“He Won’t Commit. Should I Give Him an Ultimatum?”

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over a year and a half. Before we met, he lived in L.A. working in a job he enjoyed, and then was fired because of cutbacks. His father recently passed away so with that and losing his job he decided to move back home to help out his family. He got a new job that he pretty much despises and which pays miserably, and he has been searching for work for a little over two years now with no luck. Right before our one-year mark I asked him if he saw a future with me. He said with living at home and working in a miserable job, he can’t even imagine buying a home and supporting a wife and kids. He’s gotten close to getting a job he really wants, begins to feel hopeful, and then is let down. So he’s decided to not make plans for the future because he doesn’t want to be let down again. He can only focus on the present.

I can understand how depressing that is, but I was always hopeful about us and I’m now beginning to lose hope. I wonder if I should wait it out to see when/if he gets a job and see if then he’ll want to talk about a future with me. I know we love each other and we have a good relationship, but I’m turning 29 this August and beginning to need something more stable. I don’t expect him to propose to me tomorrow, but I feel I at least need to know that he wants a future with me. I want to talk to him about this, but I feel that, if I do, he will give me the same answer and either I have to live with that or end the relationship. Do I wait it out longer or do I give an ultimatum? — Impatient

As you said, you’ve already talked to your boyfriend about whether or not he sees a future with you and his answer was: “I don’t know,” which is just another way of saying, “No,” or “No, not right now, but maybe eventually…” It’s a yes or no question. You either see a future or you don’t. He clearly doesn’t (right now), and as he’s already told you, he cannot currently imagine his life past the present tense (with anyone, period). Even if you re-phrase the question, you’re still going to get the same response. And you say yourself in your second to last sentence that if you got the same answer he’s been giving you, you know you either have to live with the uncertainty or end the relationship. Giving your boyfriend an ultimatum isn’t going to change his response. The only thing an ultimatum will do is eliminate one of your options. Rather than live with his answer — the answer you’re already expecting — you will be forced to end the relationship. So, what’s the point? Why eliminate one of the two options you have?

What I would do if I were you is decide how much longer you’re willing to wait — three months, six months, until your birthday, etc. — and if nothing has changed by then, MOA. I wouldn’t tell your boyfriend about this deadline you’ve set. Keep it to yourself. As it gets closer, you, of course, can and should again broach the topic of your future and see if his response is any different. If it’s not, then you can tell him, “As much as I love you, I can’t keep waiting by your side while I potentially miss my chance to find someone who can give me the commitment I want and need. I wish it were you, but we both have to accept that it’s not.”

It will probably break your heart to have to leave your boyfriend. But a broken heart can be mended. Waking up one day and realizing you’ve wasted precious years on someone who can’t commit is not as easy to fix.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. I agree with Wendy.

    However, you have to keep in mind what is going on in HIS life right now. He’s in a job that he hates, his father just passed away, and he’s at home, helping to support his family.

    I mean, come on. Of course he can’t see past the present right now, he’s obviously suffering.

    I agree with Wendy on the point that you are 29, and it does hurt to have someone say that he can’t see a future with you right now. However, I think you need to keep in mind what’s going on in his life.

    In my opinion, ultimatums are a huge no-no and very unhealthy for a successful relationship. I consider an ultimatum telling him “if you don’t tell me in three months, six months, or a year that we will be getting married, then I have to leave” which is pretty much what Wendy said.

    You can have that timeline in your head if you want, but don’t put that on your boyfriend.

    The last thing he needs on top of job stress, the death of his father, and being a main supporter to his family is a girlfriend pressuring him into a marriage or a commitment that he is not ready for.

    1. ele4phant says:

      Wendy explicitly told the LW not to tell the BF of the timeline she had decided on. This very much is a timeline for her, to keep in her mind, and when that deadline approaches, to again broach the subject to see where he’s at. Not to give him something to hang over his head for three, six months, or a year.

  2. I think it’s pretty understandable that this guy can’t imagine anything past the present– he needs to get his OWN life in order before he can commit to the idea of starting a life with someone else.

    If he’s able to find work in the near future, you should have a better idea where he stands.

  3. Will.i.am says:

    I agree with Wendy as well. It’s the downside of one person having everything lined up theroretically and the other person still trying to find their way. It’s a relationship imbalance that’s really hard to get over, if the other person can’t get it together soon enough.

    Rough situation for your boyfriend as well. He wants to be with you, but he has issues that are presently his problem. It truly is hard to see the future as bright and fulfilling, when your present is dark and meek. If the time comes and you can no longer wait on him. It could work in both of your favors to remain friends; however, you live your life and he lives his. You still have to take care of yourself and it sounds like you don’t want to live in his current misery for a unforeseen amount of time.

    You have a very good grapple on the situation and you are seeing your pros and cons for what they are. If more people were able to pull some emotion out of relationships and look at the facts, I think there would be less heartache. As Wendy says, “You can love the person to death, but it doesn’t make you two right for each other.”

  4. i have a question. why do men, when faced with this question, consistently use the “im not in a position to support a wife and family and buy a house right now” thought process? why does a commitment to marriage all of a sudden mean that a house will be bought and a baby will be on the way? why doesnt a marriage mean to so many men that you love that person and want them by your side? and i dont mean this in a feminist women dont need a man to take care of them we can buy out own houses thing, i just mean that why is that particular thing used as a reason?

    .. i guess i just dont see why this guy cant imagine a future with this LW because his life sucks right now. i mean, i get it, his life sucks, but why does that automatically rule out any type of life commitment? like everyone who has ever gotten married has been completely finantially stable, ready for kids, life completely in order, happy textbook family on the cover of Martha Stewart…. thats not real life.


    1. I was thinking the same thing. I mean, I get when you´re going through such a rough patch it can be tough thinking ahead, or planning for the future, but can´t he at least say he loves LW, and is hoping that they can be together for the foreseeable future/that he would love to marry her but that he´s not sure when that might happen?

      1. I think the boyfriend is going through such a tough patch that he can’t think of anything but getting through what he’s going through right now.

        To be honest, my advice to the boyfriend would be to take it day by day. Taking it day by day does not mean thinking about a girlfriend asking about future details.

        He lost his father, is in a job that he hates, and he’s supporting his family. He can’t think ahead, and honestly, other than looking for a job, my advice would be just a day by day thing to get by and not get overwhelmed with his situation.

      2. Will.i.am says:

        Easy. Man is depicted as provider. A man that feels he should be a provider, and can’t provide at that time, doesn’t want to enter into a long-term commitment, like marriage, till he can provide.

      3. Yeah, but noone is saying he has to marry NOW, just if he sees himself with LW in the long term.

      4. Will.i.am says:

        I don’t know. That kind of goes hand in hand. She’s 29 and is thinking about kids, and he’s not dodging that issue. The guy is getting dealt a hard hand, and he’s getting somewhat based, for being the guy I think most women want him to be. Yes, his answer is a bit vague, but he’s not pumping her head and heart with empty promises either.

        She feels she is more put together than he is. He feels that she’s more put together than he is at this point in his life. There’s more to commitment than just emotions. There’s the fiscal responsibility that comes with it. As a male, I could love a woman with all my heart, but if she couldn’t carry her weight fiscally, emotionally, or physically, we would have problems. I have goals in my life for myself and my partner, and I would hope she would do the same.

        They are both thinking about their current situation, which I think is awesome. Too many people rush into commitments and marriage thinking that that decision will make you happy. It really doesn’t. You have to be happy with what you have before you rush into something like this.

        I’ll admit that his answer is vague, and could easily be more concise, but I like the fact that he’s not pumping her head and heart full of empty promises.

      5. Will.i.am says:

        Let me rephrase. If I’m not seeing effort from her pulling her own weight. This guy sounds more or less alpha male type. So he wants to be almost perfect before he makes any life long commitment. In the grand scheme of things; I can’t blame him.

      6. i like this answer.

        and i also think its good that they are, in the grand scheme of things, both thinking about the future… even if its not going to be with each other or break up their relationship. the flip side might be that he would think that marrying her might fix all his problems in his life and make him happy, and that would be a recipe for disaster.

      7. AndreaMarie says:

        Great post. I think it says alot to both of their credits that they are serious looking at their current situations. Its not just a breadwinner complex, the guy still needs to find a stable job with decent pay. He also is supporting his mother and needs to get her into a stable situation before starting his own family.

    2. ok, like i would totally understand this guy if his arguement was something more along the lines of, my life is completely in shambles right now and i cant give you the time or energy right now that you, or any engaged/married/commited partner needs. i need time to get my own life better again before i can be a good partner to someone else. that i totally understand! but i dont understand, i cant commit right now because i cant buy a house and support a family. like, the LW isnt asking for this guy to support a family or to buy a house- she is asking for a commitment from the man she loves that he loves her too and wants to spend his life with her. i mean i guess she does want children, which complicates it, but i still dont see the correlation.

      1. I think they go hand in hand. And I don’t understand why women don’t think that’s important! haha

        I mean talk about stress on a relationship right out of the gate. They have a much better chance at success if they start their marriage in good and stable situations.

      2. Will.i.am says:

        Exactly Budj. He’s already stressed and he’s going to cause himself more problems when he can’t provide for his wife the way he feels a man should. In all honesty, I think the thought process from both of these people is a blessing in disguise. She’s looking at all options and so is he. These two can easily be together in a marriage, but the boyfriend is not seeing it, right now. There’s no harm in that either. They could break up and end up back together a couple years down the road. Even if neither of them wait on each other, fate can come in and draw them back together if they were to break up now. A marriage is not going to fix the problems he has. Time and getting his feet under him will.

      3. Avatar photo landygirl says:

        Because when you commit to someone you commit to support them in every way. Society places a great burden on males to be the breadwinners, even if those notions are outdated. Having a family means providing for a family and if he isn’t able to provide then you’re gonna have even bigger problems.

        Relationships aren’t just about love and committment, they are about work and effort. If someone feels as if they can’t put the work and effort into it, then they are better off not gettiing married.

        Better she moves on than write Wendy back in a few years complaining that her mate doesn’t provide for her and her children.

      4. lets_be_honest says:


      5. Will.i.am says:

        And you never know. His situation could get better 6 months from now or get much worse 6 months from now. At this point in time, she is taking a calculated risk where he house of cards or remain stable or collapse.

        And from growing up in divorce, the last marriage my Mother had, started to have major problems over money. He could no longer provide due to his work habits and it put a chokehold on the marriage. She still loved the man after the divorce, but his inability to hold a job was just too great to bare anylonger. Along with other things, but the inability to work was the kicker that caused the ball to motion on other issues.

        So this is something to think about. What if he can never get back under his feet, because his family situation takes up his time to pursue a career that provides. Honestly, that’s serious things to think about when you are talking the possibility of 40+ years with someone.

    3. I so wanted to say something like this. I think so often, women assume men are gunshy about marriage, and so are so afraid to even hint at wanting one, they trip themselves up and freak out. I also dont understand why, at a hard point in your life, you would not WANT someone to want to commit to you, to make you feel less of a loser. You dont have to have all your ducks in a row to even talk about getting married, that is so ridiculous to me. How will you ever have a kid? (If thats also your plan.)
      One of the things I’ve learnt about life is that you cant really plan a whole lot. You can plan a bit, and hope, but in the end things are just going to happen. Lots of people have a rough start to married life, not enough money or they have to live with room-mates or whatever…..these things should not put people off making sure the person they love feels secure and loved.

      If this guy really finds life so hard that he would rather be a martyr than a husband, he may not want to be with the LW at all.

      1. i think this is such a good point. if i was in the lowest point of my life, i would need my boyfriend with me. like, thats the only way i might be able to get through it. i would need that support and love, knowing that someone is in my corner and looking out for me. not even just to make me feel better but just to know i have *someone* there for me.

      2. Avatar photo dandywarhol says:

        Totally agreed. And i would hope to have someone who is actually supportive and loving.

      3. Absolutely agree with you Katie. There seems to be a disconnect between what “a future” means for these two. For the LW she sees a future as being a commitment and building a life – which covers good times and bad – and he sees a future as meaning he has to buy a house and support a wife. If I was the LW, I would talk to him about if he sees a future… in the relationship. Talk to him about how life will have struggles and hard times – like he is going through now – and if he wants the LW at his side when he goes through those things…or not. Tell him expressly what she wants to know. She doesn’t want to know what kind of house he will buy her. She wants to know if he will be cool with her sleeping in the other half of the cardboard box if it comes to that. He does not have to commit to providing any particular type of life – he just has to commit to wanting HER in his life. Most women I know are prepared to build a life with someone – they do not expect to have a ready-made life complete with picket fence just handed to them along with the ring. Quite frankly a woman that expected her partner to just hand her everything on a silver platter should be a red flag for any man. I think this a communication issue – he might not understand what she is really asking. And if he does and the answer is still ‘I don’t know’ then I’m not sure additional time would help.

      4. ah i like this a lot. this is a great explanation!

    4. I totally agree with you Katie. I never understood why a person would shutdown the idea of making a permamenent commitment to loving someone because they didnt have their financial life in order. What does one have to do with the other. Is marriage only for people with good credit and great jobs? Marriage is a partnership a safe place where two individuals can build a life together. If the money is not there yet then no need to buy a home and start a family. Commitment should not be ruled out due to lack of money IMO

      1. see this is what i was trying to say. a lifelong commitment is a safe place. something that makes you happy. where you are with the person you love and you get to build a life together. thats what i wanted to say.

    5. I think many men still have that “breadwinner” mentality, where they need to feel as if they’ve not only established themselves, but have established themselves to the point where they can support an entire family? It could also be a “priorities” thing– basically, money/job comes first, then marriage.

      1. Will.i.am says:

        Yes. I can talk myself out of any situation if I feel it’s going to affect my career and aspirations. It’s selfish, but I’m sparing harm from anyone else as well. You can kind of build a box around yourself if you aren’t too careful. Hardest part for me is to truly let someone in, becasue I’m so scared of their problems becoming my problems and vice versa.

    6. I think that’s just the norm. You get into a relationship, people ask if you are going to get engaged. You get engaged, people ask when you will be married. You get married, people ask when you will have kids, etc.

      It’s the society that we live in. It’s important that when the discussion comes up and there is hesitation on one side or the other to communicate. Say, just because I want to be married does not mean I’m ready for babies etc. I just want something solid from you.

      Before we got engaged, my fiance’ was talking about how we wouldn’t be able to have a wedding etc. for quite a while, then he said he wanted to get me a ring that I deserve, he didn’t want to buy something cheap just to be engaged.

      To be honest he could have proposed without a ring and I would have been ecstatic, because I love the hell out of him. I told him this, and I also said that if we did get engaged, we could have a long engagement. This took the pressure off of conversations that we had, it also took pressure off of him because he knew my expectations and desires.

    7. Jess of CGW says:

      See my comment right below yours!

      1. yep! great minds think alike haha

    8. I agree. I think many men say they want to get married when they are more established in their career or have more money or are over the age of 30, etc. But it’s just an excuse. People get married all the time when they are poor, or don’t have a job they love, or live in a crappy apartment.
      You get married because you are ready to make a lifelong commitment to someone — regardless of age, money, career, geography, or status.
      And just because you get married now does not mean that mortgage or a baby are suddenly dumped on you.
      But to answer the concerns of the LW, I think Wendy’s advice is right on. At 29, you don’t have time to waste. I think this one of those situations where if you let’s you go, it wasn’t meant to be in the first place. It’s not an ultimatum, it’s just saying, “We obviously don’t want the same thing, so our relationship has run it’s course.”
      If you say that and he let’s you go, then he wasn’t the right guy for you.
      On the other hand, he may get his butt into gear and realize he doesn’t want to lose you.

    9. I think it is really just the easy way out, instead of saying the truth, because it might hurt the person you love, you come up with lines that you think will be believable. So instead of saying, as of right now, no I can’t not see myself with you, because my life is such a mess right now, he uses the other line as an excuse to not hurt her, and hopefully keep her around.

      1. I also agree that some people just get this fantasy in there life that if they get engaged they have to buy a house right away, and have kids right away. I mean if you are both poor when you are dating what’s the difference if you are both poor when you are engaged! I think this is a little deeper than that though since this guys is going through so much in his life.

    10. Think of it not as a man having artificial reasons for not wanting to get married, and instead of wanting to have a certain level of stability before making a huge commitment — and that’s what marriage is. The house/kids/etc. are all shorthand for the types of things that are normally expected of married people, and if the LW has already been discussing her desire to have children, well wanting to be able to financially support your family is a good thing. Not if waiting for the perfect becomes the enemy of the good… and is really a distraction or delay tactic… but it sounds like this poor guy’s life has spiraled backwards and he wants it moving forward before commiting to the future. Would it be better if he wasn’t?

      I am going to be 36, getting married in the fall, and while my fiance and I are doing really well and looking forward to the future, there are moments when he has difficulties because he chose to go back to school (a choice I was 100% supportive of) and therefore has no significant income… whereas I have a good job with benefits. In his mind he WANTED to be the provider, wanted to be stable and secure and able to contribute when he decided to get married, but my clock is clearly ticking and I wasn’t going to wait forever for a commitment. So he proposed to me a year ago, and the only real difficulties he has is not being in a position to do things he imagined he would — paying for a fat engagement ring (I had one in family anyway), helping me with wedding costs, etc. I wish it wasn’t this way, and we are working through it, but there are times where he clearly feels embarassed or less than a “real man” because he can’t support me the way he imagined at the moment. I think we forget that while women may have ideas about “dream weddings” and what their future will be with a husband, that men have dreams and ideal visions of what they wanted to do and provide too — and reality/timing/etc. doesn’t always work out:)

      If a guy wasn’t thinking about the future wouldn’t we all be concerned about that?? Poor guys these days might be damned in they do, damned if they dont!

      1. Will.i.am says:

        Exactly. For most of us, marriage is a one stop shop, so you want to have all your ducks in a row before you enter. I hope to only be married one time, so I take marriage and proposals VERY VERY seriously. It’s not a do over type thing for me. I don’t judge people that have gotten divorced and remarried, but I feel it’s not something I don’t want to do. I grew up around divorce and I know first hand how painful it is.

      2. see that I totally agree with. i absolutely dont think that people should be flippant about who they marry or commit to. in the LW’s case, i am assuming that they love each other, or this disscussion wouldnt even be touched. so then, if that is the case, why does this guy say that he is committed to their relationship for the long haul because of things like finances? if these two people are meant to be together- if they are compatible, enjoy each others company, work through problems in a healthy way, ect, ect, ect- why shouldnt they make a commitment to each other that they want to spend their lives together?

      3. cant commit to the relationship


      4. Will.i.am says:

        I don’t think it’s that easy. For instance, she’s waiting on him. What if his timeline is 5 years and she thinks it’s 2? Does that mean she has to wait the additional 3 years to see if he completes his promise? One thing you can’t get back is time, and more and more people become resentful of people who waste their time.

        She’s looking for a certain thing out of life, and her boyfriend can’t currently provide that. Wendy is right, she has to make a mental timeline of what she’s ok with. Guys have been known to be good at stringing women along and never completing their promises.

        A good movie that is cheesy but so very true is “He’s Just Not That Into You.” I watched it over the weekend and it tied up a lot of loose ends for me dating, and totally changed my outlook on dating. It’s not so much step 1, step 2, step 3, but who has the steps in order and are at the same place in life as you are.

      5. theattack says:

        This is why people need to have conversations about timelines with each other. When my fiance and I first realized we were serious about each other, we had a conversation about how long both of us needed to date before getting engaged, and about how long we were willing to wait for the other one to get ready. You can’t always know the exact answers to those questions, but you can probably predict whether it’s two years or seven. Unfortunately for the LW, it’s not really possible for her to have this conversation with her bf while his life is so uncertain.

    11. Agreed. As Wendy said, “It’s a yes or no question. You either see a future or you don’t.” I feel like if he could just commit as far as to say, “YES, I want to eventually settle down with you,” the LW’s mind could be put at ease. She says, “I don’t expect him to propose to me tomorrow, but I feel I at least need to know that he wants a future with me.” All she’s asking for is confirmation that he wants to keep being with her. And he doesn’t know. I do feel like the whole, “I can’t imagine buying a house and supporting a family” thing is kind of a cop out. If I were her, it would hurt my feelings if my boyfriend said he didn’t know if he wanted to end up with me. Even with all the tough situations he’s going through, he should still be able to say whether he sees a future. Yes or no. Hopefully if she does end up having to leave him, maybe seeing what life is like without her will help him see the light. Good luck LW.

    12. Because in most cases, that’s exactly what’s going to happen (i.e. the house, kids, and other financial obligations). You need to be in a position that you can support all of that, if not presently, then in the near future. Because once you’re married you’ll have much less ability to take risks and change course. And financial problems are sure way to end up divorced, after which everything you’ve worked for is ruined. So that perspective is warranted.

      Also this isn’t something that men have come up with alone. Women are often very candid about their expectations.

      1. i didnt mean to imply this as a men vs women kind of thing. ive just noticed that this is the “excuse” (whether it is or isnt) that a lot of men use as to why they dont want to get married

        we talked about it once on an open thread (i think jess started it?) about how men see marriage as a timing issue. they will take the woman they are with at that moment if the timing is correct with their lives- with finances, career, ect.

        i just wonder why that is so. why men at least seem to not see marriage/engagment/commitment as how Nneka described it above- a safe happy place where you build a life with someone else. they see it as a numbers game. and i dont understand that.

        maybe its because im a girl. lol

      2. I didn’t take it that way. I’m just pointing out that, men don’t come to these conclusions on their own.

    13. I completely agree. This is 2012; just because a couple gets married doesn’t mean they have to buy a house right away or have kids right away. It especially does NOT mean that all of a sudden, the guy has to be the breadwinner and support his woman. Last I knew, we were perfectly capable of working too, and making as much as (if not more than, in some cases) the guy makes. We can use birth control to postpone having kids, and we can still live in an affordable apartment. I think that line is just a bunch of BS in many cases to get the guy off the commitment hotseat.

      1. Yes, I completely agree as well. I got married last summer, and by no means does my husband have all his ducks in a row. He makes great money in the job he’s in, but it’s an unsure an environment in a industry he hates, and he’s in the middle of getting his MBA. We got married, and truthfully *nothing* changed, except my last name. I don’t plan on having kids for 5+ years, nor do I expect him to pay my bills all the time.

        You don’t need to be a master of the universe before you commit to someone. I think it’s a huge cop-out.

      2. I think there is a difference between having all your ducks in a row, and living at home possibly supporting your own mother/family years before you ever imagined because your dad just died. There’s also no reference to siblings or any other family members that may be living in the household and relying on him for support. As I wrote above, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but there is a big difference between “makes great money in the job he’s in… being in the middle of getting his MBA” which to me = plans for the future are rolling ahead versus “lost his job, took a crappy one that pays hardly nothing, lives with/cares for his family” which to me = my family is my priority right now for very good reasons. It seems like the LW’s SO may be suffering from anxiety or depression too – I know I would after dealing with all those changes and not being able to find a “good” job for over 2 years – and it can be hard to want to rely on someone for support that you’ve only known for a short time… even harder to want them to join you in what you perceive as your family misery or your own failures.

      3. AndreaMarie says:

        I agree. He’s currently supporting his mother. Not only does he need to get himself into a more stable job but he probably needs to get his mother in a more stable situation before he can even consider taking on the commitment of starting his own family.

      4. Oh, I agree. I wasn’t answering in particular to the LW’s boyfriend himself, just the idea that a man needs to have this perfect plan in place before he gets married. There’s never a perfect time, there’s no rule you need to start popping out babies right away, and there’s no guarantee you won’t lose your job or have something else terrible happened.

        I don’t think the LW’s boyfriend is in a place in commit to a lifetime together in the next few months at least. However, even though his situation is bleak currently, I think it’s fair to ask if she’s the person he sees a future with once all of these hardships pass. It’s not fair to pressure him to make a decision right now and produce a ring, but it’s also not fair to the LW to wait around for a man who may never commit to her in the way she wants.

    14. SweetPeaG says:

      My thoughts exactly, Katie.

      I have heard many a parent tell me “If you wait until circumstances are perfect to have a child, you will never have one”. I guess the same argument can be applied to marriage.

      I really think that they both at least HAVE jobs… they can rent a little apartment, be frugal with their spending, etc… but still build a little life together. He either sees her as the woman he wants to grow old with or not. I get the “rough patch”, but he should be able to give her more to go with than “I don’t know”. Such as “I love you and I want to spend my life with you. But, can you give me a few months to get myself a little more stable? I want to be able to really enjoy it when we make this commitment”.

    15. I generally see what you’re saying, but it seems pretty clear that the LW wants to get married b/c she’s ready to have kids.

    16. I think for a certain type of man, his ability to be a provider, whatever form that takes, is tied directly to his masculinity. I think it is hardwired in many men, that their job is to provide for their family, even if that family consists of only two people. I have a friend who works in the telecommuications field. He makes good money. A few years ago, he lost his job. His wife is a teacher, so she makes much less. For two years they lived on her salary while he looked for a job in his field. She was very supportive of his job search, since having a job he loves is so important to him. They did have to sacrifice annual vacations, etc., but it was fine with her. Not with him. He felt emasculated because he couldn’t give her the kind of life she was used to and he felt she deserved, even though she told him very sincerely she was okay with things as they were. He took a retail job that he hated, just to bring money in. They don’t have any children, but he considered it his responsiblity to provide for them both. (By the way, the wife is an extremely independent woman. She can get by just fine on her own.) Eventually, he found his current job, which he loves. They did in fact get a house and a dog. It may an old-fashioned view, but it’s still around. As for kids, given how many kids I see who are born to people who aren’t prepared for them, I’ll take a guy who does think about whether or not he’s able to support them before he has them any day.

    17. Because that is clearly the question she is asking. The big part of the question is “I feel I must be married and have kids very soon, do you see yourself as a part of that?” She may be thinking apartment, she may be thinking she’ll go back to work six weeks after the baby is born, but perhaps he knows enough about her to know her dream is to be a stay-at-home Mom.

      I may be wrong, but I think if that wasn’t what she was asking for, she would have something in her letter about how getting married and having a child isn’t as unreasonable as bf thinks, because she has a good job, money saved, intends to keep working, and will help bf support his new family. That she talks of herself as nothing other than future wife and mother is telling.

      1. I suspect that you’re correct. You’ll notice that his response addresses exactly those concerns. He’s not explicitly telling her that he can’t see being with her in the future, but that he’s not ready to take ‘the next step’.

    18. He may be using this as an excuse. There are two possibilities for his refusal to commit. 1) He doesn’t want to commit to the LW. 2) He genuinely feels so down about his circumstances that he can’t see his own future. She has to decide which one it is. Frankly, we would need other info – we know she loves him. But how does he show her that he loves her and wants her in his life? She needs to take a hard look at his actions and decide which one it is. And if it’s #2, what is he doing to change those circumstances and move the relationship forward?

    19. ele4phant says:

      I can’t speak for his phrasings, but it is difficult to make commitments or make lasting decisions when your career is still very up in the air. You need to remain pretty flexible. What if the dream job comes up but its across the country? What if you realize more schooling is needed?

      I can understand why he doesn’t want to hitch his uncertain and potentially volatile future to someone elses. It may not have so much with being able to support your wife or be the breadwinner, just that a certain amount of openess is needed at this point in time and its not fair to potentially drag someone elses life or finances through what you’ll need to do in the next few years.

    20. tbrucemom says:

      I absolutely agree. People getting married today automatically think they’ve got to have a house right away, plan their children’s births, etc. I’m probably older than most of the readers here. I got married when I was 19 back in 1981 and we didn’t have a house of our own for a few years and didn’t have our first child until we were married 5 years. Granted, 19 is young and we had more time than some, but my point is today it seems like people plan out their lives ahead of time instead of just living them!

  5. Jess of CGW says:

    It never fails to amaze me how consistently men and women miscommunicate about “the future” because they define it in entirely different terms.

    When women ask about the future, they mean, “Can you love me for a long time (aka forever)? Can you imagine building a home with me? Do you want to have children with me? Will you have my back? Do you want to lean on each other and face life as a team? Do you love me enough to marry me?”

    When men think about the future, the questions in their mind seem to be, “Am I a successful adult”? Am I established in my career? Can I afford a ring? Do I have enough money to buy a home, support a wife, and raise children? Am I ready to grow up? Am I ready to make big sacrifices? Are most of my friends also getting married?”

    The truth of course is a blend of the two. But I would just remind LW that men often think of marriage in terms of a life milestone which has some heavy pre-requisites to it. And many of those pre-requisites have absolutely nothing to do with how much he loves you.

    Perhaps some men will chime in here and tell me if they agree with my theory.

    1. Couldn’t agree more! You wrote what I was thinking, and tried to describe above, it a much clearer manner.

  6. Jess – I totally agree. It’s about the responsibility of the commitment more-so than the feelings. Yes, you need the feelings, but it’s more important to be fiscally, emotionally, and life-placement ready to say “Yes, I want to marry you.”

    LW – The guy isn’t in a position to move forward in your relationship and I don’t blame him for giving the answers he did. I agree with Wendy that giving an ultimatum at this point will just cause him to say “k, bai” so…make yourself a time line and try to help him get his life situated…even if you are just moral support. He won’t forget that if things line up well for you two to take things further.

  7. Do not, do not, do not, do not, DO NOT give him an ultimatum. You think it’ll give you want you want — a loving, caring, happy husband — but it won’t. Nothing can give you that but a man who is all those things of his own volition.

    If he doesn’t truly feel the urge to be with you forever, do you really want to force it out of him?

    I’ve seen firsthand what ultimatums do. My friend did it, and though the guy did marry her, they are now in counseling 2 years later. That poor guy is miserable. (Seriously, though, can someone tell me how the hell this happened? He was unsure for 3 years, she gave him an ultimatum, he does it, and now they’re in counseling. If he wasn’t sure about marriage, then WHY did he marry her??!?!?! Ugh.

  8. Ok, the first thing i thought of was.. a year and a half is not a long time to decide on the rest of your life, especially when things seem to have keep going downward for the poor fellow.. lost a great job, moved back home, his dad died!.. holy cow, to get on his case about a lifelong commitment seems harsh to me. I realize that at 29 you feel like family time is slipping away, but it also seems like the whole time you’ve been dating has been one hard knock after another.. hell, he may not even be the same person as when things were going well.. by that, I mean, he may well be getting a bit depressed, confused.. unsure of where his life is now taking him. instead of putting any more pressure on the guy whose life has been turned upside down, show him you’ve got his back..

    1. I do agree with you that a year and a half isn’t a long time to decide on marriage, but the LW didn’t ask him to propose tomorrow. She just asked if he could see having a future with her, which is a perfectly legitimate question after a year and a half.

      1. but how many people ask that question, meaning ‘do you see us just dating as we are’? to me, like oldie’s comment above, she clearly means marriage, and definitely means kids. not just, are we going to continue in general.. she’s not asking if he wants to be around for christmas dinner. if she doesn’t care for his answer, she has every right to move on and find what she needs.. of course, all we have is this letter and her view, and we each read it in different ways. i saw it as a bit selfish on her part, with this particular set of circumstances, at this time.

  9. Ok, I get what everyone is saying. That the LW’s boyfriend isn’t in the right place right now. He lost his father. He moved back home. He’s in a job he doesn’t hate.

    But, the way I read the letter, the LW wants to know where the relationship is headed. She did not ask for a ring. To be engaged. Or even to get married in a few years. She asked if her boyfriend could eventually see himself settling down with her. That is a HUGE difference.

    Because honestly, if I were dating someone for a year plus, and I asked him if he could see us making if for the long haul, and he said what this LW’s bf said, I would most likely be out the door. I might do what Wendy suggested and give myself an internal timeline and revisit the situation. But if this guy doesn’t see a future, any kind of future with her, then it’s time to MOA.

    Why waste your time dating someone who doesn’t see a future with you? I get that this guy has problems, but again, she didn’t ask for a ring. She asked for a verbal commitment. He doesn’t need money for that. Which is why I wouldn’t give him a pass.

    1. I know personal anecdotes sucks, but here it goes . . .

      My cousin and her boyfriend decided to move in together. She told him she doesn’t move in with boys who don’t plan on marrying her. He said neither do I (about girls of course). But then he also clarified that it will be a while because he’s in grad school and wants to be done with that before the whole marriage thing.

      That kind of conversation, acceptable. Stringing someone along and making excuses, not acceptable.

    2. The LW wrote that her boyfriend clearly stated the following “He said with living at home and working in a miserable job, he can’t even imagine buying a home and supporting a wife and kids.” which means that he equates future = marriage and a real commitment. Plus, the entire time they have been dating this guys life has gone downhill in several really major, life-changing ways, and they’ve only been together 18mos… I get the ticking clock issue, really I do (I dated my now fiance from ages 30-35 so I GET IT) but I feel like if the guy said he saw a future with the LW, and then 1 or 2 years later a ring didn’t come along she would be disappointed.

      I get that future doesn’t = marriage right away for most people… but if you want to get married and have children, have already discussed your ticking clock with your boyfriend of less than 2 years (when you aren’t even 29 yet) then I could see him equating the 2 and not wanting to make promises he isn’t ready to keep.

      1. Well then there is a communication breakdown and they need to discuss this. Maybe she does want the marriage in a year or two. And I can totally understand him not wanting that. And then of course, he should get a pass, as long as he clarifies and says that yes, he eventually sees a future with her. Just not right now.

        Maybe they aren’t communicating correctly. Which is the case most of the time.

      2. Concur:)) Definitely communication needs to be improved… I wonder if the LW would be ok with a commitment that was something along the lines of ‘I see a future together, but I’m not ready to make any formal steps for at least XX months”? That to me would be fine, something of an interim step between commited for the foreseeable future versus commited for life. You can be commited to someone and not want to be married to them, or not want to be married right away, it just doesn’t seem like that’s what the LW is really looking for – especially if she is already worried about the time to have kids.

      3. That, I can get on board with! More of like “I don’t want to waste my time if you see zero future with me talk.” Said a lot nicer that that of course.

        From this letter, I can’t really tell where both the LW and her boyfriend are on this matter.

  10. His response is worrisome to me for sure. Even if he’s not ready to buy a ring any time soon, he still should be able to answer you honestly as to whether or not he could see himself someday settling down with you. Don’t wait longer than you feel comfortable waiting for him. Seriously. I waited in limbo and years and years, thinking that the years would be worth it when he finally asked me that question. Guess what? It never happened, and now I’m 28 and being forced to start over fresh without a clue as to how to date.

    I agree with Wendy that you should set your own timeline, revisit the issue, and if he still can’t tell you whether or not he even wants to be with you, it’s time to MOA. Don’t waste your prime childbearing years on someone who may just be keeping you around for convenience.

    1. People have children into their 40’s. Also, the LW’s situation is different given the circumstances the boyfriend is in.

      I see that the LW is antsy, and I can see why, because the boyfriend can’t think about the future yet. However, I am not worried about the boyfriends response because he is going through so much right now.

      Loss of his father, job he hates, supporting is own family. He is probalby thinking day by day, not into the future of marrying a woman he’s been with for only a year and a half.

      I think in this case, the boyfriend needs some slack.

      1. If anything, I’d be worried about the LW and how she can push such a subject at such a painful time in his life.

      2. Maybe MOA and find someone that has a good life right now.

        If you can’t stick with him when his life is hell, then you might not be able to stick with him even if you get married in the future.

        Just a thought.

      3. I think it’s more that she can’t stick with him for a long period while he processes his life if she has no idea whether they will get married or not. I think it’s less about his difficulties now, and more about her wanting to know about their future.

      4. Agreed. What’s the point is staying with someone if you that person doesn’t know if he wants you around in one year, five years or even ten years.

        And from this letter, we don’t know what the LW’s boyfriend wants. But I think the LW has the right to ask. What’s the point is staying in a dead end relationship?

      5. Exactly. Sure, you *can* have kids in your 40’s but I certainly don’t want to wait that long and I don’t know anyone else that does either. Asking someone if they want you around in the future is way different than demanding they propose right now. As much shit as he is going through, she still has the right to know if she’s wasting her time in this relationship.

  11. EricaSwagger says:

    LW, I’m in the same kind of situation with my boyfriend. Granted, we’re only 24. But I’m nervous about time, too. He feels like he’s still too young to think about marriage. I find myself waiting around for him to wake up one day and feel grown up enough to discuss it.

    Plus, I know I want to be married for a little while before I have children, to establish the marriage and us as a couple before we add to the mix. And as time keeps passing I feel more and more pressure about that. I don’t want to be 29+ when I finally start a family.

    The choices are both sad. To stay with this person and wait and hope they’ll come around, or to leave them and risk spending the next 5 or more years trying to find someone who does want a commitment. Both are scary. Both make me hyper-aware of how fast the weeks go by.

    I choose to stay for the time being because I love my boyfriend. And for now I’d rather wait than miss him. I know I want to end up with him, and It’s hard to walk away from that. It’s hard to say “I can find someone better” when the person you’re with is already everything you want and more. Except for that one, little thing.

    1. You are only 24. It’s hard because you have the itch to have a family and get married etc. If you think you are with Mr. Right, then don’t let him go.

      You don’t have to be married to establish your relationship. Yes marriage comes with its own problems and I can see that you want to build a marriage before having children, but building a marriage is in the same boat as building a relationship.

      If you can’t picture your life without him, I say stay with him, and ask where he sees the future going if you haven’t already.

    2. Kerrycontrary says:

      I’m 24 and I also want to get married, but I would advise a little patience. If you really think about it practically, say you stay with your bf another two years and then break up. Then you are 26. That’s still plenty of time to find someone, get married, and have kids. Yes, maybe you won’t be able to spend glorious years enjoying married life before children, but who do know that has had life work out for them exactly as they planned? Some of this stuff is out of our control. You are already being smart by knowing where you want to be in a couple of years. Wait a year or two and then see if your boyfriend can talk about marriage. It’s not unusual for a 24 year old guy to be freaked out by the thought of it.

    3. Given that the LW said she was about to turn 29, it was perhaps a little inconsiderate to mention that you don’t want to be 29+ when you finally start a family. Obviously, the LW was already sensitive to her age in terms of child bearing capabilities….

      1. The entire rush to get married is what leads to divorce anyway. If you need to wait until you’re older to find the right one, there is no problem with that. People have kids in their 40’s now. My mother had her last baby at 42 and the baby was perfectly healthy.

      2. EricaSwagger says:

        Dudes. I was talking about my own personal preferences. Not the LW, and not the millions of people who have perfectly healthy babies later in life. All I was saying is that my personal preference is to have kids earlier.

      3. theattack says:

        That’s kind of rude and judgmental. Erica’s in no way too young to get married, and it sounds like she thinks she has found the right one.

      4. EricaSwagger says:

        Oh okay, yikes. Sorry I offended you. Although I think this comment is a little unnecessary given the fact that I clearly wasn’t trying to hurt the LW with my statement. But yeah, sorry.

    4. I always thought I wanted to be finished having kids by the time I’m 30, because I thought I’d be too old otherwise. But now I’ve had a few close acquaintances have their first child when they’re 30, and they seem like such young parents to me! And I’ve realized I really don’t feel ready to be responsible for a baby yet – it’s hard enough to get myself up and ready for work! So I’ve widened my window – I’m OK w/ having kids in my 30s. Which is probably good, b/c my 27-y/o fiance is definitely not feeling ready for kids yet any time soon! We know we’d be fine if we did have a kid now, but it’s so nice enjoying time to ourselves right now.

  12. I wouldn’t settle for less than “I love you – you’re the one I want to spend my life with”. It would be okay for him to add “my life is a mess right now so I’m going to ask for your patience as I get things in order” and “thank you for all the emotional support you’ve given me during thiss difficult time”.

    1. That would be nice but we don’t live in a perfect world 🙁 he probably can’t even think along those lines right now. He has his own issues right now, he’s probably not thinking about how to appease her fears for the future, and in my opinion, he shouldn’t be. She should be more understanding.

      1. If she were “the one” for him, he would run to her, not away from her, in times of crisis.

      2. If all of life was a rom-com perhaps, but that’s not reality. He could love her and not want her to get sucked into any of his family drama/problems… feel like it would be his fault that she is getting dragged down, etc. Or maybe he just doesn’t know what to do with someone who after a year of being together – at no point in time was he ever independent as he was living at home (at least the way I read it) – expecting him to start a new household and family with her.

      3. You’d be surprised at what life can throw your way. Some people are quircky. I do see your point, but some people just don’t turn to others when they need help.

        It took me a long time to reach out for help from my fiance’ when I needed it. It created fights because all of a sudden I would be in crisis mode because I have been having stressors for the past few days. I didn’t want to bother him, I wanted to protect him. He is the one for me and it took me a long time to learn that he was there for me to lean on. Not because of his attitude, but because of my own pride and embarrassment that I was letting so much stress get to me that I tried to hide it.

        Trying to hide it from the people that know you best just doesn’t work

  13. I think maybe you should have the conversation with him again, but make sure you’re both really specific about what you mean. Both of you are talking about whether he “can see” certain things happening, which is, to me, a lot different than whether he “wants” it or “intends” it. I also think it’s possible to express to him how important this is to you and to work out a possible time line without making it an ultimatum. That way, he’s clear about whether you expect him to turn his whole situation around immediately or just want to know he’s going to commit within a certain period of time.

  14. I also missed that she was looking for a commitment for the future at the 1-year mark… and it’s not clear if that was combined with the marriage/kids talk or not. Combined with everything else going on in this guy’s life – that seems a little early – and if they are both the same age then the guy was making it on his own and it all fell apart before they met… then this guy was what 25 or 26 when he had to basically move back home and take over his parent’s household (how far away from LA is his home anyway? Was it a 30 mile move or did he have to move back to Michigan or something when his goal in life was to get out of his smalltown? Are you at “home” and planning on moving to LA if that’s where the guy wants to be??) —

    That’s a lot to handle at any age, but particularly in your 20s – and so even if he was head over heels, knew she was “the one” and all that romantic fairy-tale stuff… it just doesn’t seem like a position where any responsible adult would make declarative statements to someone they have known for a year.

    And yes, my answer would change if they were in their 30s or older, but if I have the timeline right they started dating when the LW was 26 and she knew she was dating someone who had family and financial/career issues when she started seeing him! It’s challenging enough dating someone who has roommates, I can’t imagine trying to build a life with someone who is in triage mode with their own family.

    1. this is what i’m talking about, but not as clearly… doop.

    2. I wonder if the bf is hesitant to commit because in looking for a new job he may want to be mobile, and committing to the LW would be asking him to give up that freedom. I think an important conversation they need to have is “does BF want to go back to LA” (or elsewhere if a job opportunity came up) and 1) Would LW want/be willing to follow him? 2) Would BF WANT LW to go with him?
      If LW is asking BF for a commitment and she has put down roots where they live now, then she may effectively be asking BF to give up his dreams of his getting his old career back, and that’s a hard think to give up at ~30 years old. I think the first thing to establish is “if we didn’t have these career and family obstacles, would we want to have a future together” then “given these obstacles, are we willing to try for a future together”?

      1. “I think the first thing to establish is “if we didn’t have these career and family obstacles, would we want to have a future together” then “given these obstacles, are we willing to try for a future together”? ”

        yet another excellent way to break up the ultimate question into manageable pieces. You can love someone and want to be with them for the rest of your life, but there can be variables/obstacles that make it impossible or daunting to try. Sometimes it really is a matter of timing or geography (or religion, or kids, or whatever) that can make a permanent commitment not feasible between 2 people that love and care about each other.

        I just don’t want the LW to read all these comments and think that there is no hope for her future – there is!! Plenty of time!! Maybe I’m just saying that because my clock is clicking like an active time bomb as opposed to the way it just started humming when I turned 30:))

        The key for you to do LW is to decide what you want for YOU and then figure out how long you may be willing to wait & see if this guy is the right fit, and be very clear about your expectations, willingness to move, finances, etc. etc. There’s lots and lots to talk about with a SO to gauge how they see the future without putting a ring on it. It’s also possible without giving the dreaded ultimatum – a fine line I admit, but possible. Prior to my fiance proposing I told him clearly what I wanted in my future and that based on my age I would need to move ahead with a formal marriage commitment in this relationship or MOA and find a new one before my eggs curdled… didn’t exactly use those terms of course. This was also after we had been together for over 3 years and I knew things about his life, his home, etc. that already indicated that we had similar visions for the future.

      2. “before my eggs curdled”


      3. Glad you enjoyed katie:) I’ve been reading DW forever, and have only commented once or twice before… this one just spoke to me given my current circumstances. My cousin just gave birth to her second child at 40, and my grandmother gave birth to my mom at 36, which helps my state of mind a bit — here’s hoping the fertility gods will still be smiling next year!!

      4. lets_be_honest says:

        Hmm, what’s the point though of asking hypothetical what if our life was a dream type questions?

  15. I think seeing whether things will happen at some point is a lot different than saying yes, we will get married. I understand why he isn’t ready to commit in any way, but I do think he should have an idea of whether or not he wants to be with you–regardless of his financial situations. He may never get where he wants to be within a reasonable timeline for you, and ultimately I don’t think that should stop two people, but if he is hesitant, then that’s a problem. My boyfriend is 25 and lives at home even though he has a job, but he’s let me know that he wants to get married several years from now when he is in a better position. He’s had a lot of things happen recently where he is in a bit of a mess, but he still knows what he wants in a few years. So I think your boyfriend needs to be more clear about whether this is something he could see happening, even if it’s not for awhile (or maybe he thinks he is clear and doesn’t want to be with you in the future). I know it may be hard for him to see past the present, but for the sake of your relationship, he needs to look forward and make a decision so that you are not wasting your time. And I think you have to be on the same timeline. If you want to get married much sooner than he does, then I don’t think it’s going to work out well.

  16. AndreaMarie says:

    I think the both of you might be perceiving the whole “future commitment” in different ways. From what I could gather, I feel the LW is asking if he sees her as “the one” and wants to relationship to go down the serious commited path. Doesn’t mean she’s looking for marriage in the near future. And I think the BF is taking her question as “I want to know if we ar headed towards marriage soon”. I think the BF is completely right in his stance on not being ready to make the marriage leap yet. He’s emotionally a wreck and maybe doesn’t feel he can fully fufil his “wife’s” emotional needs at this point and doesn;t want to get married until he can. Also, he’s actively looking for a new job. The new dream job might take him out of state and he wants to wait and see where he lands before having a reasonable discussion about where we and his wife will settle down and start a life.

  17. I wouldn’t give an ultimatum, as I don’t really believe in them. I’m in the same “time boat” as you are; I’ll be 29 this June, and have been with my boyfriend for over a year and a half. When we started dating, we had the Life Talk. I knew it was “soon” but I also told him I wasn’t getting any younger, and while he was awesome, I didn’t want to waste my time with someone who didn’t want the same goals as I did, i.e. house and kids. We happen to check in every three months or so (been going to a lot of weddings which prompts it) to make sure we still have the same life goals. He wants us to be married with babies in five years, and that gives me comfort that HE thinks that, versus me putting him on MY timeline.

    That being said, your partner has been through a lot. It could be he only wants your support. Again, I wouldn’t do the ultimatum, but I would at least wait until my birthday. Would he be coming out (wherever you are) to visit or vice versa? Sit him down around the birthday festivites, maybe not the same day but when you’re face to face, and bring up the fact that you’re 29, you need to know if this relationship has the same end goals. You’re not asking for a ring, but you’re not asking for someone to waste your time either. From your letter, it seems like you had this conversation 8-9 months ago if it was just before the one-year mark. It may be time to approach it again.

    It’s perfectly okay to be selfish in relationships, especially when making life changing choices. You can only support him so far if he’s not willing to at least entertain the thought of a future with you, never mind weddings, houses, and babies.

  18. I wouldn’t set a hidden deadline (that’s so high-school game playing).

    You have a real deadline (when to start a family) and I have been taken to task for this https://dearwendy.com/whats-the-best-way-to-end-a-booty-call-relationship/ but I stand by it. While the rush isn’t immediate it’s can’t be indefinitely postponed. That’s the conversation you should have with him. As much as he would like better circumstances to make the decision, those are the constraints he’s under. Having kids with you or cutting you loose.

    Aside of him being depressed (and why didn’t anyone suggest therapy for the BF yet?) he may also be facing the real possibility that the next job he want will be back in LA (maybe because of the entertainment industry) and if he starts a family now he’s facing living with kids and a loved ones in crummy jobs or great jobs and loneliness elsewhere. This isn’t a trivial life decision either and I can understand why he’s postponing making the decision. If he finds a great local jobs, all his problems are solved!Why not wait?

    LW you haven’t detailed how great he is and how much you love him. Only you both can make that decision but if you have any chances at a positive outcome, he needs to know that exit is something that you may need to take. Who knows where he will choose his to take his pain.

  19. Sue Jones says:

    What it came down to, for me when I was looking for a life partner/husband/ father to my children, was “Does he want what I want?” That was the big screening question. If he wanted what I wanted, i.e. LTR, marriage, family, stability, mortgage, etc…. than we could move forward and see if there was chemistry, similar interests, ability to work out conflicts and get along, etc… but if they did not want that for themselves and were not moving towards that, then I would not date them, after spending my 20’s with men who did not want what I wanted. So the first question is, if your BF got the dream job, etc, would he want the same things you want, and the next question is would he want that with you? It really is that simple. If he is such a mess that he cannot figure out the answer to those 2 questions, then I would take it as a “no” and MOA and stop wasting your time.

  20. lets_be_honest says:

    Interesting to see the massive divide here. I’m on the boyfriend’s “side.” I think he’s being reasonable. First, 1 1/2 years is not a long time. Second, he’s in NO position to get married right now. In fantasyworld, sure, a commitment is all the marriage entails. In real life, your spouse should be in a position to contribute and support. He’s honest in that he can’t now. If I were in his already overwhelmed shoes and LW gave me an ultimatum after 1.5 years, after thoroughly explaining my situation to her, I’d MOA right away.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      If it’d make you feel better if he simply said I see a future with, but what you really want is a proposal or pre-proposal (whatever that is), then you Still won’t be getting what you want. Anyone can say they could see a future with you. Actually have one, big difference!

      1. So agree. There are no guarantees – ever. You could be married and divorced before you get pregnant – so marriage isn’t a solution to wanting kids if kids is the end goal.
        My experience is so different but there are a lot of letters about confirming commitment and figuring out if you are on the same page though…so maybe that verbal confirmation is almost like a step in the relationship? First kiss, meeting parents, saving ‘I love you’, saying “I want a life with you’, engagement, marriage… It doesn’t mean much in practical terms but it gives added comfort? I always think it is best to go by actions and not words but I guess the words don’t hurt as long as you don’t rely on them alone.

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        I think, generally, if you’ve spent 2+ years with someone, and they haven’t so much as hinted at wanting a real future with you (assuming you are both adults), then that alone would be a sign to consider MOAing. Words help, to a degree, in this situation. Actions more, obviously, but seeing someone trying to get their life in order would be an action to me.

      3. theattack says:

        I think a year and a half is a reasonable time to want to know that from someone. Heck, I want to hear something in a year. I agree with you that the bf here is being reasonable, but I think he’s going to need to compromise a bit and at least tell her whether or not he would want her in his future in a perfect world. She needs to hear something about the way he feels about her, even if he’s having to add a caveat about his financial reality.

      4. lets_be_honest says:

        I just don’t see the point of asking a hypothetical question like that. If I were a billionaire, I’d probably have an entirely different life, so if someone asked me if I were a billionaire, would I want x,y,z…
        How is it better for her if he said Yes, I’d love to marry you if my life was perfect, but it isn’t and may not be for 5 years, or 10 or… That’s basically stringing her along. Actually, I’d probably be hurt if someone said ‘if my life was perfect, I’d marry you.’

        If all she wants to hear is that he’d consider a future with her but not sure how, when, etc., then isn’t that obvious? I mean, they are dating which basically means you are testing the waters, possibly having a future.

      5. theattack says:

        Ehh, I don’t think so. Some people keep dating because they’re comfortable. This could be especially true for him because he’s not concerned about ending relationships with no future since he can’t look at his own future right now.

        The hypothetical could help the LW make a decision about whether to wait it out or to leave. If she knows that he wants to be with her when things get better, she then knows that their relationship does have a chance when his situation starts to look up. But if he can’t even say that he would hypothetically want to commit, she knows for sure that she’s wasting her time because it will never happen no matter how long she waits.

      6. lets_be_honest says:

        I guess. But if he’s one of those string-her-along types, which she appears to be a willing participant in to a degree, then he will likely tell her he of course sees a future in a perfect world, she’ll stick around, and then perfect world never comes.

      7. theattack says:

        Yeah, that’s true. The LW just has to think about it all realistically, which – you’re probably right – is not all that likely when she’s blinded by love.

      8. lets_be_honest says:

        You say you’d want to hear something in a year. Like what exactly? That he enjoys your company and may want a future with you? I just feel like that should be pretty obvious.

        What I was saying above was if he has made no mention after 2+ years, or even 1, of wanting a future, then he either isn’t sure or doesn’t.

      9. theattack says:

        I would want to know around a year whether or not he saw marriage in our future. I just don’t see dating as a confirmation like you seem to. I know way so many people who date because they enjoy someone’s company for right then, but they definitely don’t want a future with the person. That’s especially true when people have different ideas of what they want their life timelines to look like.

      10. lets_be_honest says:

        Yea, I guess when I think of other’s, like people in college for example, I could see that it doesn’t equal confirmation like I was saying. I just hope no one takes their SO saying they see a future as saying they are 99% ready to propose.

      11. theattack says:

        I guess that’s up to the sanity of those people involved and how they approach the conversation. For me, we talked about a potential future at about eight months in (though we’d been very serious all along), and that was just a confirmation that we were thinking the same thing. A way to know that we were on the same page, and neither of us were getting ahead of ourselves. An actual proposal was pretty far off at the time of that conversation, but it was so helpful in making both of us more comfortable in our feelings. It really shouldn’t be an issue if they use words that indicate that they mean that stuff is way in the future.

      12. Will.i.am says:

        Indeed. Everyone has wants, which is why we don’t settle for the first person that pays us attention.

  21. Avatar photo landygirl says:

    The guy has been out of work for two years and just recently lost his dad and all you can think about is why he can’t committ? He’s depressed and frankly I would be too. Instead of trying to make him into something that suits your needs you can accept him for who he is or you can move on and find someone that does.

    People are so busy trying to make the people they date into the end all be all. It’s like trying to fit a square peg in around hole, no matter how you try or how much you want it to, it just isn’t going to fit.

    1. Avatar photo landygirl says:

      I take one thing back, he isn’t out of work, he’s in a miserable job. I need to pay more attention to detail.

  22. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    If you want to either end up single and alone again — OR married to a guy that will only slowly come to resent you for it, then by all means, yes! Shout out that ultimatum! For, yeah, they usually have a way of turning out just great…

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      That really goes for anyone. I’ve seen it too many times. Girl demands marriage. Guy agrees. Divorce countdown begins.

      I actually had a very close friend do this. They had a child together, lived together. She brings him to the jeweler, like literally drives him there and picks out a ring and forces him to pay for it. Then plans a whole wedding, albeit very small, and lets him know A MONTH BEFORE when he needs to show up for it. I’m not kidding. Craziest thing ever. That was three years ago. They’ve been divorced for two.

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        So true. So true. I honestly don’t know of many (ANY?) stories though where the guy was DESPERATE to commit and thus went about issuing ultimatums… Not saying it doesn’t happen, or couldn’t happen, but yeah, it has yet to happen to anyone I know, or even anybody in a letter I read on an advice columnist’s website… 😉

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        Well, I will say I know men who’ve proposed, gotten a no and kept trying. Cough, cough, two of mine.

        My aunt’s husband asked THREE times before getting a yes.

      3. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        But it’s not exactly issuing an ultimatum if they didn’t leave after the first NO, though…

        Don’t get me wrong, men CAN and DO plenty of annoying things. It’s just that DEMANDING commitment OR ELSE, is not nearly as typical with men as it seems to be with women. I mean, it seems that this very same letter pops up weekly on at least one of these websites…

      4. lets_be_honest says:

        True, however women do seem to be in a very different boat than men re: deciding when to marry. Men, 98% of them I’d say, are the ones that do the asking when they feel ready. Women on the other hand, are basically forced to wait for him to ask which I can understand would be hard. So the alternative is what? asking yourself? so uncommon. asking if they see a future (usually means girl wants a ring)? If he interprets that as I Want a Ring Soon, he’ll likely run or lead her on until HE is ready.

      5. This is exactly what I was trying to say in my forum thread, about why sometimes I feel helpless, but apparently people were baffled by what I said.

      6. Will.i.am says:

        Do you think that’s because men can have children through their entire lifespan and we don’t have to worry about mental retardation or health issues? We literally only have a ticking clock when we want commitment with a certain perceived woman; however, we can have children forever.

      7. lets_be_honest says:

        No. I mean, maybe, who knows. But I think women just want it sooner just because they grew up on fairy tales whereas men didn’t.
        I’m surprised its still so common though (women dying to be married) because so few of our parents’ marriages were ideal.

      8. Will.i.am says:

        I blame rom com’s and Nicholas Sparks books. They are so far from reality that they are even more exceptions than the rule. People still believe in fairy tales and they believe they can be that fairy tale.

      9. I hate to break it to you Will.i.am, but men’s fertility is on a timer too. Just Googling ‘men’s biological clock’ will link you with a hole set of studies and statistics that show male fertility decreases over time and risk of health issues increases as well. It seems no one is guaranteed to have healthy children “forever”.

      10. Will.i.am says:

        Well, that stinks. I guess our sperm does lose it’s ability.

      11. erm… whole set… I don’t know what a hole set is…

      12. theattack says:

        This is so true. I tried to explain this to my fiance before we were engaged, that women get stressed about it because we have no control, and a lot of times we have no idea what their exact plans are when they’re trying to do surprise proposals. It usually leads to women starting a lot of “Where are we headed?” conversations that come across as nagging to guys, when the questions are really more about anxiety and genuine curiosity than anything else. Girl gets freaked out, guy gets annoyed, and no one is happy.

      13. Avatar photo landygirl says:

        I think that’s because men don’t have the same type of biological clock as women do (or a uterus.) Unless a woman starts having babies in her teens, she has a limited amount of time to reproduce therefore they have an urgency that most men don’t have.

        It seems as if there is a lot of this going around lately.

        In other news, Mad Men was good last night. I saw a lot of Betty in Sally last night.

      14. I wanted to say I support this. For me, marriage must come before having children. I explained to my partner that while I understood he could have babies until he was 80, I didn’t want that, higher risks, etc. So I don’t think women FORCE men to be engaged; it’s more like they realize what types of risks could be bestowed upon future children and want to minimalize that.

        FWIW, if I didn’t want kids, I wouldn’t have any sort of “time frame” on getting married. I’d want a committed relationship for companionship/emotional security reasons, but not necessarily a license to do so.

      15. Me too, Jazzmine. That’s why I’ve been on the pill for 10 years and continue to sadly watch all of my friends have cute babies while I slowly die an old maid. I’m stubborn and I won’t bring my children into a family where the guy isn’t committed to me all the way. And I definitely don’t want to have kids in my 40’s. There are a lot more risks and it would be worse for me and the kids.

      16. That’s because guys don’t want to get married, for the most part. If having sex with random women is still an option on the table, almost every guy I know would choose that over marriage. Even the best, most down-to-earth man I ever met made that choice after telling me he loves me for 9 years. Apparently, for straight guys, random pussy trumps love nearly every time.

      17. lets_be_honest says:

        That’s just not true. I’d say many younger men might feel that way but all men, no. Not even close. It’s sad that what you consider “the best” is someone who would make you feel that way. That’s pretty far from “the best.”

      18. Something More says:

        Tough love time, Anna.

        Not all guys are like that. Not even close. Just because the guy you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with didn’t want to spend his with YOU doesn’t mean all guys are assholes. That attitude combined with not planning on having kids until you are in a committed relationship – guess what? It’s never going to happen. If you continue to look at every guy and see the jerk your ex is, you’re not going to get anywhere. I know that everything just happened fairly recently and this will probably be moot in a few months, but in case it’s not, just remember that there ARE decent guys out there and NONE of them treated you like shit. Only one did and you should probably consider yourself lucky that you are rid of him so he can go play baby boy with his mommy and daddy.

      19. WOW…. just wow…

      20. That is scary. What I don´t get is the zero pride these people would appear to have. I mean why would you want to marry a guy if to get him to marry you you have to resort to that?

      21. lets_be_honest says:

        She made it ok in her head, it seemed, by the fact that they already had a kid, lived together and he was just too lazy to get around to it. Yea. Not any better.

      22. Sunshine Brite says:

        Wow,that’s more intense any other ultimatum stituation than I’ve heard. Why’d she bother telling him and not have family or friends force him to the location while she was at it… ugh.

        My sister issued some sort of ultimatum after some time to her now-husband, hard to remember now it’s been 12 years or so, but she was going to move across the country if he decided to break up with her after the ultimatum.

      23. He was capable of saying no you know. The guy did go along with it – if he really didn’t want to marry the woman then why not break up with her instead of telling a story about how nutso she was. She wouldn’t have been able to do any of those things if he didn’t agree

      24. lets_be_honest says:

        He didn’t tell a story of how nutso she was. She did.
        Anyway, my point was being pressured to the point of almost being forced to marry is asking for trouble.

    2. ele4phant says:

      I feel like ultimatums get a bad rap. To me it seems very mature to say “Look, we’ve put in a good deal of effort into this relationship so far, and this is really what I want. I need to know that you want this to. If you don’t, we shouldn’t be together because one or both of us we’ll eventually resent the other.”

      Maybe that’s somewhat different than saying “Marry me or I’m out the door!!!!”, but if a guy doesn’t want what she wants, he needs to find the balls to be upfront about the fact he doesn’t want the commitment his girlfriend wants. If he lets himself get steamrolled into something he doesn’t want, well, he’s equally complicit. He’s a grown-up capable of making his own decisions, so to “blame” a woman for being upfront about she wants for future is childish.

  23. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to approach feeling ready for marriage- some people (many men) want to feel established and stable before committing to a marriage, or even broaching the topic of forever. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are being a cad, it could just be that that is what marriage means to them. And given that so many people have sex/ live together before marriage, I can understand how many people would view committing to a marriage as committing to babies. So, I can definitely relate to wanting to be as stable as possible before having kids.

    Of course, I understand the other side too, that some people just need to know that this person is “the one” and then they’re ready to commit to working through life’s bumps together.

    As with many relationship issues, I don’t think this one is black and white. Someone being a cad makes them a cad- like if they’re being dishonest or manipulative. But having the value that you want to be established before marriage isn’t any more wrong than feeling like that isn’t a necessary step. And context- like the age of the people in the relationship, is an important factor here, because our bodies aren’t designed to have kids forever. Bottom line- if both parties are happy, comfortable, and honest with each other, then that’s what matters.

    I understand that the LW just wants a commitment to the possibility of a future- not a ring or a date. LW, have you explained this to your boyfriend? Like, have you been really really clear about what you mean? Honestly, considering what he’s been through, I can understand why he wouldn’t have the energy to think about this. But at the same time, if he’s not able to meet your needs, then you have to look out for yourself, regardless of why he’s not able to meet your needs or how sympathetic those reasons are.

    Anyway, I guess that’s sort of a non answer. Maybe try putting a pin in the discussion and reapproaching at a later date, when you’ve had time to think it over a bit. He will probably appreciate the space. I am not a fan of ultimatums, and even at 29 years old, I don’t personally think that 1.5 years is long enough for a lot of people to decide on forever.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      Just caught your last sentence and I totally agree. While I get not wanting to wait forever, a year and a half is quite soon to even have thought of it, and even more so in this guys situation.

  24. He’s in a tough spot but I’ve known people who’ve gotten married even in rough economic circumstances. I think he’s making excuses to you LW. You need to mention that at this point you would like to be with someone who wants to get married to you, irregardless of their financial circumstances. Like you said, you have two options, stay with the uncertainty or walk – I would choose walk if nothing changed after 6 months or so (or less or more depending on how you think the timeline should look)
    You’ll be able to find someone else

  25. Avatar photo sobriquet says:

    My boyfriend was unemployed when we started dating and has worked jobs that he’s overqualified and underpaid for in the 3 years we’ve been together. Throughout our relationship, he has made it clear that he can’t wait until we live comfortably and he can afford to treat me like he has always wanted to. He knows he wants to start a family with me when he’s financially stable. The thought of doing it right now scares both of us, but we both have always known that things would eventually get better. (And they finally have! After 3 years in the job hunt, opportunities are now pouring in. Opportunities he never could have imagined. It’s funny how that happens.)

    I get the feeling that even if the boyfriend was in a stable position, he wouldn’t be ready to talk about the future with the LW. His excuse is bullshit. He can’t even TALK about the future because of his financial situation? Maybe he’s concerned that things will never get better for him. Or maybe the LW just needs to bring it up again. He may have been feeling especially overwhelmed that day. It’s been over 6 months, if I’m doing the math right. A lot can change in that amount of time! So, bring it up again. There’s nothing wrong with asking where your relationship is headed. At the same time, the LW needs to think about whether she’s willing to stay with someone who may not be financially stable enough to start a family for several years.

  26. MOA already. He is stringing you along. He is SELFISH!

  27. Uhhhh… what part of ‘he won’t commit’ does the writer not understand?

  28. I feel like something is missing from the letter. LW says they had this talk 6 months ago, but not recently. Is there something he’s doing that makes LW feel that they’re not committed to eachother? Is there some baby step that he could take that they would both be comfortable with? What is LW not getting from her SO that is making her not feel “stable”? Or, is it that, contrary to the letter, she does actually expect or want him to propose soon?

    Guys often don’t pull the trigger on getting engaged or married until they’re happy with where they are in life. Whether or not they’d actually be supporting a wife and family, if they don’t feel like it’s possible right now, they’re not going to feel comfortable taking that next step. So, if the SO is going through a rough personal and professional time, I just don’t see it happening.

    Personally, I’ve never been tied to a timeline, but I think I’m in the minority there. Kids or the lack of a diamond ring are not that important to me that it’s a deal breaker. I’d rather be with my SO that makes me happy and makes me feel loved, than to be alone just because he’s not ready.

    I think it sucks that we as women have to deal with the questions and societies pressure and expectations, or our female friends or parents getting on us because we’re “not getting any younger”. When my friends try to tell me that I should have a baby soon, because if I don’t it’s going to be disabled, I just smile and say thanks for your concern.

  29. You don’t need to give him an ultimatum, you need to give yourself one. Decide what you want (not an easy thing to do) and then have a frank conversation with him and if you don’t have shared goals move on to find someone who does. This isn’t an ultimatum, this is about being true to yourself and your goals, this is about taking responsibility for your life, not expecting him to accommodate your needs. So you don’t phrase it, “straighten up and fly right” you phrase it… “I’m sorry, but I can’t stay in this relationship.” good luck

  30. Wendy, you are so wise, rational, and give exceedingly sage advice. Keep it up! 🙂

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