Letters from Japan: “We’re Not Getting Married?”

Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered

By Hilary Keyes
December 26, 2019
Ask Hilary, Love & Relationships

Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Email it to editorial@gplusmedia.com with the subject "Ask Hilary."

Hi Hilary,

I (28) met a Japanese guy (34) several months ago. On the third date at his place, he confessed his love and we became a couple. After three months of dating him, I wanted to know his opinion about marriage because I felt ready to marry him in the next 2-3 years.

He said he wouldn’t get married in his 30s, but maybe in his 40s. He explained that he wanted to quit his current job and start his own business and as his new life wouldn’t be stable he didn’t want to get married in his 30s. I told him that I didn’t care about money, I didn’t even need a ceremony, I’d work from next year, do chores and take care of the house—basically trying to show that I wouldn’t be a burden for him but instead a supporter.

But then he started to say things like, “I’m not comfortable living together,” and “our cultures are too different,” and that “[he] was probably not the marrying type.”

I apologized for bringing up marriage and he answered saying “I can’t marry you in the next 2-3 years, so we should break up. Your time is too valuable to waste.” It seems like he made his mind up and then dumped me through text. 

Do you think that I started talking about our marriage or future too soon? What does it mean if a guy says that he doesn’t want to marry in his 30s? — Confused Girl

Dear Confused Girl,

I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you, but there are a couple of things you should be able to learn from this experience to apply to future relationships.

Were you only dating for three months in total? If so, that is way too early to be talking about marriage, regardless of how often you talk online. Closeness via text is no substitute for physically being present with one another. You brought up the topic of marriage when most couples are still getting used to being around one another in public and learning about each other’s likes and dislikes. The most you should have asked is whether he “had ever thought about marriage” or “if he was looking to get married in the future” and left it at that.

The most you should have asked is whether he “had ever thought about marriage” or “if he was looking to get married in the future” and left it at that.

Those are good general questions to ask if you want to see if you and he have similar ideas about the future (either as a couple or as a person in general), but you took his answer and started giving a game plan for your future together, and then giving compromises and what-ifs. Essentially you told him that you were going to be part of his future regardless, and it’s clear from the way he phrased his reply to you that he thought it was too much.

I’m not saying that having this kind of discussion isn’t important—but save it for when you have been dating for longer. Neither of you is the bad guy here, but the approach you took to the situation was heavy-handed. If you are in a serious, exclusive relationship, and even if your partner has the same goals as you do, pushing someone to agree to marriage is a sure-fire way of scaring them off. If someone wants to be with you (which should be plainly clear from how they behave around you and towards you), marriage will naturally come up in conversation eventually.

If someone wants to be with you (which should be plainly clear from how they behave around you and towards you), marriage will naturally come up in conversation eventually.

In my experience, if a man says that he doesn’t see himself ever getting married, “isn’t the marrying kind” or otherwise doesn’t want that kind of commitment, there is absolutely nothing you can say or offer that will change his mind.

If you genuinely don’t care or aren’t in a hurry to get married, then your partner not caring won’t bother you (i.e., you won’t need to make compromises or beg). However because you instantly tried to compromise/push him into marriage, it became very plain to him that you and he weren’t compatible. You both have very different goals for your futures which is also why he apologized for wasting your time.

Another point that might have affected his decision to end the relationship is your career/financial status. You said that you will work from next year—does that mean you aren’t working right now? If so, how are you supporting yourself? How sure are you that you will have that job and a proper visa in the new year?

If you haven’t got a proper visa or career, him agreeing to marry you puts him on the hook for any and all of your expenses which takes away from him being able to quit his job and start his own company. He would have to give up his own dream which he is likely working very hard for right now, in favor of doing something he doesn’t really want to do.

Your list of compromises come across too intense and cringe-y, I’m sorry to say. Where is the practical benefit for him in that equation? You assume that he wants someone to do his chores and take care of his house—if he needed that, he could hire a maid service. Him getting married wouldn’t make his life any easier, but it would make things easier for you.

A lot of women are guilty of seeing marriage as a box to tick off on some “perfect life” checklist. Many find someone that they think “makes sense” as a partner, often without thinking about what that person might want for their lives. That’s a surefire way to end up with an unsatisfying relationship and probably a divorce (often sooner rather than later).

In the future, I think you should focus on finding someone that enriches your life come rain or shine—someone who wants to be with you, to experience things with you, and has time to get to know you. The rest—marriage, the future, etc.,—will naturally fall into place. Who knows? Things might play out differently than you’ve imagined. They could even turn out to be so much more amazing than anything you’ve pictured.