Joi-Marie McKenzie wanted to be a wife by the age of 30—and for several years she happily applied the “by any means necessary” approach to marriage. She prayed on it. She pressured potential spouses. She plotted and strategized with well-meaning loved ones. He still didn’t put a ring on it. And McKenzie had a choice to make: Would she continue to obsess over being the kind of woman a man would see as “the one” or actually do the work to become her one and only best self?

After having a  meltdown while watching TLC’s hit series Say Yes to the Dress, the journalist decided to stop dreading the idea being single and embrace the journey—but she didn’t plan on going at it alone. “I felt like women who’ve been stuck in relationships should know it’s okay,” she tells EBONY. “Society fills your head with shame.” McKenzie wants more women to open up about the pressure they feel to be married and is using her new book “The Engagement Game:Why I Said ‘I Don’t’ to Marriage and ‘I Do’ to Me” as a conversation starter around the touchy subject. The author—who is currently in a relationship sans the pressure to be married—talks to EBONY about what she hopes readers (especially women on a countdown clock) will takeaway. Looking to find your match? According to McKenzie, here’s what not to do:

Don’t Shape Shift. Being “wife material” doesn’t mean eliminating all of the awesome things about your personality that make you unique. It’s easy to pretend to share the exact same interests with the one you want, swallow your pride and anger during arguments or even play little Miss Perfect Homemaker… for a while but sooner or later your actions and attitudes won’t add up. Don’t change the essence of who you are for anyone. Let the best version of your authentic self show up—it will be more than enough for your right match. If not, you will rob your significant other of the chance of getting to know, and selecting, more than your representative. And what we know what happens when you make it due to faking it.

Don’t Blame Him. Jump over the trap of pointing the finger at the object of your affection as the reason you’re not already married. If you truly want to be hitched and remain in a relationship where your partner has expressed—verbally or through actions—a lack of interest in marriage to you there is only one person to blame. It’s time to switch the lens and look at things from a different perspective. Are you communicating effectively? Is there reason for the delay? Do you want to be married or married to this person?

Don’t Neglect to Work on Yourself. Folks will often say it’s important to know what you want in a mate, but think about what you are offering? Who you attract and accept is a reflection of where you are in your personal journey. Make a list of the personal qualities you want to enhance to attract someone who is a great complement of your core positive values and goals.

Don’t Compare. It’s easy to check out an Instagram account or look at s FaceBook post and think, “why not me?” Comparison is  dream killer. You cannot pace your dating life or relationship based on the trajectory of your peers. This is your singular journey and everything is happening to you for reason. Social media only tells part of someone’s life story and when you become consumed with an individual’s seemingly perfect life, you can’t enjoy and appreciate your accomplishments.

Don’t Run Away from the Conversation. Once you’ve identified the person you want to marry—meaning, you’re in a relationship and you believe this individual isn’t just a “good look” but is also a great complement and life companion—let him or her know your feelings and beliefs around marriage. Don’t be fearful of being labeled “desperate”. Don’t hint. And perhaps even more important, don’t lie about your life goals. Have the confidence to ask for whatever you want from your partner and trust that he or she will give it to you. Oh yeah, and accept his or her response. Effective communication is important in all relationships.


Joi-Marie McKenzie’s book “The Engagement Game: Why I Said ‘I Don’t’ to Marriage and ‘I Do’ to Me” is available in stores or on