Kate's long wait

Kate Middleton and Prince William announced their engagement Tuesday. (Anwar Hussein/WENN)

Kate Middleton and Prince William announced their engagement Tuesday. (Anwar Hussein/WENN)

JOANNE RICHARD, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:04 PM ET

No more wait for Kate.

After eight long years, Prince William finally popped the question – they will tie the knot in 2011, ending months of fevered speculation.

So why did it take him so long to propose to long-time love Kate Middleton? What is up with super long courtships?

For some it is the next stage in the life cycle, growing into adulthood, says Deborah Mecklinger. “For others, there’s comfort in the familiar and it’s a way to avoid change, risk or stepping into unfamiliar terrain.”

Lengthy courtships may be about avoiding adulthood - fear of change, adds Mecklinger, a family mediator and coach specializing in marriage and divorce.

While long courtships can offer couples time to experience life, its challenges and their personal dynamics in a variety of situations, says Mecklinger, “on the other hand, a long-term relationship can be a security blanket akin to the comfortable-but-worn shoe that doesn’t necessarily serve the foot in the best way possible after too much time has passed.

“It can be a habit that is hard to break that was once adaptive and now maladaptive,” she says.

According to Laurie Puhn, “long courtships are the long path to a dead end. They generally mean you prefer the status quo - no marriage, minimal expectations, but still getting the love and intimacy.”

While long courtships and/or living together can allow the couple to “watch each other grow and change, and figure out whether you fight each other's changes or support each other's transformations,” they are generally huge relationship disasters, because unmarried people are more selfish and unwilling to make the compromises necessary for lasting love, says Puhn, a couples mediator and Harvard lawyer.

“So, a relationship that might have worked, had the couple married and fully committed, won’t work because they treat the relationship as optional.”

The holdup for Prince William? “He wasn’t sure she was the right girl for the job,” says Puhn, of Fightlesslovemore.com.

William and Kate, who met in university, knew that a marriage meant a new job responsibility for Kate as a princess, says Puhn. “Very likely that Prince William wanted to make sure Kate could handle the responsibilities of being a princess and not come to resent him for taking away the simple uncontroversial life she could have had.” 

Meanwhile, why rush the courtship? asks Dr. Terri Orbuch,

professor, therapist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great. “Take your time, get to know one another. Make sure that you have similar underlying values and attitudes. Similarity in underlying values and attitudes predict staying together over the long term.”

According to Orbuch, Kate may have been waiting to see the ‘true’ Prince William. “How would he treat her? How committed would he be to her, given all of his many activities, responsibilities, and other distractions/alternatives.”

According to bestselling author Dr. Rick Kirschner, “no doubt she was contemplating the impact on her life, noticing how she was being received and talked about by the press and by her future subjects. She may also have been wondering, ‘What’s he waiting for?’” 

But, adds Kirschner of Theartofchange.com, because divorce is something to be avoided at all costs when it comes to the Royals, a long courtship creates more opportunity to make sure it’s the right relationship.

The drawback: “The longer a couple spends time together, the more likely it is that any issues they have will surface,” he says, and the relationship may fall apart.

Meanwhile, experts agree that William witnessing his parents’ failed marriage may have made him gun shy to commit. “Likely, children who witness conflict and experience a bad marriage will be afraid of making the same mistakes they have witnessed,” adds Mecklinger. “They make feel like they are lacking role models to move forward in a healthy way in their own relationships.”

Adds Kirschner, “the pain children experience when divorce is happening leaves an indelible mark on their hearts.”

Royalty rocks - Kate Middleton has got herself a doozy

The soon-to-be princess is wearing the late Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement ring.

Prince William is opting for “tradition over karma,” says Deborah Mecklinger, a psychotherapist.

According to professor and therapist Terri Orbuch, the ring signifies his mother’s importance. “I don’t think it matters that her marriage didn’t last. This is a ring that will be passed down from generation to generation.”

The gesture is very romantic, very family oriented,” she adds, “and giving Kate the ring means she too is very special to him. This ring links his mother to Kate, and links Kate to his family.”

Adds author Dr. Rick Kirschner: “William obviously loved his mother very deeply, and it’s a token of great honour and prestige to take something of hers and pass it along to his bride-to-be.

“And it is likely also a subconscious mechanism to grant his mother’s approval to her,” says Kirschner, of Theartofchange.com.

Waiting for 10 years for a proposal

Maybe Kate Middleton should have given Prince William an ultimatum.

“If he was the marriage hold-out, then yes, she should have,” says couples mediator Laurie Puhn, of Fightlesslovemore.com. 

“Ultimatums prevent you from wasting your time on someone who doesn’t want to marry you.” But women fear giving an ultimatum could result in a ‘no!’ “So the woman just waits and later regrets it,” says the Harvard lawyer.

But, beware: “You can’t tell your mate what to do; you can only say what you will do and what you can control.”

According to Puhn, consider saying this: “We’ve been together a year and I know enough about you and our relationship to know that I want to marry you. If that’s not what you want, then I need to take care of myself and date other people. I can’t spend another year holding my breath and missing out on other opportunities.  Please think about it and tell me if you want to get engaged. And then I will make the decision that’s right for me.”

Dr. Rick Kirschner says that “everyone has their own sense of timing. But the fact of life is that any decision left unmade ultimately makes itself, and there is no such thing as a perfect decision.

“If people are waiting for everything to line up perfectly, that moment will never come. No matter how risk averse someone is, marriage is always a risk, and the benefits of a committed relationship do not become available until the risk is taken,” says author Kirschner, of www.theartofchange.

“Life is risk. Love is risk. But a life based on fear instead of commitment may be the riskiest proposition of all.”

Your prince will come?

“We are still growing girls up with the idea that ‘being chosen’ is to be successful in courtship. Instead we should be teaching our girls that the power is in ‘choosing’,” says Deborah Mecklinger.

Kate was waiting to be chosen, adds Mecklinger, a family mediator, and this is disempowering. “Can a princess ever be a Queen? We have Queen Bees but no princess Bees!”

Dr. Terri Orbuch, on the other hand, says Kate was probably getting all the right signals from Prince William. “Ten years is a long period of time to wait for your prince - if you aren’t getting the cues and messages that he is serious and cares about you.”

Here are the signals:

bringing her to family events/situations

introducing her to family and friends

talking future with her - moving in together, engagement

giving her the emotional support needed and wanted

Married - with the world watching - is challenging

“Add the voyeurism of the public and what should be a private matter becomes everyone’s business,” says Dr. Rick Kirschner. The pressure is on to hide what’s going on so issues may develop into huge problems before they are addressed.

“The bigger the problems are and the longer dealing with them is put off for the sake of appearances, the more difficult it becomes to address the issues and resolve them and the harder the marriage is likely to fall,” says author and coach Kirschner, of Theartofchange.com.  

Laurie Puhn, of Fightlesslovemore.com, offers this advice for the couple: 

Don’t over-share details of your life: “Keep as much private as possible. Once people read about and start commenting on your bedtime routine or dinner choices, you can’t help but begin to make those choices with an eye toward how it will appear in the press, rather than how it makes you and your spouse feel.”

Maintain the five vitals:  Have a healthy daily communication routine that includes saying “good morning,” “good night,” “I love you because…,” a compliment a day, and greetings like “hello” and “goodbye.”  Staying connected and showing kindness on a regular basis makes couples better able to face real relationship challenges.

Orchestrate a perfect apology: “There will be many blunders, especially for a couple under the microscope. The perfect apology requires that you make a mountain out of a molehill. Embellish your wrongdoing instead of diminishing it. Say ‘I made a huge mistake.’ Then offer a plan to prevent yourself from making the same mistake again.”

Don’t let the sizzle fizzle in marriage

Keep the love alive with tips from the love doctor Terri Orbuch, of Drterrithelovedoctor.com:

Schedule alone/private time together. Ten minutes every day to talk about something other than work, family and your relationship. Schedule at least two date nights monthly.

Compliment each other daily. Say or do something nice, simple gestures, every single day.

Don’t believe in fairytales. “Stop buying into relationships myths. The biggest reason couples split is because of frustration. Sit down with each other and write down your top two expectations for your relationship - your deal breakers. Switch papers. Discuss the deal-breakers. Are they realistic?”


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