I'm someone who likes to think long-term, so sometimes verbally expressing my desire for marriage and family slips out unintentionally. We've been together ~4 years, but we're young and still have further studies to finish, so I understand that he gets the heebie-jeebies when he hears the "m" word. I'm naturally RP and like to lurk on the forums, so I'm usually able to appeal to his sense of masculinity, control my hamster and STFU. Sometimes I'm too good at STFU! He's encouraging me to be more articulate with my wants and needs, but sometimes I overshoot. Earlier this year, we started talking about our future and since we were being honest, I said point-blank that I wanted to be married and have children in the future. I handled that really badly, in hindsight, because it made him nervous and uncomfortable and I only noticed after the fact. D'oh. The lesson for me there was to handle sensitive topics with sensitivity. Men don't like having expectations on them because they feel trapped. And when they feel trapped, they will bolt.
I've noticed a trend in our conversations over the next couple of months. He would casually bring up hypothetical scenarios of "when he becomes a father" or "when he builds his own house". I think it was his way of communicating to me that marriage and parenthood were values that were important to him too. HOWEVER, if I ever tried to add onto those conversations using "our children" or "our house" he would immediately clam up or switch topics immediately. I tried conversations that casually mentioned "my future children" and he responded positively. It's only ever when I mention a shared future and progeny that he gets nervous. So I learned how to STFU and practiced my Calm Neutral Face of Pleasantness whenever marriage comes up in conversation. I just let him talk while I nod and inwardly scream, "Yes, I want your ring and your babies you foolish man!!"
I found some magic words while deep into an RP forum. I can't remember the exact post, but someone mentioned that saying "wanting to be a wife" was a much softer, nicer phrase than "wanting to be married." They explained it by saying that "wife" had a more nurturing, homey connotation than "marriage", which evoked an imagery of weddings, and therefore, expense. Some comments from that post even shared that their men, who had previously been skittish about marriage, proposed to them after hearing that phrase!
Well, I tried it, RPW! Note that my last big blunder was about three months ago when I said, "When we have kids—" which he immediately shut down with, "Please stop." I haven't broached the topic since.
Today, a family passed by while we were walking together and I gave a wistful sigh at their stroller. I quietly said, "Wow. I really would love to be mother." I didn't look at him pointedly, or make any overtures. I simply stated it as a want. He didn't pull away and cringe, like I expected! Instead, he wrapped his arm around my waist and kissed my temple. I'm over the moon! It seems such a simple thing, but his acceptance of my maternal desires soothes a bit of my hamstering. I'm playing a long game and I really don't want to scare him away before I have a ring on my finger, so I'll be using this phrase sparingly, and only at the most appropriate moments. I don't want to seem desperate for it. A little mystery is nice, right?