (possibly including you) would be turned off by this behavior … even if they had happily done every sex act  he enjoys in prior relationships. You don’t know the guy. You don’t know whether you like the guy. And all he’s talking about is sex.

    That’s how it feels to a guy if you start discussing marriage and children too soon. He doesn’t know whether he wants a second date. He certainly doesn’t know whether he wants to start a family with you.

    Kalya said: (#10)
    “You cannot run off a man!”

    Yes you can.

    You can also make a  man stop wanting to be with you.

    1. 10.1

      Men must have huge ego’s…lol… I am joking but really, if a woman says she’s interested in marriage and kids then why in the world would a man think she wanted that with him on a first date? She’d have to be pretty desperate to want to marry a man that she met one time, or he’d have to have a huge ego to think a woman he just met wants to marry him that quickly.

      Obviously I am joking, but truly today with so many people engaging in casual relationships that go nowhere I think if a woman wants marriage and kids she does in fact need to state that early on, but to be sure she says she is looking for the right man to have a relationshp with and she doesn’t want to rush it.

      And I still dare to say that the only men who will scare of a woman who says she’s looking for the right man to have a relationship and children with are the men who don’t want that in general or already know from a first date that they wouldn’t even consider it with that woman.

      And my friend asked that on her first date and she married the guy a couple years later…lol.

    2. 10.2
      Nicole Yaciw

      Okay…. you took her comment and totally warped it.

      Just because you want to talk about sex and you focus on sex, doesn’t make it an appropriate or polite subject. Marriage may make you uncomfortable, but that’s because you’re probably not the type for it based on your response to her comment.

      What she meant by you cannot run off a man, is, a man who is truly interested in spending time with you to get to know you, not one just thinking about sex. If he is a real man, he’s not going to scare easily. Now, that’s not to say you can’t act a psycho and scare him off, that’s however, again, not what she was talking about.

      Women aren’t interested in wasting our time just for sex unless we are that type of woman. Most of us aren’t. Most of us want loving, healthy, long term relationships with marriage and children as the future goal. This is why Kayla was saying to state your intentions early on, because if he’s not that type of male, he will run off, and… GOOD.

  11. 11

    Actually Karl, it doesn’t necessarily have to be sex.   I’ve had an instance or two where the guy was just sure he was in love with me before even meeting me.   I ran.   Fast and far.

  12. 12

    Telling a woman you barely know about your sexual preference is straight out dis-respectful. Telling a man/woman what you are looking for in a relationship is not dis-respectful in my opinion. You will not run a man off if the two of you are of the same mindset.

    I met my husband in a cafeterial in the building where I work. I was seated alone and he asked if he could join me and I said yes. We got talking and he asked me why a beautiful woman such as myself was not taken yet. I told him that I had dated a few men but it turned out that they were all not of the same mindset as me. I told him that I was looking for a serious relationship leading to marriage. I was almost sure that I would never hear from him again. 2 days later he was in my office and the rest as they say is history. He didnt run.

    I’m not saying read  the guy his rights on the first date. A guy will ask you out on a date because he has seen something in you that he wants be it sex or otherwise. He knows what he wants from the word go … why shouldnt a woman be able to say what she wants?

    1. 12.1

      Kalya, such a beautiful story about how you met your husband!!

      I stay positive that by being honest about what I’m looking for (and he’s honest too) and if we’re on the same page, we’ll find each other.

  13. 13

    Karl – men DO make their interest in having sex with you very clear from the first date onwards, and they seem to think there is nothing wrong with that. They would say it’s “obvious” they want to have sex with you, or they wouldn’t be going out with you. Well, its equally “obvious” that most women are looking for a serious, longterm stable relationship (in other words, marriage) or they wouldn’t be going out with you. Yet this has to NOT be mentioned??! What do men THINK women are looking for? They KNOW this. But the deal seems to be that men are allowed to have their sexual agenda and pursue it hard from the outset, but women are not allowed to have THEIR stable relationship agenda and pursue it from the outset. Because that’s, like PRESSURE you know, man…? That’s like heavy. If men want to keep it light and casual, it should BE light and casual. Concerts. coffee. Strolling round the botanical gardens. But no. They expect it to be SEXUALLY full-on, but EMOTIONALLY casual.

    1. 13.1

      I absolutely agree with you. I just told a man who is “crazy in love “with me that I would want to see myself married down the road. Your post helps me validate myself. Thank you!

  14. 14
    Love with Love

    I completely agree with the answer. Also I am the type of person that is very direct and expose my real intentions, take it or leave it… because to me it is a waste of my precious time. Women do not be afraid to look like needy, it is just honesty so men learn not to be playing games.

  15. 15

    Susan, I think there is a way to talk about “philosophy” where you are talking about committment and marriage but without asking him where he stands with you. I had this conversation with my boyfriend about being exclusive. Then I had this conversation with him about the future of our relationship. Initally I told him how it is funny how different men and women think. How we are wired so differently, I said “for example for me to enjoy sex I have to have an emotional attachment, that is why I can’t do casual sex or one night stands, so in the past I didn’t waste my time with men where I didn’t feel some sore of emotional attraction.” Fast forward 9 months: We have since professed our love however I did have a conversation where I expressed that I like where we are at, and I want to continue this, but the future is important also. I said in about 4 months we should talk about how we both feel, what we both want and see if we want the same thing and to continue if we do… I didn’t straight up ask for a decision, I indicated he should give it some thought. It tells him that if we want different things I will be ok with separating. This is a rational, strong, yet non-confrontational approach to letting him know what you want.

  16. 16

    Susan, I am a 28 years old man which had entered into a relationship with a very fine lady whom is 5 years older than me.
    We are 8 months into the relationship and recently she asked me about settling down and getting Marriage. She did ask me 2 question which cause me a huge strain of stress whenever i think about it.
    1. I can wait but how long do you want me to wait?
    2. Can you give me a timeline?
    I do love her and would love to stay with her but i am unable to feel that i am ready for the next phase of life, its not that i does not have enough fun. Its rather i want to spend a longer time dating to give myself a firm grip that this is the right person, well marriage is a long term thing thus why rush, however due to her age i am thinking that i am dragging her thus i did told her that i am not ready and she does understand but i believe she is very disappointed.  

    We man do want to feel ready but honestly even sometime we do not know why we felt not ready and its not that we are not that into you girls but it just the firm feeling is not there yet.

    1. 16.1
      Nicole Yaciw

      Well put, and thank you for your kind explanation.

      I seriously hope for you, and that nice lady you seem to enjoy time with, that you start taking up serious thought about WHY you haven’t become absolutely sure. What are you unsure of? Why are you unsure for said reason(s)? Explore your feelings. If you’re having trouble coming up with answers on your own, please please please, don’t be afraid to talk to someone else about this. I would suggest a counselor, someone who is professional in exploring emotions, feelings, and thoughts. They might help you figure out what ever the issue is or issues are. It might be something with her deep down that you didn’t consciously realize. It might be something with you that you just couldn’t put your finger on. It may darn well be a little bit of both. Maybe you’re just missing that one thing that is really really important to you in that relationship to just make it…. fit….

      What ever it is, I hope you can figure it out, because you seem like a very nice man and you seem like you do want to find that one special person to complete your happiness, so it would be great if you did. =)

  17. 17

    As someone who was in 2 relationships (each slightly over 4 years) in the last 9 years, I totally get where you’re coming from. BUT.. I think there is a key part this equation that is missing.. And that’s figuring out first if he is the guy YOU want to marry. After all, who cares if he wants/is ready to marry you if you don’t want to marry him? So to answer your question, finding out if he wants marriage or is ready for marriage WHEN he finds the right person should definitely be part of the getting-to-know-you process. Ask him how he feels about marriage (because that’s something you want- put it out there and be honest). But trying to determine if he sees marraige with you BEFORE a relationship is unfair.. unless you’re shopping the matrimonal section of India Abroad. He can’t possibly know that, and either can you, so appreciate it because that’s a man who actually values marriage. My advice: let go of the past, open yourself up again, and be honest about what you want. But be sure you know if he is someone you could marry before asking the same of him 🙂

  18. 18

    A friend’s sister was asked out by a fellow student while they were both in medical school. She told him that she wouldn’t go out with him unless he was serious about marriage. He persisted and now they are married. It worked! Not only did she have good boundaries, but if the man has already shown that he is able to make a tough commitment like med school, I believe this a strong indicator that he is ready for marriage.

  19. 19

    I have a guy friend who I chat with about tons of stuff. There is always underlying “tension” and if one more person asks, “what is going on with you two?”….ill get an easy button that says, “nothing”. If it turns into more, it does, but I’m not sitting and waiting…Anywho…

    After his uber ugly divorce he treads lightly with any type of serious commitment. One day during one of our “chats” I curiously asked him if he would ever get married again (this was a few months back). Shockingly, he replied,”not right now”.    The other day, he was talking about kids names (really shocked!!!!) if he had another child! Totally random, yes.

    However, what I did conclude is that guys will bring it up (marrige, kids, etc.) if it is on their mind and if they don’t feel pressured about “future” stuff and they feel comfortable enough.  

    If a guy isn’t ready, you can’t crack him like an egg and make an omlette. He may prefer to be over easy or poached. Be “breezy” and talk….he will make it clear if he’s ready. If not, find a man who is ready to have the “real” talks and not mindless chatter…indefinitely 🙂 He’s out there!  

    1. 19.1

      that is so true mydear.

    2. 19.2
      Nicole Yaciw

      You are absolutely right that men will bring up these subjects if they’re comfortable and they type to want marriage/ kids.

      Just tonight the man I’m interested in spoke about if we ever got married he would love it if I would get his name tattooed on my chest. The subject only came up before when we were speaking about safe sex methods/ pregnancy prevention as I had told him I wasn’t interested in having any risk of pregnancy before marriage (nothing about it with him, just a what if scenario). So it was really exciting to hear he’s thinking about it. =)

  20. 20

    I truly believe that if you want marriage/family, you shouldn’t stay with someone for longer than a year and a half. If he or she is “not ready” by 1.5 years into the relationship, forget it and move on.  

    I can’t imagine staying in a relationship for 3, 4, 5 years!!    

    1. 20.1
      Nicole Yaciw

      Everyone has a different timeline. We cannot push each other into boxes and limitations because we are all different. I read a lot, I love it, and I love reading happy love endings. I once read a true story (I believe it was a Chicken Soup for the Soul book), about a couple that stayed together for years…. I think it was nearing 7 or 8 years and the woman wanted marriage but she was content without it for the time being. The man she was in love with had told her from the get go that he was pretty sure he wasn’t marriage material and would more than likely never marry. It wasn’t that he was disloyal, it was just that he was just not the type. Who the heck knows why?
      Anyways, so she comes home one day and there’s flowers on the table and he did a few other nice things for her, forgot the exact details, but then he pulls out a box and kneels down in front of her and pops THEE question.

      Sometimes, just sometimes, people just need to figure something out or realize something they never had before. =)

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