May 17, 2011 at 4:46 PM ET
Men and marriage—ever wonder what it takes to get the two together? If you're trying to get your boyfriend to make a commitment, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you can stop trying to manipulate, sweet talk or pressure him into proposing. The bad news is that there's nothing you can do to speed up the process. That's not to say it'll never happen. Men fall in love and get married every day. But men have their own biological clocks. When they're ready, they head down the aisle—but not a moment sooner. In the meantime, it's not possible to convince a commitment-phobic guy that you're the best thing that will ever happen to him—even if you are! If you're anxious to get married, your best bet may be looking for someone who doesn't need convincing to get down on one knee.
The Sex and the City gang once compared a marriage-ready man to a taxi: At a certain point in his life, he becomes ready for commitment. His "available" light goes on and the next lady in his life gets the ring. Luckily for us, it's not that hard to tell the difference between a man who's got the light on and one who's just driving around in the dark. Want some help? Here are four hints that a man has present-day potential to become a mate for life:
His Oat-Sowing Days Are Over
According to John Malloy, author of Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others, which details the results of a survey of 2,500 men, the singles scene no longer appeals to a man who is ready to marry. Malloy interviewed men from ages 17 to 70 who were about to marry; all admitted they felt increasingly out of place in the bars, pool halls and dance clubs that were once their favorite hangouts.
Joe T., a 30-year-old married computer technician in Denver, confirms, "For years I spent every Friday night at a singles bar till I realized I was just pretending to have fun drinking and smoking and hitting on pretty girls who weren't interested. The thought of staying home and chilling seemed much more appealing." Rob F's epiphany came via a shocking realization. The 36-year-old recently married lawyer from New York recalls, "I started not wanting to bed models because I'd have to struggle through a conversation afterward."
He's Financially Independent
Tina Tessina, Ph.D., a California psychotherapist, explains, "Men do have a biological clock, but their timing is different from women. Most men's priorities tend to be focused on winning financial security before having a family. If he's still struggling to pay his bills, he's not going to want to add the burden of supporting a wife." To take it further, the man you're looking for is a grown-up—someone who can be counted on. He's able to commit to a job, not to mention family and friends. On the romantic front, even if he's not ready to wed right away, he's at least able to discuss the concept of commitment.
Julia, a 27-year-old Philadelphia paralegal, says, "I had a definite type: ski bums and musicians who waited tables to make money. They were sexy as hell, but I was expected to pay for most dates and they'd be reluctant to ask me out for New Year's, never mind the rest of my life. I was miserable. Something had to change." That "something" was her type: The next time Julia went to a singles dance, she tried something new. Instead of seeking out a drummer with six-pack abs, she met an accountant. He may have lacked a hard body, but he did have a loving heart and a steady job and, most importantly, the urge to merge. They're planning a wedding.
He's Discovered His Desire to Be a Dad
Carol Morgan, a Boca Raton matchmaker, observes, "He's ready for marriage when he stares longingly at kids and suggests you would have beautiful children." [Editor's note: I'll say!] If your man isn't as straightforward , take a cue from John Malloy, who says, "Most men want to be young enough to teach their sons to fish and play ball and do the male-bonding thing." His research has found that age can have a great effect on a man's attitude toward marriage. Most college-educated men don't consider marriage as a serious possibility until age 26. In fact, they enter a phase of high commitment between the ages of 28 and 33. Men who've gone on to graduate school—doctors, lawyers, etc.—hit their commitment-peak phase from age 30 to 36. But Malloy says that once a single man hits 37, the chances that he'll marry start to fade. And after his 43rd birthday, he'll probably remain a bachelor for life.
That's not to say that a man won't catch marriage/fatherhood fever later in life. Mitch J. was 39 when he started seriously wanting a child. The problem for the Los Angeles film publicist: His live-in girlfriend had two children from a previous marriage and no intention of becoming pregnant ever again. Mitch recalls agonizing: "If I stay, I know I will have a good relationship and a stable future. If I leave, who knows if I'll ever find a woman I really love and who wants children." Finally, he chose to leave. Within a year he met Pauline. They're now married and have a baby girl.
He's Your Boyfriend in Name—Your Husband in Spirit
April Masini, author of Date Out of Your League, explains, "When a man is ready to become a husband—your husband—he starts acting like a husband. For instance, he will make plans for the future, introduce you to his friends and family, and not only call you daily but want to tell you the details of his day and have a desire to hear about yours."
Carol Morgan adds, "He's honest and open, and when you enter the room he doesn't immediately make his computer screen go black so you can't see what he's doing. He'll even—gasp!—let you answer the phone [at his place]." And if he makes room for you in his closet, baby, your single days are numbered. He'll also listen when you tell him that you're ready for marriage. Malloy says that the key finding in his book about men and marriage was this: "Seventy-three percent of the women coming out of marriage-license bureaus with their future husbands told us that they put pressure on their man to get a proposal. In most cases, this pressure didn't involve an attempt to manipulate their man into marrying them but was simply a result of telling their man what they were feeling."
If you're not sure about your guy's intentions, take notice of the way he acts and, more importantly, the way he talks about your future. If he's making promises but hasn't delivered in a reasonable amount of time, or if he objects to any talk about your future at all, his prospects for becoming a groom are probably pretty grim. But don't just assume he's not ready. Be direct with him and tell him how you feel. Then you'll know exactly where you stand. If he's not ready, he's not ready. In that case, better to move on to a man who is. Who knows if he'll be flashy, but his "available" light will certainly sparkle.
Signs He's Not Marriage Material If He:
1. Says he has no interest in tying the knot.
Instead of trying to change his mind, believe him and move on.
2. Buys a Porsche.
Or other high-end items that no man saving up for a ring or a future would purchase. Carol Morgan says, "If he acts financially immature and irresponsible, he's thinking 'me,' not 'we.'"
3. Calls his married friends "losers."
If he wants to couple up, he considers a man and a woman building a future together beautiful, not pathetic.
4. Continually makes you cry.
And they're not tears of happiness. If he's unreliable, abusive, a liar, cheat and/or uber-flirt, divorce yourself from this relationship before it takes a trip to court to do so.
Sherry Amatenstein is a contributing writer for iVillage. Follow her on Google +.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.