Relationship advice please-- stay or go?

Ok here goes… I don’t have a lot of people to talk to about this, so I was hoping for some (friendly?) advice…

I’ve been living with my b/f and his 7-yo son (50% custody, from a previous marriage) for almost a year now, but we’ve been dating for ~2.5 years. We met when he was separated, and he’s been officially divorced for a year and a half. I have a great relationship with his son, who I’ve known for over a year, and a great relationship with my b/f. He tells me he loves me, calls me his partner, says he’s fully committed to me, that he never thought he would find someone like me. He encourages a close relationship between me and his son, who calls me his “big sister”. For my part, I’m totally in love with him and, while it’s been a rocky road to emotional commitment to someone with ex-wife-and-child baggage, I am finally beginning to feel like part of the family. There are rough patches, but day-to-day we’re all very happy.

The trouble, of course, is that b/f isn’t ready to get married again, but after living with someone and their son for a year, I’m ready to solidify a real commitment. When I moved in with him, I told him very clearly that I see moving in together as a big step towards marriage, and he told me that he could see himself getting married again someday. Ok, I thought, let’s give it some time.

In December, he told me he was really happy and ready to celebrate our commitment together, and we should get tattoos or matching jewelry or something and have a little ceremony with friends/family… BUT that he wasn’t ready to think about marriage. I told him that this sounded like he wanted all the important aspects of marriage without actually getting married. He said he wanted to celebrate commitment on our own terms. I told him that we can do the marriage thing on our own terms, but that I don’t want an “un-marriage”.

A couple months ago, he said he was thinking more about long-term commitment and we had a discussion about possibly having a child together, something he’s been wishy-washy on for a long time. I took him initiating the discussion, though, as a good sign.

That’s how everything was left, until now… I’m about to turn 30 and I want some legitimacy. I don’t want to be a live-in girlfriend forever! I’m fully integrated into his son’s life, I attend his school events, I cook and clean and do laundry, I help coordinate with his ex-wife on scheduling, we have several summer trips planned, I’ve met all his family, he’s met all of my family, etc etc etc.

I brought it up the other night. I said, I’m having some stress around turning 30 and in a situation where I’m taking care of a house that I have no ownership in, caring for a child that isn’t mine, and sharing finances with someone who isn’t my husband. I said I want to be sensitive to him about not being ready for marriage but I feel like I need some real commitment.

He told me that: 1) inviting me to live with his son is the biggest commitment he can make, 2) that marriage is just a piece of paper, 3) that he wants to enjoy a relationship that he doesn’t have to call anything, 4) that he doesn’t want to be bullied into proposing to me, 5) that he’s becoming more ready for it, and 6) when it’s the right time, “it’ll just happen”. All of those responses are troubling to me.

I do know that he was with his ex-wife for 5 years before he proposed to her, and they had an amicable split because of several incompatibility issues. I don’t want to rush anyone, and I’m certainly not bullying anyone. I thought that was an obnoxious thing to say. No one wants to marry someone they have to pressure into it!

It’s just hard for me to understand how you can be truly in love with someone and truly committed to them and STILL not want to get married. Our lifestyle is such that not very much would change, and I don’t expect it to. I’m willing to sign a pre-nup protecting assets for his son and I’ve never wanted an expensive wedding. It’s unclear to me what his hang-ups are, unless he’s just not fully committed to me.

I have no other reason to doubt his commitment, but this one is a biggie. I feel rejected, unappreciated, and depressed and I’m not sure if this means I need to cut my losses and scoot. After all, he’s the one with the complicated baggage, not me.

I wouldn’t have a problem with waiting a bit more if I knew he’d be ready in a decent time-frame, but he hasn’t given me a time-frame so I’m not sure what to do… is this a “why buy the cow” scenario, or am I rushing it?

Your gut is telling you something for a reason.

Even after this lengthy post, there are a million little things that have you feeling the way you do, little, seemingly minor things that you can’t innumerate on a message board, and it sounds to me that there are some very good reasons for your concern and self-doubt.

That said, he sounds like an OK guy, especially if he and his ex are on friendly terms, (which to me usually speaks well of a person) so you may want to let him know that you aren’t willing to wait around forever, and that, in my opinion is NOT trying to “bully” someone into marriage, but just making it clear as to where you stand.

Good Luck.

I think he needs to clearly understand exactly what you want, and what your timeframe is. If you are adamant about the marriage certificate and kids, then it’s not like you can wait 10 years for him to get around to it, before giving up and looking elsewhere.

I wonder if some form of marriage counselor can help you guys discuss it to the extent that is needed.

I recently had a talk with my boyfriend about similar issues, although our situation is slightly different than yours (but in many ways the same as well). I’m 30, he’s 33. We have agreed that we will marry and have made plans including a house and children, but he keeps refusing to talk about a definite time frame (for two reasons - he doesn’t want to get married until our future plans are more certain [too long to explain here] and he knows he can provide for a family, and he doesn’t want to talk about wedding stuff until he’s proposed because he is an old fashioned stick in the mud).

I’ve been trying to respect his wishes, but recently I point-blank told him that we’re not getting any younger, that I want to have a baby before I turn 35 and my fertility takes a nosedive, and that it’s ridiculous to wait for this magical “right time” to get married when everything is going to fall into place. He admitted that he was being a bit silly about wanting everything to be perfectly aligned, and I think I made him realize that there is never going to be a “perfect” time for us to have a wedding and have a baby - if we’re going to do it, we’ve just got to plunge ahead and hope for the best.

Anyway - OP, if your boyfriend is not willing to understand your concerns, then maybe you should think about whether or not this is going to work out long term. If he refuses to give you a time frame, then maybe you need to give him a time frame. How long are you willing to give him to “ready” himself? A year? Two years? Let him know you’re willing to give him more time to pull his shit together and make a decision, but that there IS a deadline. Don’t let him accuse you of bullying - you’re not coercing him, you are letting him know what you want, and he needs to respect that.

He doesn’t want to get married. He may never want to get married again. You have to decide how much that will affect the future of your relationship. It sounds like it’s a deal breaker for you. It also might just be that turning 30 thing. Once that’s out of the way (not the big deal you think it is, you’re life actually ended when you turned 25) you may not care so much. It also might be that biological alarm clock going off, and you want to be married when you have a kid. That thing stops ringing eventually, but it takes a while.

I don’t want the following to be advice, just something to compare your own thoughts to: Tell him getting married is important to you, and if he’s not willing to do it on the cheap with a pre-nup to satisfy you, then you will have to move on.

Does that sound like how you feel about it? If it doesn’t, neither he nor you are ready to make a decision. If it does, times a wastin’.

Alternate approach: Propose to him. If he’s not willing to do the engagement part, you’re heading nowhere marriage wise.

He’s getting everything he wants with the relationship as it is - you take care of his kid and his house and he can remain as legally unfettered as he pleases. Why would he change his mind?

He doesn’t want to marry you and he probably never will. It’s up to you to decide if that’s a deal-breaker or not.


Yeah, probably.

This is most certainly a “why buy the cow” scenario. If you’d been together oh, 6 months or so, yes, you’d be rushing it, but 2.5 years isn’t “rushing it” in any normal person’s book, particularly considering your age. (If you were teenagers yes, maybe 2.5 years would still be rushing it, but you’re both grownass adults.)

He’s told you repeatedly he doesn’t want to get married. You do. He says he loves you and is committed to you and you’ve made it clear that, for whatever reasons, you DO need that “piece of paper.” There’s not a damn thing in the world wrong with that, either.

Any man with a brain that has a woman who is good to him and – more importantly – loves his KID and is loved BY the kid – would go “ok, I don’t need the actual title of marriage, but she does, and I want to be with her forever anyway, so time to go ring shopping.”

People who don’t want to get married usually don’t want to marry because they want an easy way out of the relationship goes south. You can’t be all “oooh I’m fully committed” and not willing to back it up if the other party considers making it legal the only way to back it up.

You can do one of three things – cut your losses and move on or accept it and keep living with a guy that doesn’t want to marry you and hope/pray that he’ll eventually change his mind.

Or you can sit him down and have a come to Jesus talk. It might work and you might find yourself married in short order. That said, you needta ask yourself – do you really wanna marry a guy that had to be given an ultimatum to snap you up?
Or … alternately, what Sparky said.

If being legally married at all is more important to you than being married to HIM, then by all means you need to move on. If you hadn’t stressed the age thing, I’d say wait it out; my sweetie asked me to marry him, I couldn’t say yes because I didn’t know if I ever wanted to get married, and at 44 that wasn’t something that was going to suddenly change. But…somehow it did. Just…not overnight.

I think what you have is worth another year of your time for you to both think seriously about marriage, personally. But if you’re itching to move on, well…that’s really up to you.

See, this is why I think open-ended shacking up is such a bad idea–you wind up with all the responsibilities of marriage, but none of the rights and protections.

And well they should be, as he’s basically pooh-poohing your thoughts and feelings. A relationship can do fine in the face of all sorts of incompatibilities provided both partners are respectful of those differences and willing to work around each other to find some mutually agreeable course of action. But when one partner just handwaves away the other’s concerns…that’s poison. I’m not saying you should automatically leave, but it’s cause for serious concern and absolutely something you guys need to have a very long, very serious talk about.

If you don’t want to pull the trigger on breaking up, I’d strongly recommend at least moving out. If you stay there, you’re just going to feel more and more taken advantage of, and any chance you guys have of working through this is going to die a bitter, ugly death drowned in a sea of resentment.

I agree.

Most charitable interpretation is that he’s just stupid. The baby thing is a really big deal. Is having a baby at some point a deal breaker? That’s something you need to decide for yourself. If it is, he may be really blind to how long all this stuff takes: you’re thinking “Ok, if I want two kids by 35, I need to have the first by the time I am 33. That means I need to conceive the first when I am 32, and it could take a while, so I probably want to get started a bit earlier. I really need to lose 15 pounds and get the credit card paid off before then, of course, so that will take a year, so I really need to get started on all that”. He may be oblivious to all that and thinks that the minute he says “ok. Marriage and baby” they will just BAM! appear.

Worst case scenario is that he’s a selfish bastard who is perfectly happy to have you be part of HIS life, but isn’t willing to be part of your life.

I think the “bully” thing is the biggest problem. If he’s trying to make you feel like a bad person for even wanting to discuss these things, he’s got some unfortunate conflict resolution patterns. It’s a reasonable thing to talk about it.

I think this is a good suggestion. Under your current arrangement, he’s getting all the benefits of marriage without having any skin in the game.
If being married and having a kid is important to you, I think you need to make sure he knows you’re serious about it and if he is unable to give you that then you probably should move on. If you want to have a kid, you’re getting to the age where you can’t afford to waste time on a relationship that isn’t going anywhere.
I also would strongly recommend not having a kid with a guy who isn’t willing to marry you. Having a kid with someone is much more of a commitment than a marriage is IMO.

As someone who has been gunshy about marriage for no real reason, I can only imagine what it’s like for someone who’s already gone through a divorce, especially with a child. I don’t think he’s being…weird, or not committed to you. He’s just wary of marriage, and rightfully so.

Can you prove to him that it would be different this time around? No, you can’t. And nobody can.

So…you need to ask him to marry you. Go ahead, flat out propose. The caveat is that he has one year to take you up on it, or you’re moving on.

Now the ball’s in your court.
And when you DO propose, bring up all the positive reasons you WANT to marry him, not the negative reasons you don’t want to be ‘not-married’.

Ok, I believe what we have here is a failure to communicate, not that the words haven’t been said or heard, but that you two may have misunderstood each other. IMHO men and women often use the same words but put totally different meanings to them, someone somewhere is having a huge laugh at our expense. Let us try and see if this applies to you(possibly)

SP Have you asked him, like you have asked us? Said it all at once in a clear way? Without anger while you two were alone? I by no means intend to criticize you. We men can be a little dense when it comes to the subject of marriage, and experience can make us wary, but if he is the man you describe, you will get an answer, if you have already asked, you have an answer. There are only two answers to the question, both are right for you and both involve suitcases.

Good Luck


I can see where he’s coming from on the ‘bully’ aspect, even if that was a poor way of expressing it. It feels like an ultimatum and it eventually sort of would be. If it’s important enough to you, there’s no other choice in the end - he’ll either come around on his own, or you will have to give an ultimatum, which can certainly be seen as ‘bullying’ from a certain point of view. It may not be a fair assessment, but it’s not an unreasonable one.

I think Taomist’s advice may be best: if it’s sufficiently important to you, go ahead and propose to him. Ask him to marry you. Be clear on how long you’re willing to wait for a decision.

If marriage is just a piece of paper, then there’s no reason to delay it in the slightest. Not that that’s really a realistic answer, but it’s pretty easy to shoot down that excuse to avoid marriage.

If you two are in love you seem to be saying why NOT get the piece of paper? That works the other way too. If you are in love and for all other practical purposes married why do you NEED that piece of paper?

I’d suggest your need to have that piece of paper is not any more rational than his desire to not get it.

Keep in mind the guy’s been burned once already. A few years of dating and one year of living together IMO ain’t exactly a “boy that dude is dragging his feet for sure scenario”.

Say you had your own short term deadline, if you tell him about it, he will only think you are bluffing or giving an ultimatum. You stick to the deadline, prepare to be off on your own, free and independent from him. Then make it happen and fly away.

It is my opinion that he will be completely at a loss, good childcare and all the rest is very hard and expensive to find. Maybe then he might see the error of his ways, and do anything to get you back.

Maybe you might decide you really enjoy your freedom, or then again you might take him back if he makes it worth your while by marrying you. I suggest this because you only get what you tolerate, and you need to value yourself before he will value you.

I think your response to any bullying or ultimatum comments should be, “I’m not bullying you or giving you ultimatums; I’m just telling you what’s important to me and what I am going to do. If we aren’t engaged in six months, I’m going to end our relationship because getting married and having kids is important to me, and it will be obvious at that point that we are not on the same page.”

He doesn’t sound like he is trying to hurt you, though - he sounds wary of marriage, like others have said (for what are probably good reasons). It might end up as a deal-breaker, though, even though both of you have the best intentions.

Off the top of my head - because without that piece of paper, in 40 years’ time after the guy drops dead on her and she’s left alone, she can’t draw on his Social Security benefits, for one - never mind that she spent the past 40 years acting as his wife. If he dies intestate his belongings will go to his kids - or, if they’re no longer living, his next closest relative - as in, NOT her.

Why anyone wants/needs the piece of paper is none of our concern, though, but there are certainly some practical, everyday reasons to marry - why the hell do you think gay couples want the right to do so - just so they can have a big party and a pretty cake? :rolleyes: