Shortcuts: “He’s Obsessed with Wedding Plans, But Won’t Commit to Marrying Me”

It’s time again for Shortcuts. For every question, I’ll give my advice in just a few sentences because sometimes the answer to a person’s question is so obvious and the need to hear it so great that being as clear and frank as possible is simply the best way to go.

My boyfriend and I have been together for over a year. I have two children from a previous relationship. He has never been married or engaged. I am divorced. We are both in our late 30s. We all get along very well and have a lot of fun. My boyfriend is kind, romantic, really hot, smart, funny, etc., and he’s very vocal about how much he loves me. He talks about marriage all the time. He knows whom he wants as his best men, how much he is planning to pull out of his savings for our wedding, whom he wants us to invite, etc. The problem is, he balks every time I bring up moving in together. His concerns include: joint finances, and whether he’ll have his own space/freedom (he’s used to living on his own). I worry that one or two years will go by and we’ll still be in this same stage and then I’ll have to break up with him and start all over again because I’m looking for someone to marry. What do you think? Why would a man who talks constantly about marriage not want to live with me? — Ready to Marry

Does he talk constantly about marriage? The only examples you gave were of his fantasizing about the wedding day, which is hardly the same thing as discussing marriage. And you think his concerns about finances and sharing a space with a wife and two step-kids are “small,” but I’d argue that most people would consider those very big, reasonable concerns to consider and certainly worth having many discussions about. What WILL his life be like when he’s suddenly living with three other people, including two children? How WILL your joint finances work? After a year together, you should START having these conversations, not be moving on because marriage isn’t happening yet. If you truly love this guy, give the relationship another year as you continue discussing what actual marriage — not a wedding day — will be like together, especially with two (step)children involved. Here are some other topics worth discussing before getting married or moving in together.

This weekend one of my best friends is having, for her birthday, a girls-only party at the lake. I asked my boyfriend if I could go and he immediately said no. He told me that, if I went, to expect him to be gone when I get back. So I told him I wouldn’t go. But I feel horrible about ditching my best friends. At the same time I can’t loose my boyfriend. What do I do? — Girls Only

I’d ditch the controlling boyfriend and stick with the friends instead.

I’m a 34-year-old male with two beautiful kids, 10 and 6. Their mom and I are separated as of a few months ago, but we still live under the same roof. I’ve met someone else and she lives in another state on the other coast. She wants us to take things to the next level and for me to move out there. I’ve visited her and she’s come here and we know we make a good couple; my only fear is my kids. How will this affect them and will they hate me for it? My new partner is very understanding and will make sure I fly back and forth on a regular basis, and there will be my phone calls, texts, emails and video chats with them. I just don’t want to be selfish or have them resent me later on. I’ll always be a huge part of their lives no matter what or where… — Two-time Dad

Sorry, but moving across the country and leaving your young children for a woman you barely know and have spent hardly any time with is the epitome of selfish (not to mention incredibly stupid). If this woman who is so perfect for you is so very understanding and wants so much to be with you, she can be the one to move. But before that happens, the next logical step might be, I don’t know, for you and your wife to stop living together.


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


  1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    Wendy hit it perfectly on all three!

  2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW2 – You don’t ask your boyfriend if you can do something. You tell him what you’ll be doing. He isn’t your guardian who gives you permission to do things. You aren’t a minor and he isn’t your dad, he’s your boyfriend. I can see consulting your boyfriend about how he feels about serious things but going to a friends birthday party at the lake isn’t a big thing. I would consider skipping the party if you had something else major happening like his birthday or his parents had an anniversary party or something else equal to your friend’s birthday. It would be different if you were talking about moving away, then you consult. You don’t mention anything like that so go to the party and if he is gone when you get back then you are lucky because he saved you the hassle of breaking up with him. If he doesn’t save you that hassle then break up. Nobody should have that much control over your life when you are an adult.

    1. Seriously? Seriously! says:

      Totally agree with the sentiment, but might add the caveat (for future potential LWs, not for this LW at all) that in long-term/serious relationships, it’s more about checking in with the person, rather than either “asking permission” or just straight up “tell[ing them] what you’ll be doing.” I would say that its normal and/or healthy and/or better for people in a couple to check in before making plans, like going away for the weekend. Not because the other person has to give permission, but just that in many serious/long-term couples, downtime is assumed to be spent together unless otherwise specified, so your activities affect the other person. Plus it makes people feel better to feel consulted (i.e. “are we doing anything on the 5th? megan’s have a girls weekend on the lake for her birthday” “nope, totally open. that should be fun! can you find out if you are going to need to take the car?”) rather than just being told what’s going down (“btw I’m going away this weekend without you”… “ok…thanks for the notice”). But totally agreed about this LW, who made it seem like it was totally normal for her to ask her boyfriend, and that it was totally normal for him to say “no” (which it totally isn’t).

      1. I completely agree with this.

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I agree. I wouldn’t go away for the weekend without consulting with my husband and my kids. It has to work for everyone for it to work. I prefer to spend my weekends with my family. In this case they are a dating couple and it seems like a lot to ask for permission of a boyfriend to spend the weekend at the lake.

        Tomorrow is an example of how we work schedules in our relationship. I’m working a half day in the morning. My husband has a meeting he’s attending in the morning. We told each other about these mandatory commitments. In the afternoon he’s going to a backyard get together and I’m meeting up with friends and then I’m taking our daughter for a haircut. He asked if I minded if he went to the backyard party and I said it was fine with me and I asked if he minded that I didn’t go with him to that party and it was fine with him. I told him that I would meet up with our friends that we usually see on Saturdays and then take our daughter for a haircut. We’ll see each other in the evening. While I’m at work I’m going to try to get my hands on a specific movie that we both want to see. If a copy comes through while I’m there I’ll check it out and we’ll watch it in the evening. If I don’t get the movie then we’ll do something else together, maybe go out for ice cream.

      3. Seriously? Seriously! says:

        Your life sounds fun. I like ice cream; can I come?

  3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW1 – You aren’t ready to live together until you’ve had all those in depth discussions like finances and how much personal space you will each have and how this will affect where your kids go to school and how they will be able to see their dad. Until you talk about everything, and it sounds like you have talked about none of it, you aren’t ready to live together. Since all of this directly affects your kids you should take it very slowly and cautiously. Only move in together when you are feeling absolutely certain that he is the guy for you. I think that especially when kids are involved, you should feel fully committed to spending your life with this guy before moving in together. When you are at the point of wondering if you’ll need to move on you aren’t ready to live together.

  4. LW2… dump him. Like yesterday. And skyblossom is right, you don’t ask for permission, you consult and unless there is a valid reason, like, I don’t know, you had tickets to go somewhere or were supposed to be out of town or there was another conflicting major event, you go the the party.

  5. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW3 – You sound self-absorbed and unrealistic. There is no way your kids will remain a major part of your life if you move across the country from them. At best you will be an occasional visitor in their lives. Yes, they will feel abandoned. They will know that you left them for this woman, who you either barely know or you have been seeing before being separated. If you and this woman live on opposites coasts there is no way that you can know her well enough to know that you are a great couple. You barely know her. She is as much fantasy in your head as she is reality because you can’t have spent enough time with her to know her. You know a bit of her. You know her when she is perfectly done up and traveling in your area. You don’t know her when she is working and coming home late. You don’t know whether she keeps a tidy home, maybe even obsessive compulsive about things or whether she keeps a cluttered home. You don’t know whether she wants flowers to show appreciation or a clean bathroom to show respect. You don’t know her. If she valued your relationship with your children she would move to where you live. She would never ask you to move away from them. If she is asking you to move because of her job that means she values her job more highly than your relationship with your children. If she is asking you to move because she loves where she lives then she values where she lives more highly than she does your relationship with your children. If you move then you value her more than your children. What you do shows your priorities. Are your children more important or is she more important? Your decision will show everyone, your children included, what and who you value most.

  6. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

    LW1 I had an ex that “talked marriage” all the time and mostly it was just about a wedding. That’s all he really wanted was to have a big party but when it came to actually talking about moving in and BEING married, he freaked out. But I hung around way too long thinking he really did want to get married. I’d take his concerns to heart, they are big things to sort through.

    1. Thanks. That was my question. Actually, mine. I am more concerned that he only wants a wedding and doesn’t want a marriage. My question was edited to make it more about getting married. What did end up happening in your case? Did he ever chose to move in with you?

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        If you want a marriage you do the hard work of discussing how you will combine your lives. You discuss things like finances until you come to an agreement you both like. Have you tried doing that?

      2. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

        No, he didn’t. We had an awful breakup and he ended up finding another woman who he’s actually marrying next weekend. So I guess she’s the one for him (or the one that can sustain his lifestyle in the manner in which he wants, which is irrelevant but whatever.) So I don’t know how this will end for you but make sure he wants the marriage and not the wedding.

      3. Have you actually discussed his concerns? Do you all have a plan for moving in together? One year is the perfect time to be discussing things, but I would not be worried if you weren’t actually living together at this point. Planning for the future though, like he seems to want to discuss is important. It’s easy to talk about the marriage part because it’s fun. Talking about the actual day to day living together is harder. But, it has to be done, before you move in together. Because his concerns are very valid.

      4. Yeah, talking about a wedding and ‘getting married’, and talking about marriage and ‘being married’ are two different things. I think it’s only a year in which is a bit early to actually move in with your two kids, but you two can start having these conversations about the logistics of melding your lives together and start making plans for the future. If he’s balking at either starting to talk through details or make eventual plans (like, “After two years of dating, we will move in together.”), or you don’t see actual action steps being taken after you two have talked about things throughout this next year… then yeah he’s probably not ready for next steps. Then you have to figure out whether to stay or go.
        That being said, I think the concerns he’s raised are really valid points, especially since he’s been on his own for most of his adult life. So, talk through those things with him.

      5. Hi, question asker back again. Yes, we’ve had a lot of discussions about how our lives will look when we do eventually move in together. I have my own concerns as well. I didn’t understand that talking about the wedding was “fantasizing” and I understand that’s what it is now after reading all of this. That helps me to feel a lot better. I was starting to feel resentful like he was giving me mixed messages. I also have a hard trouble fantasizing about a wedding because I’ve been through one. My previous marriage didn’t last long because we spent too much time on the wedding itself and no time at all on the actual marriage. We have conversations about money, responsibility, child-rearing, family, savings, etc. We have started to discuss his concerns (getting a big house together instead of him moving in to mine, having our own bank accounts and one joint account together, etc). I guess we still have a lot of talking about this to do and I agree that maybe it’s too soon for me to put pressure on him which, looking back on it after hearing everyone’s advice, I think I was doing. I just really want to start living my life with him and planning for a future. But I see now that one year in isn’t the time to iron it all out right away; we need to go slowly so we keep building on our already really solid foundation. Any other advice?? I’d love to hear it! We are confused about how to divide up expenses etc.

      6. Anonymous says:

        Well it would probably depend if you plan to have any children together and if one parent will stay home. If so, the other spouse would need to financially support the St home parent for however long. If not, you could split the expenses 50-50, or proportionate to income, or something in between, or take into account that you have kids and he doesn’t. But then will he be adopting them?

      7. No, we neither of us wants to have children together. My 2 are enough for both of us. Their Dad is involved, and sees them, and contributes financially, so my BF won’t be adopting anyone anytime soon. I make more (salary) than my BF but I also have 2 children depending on me (daycare costs, activities, etc) and I have a car (and insurance and gas) while he currently takes the bus. We’ve already decided that I’ll continue to be financially resp. for my kids and he will continue to save for retirement (he has a lot of savings already which is wonderful) and I’ll contribute to those savings once I’m able. We’ve decided 50/50 on rent, but household expenses are harder.. its really groceries that’s bothering me the most. I spend $200 a week and shop one time; not idea how much he spends b/c he shops as he needs things. So do I keep paying for all the groceries when the bill goes up (because feeding him as much as I do has certainly made an impact to my budget) OR does he contribute? And if he does contribute, then how much? Because right now he pay for our “dates” much more than I do..

  7. Baccalieu says:

    For the second letter, doesn’t make a difference what the boyfriend’s objections to her going to the party are? The letter writer doesn’t bother to tell us. If there is no reason and his objection is purely arbitrary, then I agree with Wendy, but don’t we need to know that?

    I wonder if people were be so quick to judge if the genders were reversed and a guy was complaining about his girlfriend objecting to his attending a guys- only weekend. Change Skyblossom’s comments around: “You don”t ask your girlfriend if you can do something. You tell her what you’ll be doing.” I would think that most people would think that a guy who repeatedly did that was not taking into account his girlfriend’s feelings.

    1. It would not be different if it was a girlfriend telling a boyfriend no. Your significant other shouldn’t be telling you what you can or can’t do. Or threatening to not be there if you do. For example I don’t ask my husband’s permission to go out with friends and he doesn’t ask me, we tell each other what we’re doing and make sure nothing else is going on. But, we don’t grant one another permission.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        My husband and I do the same. When I go out with friends after work I tell him what I will be doing and where we are going and who is going along. I don’t ask for permission. We also work out between us what he and the kids will have for dinner. I often have it started before I go to work. It would be rude to go out without telling him and without thinking about him and the kids and their schedules but I don’t ask permission. We work it out so it works.

    2. No, it doesn’t matter the gender. The LW wrote, “I asked my boyfriend if I could go and he immediately said no. He told me that if I went, to expect him to be gone when I get back.” She is not dating her dad or her guardian. She should have control over her decisions and her life, her boyfriend shouldn’t. He is being controlling and a manipulator, especially with the qualifier of if she goes, he won’t be there when she returns! Wow. How immature–by both parties. She could’ve said, “Hey, I’m planning on going to [BF’s] birthday party at the lake this weekend. I’ll be back on [Sunday evening].” If there was any conflicting plans/occasions, then perhaps a reconsideration would in order, but not an outright denial of her attendance with an ultimatum. LW, ditch this loser ASAP.

    3. Everyone pretty much covered it. It would not matter if the genders were reversed. Anyone – both male and female – who doesn’t allow you to do something is an abuser.
      Yes, you should run plans by your partner. See if there are conflicting interests. Figure out an alternative plan together if there are, etc. That’s a healthy relationship. What you should not do is threaten to break up with someone if they go against your wishes. Again, this goes for both genders.

      1. And I’m 10,000% certain that if I were in a relationship, I would welcome a guys weekend. You better believe I would spend that time reading and watching girl movies that I enjoy and just having a grand time. Then, I would welcome hypothetical boyfriend home and we’d have lots of stories to share.

      2. As a married person, I can attest to all of this being the case. I love it when Othello goes out for an evening (we’re both huge introverts so it doesn’t happen too often). I have a grand ole time, he has a fun time, and we have new things to talk about when he gets back.

    4. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      Especially the ultimatum is bad. A relationship held together by ultimatums (I won’t be here if you go) are bad relationships. It doesn’t matter whether the ultimatum is given by a man or a woman it shows that the relationship isn’t working.

    5. dinoceros says:

      Yeah, no, gender doesn’t matter here. No one owns their partner. They are also not your parents. So, one partner does not have to grant permission. In most healthy relationships, there is an environment in which you might tell someone what you’re planning to do and they might say, “Hey, that was the night we were going to my parents house, remember?” or “I won’t be back with the car until 7, can you go after that?” if there’s a conflict. But you don’t say “Can I go?” “No, you may not go and if you disobey me, I’m leaving you.”

      I had a male friend whose girlfriend treated him like that and it was just as inappropriate for her as it is for the LW’s boyfriend.

      1. Yeah I mean you sort of are asking if you can go, but it’s the tone and the framing that matter. Like if I want to go out to happy hour after work I ask my husband if he minds, because implicit in that question is that he must go home right after work and let the dog out.
        But its more about planning our lives and shared responsibilities vs an ownership of each other. And if he said “no I have X that night, I can’t” we’d work it out, not threaten to leave each other.

      2. dinoceros says:


  8. Bostonpupgal says:

    Can we call LW #2 Two TimING Dad? He sounds like a horrible human being. LW, you’ve been separated from your wife for a handful of weeks, you’re still living in the home with her, and, you know, MARRIED to her and you’re seriously asking if moving across the country to be with your mistress will affect your children negatively? Um absolutely, positively, a big fucking YES!! Jesus christ. How long have you known this woman? Did she have anything to do with your separation from your wife (I have a feeling the answer to that is a big yes)? Why would you even consider dating, let alone moving away for a committed relationship, before officially ending your marriage, and transitioning your kids through the heart breaking and extremely difficult adjustment of you moving out and the divorce? I’d classify your plan to move as abandonment, not to mention the epitome of selfishness. Do you want to move because you just don’t want to deal with the path of pain and wreckage your poor choices and broken marriage will leave behind you? Is this woman a nice escape from the havoc you’ve wreaked on the lives of those you claim to have loved? Gee, I can’t imagine why you’re separated from your wife. I bet you were a real peach of a husband

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I agree completely! The dad who cared about his kids would stick around and help them get through the divorce, not run away to spend time with his girlfriend. I can’t think of a better way to make sure that your kids despise you for life than to abandon them for a girlfriend.
      The fact that he would even consider moving shows that he isn’t thinking about his kids at all. He isn’t thinking about the effect of divorce on them or that they will be going through an emotionally wrenching transition. He isn’t thinking about being there for them. Maybe his wife has always done the childcare so he has never had to think about the kids and their needs. He sounds emotionally detached from his kids to the point that he has no empathy for them and what they are going through.

      1. Bostonpupgal says:

        @Skyblossom I cannot agree more. You and I are in sync on opinions the last several days!

      2. Amen, Skyblossom and BPG. I just can’t even with this letter. I’m guessing this LW will go anyway, because they have a Special Love(TM). I can’t imagine not being a part of my daughter’s life to the extent that this person is considering. “My new partner is very understanding” – hah, yeah, I’m sure she won’t mind at all when you never go on vacation with her because you are using all your time/money to fly home and see your kids (or, you know, NOT, which would then solidify the abandonment). You want to see your kids for maybe 10-15 days a year? Miss out on their entire childhood? I’m so mystified by people like this. NOTHING, at all, ever, no person or amount of money, could ever lead me to contemplate doing that to my child. Real parents put their kids’ needs first. Especially when they are TEN and SIX, ffs.

  9. dinoceros says:

    LW3: Yes, your kids will likely hate you. If not now, then later on when they’re old enough to look critically at the situation. At the least, they’ll probably feel abandoned. For your own sake, I think it’s best to take some time off from dating until you’re actually divorced and have had time to process everything instead of moving across the country for a rebound you’ve met a few times.

  10. LW3: Unless you live in a cabin in the middle of a mountain, there is no feasible reason you can’t date and find someone around where you live. You know, so you won’t end up abandoning your children. And yes, they will absolutely hate you. Perhaps at first, they will just be sad and will cry and ask their mom why you aren’t around and why you don’t love them anymore (’cause that’s how kids interpret it at those ages). Later on in life (typically starting in the teenage years), they will be upset that you left them, the children who you brought into this world, for some woman. And they’ll get angry and start to hate you. And rightfully so, because what you’re considering is completely selfish and shitty.
    Why do you feel it’s okay to dump your kids on their mom and expect her to take them full time? Would it be okay for her to just leave the kids with you so she can run off across the country with her lover? Be no part of their lives except for a handful of days a year and a phone call? These kids didn’t ask to be here. You fathered them. They’re your responsibility.
    Go through your separation and divorce. Help your kids through the divorce–they will need you so much right now as their world is turned upside down. If this other woman is such a catch and your ‘love’ is real, then guess what? You’ll still be with her in a year. And also guess what? Unless she had a valid reason (like, her own kids in across the country), she would be willing to move to you so you could remain a part of your kids’ lives. But something tells me that she’s not that great. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s effectively asking you to abandon your children mere weeks after you and your wife have officially separated just ’cause she wants to take your relationship ‘to the next level’.
    I just… I can’t even. I’m so angry right now that you are even considering this. LW3, I wish you gave half the thought and felt half of what I, a mere stranger, am doing towards your kids.

  11. karenwalker says:

    LW#3: Though you are separated, you are still legally married! And living with your wife. What is the point of your separation? Are you trying to work things out? Is this the first step before getting a divorce? Are your kids aware of what is happening in your marriage? Are their plans for one of you to move out of the family home (and, no, I don’t mean moving cross country to be with your lovahhh)? Have you and your wife discussed how you will handle dating while separated but living together/dating after divorce and bringing people around the kids? Has anyone met your girlfriend when she has visited you? Have your kids met her (FYI, I don’t think they should – it’s still too early to introduce them to a parent’s new significant other)?

    As a heads up, if your kids aren’t aware of what’s going on in your marriage, and you abruptly move to the other side of the country for your girlfriend, it will definitely come across that you abandoned them and their mother for some other woman – they will most likely always think of you as a cheater, and you could cause irreparable damage to your relationships with them.

    As others have said, your children will need you and your support as they process the end of their parents’ marriage. Leaving them in a tumultuous time is pretty awful – and very selfish. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that texting them every day is sufficient contact with them.

  12. LW3- don’t leave your kids. They need you more than you can know.

    My birth mom left me and my dad when I was 4. She moved states away saying that she would still be there for me (sound familiar LW?). Until I was 17, I saw her for 7-10 days a year (her vacation-again sound familiar?). When I was 18 I cut off most all contact. I am now 30 and only talk to her for my grandmother’s sake, when my grandmother passes I won’t even do that. I haven’t seen her in 6 years, and I have no intention of seeing her. She has now wanted a relationship with me for years, but I don’t care. I have the most wonderful Dad and Mom (my step-mom, who my dad married when I was 11) in the world, I have no concern for the woman who gave birth to me and then left.

    Don’t let your kids’ stories mirror mine, because one day you will want a relationship with them, but they may not want one with you. No matter what you may think they will feel abandoned and hurt, but if you stay close and help them through everything it will be better on them. But if you do move states away there is no way in hell that you can talk or see them enough that it won’t feel to them that you left them. If the woman is worth it she will come to you.

  13. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW3 – If you can maintain a relationship from coast to coast by visiting every so often, the way you are thinking of having a relationship with your kids, that should work to maintain a relationship with this woman. If it won’t work with the woman why would it work with the kids? You know you can’t maintain a strong relationship with the woman from such a distance. You can’t move it to the next level without moving. The same goes for the relationship with your kids. To maintain the current level you have to remain in their day to day lives. Nothing less will keep you in their lives in any significant way.

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