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Your Turn: “Is He Ever Going to Propose??”

In a new feature I’m calling “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me (it’s a question I’ve tried many times to answer, so now it’s your turn!):

I’ve been in a relationship for over seven years and I’m afraid it isn’t “going anywhere.” Don’t get me wrong, I love my boyfriend. He makes me laugh, we enjoy many of the same things, he is attractive and really smart. We have similar values and we have fun together. All in all, it is the best relationship I have ever had or could hope for except: I want to spend the rest of my life with this man and grow old together, but I’m afraid he doesn’t want the same thing. He knows how I feel, but he keeps coming up with excuses for why we shouldn’t get married. He wanted to finish college first, or it is a “stupid” tradition, or he doesn’t have money to buy me the ring “I deserve,” or I have too much student loan debt, or “if it isn’t broke, why fix it?” Each time we talk about it, I come away feeling like I’ve got unrealistic expectations or that I’m just being silly.

Over the span of our relationship we did the “long distance” thing for nearly three years while he was going to grad school, and we have been living together for the last year and a half. Two months ago he landed a great-paying job and I moved with him to a new town, leaving behind family and friends. I feel like I have shown a great deal of commitment to the relationship, and I’d like for him to do the same. I just turned 30 and I’m worried that he is NEVER going to propose. I know that being married doesn’t necessarily guarantee that we will be together forever, but it feels like a natural next step and one that I always assumed we would take eventually. He says that he is committed, and that this is “obvious” because otherwise we wouldn’t be together. Neither of us is religious, and neither of us wants to have children. Does that make marriage pointless, as he seems to think? Am I wrong to want a ring or a wedding? Does it mean he doesn’t “really” love me as much as I love him if he still won’t take the plunge after all these years, or am I just insecure? — Not Getting Any Younger

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avatar ArtsyGirly March 9, 2011, 3:14 pm

LW – this is a common theme found in many letters so take heart that you are not alone. It basically comes down to a simple point – can you be happy without marriage ever? Your boyfriend is not giving any mixed signals, he does not want to get married, and for some couples that is absolutely fine. For other people this is a breaking point. I think the best thing to do is to sit down with him and explain your feelings. Tell him that a marriage isn’t about the religious aspects or raising a family, but is a lasting symbol of your commitment. Only you can decide if you need to move on if it looks like marriage is never in the cards. Whatever happens best of luck!!

avatar cdobbs March 9, 2011, 3:14 pm

I am a woman in my 30s and I have to side with your boyfriend on this one. I am also not interested in getting married. But that doesn’t mean that I am not capable of being in a committed, monogomous relationship for the rest of my life with someone. Why does it always seem like its the people who don’t want to get married that have to compromise? Why can’t you show a little faith in your boyfriend that he is committed to you and loves you? You are living together! That is a huge sign of committment! Just because he doesn’t want to marry you does NOT mean that he doesn’t love you as much as you love him. There are so many people who are together in committed relationships who love each other and are not married (Brad and Angelina!). I know this probably won’t be a popular opinion, but I am sorry, there are people out there who don’t believe in marriage and it has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to be in love!

avatar ReginaRey March 9, 2011, 3:42 pm

Not so sure if Brad and Angelina are the best example that could be used…given that Angelina stole Brad from Jen Aniston. Just sayin.

avatar Red_Lady March 10, 2011, 9:26 pm

But Brad and Jen were married. It obviously didn’t work. Brad & Angelina are doing good so far w/o marriage.

avatar Amy March 9, 2011, 3:45 pm

You are right that people don’t have to be married to be in a committed monogamous relationship – but if that is what the LW wants and it is truly important to her – why should she have to compromise? This is a big issue and while neither one is wrong – if their goals aren’t the same and a compromise can’t be reached, it’s probably a deal breaker.

avatar MAC2011 March 9, 2011, 3:56 pm

I completely agree.

Listen to him and stop thinking you can change him & if it’s marriage that you want you’ve got to MOA.

avatar cdj0815 March 9, 2011, 4:18 pm

Amy that is exactly what I was thinking as well. And that is the key, “you want to be married”, he doesn’t. You both do not want the same things. If this is a deal breaker with you, start preparing yourself to move on. We do not change people, people change because they feel it is necessary in order to get the desired results from what they want. I know this is a lot easier said than done. Good Luck.

avatar HM March 9, 2011, 8:07 pm

We do not change people, people change because they feel it is necessary in order to get the desired results from what they want.

I read this simple sentence, and it was as if the secret of relationships magically appeared. For whatever reason I never thought of it this way, but it is so true…

avatar Quakergirl March 9, 2011, 5:51 pm

Completely agree. Neither of them is wrong on the issue, but it sounds like at this point in their relationship the fact that they have different values is coming to light. The LW values marriage as a meaningful part of life regardless of religious aspects or child-related issues (a valid viewpoint), and her boyfriend doesn’t want to be married (also a valid viewpoint). Only the LW can decide if this is a dealbreaker for her, because honestly, the boyfriend has made it beyond clear that he doesn’t want to get married. What he hasn’t made clear is why.

My advice to the LW is to think through why marriage is important to you and what you hope it will bring to your relationship (security, bonding for the two of you, a social statement of your commitment, etc.). Think about if why really want to marry this particular man (other than it being the logical next step). Decide if marriage is something you need and can’t be happy without. Then sit down with your boyfriend and ask him if there is anything about marriage that makes him not want to get married. Make it very clear that this is an important conversation and you both need to be honest and upfront about your feelings and expectations for the future. If you can’t be happy without marriage (which is absolutely a fair view– I couldn’t be), and he still does not want to get married, then I think, as hard as it is, you have to walk away.

avatar Guest March 9, 2011, 3:47 pm

Doesn’t it though? If you’re in a “committed and loving” relationship with someone who wants to get married, why refuse? If you’re 100% convinced you’ll stay with a person for the rest of your life and be in love regardless of marital status, isn’t a ring and a sheet of paper a relatively small concession? I’m guessing that, deep down, it has something to do with fears that it won’t work out and you’ll be ruined financially after a divorce, or not wanting to be tied down, which in turn relates to deep-rooted trust issues which obviously have a huge impact on a person’s readiness and, frankly, ability to love and be loved. There’s a big difference between not caring about marriage or thinking it’s silly and outright refusing to marry anyone ever, as convincing as your citation of a Hollywood relationship might be.

Also I’m guessing you happen to be single.

avatar Beckaleigh March 9, 2011, 4:00 pm

Some people don’t see marriage as a ring and a sheet of paper, nor do they see it as a small concession.

avatar Uyzie March 9, 2011, 4:32 pm

No, you’re right. Some people don’t see it that way– but HE does. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be referring to it as a “stupid tradition”. It looks like marriage means something to the LW, but not to her guy. And if it’s really just a “stupid tradition” to him, then wouldn’t it be a “small concession” to make for the woman he loves?

Bottom line is: it’s important to her, and it’s not to him. If they both feel strongly about it, then LW needs to MOA, regardless of how much time and commitment she’s invested in the relationship.

PS- Not Getting Any Younger- you’re only 30, girlfriend! You have plenty of ‘young’ left in you! :)

avatar Amber March 9, 2011, 6:04 pm

I don’t consider living together much of a long term commitment. You can always move out with very minimal fuss (compared to a divorce).

avatar MissDre March 9, 2011, 7:28 pm

I agree totally. I personally would not move in with someone unless we were planning to get married (that’s just me, not knocking anyone who thinks differently).

avatar tinywormhole March 12, 2011, 12:44 pm

Not true if you own a house together!!! Or if you’ve both really put a lot of thought into the decision. So I guess it’s true for some, not for others.

I have found myself in a similar situation to the LW. It’s been 3 years of a wonderful relationship and I want to get married, he still has “issues” with the idea due to a previous traumatizing experience. After much stress and sadness and reflection I decided that 1) I can’t marry someone who is just doing it to appease me, so continually bringing it up will not help him to perhaps eventually decide it’s time on his own, 2) I can’t continue to expect that day will come, and 3) if my choice is staying in my current relationship unmarried vs. leaving him and finding someone else just so I can actually get married, I choose my current loving relationship – without hesitation.

It’s been difficult and I’ve had to adjust my expectations, but it helps that my boyfriend says he is 100% committed to me, and swears up and down that the issues he has about marriage have nothing to do with me or our relationship. So we’ve gone forward unmarried, and recently bought a house together – certainly a long term commitment! But this certainly isn’t the path everyone would choose, and only the LW knows inside her heart whether she should stay or go.

avatar HmC March 12, 2011, 4:52 pm

Thanks for sharing that… I think it demonstrates that there really is no perfect advice to any situation, and life and love can be extremely complicated sometimes.

avatar princesspetticoat March 9, 2011, 10:14 pm

You’re right… there are some people who don’t belive in marriage… but they should be upfront and honest about it!!! The LW and boyfriend need to have a serious talk and the boyfriend needs to say honestly whether or not marriage could be in his future. Right now he’s just making excuses… so if he actually never wants to get married but doesn’t want to vocalize it… well then he’s just being a big old jerko!

avatar ReginaRey March 9, 2011, 3:19 pm

LW – There’s a really great quote from “He’s Just Not That Into You” (the book, not the movie adaptation!) about this exact same topic. Basically, it goes something like “99% of the men who say ‘marriage isn’t for me’ or ‘I hate the institution of marriage’ end up married one day. Just not to you.” I tend to agree with this. While there definitely are some people who simply dislike the idea of it, but are ok with lifelong committment, I think that most men are using those lines as excuses to avoid the topic altogether.

Ultimately, I’m more concerned with other things you’ve brought up. You’ve said that you’ve shown him a great deal of committment, and you’d like for him to do the same. If after 7 years you are STILL concerned that his committment to you is not as strong as your’s to him, you should think very long and hard about staying in this relationship, marriage or no marriage.

avatar Golden_Key March 9, 2011, 4:49 pm

Exactly! It reminds me the part in “When Harry Met Sally” where Sally has just found out her ex-boyfriend is getting married to someone else after telling Sally repeatedly when they were together that he never wanted to get married. While I don’t normally look to rom-coms for realistic advice, I think it’s true that some (read: not all) men use the “I don’t want to get married” line as a way of stalling because they do not want to commit further to their partner, for whatever reason. I know there are some men and women who genuinely never want to get married ever, but based on the information given by the LW, my guess is that the boyfriend is just giving excuses. Like other people say below–seven years in, the boyfriend should know whether or not he wants the LW permanently in his life, whether as his wife or committed lifetime partner. If he’s unsure, I would advise the LW to MOA. She deserves some kind of commitment she can count on, whether that be marriage or something else she and her boyfriend agree upon. LW, I wish you the best of luck in a truly difficult decision, and I hope it all works out for you.

avatar elisabeth March 9, 2011, 5:48 pm

Exactly. While he may mean it, it may just be “a line” because he doesn’t want to let down the LW. This smacks of the same discussion we had a few days ago, where the men addressed the “I don’t want to date” line that we sometimes here. It may mean “not now,” “not with you,” or even genuinely “this isn’t what I want.” It doesn’t preclude change, but it would be silly to wait around and hope if he’s pretty clear.

avatar thefierycrash March 9, 2011, 6:41 pm

“and i’m going to be forty!”
“when?”
“someday.”
“in eight years.”

Kristina Kristina March 9, 2011, 5:08 pm

I definitely agree with that. I was engaged previously, but I always said I never really wanted to get married. It’s been about 2 years since I ended it, and I now can see that I do in fact want to get married someday, but to the right person for me.

avatar SpyGlassez March 10, 2011, 1:48 am

Going along with what you said, ReginaRey, I’m concerned by the fact that the LW says that when she does broach the subject, she is left feeling silly for worrying about it. She is well within her rights to want to be married and her BF is well within his rights to not feel the same way about it. However, it is NOT right for him to belittle this issue or outright reject her feelings about the matter. If they differ on the issue, that’s fine, but if he simply uses it as an excuse to belittle her opinion instead of discussing frankly why he doesn’t want to get married, then I have trouble seeing how he could be such an awesome guy.

avatar Beckaleigh March 9, 2011, 3:27 pm

Being in a loving, committed relationship doesn’t necessarily have to lead to marriage. But, if marriage is something you want, then you need to sit down with him and ask whether marriage will ever be in your future. If he says no, then you have to decide if you are ok with that.

If you believe that you need to be married to buy a house, have children, etc., then this is probably a point that you can’t compromise on. If you guys do stay together after he tells you that you won’t get married, then make sure that you have a plan for yourself to make sure that if you split 10 years from now, you get what you deserve, i.e., half of the house, etc.

Whatever you do, do not give him an ultimatum. If he marries you after an ultimatum, you don’t want him to think, or for you to think, that you forced him into marriage. That never bodes well. And if after an ultimatum he decides that he’s going to let you go, then you will just be hurt anyway.

avatar Rie March 10, 2011, 11:20 am

Well… it depends what you mean by “ultimatum”. I agree you shouldn’t go into it with an attitude of “do what I want, or else!”. But when my now-husband was hemming and hawing and unsure about whether he wanted to be married, I told him this:
“I want to be married. I want to be married to you, ideally. But if you don’t want to be married to me, you have to tell me so that I can move on.”

It’s pretty much an ultimatum, in a way. But from my point of view, it’s the way to get the information I needed in order to make the right decision for me. You have to bring it to a point sometimes, or else you’ll never get that info. Luckily for me he realized how awful and horrible life would be without me, and he proposed a few months later. :) And by the way, after the proposal, he was so happy and excited, so involved in the wedding planning, and so glad we were getting married.

avatar HmC March 12, 2011, 4:57 pm

It’s funny. From all the hemming and hawing and avoidance of commitment that men can seem to do, once they have decided to commit, they seem to really be all in. Just from my anecdotal experience with guy friends etc…

avatar MissDre March 9, 2011, 3:43 pm

I’m trying to think what a compromise would be, based on his reasons for putting off marriage… What if, instead of a fancy ring, you opted to get matching wedding bands (much much cheaper)? What if, instead of a big wedding and following tradition, you opted to get married at the courthouse in the presence of just your witnesses, and then celebrated with a nice dinner out with your very closest friends/family?

This way you’re not spending much money nor are you following tradition. I guess talk about it, and see if you can find a way to make this right of passage something that appeals to both of you.

avatar Beckaleigh March 9, 2011, 3:46 pm

I don’t think that either the LW or her partner should compromise as far as marriage is concerned. Either he wants to get married, or he doesn’t. Compromising may make one or both of them bitter in the future. I can just hear the “I didn’t even want to get married, you made me marry you” argument now.

avatar elisabeth March 9, 2011, 3:50 pm

Hearing that they *shouldn’t* compromise is difficult for me. They shouldn’t pressure each other into an uncomfortable place, of course, but compromise doesn’t necessitate discomfort. It can be a win/win, rather than a lose/lose.

avatar Beckaleigh March 9, 2011, 4:12 pm

I see your point that it could be win/win, I just have a hard time trying to picture what that situation might look like. Maybe its the cynic in me, but all of the scenarios I play through my head are lose/lose.

avatar WatersEdge March 9, 2011, 4:41 pm

Ugh, I’m sorry. I wish it were different, but I don’t think he is going to marry you. I get suspicious because of his lack of reason. Every time you ask him it’s something different. If he had a logical, well thought out reason for not marrying (i.e., “I don’t believe in marriage for X and Y reasons) that never changed when you repeated the question, then maybe, considering your life goals, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But his response seems more like a fear reaction than a logical one. Sometimes it’s your fault– you have too many student loans. Sometimes it’s his fault– he can’t buy you a ring. Sometimes it’s marriage itself, or the timing isn’t right. If marriage is one of your life goals, or even if you just don’t want to come home one day to find that he’s met someone he DOES want to marry and you are evicted, then I think you should leave.

avatar WatersEdge March 9, 2011, 4:42 pm

Hmm- I didn’t intend to post a reply to you, Beckaleigh. On my screen it looked like I was writing a new post. Glitch maybe?

avatar MissDre March 9, 2011, 4:41 pm

I do have to say that I know a couple who have been together for more than 10 years. She wanted to get married, he definitely did not. Marriage was very important to her… important enough that she considered leaving him even though she loves him very much. But thankfully they had a happy ending… after a lot of discussion they did decide to get married :)

avatar elisabeth March 9, 2011, 3:48 pm

You definitely need to consider how important the institution of marriage is for you. I empathize with your desire for marriage – it’s an idea that I was brought up believing in, and it’s something that I want for myself. It’s a goal, not just a “wouldn’t it be nice” occurance. But is that desire a need, and is it enough for you to move on if your SO is genuinely disinterested?

Something I’d consider, though – you guys are all ready living together, in a committed relationship, sharing each other, friends, familys, perhaps finances. Why get married if he all ready has what constitutes as a marriage? If the only thing that changes for him after a marriage is the fullness of his bank account, that may be why he’s tiptoeing around the issue.

You should definitely sit down with him and explain how important marriage is to you. It’s not that the person who doesn’t believe in marriage is the only one who has to compromise, it’s that you two have to find a compromise that works for *you,* in *your* relationship.

avatar Tracey March 9, 2011, 3:55 pm

I think the LW knows the truth – her partner doesn’t want to marry her, and she wants to get married. The question she needs to ask herself is this: Do I want to marry for the sake of marrying, or do I want to marry because I truly believe it’s the right thing for the two of us? Then, she has to commit to being completely honest with herself. If she wants to marry for the sake of marrying, then she should throw the two of them a big party on some significant anniversary in their lives together – one where she can dress up, have a big, fancy cake, and be the center of attention similar to a bride at a wedding. She should plan this party without pressuring her partner or going all bridezilla on her friends and family because the point of the party is to celebrate the couple’s love. If she wants to marry because she truly feels it’s right for them, then she needs to sit down and tell her partner – without drama, tears, guilt, or histrionics – that she wants to marry him and why, and ask him what he wants. Then she should listen to him – without drama, tears, guilt, histrionics, or interruptions to plead her case. When she hears what he has to say, she then must make up her mind if she can live with him and what he wants. I don’t think the guy in this case will ever come right out and say directly, “I don’t want to marry you,” for whatever reason, but LW needs to accept the fact that he will not marry her, so she needs to look at the situation for what it is, accept it, then do what’s best for her. If she decides to stay after the big talk, she needs to drop the wedding talk and accept their relationship – and him – as is. If she decides to go, she needs to make sure she never allows herself to get into another LTR where she’s not getting her life goals fulfilled ever again.

avatar ReginaRey March 9, 2011, 4:00 pm

Maybe it’s just me, but the phrase “pleading her case” just doesn’t sit right. IMO, the decision to marry should never involve someone “pleading their case.” Isn’t it supposed to be the easiest, best decision you’ve ever made? I haven’t been married yet, so please correct me if it’s not quite as easy as I think it should be.

avatar Tracey March 9, 2011, 4:19 pm

Clunky wording, I know, but it was the best way I could think of describing my thoughts. By “pleading her case,” I mean replying “yes, but….” before hearing everything he has to say, or responding emotionally to what he says without really listening to him (“Don’t you love me? If you did, you’d marry me….cue tears). She’s been waiting for this for seven years and altering her behavior towards him, even moving to another state with him, but (by from what I’m reading in her letter) the motivation seems to be, “Maybe now he’ll marry me….” instead of acting in her – and their – best interests. I think she needs to stop gearing her responses and actions with, towards, and regarding him under the hope of marrying, and instead, think about what’s best for her – and their – future. I hope she’ll listen and respond to him based on what exists, not try and push for a trip down the aisle when they have the talk they really need.

If they have the talk they really need, that is. I also get the impression that LW’s partner is going to toss out another excuse (“You’re pressuring me…this is all you talk about….”) instead of doing the real work and saying what he really wants – for them, from her, and for himself.

I feel for both of them. Seven years is a long time to go without something truly desired, but I can’t help but wonder if she’s not seeing the commitment he’s already pledged or his bolting from the dream chapel because the tulle from her dream wedding dress is clouding her view.

Skyblossom Skyblossom March 9, 2011, 4:36 pm

I had absolutely no doubts about getting married. I think you really do just know when it’s right and if you have doubts then you have some reasons to really slow down or wait until it’s right.

avatar Tracey March 9, 2011, 4:45 pm

True. Here’s hoping LW’s partner finally comes clean about his doubts instead of hiding behind excuses, and that LW has the strength do what’s best for her after hearing him out.

avatar sarolabelle March 9, 2011, 4:03 pm

I don’t understand why you want to get married if you are not religious…..

avatar Laurel March 9, 2011, 4:11 pm

To each their own, I would never want to deny two consenting adults marriage if that’s what they want…but when I read that they are both not religious AND don’t plan on having kids it seems like a lot less of an issue than it could be.

LW, is your boyfriend dead-set against a civil union, so that you’d have hospital visitation, tax rights, etc?

avatar MissDre March 9, 2011, 4:34 pm

It’s a right of passage to unite your lives, to confirm and celebrate your commitment together in the eyes of your loved ones, and the law. Not everyone was raised to see marriage as a religious ceremony/event. Before your comment here, I never even realized that anyone considered a wedding a religious thing… to me it’s just a celebration.

But now that I think about it, certainly all religions have their traditions that are equally important.

Skyblossom Skyblossom March 9, 2011, 4:39 pm

There are lots of legal protections for spouses. The moment you are married you go from being unrelated to being the closest relative of each other. That’s huge and is significant whether you’re religious or not.

avatar sarolabelle March 9, 2011, 4:51 pm

interesting…I don’t know much about marriage laws!

avatar Quakergirl March 9, 2011, 6:15 pm

That’s a very succinct way to put it. Honestly, this is the biggest reason I want to get married. It’s a social and legal statement that you make to the world. It says “we go together now” and the legal systems in our country respect that. You’re a set once you’re married, and that’s nice.

I am still truly shocked that even though my boyfriend and I have been together for over five years, live together, share finances, have joint property, etc. we are still seen as essentially strangers by most institutions, and many people. I was actually told by the security guard in our old apartment that I couldn’t pick up a letter for him from *our* mailbox because “you’re not his wife.” No, but I do pay the bill in that envelope…good luck getting him to find the joint checkbook. The man would lose his head if it weren’t attached to his shoulders.

avatar emy March 9, 2011, 4:58 pm

Wow really don’t need to b religious to get married. My fiance and I r not religious at all and we r still plannin our wedding. Because we want to be married. But to the LW the best thing you can do is sit down and talk to him. What r his reasons for not wanting to b married? R his ‘rents divorced? How did he grow up? Maybe it is just the fear of the word marriage. I think u need to try to figure out his tru side and feelings so u can understand where he is coming from, without the excuses. Some people r afraid that if they get married the dynamic of the relationship will change. It could b a list of things but listen patiently and make a rational decision based on his honest feelings about it.

avatar Mainer March 9, 2011, 7:08 pm

Was this response sent via text?

avatar MissDre March 9, 2011, 7:27 pm

@Mainer LoL

avatar sarolabelle March 10, 2011, 11:37 am

It was very hard to read it.

avatar Jess March 10, 2011, 2:51 am

Marriage is in every culture with all different religions… it’s a cultural thing. I know the christians totally have “claimed” marriage lately with the whole gay marriage debate, but marriage was around before Jesus, before Abraham, and before the bible was even written.

avatar lil March 9, 2011, 4:04 pm

There are some amazing points & comments above. I just wanted to say I feel for her… she is in a tough situation and may end up being heart broken, I hope that’s not the case though!

avatar Painted_lady March 9, 2011, 4:06 pm

What worries me about this guy is not his unwillingness to be married, but rather the myriad of excuses he’s giving. My instinct is to sit him down and ask him flat-out if he can ever see himself marrying you, but then given his track record, I’m not sure you can know if he’s being completely honest. And also, it makes me uneasy because it makes me think that after 7 years, he’s still on the fence about you.

Still, this merits a conversation. Ask him what his qualms are, what he thinks will change in your relationship, and what he would need to be sure that you two should marry. If he can’t answer any of these satisfactorily, MOA. If he doesn’t know whether or not he wants you permanently in his life after seven years, he will never be sure. If he can answer them, then you need to decide whether or not you’re okay with being unmarried to him the rest of your lives. And tell him that you need some sort of assurance that you’re not going to find yourself evicted without warning someday. You *do* deserve that much security.

avatar SGAC March 9, 2011, 4:11 pm

LW, I’m curious of the other ways your boyfriend has shown his commitment to you. You mentioned that he has a great-paying job – does that include health benefits and are you receiving those health benefits as well? Do you currently live in a common law marriage state that recognizes what your boyfriend sees as “the obvious” in the event that he dies? Are you currently sharing a bank account, owning property together, and doing any other legal obligations “normally” associated with a married couple?

Your boyfriend may not like the traditions, pomp and circumstance that come with a wedding, but there are also legal ramifications that come with being a married couple. Should your boyfriend suddenly get sick, will you be able to make medical decisions for him in the event he cannot? If he suddenly dies, will your household be taken care of with the sudden loss of his income?

I know these questions come off horribly pragmatic, but these are other things that a marriage offers along with the wedding declaration of love between you and your boyfriend before your friends and family. It’s not as you as an individual are not capable of doing these things or that you and your boyfriend can come to a mutual understanding about, but, as a married couple, these are the legal rights that are secured for you. If your boyfriend eskews the wedding traditions behind a marriage, you should be able to discuss these legal committments and how they would be addressed without a marriage license (e.g. can you contractually secure these legalities like so many same-sex marriages currently have to do?) If your boyfriend is not even willing to discuss these things, or he dismisses them as pointless, I would start to question how far a committment he’s really willing to provide.

avatar GingerLaine March 11, 2011, 9:19 am

Thank you so much for this. I was about to blow my lid seeing all these comments about “I don’t understand the big deal,” “why get married if you’re not religious,” “why does he have to compromise”

People CLEARLY don’t understand the legal ramifications of being married. Do you want to be able to visit him in an ICU? Do you want claim to his estate should he be hit by a bus tomorrow? Do you want to ensure that you have claim to items that are jointly owned by the two of you even though they’re in HIS house? Want rights to government (SSA, disability, retirement) payments on his behalf? How about insurance coverage through his job?

Of course, you don’t HAVE to have a marriage to have these things, but you do have to have a lawyer. And his fee.

Even in a common law state (Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, D.C.), you are not considered “married” unless you’ve presented yourself in that manner – living together DOES NOT grant you common-law marriage status.

Requirements:
– You must live together.
– You must present yourselves to others as a married couple. Some ways of doing this are by using the same last name, referring to one another as husband or wife, and filing a joint tax return.
– Although the time frame is not defined, you have to be together for a significant period of time.
– You must intend to be married.

So. Given the letter, the LW & her boyfriend wouldn’t qualify for common-law marriage ANYWHERE. Marriage grants a LOT of privileges. And I’m not necessarily campaigning on behalf of marriage here, but I am saying that marriage should not be taken as lightly as some of the comments I’ve seen here have. Seems to me that it’s a sad state of affairs when people won’t even secure their rights because “it’s just not important to [them].”

I’m 100% with SGAC. Talk to him about the legalities of marriage (or not being married). If he refuses to discuss, be done with this.

avatar Sistine March 9, 2011, 4:23 pm

If he hasn’t proposed after 7 years, he never will. It’s obvious that marriage means something to the LW. If it truly meant nothing to her boyfriend he wouldn’t have a problem compromising but his excuses show that he his outwardly against the idea. The line about her having too much debt suggests that he might be avoiding the financial legal responsibility that comes with marriage or that he doesn’t trust her in some way. Either way, if marriage is really important to her and she doesn’t want to continue the relationship without the commitment that comes with it, she should Move On. If she honestly feels that the relationship isn’t going anywhere, why waste anymore time or effort on someone who won’t commit to her? She’s only 30, she has plenty of time to find the commitment she’s looking for in a relationship, but she obviously isn’t going to get it with her current boyfriend. And yes, marriage is a commitment. That’s the bottom line true meaning/definition of it. Regardless of how people view marriage, it is a commitment. That is a fact. There’s nothing unrealistic or silly about wanting the man you love and want to spend the rest of your life with commit to you after 7 years. And I’m sorry but the line that it’s “obvious” he’s committed to her just because they’re in a relationship doesn’t sound right. That’s like saying it’s obvious your FWB likes you because he keeps sleeping with you. That doesn’t mean he wants to date you eventually or ever. What else has he done to show he’s committed?

Skyblossom Skyblossom March 9, 2011, 4:27 pm

My gut reaction is that after seven years he probably won’t get married.

I know that for myself commitment and marriage were two separate things. I firmly believed that we were commited for life long before we were engaged and I didn’t feel that we needed marriage to stay committed. I don’t think that I could be engaged or married without the commitment being there first.

I think many people have seen so much divorce that they don’t see marriage as proving love or commitment. You have to ask yourself whether you think he is commited to you and whether that commitment is for life and whether you need marriage.

Have you asked him questions about where he sees himself in the future? How does he imagine retirement? If he talks about the two of you then I think he’s commited if you’re no where in his distant future I think you also have your answer. If he is commited but will never marry then you have to decide whether that’s a dealbreaker.

avatar Pam March 9, 2011, 4:32 pm

As everyone else has said, it doesn’t sound like your boyfriend will ever marry you… even if he is committed to you. You have to ask yourself if you are willing to live as a committed couple without the wedding AND the legal ramifications and protections that come with marriage in most places.
Some people I know want to get married because they want to raise children as a married couple… although its not necessary, it is something to consider… if he doesn’t want to marry and you do, does he want a family someday/do you?

avatar HmC March 9, 2011, 4:58 pm

She said that they both don’t want kids.

However, as she seems somewhat uncomfortable with admitting to herself that she really wants marriage, I wonder if her desire not to have kids is at all affected by his wishes against having them. I don’t mean to sound condescending, and it’s perfectly normal to not want kids… I just wonder… based on personal experience.

avatar elisabeth March 9, 2011, 5:52 pm

A very good point. It may be hard for the LW to consider life-choices that she considers to come after a marriage if a marriage isn’t even in the picture. We’re very capable of fooling ourselves into what seems right at the time, only to realize once it’s “too late” that we were wrong about ourselves.

avatar Elle March 9, 2011, 6:05 pm

I had the same thought. It looks like she gave up quite a few things to be with him. I wonder how many other things that she didn’t include in the letter did she give up…

avatar Lainamo March 9, 2011, 4:34 pm

As far as unmarried celeb couples go, can I get a Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn? Anyone? They are way cooler than Brangelina. Just sayin’.

As for the actual issue, I think there is a big difference in simply not wanting to get married ever and in presenting various excuses for not getting married. I agree with previous posters who have said LW needs to find out if marriage is completely out of the question and if so, whether that is something she is okay with.

avatar WatersEdge March 9, 2011, 4:42 pm

Ugh, I’m sorry. I wish it were different, but I don’t think he is going to marry you. I get suspicious because of his lack of reason. Every time you ask him it’s something different. If he had a logical, well thought out reason for not marrying (i.e., “I don’t believe in marriage for X and Y reasons) that never changed when you repeated the question, then maybe, considering your life goals, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But his response seems more like a fear reaction than a logical one. Sometimes it’s your fault– you have too many student loans. Sometimes it’s his fault– he can’t buy you a ring. Sometimes it’s marriage itself, or the timing isn’t right. If marriage is one of your life goals, or even if you just don’t want to come home one day to find that he’s met someone he DOES want to marry and you are evicted, then I think you should leave.

avatar Jess March 9, 2011, 4:54 pm

I have no idea what to say to this LW :( There are so many of these letters, I hope this doesn’t happen to me one day :( I guess you just have to find a man who values marriage and being married. :( :(

avatar WatersEdge March 9, 2011, 5:11 pm

Lots of guys value marriage. And all those people who talk about guys who “don’t want to marry YOU” who then get married a year later to someone else… get married to someone else in a year of knowing them. And not to criticize the LW, but you don’t just wake up and find yourself in a 7 year relationship. It’s not something that just happens to you. If you’re not talking marriage after a year or two, you are taking the risk by staying that it’s probably not happening.

avatar LSS86 March 9, 2011, 5:53 pm

No doubt. My boyfriend and I started talking about the possibility of getting married someday after a month. We obviously both knew that it would be a long way off and there was no guarantee we’d actually get there, but you don’t get 7 years into a relationship without having these discussions.

avatar HmC March 9, 2011, 4:55 pm

Oh, honey. I’m going to preface my comments by saying that I was in an eight year relationship. It started when we were very young (18), so I had no idea whether I wanted to get married eventually or not. It ended four years ago, and one of the main reasons was that I had come to the realization that I did indeed want to get married, and he didn’t. So, I won’t scold you for not finding out earlier what he really wanted from the relationship and moving on before things got this involved, because I understand that love can make things more complicated than that.

You seem fixated on the fact that you may be being unreasonable to want marriage… the simple fact is though, that you DO seem to want to get married, and that is not a bad thing! There is nothing wrong with knowing what you want! And, I’m sorry, but he appears that he simply does not want to get married. Maybe he just doesn’t want to marry you, maybe he just doesn’t want to get married to anyone. But it doesn’t really matter. You want to get married and he does not. This is not something that either of you should have to give up for the other.

Love and shared values and plans are all well and good. But you need to hear and accept what he is clearly telling you about what he wants in regards to marriage. He might change his mind down the line, but please do not base your future happiness on something so precarious. You’ve got to take what he says at face value and act accordingly. If you can truly see yourself being happy with him without marriage, without resentment down the line, then you may want to give it a chance. Otherwise, you’ve got to let him go. Who knows, maybe if he realizes how serious you are about wanting marriage and sees that he will lose you, he will change his mind. But, don’t count on that.

Believe me, saying good-bye to a great love of so many years is not easy, I know. But if marriage is what you truly want, you have to do whatever is in your power to make that happen. You may feel like you’ll never find another connection again like the one you have with this man. But, there are so many wonderful people in the world if you keep an open heart.

You don’t want to live the rest of your life feeling resentful, or wondering what could have happened if you had given yourself a genuine chance at finding a happy marriage. Personally, I’d rather fail trying than waste away in a relationship that would likely erode due to resentment.

I really do wish you the best. I can tell you from my own experience, that knowing what you want and opening yourself up to finding it is a very important step towards true happiness in life.

avatar ltc309 March 9, 2011, 5:12 pm

It’s simple. Have a serious talk with him. Sit him down and tell him everything you wrote here. Tell him that you have committed a lot of yourself to him and building a life with him and that you want to continue that by taking the next step. Tell him that marriage is very important to you and it’s not something you want to give up.
If he agrees with you, then great! But if he doesn’t, it’s time to take a long hard look at your relationship. It may be great but it takes two people to make sacrifices for a relationship to work and from the sound of your letter, you are the only one that has made big sacrifices. (I could be wrong, but that’s what I got from your letter)
It will be hard to end things, but in the long run I think you’ll be happier because if he never wants to marry you and you stay with him, you’ll always have an inner resentment towards him & you don’t want to go t/o life like that.
At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can make the decision. But definitely have a serious talk with him and don’t allow him to use those excuses and then brush it off. Make him be honest.

avatar Jess March 10, 2011, 3:18 am

it sounds like she already did this a bunch of times, and those are the conversations where she heard the excuses. It sounds like those conversations have recently devolved into a conversation where he convinced her her desires were crazy/unnecessary. “don’t allow him to use those excuses and then brush it off. Make him be honest.” That’s a lot easier said than done.

avatar ltc309 March 10, 2011, 12:35 pm

Well I suggested it because clearly she’s still hasn’t been able to get that push to let go & move on. I figured if she had one final discussion with him & not allowed him to use those excuses & brush her off then that would be a make it or break it thing & she can let go knowing she tried her hardest.
You’re absolutely right, it is easier said than done, but if she’s writing in to discuss it, it means she’s at a breaking point & is looking for some direction. So I offered my two cents. & I did state that at the end of the day, she’s going to do w/e she wants regardless of what people tell her. She can either take the advice, or leave it. But if she is looking for a solution there are many & that is one I thought would help.

jammy jessielou March 9, 2011, 5:13 pm

Maybe brainstorm and write a list of what marriage means to you. Is it joint bank accounts, a ring or security? There are many things that could be on this list, but write out what marriage would entail for you and what would change if you got married.
Then discuss these with your boyfriend. Some of the things on the list may not require a marriage to occur.
If security is a big issue for you, then marriage won’t settle these worries.
As long as you can establish you are on the same page about life goals, which is sounds like you are, and that you love each other. Shouldn’t that be enough?