This post is part theory, part field report (theory report?).
I'm sure many of us know or have seen floating around here the idea that if you want something specific or have a complaint, then the best way to go about resolving the issue (except in cases where there is a particular level of urgency and immediate discussion needed) is to say the thing you want/the problem you have one time, then not talk about it again.
First, let's talk a bit about why this works, then we'll get into my recent experience with it.
Why only say it once?
The idea behind this is that he will take what you've said to heart, and act on it as necessary. Continuing to bring it up will only wear him down and may come across as nagging (even if you don't mean it that way).
I had accepted this theory as fact because it seemed reasonable enough, but for a long time I had no way to test the validity of it -- until a few months ago.
A bit of background: neither I nor my boyfriend is particularly traditional. My family, however, is your typical big European family, relatively religious (I am not), and quite traditional. His family is also quite big, but neither religious nor traditional, so he doesn't have quite the same expectations placed on him -- one of these expectations being marriage.
We had previously talked about how he didn't, for various reasons, have any particular interest in getting married, and while I personally am okay with not getting married, I know that my family doesn't feel the same way, and the situation is further complicated by the fact that I am not a native of the country we live in, and the only way I'd be able to stay here after I finish my doctorate would be either: 1. get married or 2. have a child here. (And while we do want to have kids, I'm not interested in having one just so that I can stay in the country.)
So a few months ago I said to him, very simply, "this is important but I'm only going to say it once: I'd like for us to get married one day." And I stuck to my word. Not a mention of marriage (even in completely unrelated contexts) after that. Time went on and because it's not a pressing issue and because I know that his stance had always been quite anti-marriage, I kind of assumed he had forgotten about it.
A few weeks ago, we started playing a quiz game in our free time, where we had to answer questions then guess how the other person responded -- and one of the questions I had to answer was "do you think you'll ever get married?" So of course my response was "no"! He, on the other hand, guessed that I had said "yes". So we talked about it, and he said, in essence, that eventually marrying me was now his plan on how to make sure I could stay in the country once I've finished my PhD.
This may not seem like a lot, but the change in his attitude towards marriage was very surprising (and definitely pleasant), and I highly doubt this could have happened if I had spent the months leading up to this moment constantly talking about how I would eventually need a way to stay in the country, and how my family expected me to get married one day, and how X, Y, and Z cousin of mine were getting married soon, and blah blah blah.
I said it once, I trusted him, and I waited. And it paid off.