If you are in a relationship and want to get married but the person you are with doesn't believe in marriage, what should you do? Does it really matter if you don't have the legal document? Why do people feel uneasy when the person they love does not want to marry them?

If you are in this situation, then you could follow Dr Patricia Allen's advice (In Getting to “I Do”), and say something to your boyfriend along the lines of “I understand that you don't want marriage, and that is your right, but I need it, so if you feel you can't marry me then we can't be together any more.”

However, before you do this, you need to decide whether or not you are prepared to end the relationship over this issue. Because when you say this, one likely reaction is that your man will walk away.

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Dr Pat Allen advises that eight weeks is the maximum period that it takes a man to make up his mind. “If he hasn't called you in eight weeks, then it's over” she says. A ‘feminine energy woman’ must look for a man who can fulfil her needs, not suppress her own needs in deference to his.

She says that a woman must love herself more than she loves her man. Therefore if her man can't give her what she really wants, she must move on and find another one. You don't make sacrifices for ‘masculine’ men, because men are givers and women are receivers.

Dr Allen's idea is not that a woman should issue an ultimatum, merely that she should not settle for less than she wants from a relationship. If she wants to be married, then she should let the man she loves know that, and let him make up his own mind.

My own experience of men is that the ones who loved me wanted to marry me (and that included one divorcee). The ones who didn't, didn't.

In Staying Married... and Loving It, the sequel to Getting to "I Do", Dr Pat Allen writes:

Nobody needs a piece of paper to get married. But I believe that if you want 100 percent commitment with the physical, mental, and emotional doors shut, you must be married legally.

It pains me greatly to have to admit that I agree with the author of a self-help book about anything, but I do think that marriage shows you are 100% committed more than anything else. I cannot deny the feeling I have that a person who doesn't want to be married is thinking, however subconsciously, that it will be easier to get out of the relationship if they're not married. The doors are still open.

It's not that I disapprove of people living together without being married or anything – that would be absurd. And if both people really and truly don't think that being married matters, I'm sure it could work out fine, but often one person wants to get married while the other doesn't.

If you are in this situation, there is the possibility that if he doesn't want to marry you it is because, as it says in the title of the book Carl recommended somewhere on here He's Just Not That Into You. Years ago I knew a woman who'd gone out with a man for ten years, he'd always told her he didn't believe in marriage, but then he met another woman and suddenly he did believe in marriage, he married her.

If someone doesn't want to be married, then however much they might rationalise it by saying that they don't believe in marriage etc, I would feel that there is a distinct possibility that they might change their mind when they meet someone else.

I know that you can think you want to marry someone and change your mind about that too. When I was getting divorced from my husband my lawyer told me about a woman he had acted for who changed her mind three hours after the wedding. And my husband's niece was jilted by her fiancee cute; three weeks before their wedding day, he'd been seeing someone else for months and she didn't know a thing about it.

In spite of any evidence to the contrary, I still have this feeling that if a man is really committed to a relationship he will want to marry you rather than just live with you. And the same goes for a woman. In my own case, the men who really loved me asked me to marry them; the ones who didn't, didn't. Nobody ever asked me to just live with them. If my husband had asked me to move in with him rather than get married, I don't know how I would have felt, but I think I might have had that feeling that he wasn't really that much in love with me.

My husband and I lived together without being married for several years after we got back together again after our divorce. Things were very turbulent for a while; we were always having a lot of rows and I always had the thought that, since we weren't married, it would be much easier for me to leave again if I wanted to. After things settled down between us and we were much happier, I didn't feel any inclination to leave any more, so when my husband asked me to marry him again, I was quite happy to do so. If I hadn't been, then to me it would have been a sign that I was still thinking it would be easier to get out if I didn't marry him again. To me, wanting to be married means that you have confidence that the relationship will last. I fully admit that that confidence can be misplaced, but I feel that it is nice if it is there in the first place.