Should I try harder to talk myself out of marriage?
December 15, 2011 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Even though logically I don't feel like he's "marriage material," I am overwhelmed lately with a desire to be married to him. Which way should I be going on this?

We live together and are committed to each other, but my boyfriend doesn't want to get married. I want to for social/financial/legal reasons, and because the girly, romantic side of me really really wants that level of commitment with him. I think if I conveyed that it was REALLY important to me, he'd do it, but I also wonder if it might not be a very good idea. I'm late 30s, he is mid 40s (no kids for either of us). We've been together a year and a half, living together since 4th date, still as infatuated as we were on first date. I was married for 10 years, it ended amicably. I liked being married. My boyfriend has had 5 major relationships:

1 - a short, early marriage that ended very badly.
2- the "love of his life" that wouldn't commit.
3 - the woman he was with for nearly 20 years, still his best friend today.
4 - the totally incompatible year-long failed experiment with whom he still hangs out on occasion.
5 - me, the new and improved love of his life.

He was in a state that does common-law marriage with 3, but never officially married again after his bad experience with 1, and doesn't believe the government or any church should have any damn say in his private life.

We play a little in the BDSM world, and he tells me that collaring and similar protocols mean more to him, carry more weight to him, than vanilla constructs like marriage. He doesn't even want any kind of public commitment ceremony, to him it's strictly between us. He doesn't care what our family or friends think of our relationship, what matters is what WE think. It bothers him that I DO care what others think.

He realizes things like medical benefits, Social Security, hospital visitation, etc etc may be important in the future, which is why I think he would do it if it became necessary or if I REALLY wanted to.

We occasionally have FFM threesomes. He falls in love easily. It hasn't happened yet, but it's certainly a risk. He leans more toward polyamory than I do. He left 2 for 3, tried to get back together with 2 years later while still with 3, wanted to be polyamorous with 2 and 3, but 2 wasn't interested. I like and trust 3 completely, and I'm fairly certain he's over 2. He was still giving 4 foot and shoulder massages for months into our relationship until I asked him to stop, any time he spends with her even now is still a problem for me. It's created some trust and honesty issues, minor compared to all the good things in our relationship, but still a concern.

On top of all this, he has a bunch of debt and little regard for his credit score. He doesn't spend crazily anymore since we've been together and I've been in control of the finances, but it is another concern for me.

BUT. He makes me feel better about myself than anyone ever has, he cares for me fiercely, dotes on me, loves me, lusts for me constantly, teaches me things, helps me, makes me laugh.... all those reasons that people fall in love.

So what's the answer, or how do I find it? Feel free to ask questions if I've left anything out, I realize I'm rambling a bunch of uncollected thoughts.
posted by thrasher to Human Relations (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
He's had a marriage, a "love of his life," a 20-year-long relationship, and two serious relationships since then, and he's only in his 40s? I have a hard time seeing how he could have even squeezed all that into his life (even assuming he got married extremely young). It sounds like he has a hard time with the idea of commitment and he likes bouncing around from relationship to relationship, but he feels a compulsion to always be not-single. I agree with you that he does not sound like "marriage material."
posted by John Cohen at 5:51 PM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


The legal stuff may be available via civil union depending on what state you live in, although that would also create a financial bond that you may not want.

The romance is a lot tougher. He's made it very clear that marriage does not equal romance -- and may even be a romance killer -- for him. It seems like you would holding up that aspect of your marriage all by yourself, which doesn't sound like a recipe for success.

It does sound like a lot of your goals could be solved with a civil union. You might want to investigate.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:53 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If either party doesn't want to get married (which you say he doesn't), then it's not a good idea to get married.
posted by xingcat at 5:53 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"We play a little in the BDSM world, and he tells me that collaring and similar protocols mean more to him, carry more weight to him, than vanilla constructs like marriage."

Ah! Please explain a bit more. Who is collared in this dynamic?

This is a genuine question from someone with experience. I'm seeking to clarify where he is coming from and where he is in life right now.

Thanks.
posted by jbenben at 5:54 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


(upon looking closer at the laws, if you're in the U.S. many states only allow Civil Unions for same-sex partners. So maybe not).
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:55 PM on December 15, 2011


He makes me feel better about myself than anyone ever has, he cares for me fiercely, dotes on me, loves me, lusts for me constantly, teaches me things, helps me, makes me laugh.... all those reasons that people fall in love.

Huzzah! Marriage won't change any of that.

....It's created some trust and honesty issues, minor compared to all the good things in our relationship, but still a concern.

Hrm. Marriage won't change any of that, either.

It's not really clear what your reasons are for wanting to be married. You make some references to the social importance of marriage, to the government benefits, to generally liking being married... But you don't really seem attached to any of those reasons. It's like you recognize they are there, but they don't take up much space in what you admit is a bit of a rambly question. (There's no problem with rambling!) Instead, in the place where one would expect the reasoning behind your desire to be married, you express your concerns and anxieties about your relationship. But marriage won't fix them.

Several times, you say, if you REALLY wanted to be married, he'd do it for you. This makes it sound like you don't REALLY want to be married--otherwise, he would have already agreed! Instead, could it be that you're using the idea of marriage to try to resolve the concerns you have? If so, the way to finding an answer to your question is to ask yourself, "What could we do to help me feel less concerned about this relationship?" and don't let "Get married" be your answer.

I'm not saying you shouldn't get married; all I'm suggesting is that perhaps it will be easier for you to figure out if marriage is right with you after you've dealt with your trust and honesty issues.
posted by meese at 6:30 PM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I would maybe counsel you to get away from this idea of "marriage material". Obviously some people are more cut out for commitment than others, but you're making it sound like you have a checklist and he doesn't make the cut. He probably picks up on that, and feels that marriage, to you, means he's going to have to make a lot of unilateral or impossible changes to meet your standards. Nobody wants to marry someone who makes them feel like they suck at being married.

Focus on the following two things: you think he's the bee's knees, and you like being married.

Then decide which you want more: him, or marriage. You have your answer. ("Staying with him because he might change his mind in a few years" or "Staying with him until someone better comes along" should not be on the table.)

If you decide marriage is more important, you'll have to sit down with him and tell him. Don't suck it up and fester in silent resentment, because boy, will that not be fun. I wouldn't sit down and give him an ultimatum, exactly, but if marriage is something you need, you should give him the opportunity to get on board. (And marriage can be whatever you want it to be: monogamous, monogamish, poly, whatever you decide together the boundaries will be.)

In general, though, I find that people who say they don't want to get married aren't kidding.
posted by elizeh at 6:36 PM on December 15, 2011


my husband and i thought being cuffed was all we needed for each other. we described my cuffs like wedding rings, we've committed to each other and these are physical reminders of that commitment.

things slowly shifted somewhere in there. we started talking marriage for all the practical reasons and realized that the outside world got easier if we were married. like it or hate it, the outside world puts more weight on marriage than long term partners. once we got married, nothing really changed, but everything deepened. it gave a security to us that we didn't even know was lacking.

the difference with us was that we both came to that point. i probably would have married him after a year, but i'm glad we waited until we had talked about it a few times and we both grew more comfortable with the idea.

as far as "not the marrying kind" - i think we're fed a lot of hooey about what a husband or a wife or a marriage looks like. "leave it to beaver" and "married...with children" and all the tropes that get meshed up with it. it's all bullshit. your marriage can be exactly what you want it to be with who you want it to be with. i think a lot of the outside world would have told you my husband isn't the marrying kind, but he's the only husband i want and i wouldn't trade him for the world.
posted by nadawi at 6:40 PM on December 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


He doesn't care what our family or friends think of our relationship, what matters is what WE think.

Or what HE thinks. You want to get married. It doesn't sound like he's as concerned with what you both think, it sounds like he wants you to agree with what he thinks. That might be part of the reason that this whole business unsettles you.

meese is right, though, that marriage won't solve your problems. It sounds like your problems aren't really about getting or being married. It sounds like your problem is about trust and security, and possibly about whether or not your needs are being met.

I don't agree that you don't really want to be married, though. Instead, I think that you want this man to show you that he cares about your opinions and wants to meet you in the middle when you don't agree with him about something that is important to both of you. It sounds like maybe marriage has become a symbol or emblem of that in your relationship.

I'd table marriage for awhile and start asking yourself if you're getting what you need out of the relationship.
posted by k8lin at 6:41 PM on December 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


You list 4 reasons for wanting to get married, and you talk a little bit about your rationale behind all of them: 1. social reasons 2. financial reasons 3. legal reasons 4. a higher level of commitment

I think marriage will help you with the social/financial/legal reasons. You'd be married in the eyes of the world and have the benefits associated with that. However, the majority of your question deals with your concerns about #4 - a higher level of commitment. It seems like he has had many loves, and as you say, "falls in love easily." From what you've told us about him, marriage is unlikely to change that.

So you must ask yourself:
1. Will I be happy in a marriage where I have the social/financial/legal issues sorted out, but not a higher level of commitment from him?
2. Are the social/financial/legal reasons so important to me that I need to change the status quo?
3. Are these reasons for getting married important enough to me that I'd convince my boyfriend to get married, despite his negative attitude toward marriage?

Finally, it sounds like you have some concerns about your relationship and his tendency to fall in love easily. I would suggest that you try to work on those together before marriage enters the picture.
posted by be11e at 6:41 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Getting married in order to gain a higher level of commitment is absolutely cart-before-horse.

people who say they don't want to get married aren't kidding.

I certainly wasn't. In fact I was fundamentally opposed to the whole idea (for many of the same reasons: our relationship is nobody's business but ours, etc).

Took me a little over three years to change my mind.
posted by flabdablet at 6:49 PM on December 15, 2011


Ten years experience in bdsm here. As i often do in these questions: go to Fetlife and register and join the people from metafilter on Fetlife group if the kink stuff comes into play.

Collars and married are two different things despite what you hear on the interwebs. What does it mean to him?

Poly, new at this myself but learning fast. Even if he loved someone else nearly or even as much as you that wouldn't necessarily exclude marriage to you.

Anyway kink isn't so important to the meat of this question.

You shouldn't marry this guy. You want someone who is ready to courageously throw in, risk who and what they are as much as you do. If he is concerned about your need for public sanction of your union, then he has different values than you do. And if he is not willing to work through that then he's not marriage material. (or collar material. But that's another kettle of fish.)

None of this is to say DTMFA. Movement needs to happen to align your views or at least create disagreement with less turmoil on your part. Some movement could be needed on both sides. But what is most important is communicating.

I just got out of a shit relationship where when I tried to communicate I got shut down. Now I'm in a new relationship, we just spoke for three hours on the phone, much of this being work to help us understand each other. More and more I'm learning communication is the way forward.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:15 PM on December 15, 2011


This:

It sounds like he has a hard time with the idea of commitment and he likes bouncing around from relationship to relationship, but he feels a compulsion to always be not-single.

And this:

He falls in love easily.

He seems like one of these guys who's more in love with being in love than any individual girl. Personally I find it very hard to trust men like this because I know I'd be easily replaceable to them. How do you feel special with all these women in his life (past and present)? YMMV.
posted by timsneezed at 7:18 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


@John Cohen - not that the math really matters much, but relationship 1 was from ages 17-21-ish, 2 was from ages 23-25, 3 was 25-42, 4 was 44-45. I met him when he was 45. And yes, he wants to be not-single.

@jbenben - we switch. It's a weird dynamic. He considers us more married than married people, and collared to one another. He has a pair of collars he bought for himself while in relationship #2, for him and her to wear, he also bought her a collar of her own. He and 3 wore his two collars when they were together, though he says they were more fashion accessories with her.

I've worn the collars with him, but recently have stopped. We talked months ago about collars, he wanted to get me one of my own. I wanted to get him one too. He balked, he likes the two he has, calls them "ours." This doesn't sit well with me, so nobody has any new collars. I did buy him an engraved dog tag for his birthday this year which he hasn't worn (more because it doesn't have a very useful way to connect to his collar than that he doesn't want to. I don't feel that I have a collar, though we both may consider ourselves collared.

Confusing? I agree.

Thank you all - you've given me a lot to chew on, please offer more if you have it.
posted by thrasher at 7:27 PM on December 15, 2011


BZZT. Polyamory foul, I'm throwing a flag.

Reusing things like rings and collars despite your loved ones' desire for something new is really inconsiderate of your needs. He can consider them "his" collars but what you consider them matters. He can consider you more married than married people, but you don't consider yourself married and what you think matters.

To some extent this desire for marriage seems like a desire to have your emotional needs acknowledged and treated as completely and fully valid and important to him. In this way, his deficiency as a partner is actually increasing your desire to marry him. Fucked up, but I've been there.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:46 PM on December 15, 2011 [31 favorites]


ooooh. everyone's relationship is their own and everyone has their own rules, but reusing collars from "the love of his life who wouldn't commit" would be a giant stinking red flag for me. i'd feel like every woman who wore them after the first was a proxy for her in his sexual play. i wouldn't see those collars as "ours." i'd be hard pressed to see them as "his." i'd pretty much always see them as "theirs."

he's willing to collar you with a new one, but won't let you collar him with a new one. again, everyone sets things up their own way, but this doesn't sound like a true switch relationship. it sort of sounds like someone who doesn't want to put the work into being a top so he switches between topping and topping from the bottom.
posted by nadawi at 8:07 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and another way in which his drawbacks as a partner are increasing your desire to be married to him--he's the type to love everyone! And think everyone is great! And keep his exes around because they're so great! Sometimes you just want to be special. Really really freaking amazingly special in a way that you don't have to share with the exes that are hanging around, up in your business. Hence, the one part of him they didn't get, and the thing that is pushed on us women as the ultimate relationship victory--marriage.

The solution to the first problem mentioned in my previous comment is to validate your desires elsewhere, besides him. Yes, it's totally fine to want to get married, in public, just because you want to. Yes, it takes two people to "feel married". No, it's not cool for him to reuse old stuff with you.

The solution to the problem where you feel like you want your relationship with him to be special is that he needs to work harder to make you feel special and like you're not in competition with his exes. You don't want to share things with them, and he needs to respect that on a deeper level and show that you have some parts of him all to yourself.

I think you're not polyamorous but I am approaching it from that angle because it seems appropriate with the level of involvement of these other women in your lives.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:08 PM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


@John Cohen - not that the math really matters much, but relationship 1 was from ages 17-21-ish, 2 was from ages 23-25, 3 was 25-42, 4 was 44-45. I met him when he was 45.

I actually think the math does matter, otherwise I wouldn't have brought it up. It shows he's allergic to being single. This might be a reason he'd be likely to half-heartedly agree to get married, and I think that's a problem.
posted by John Cohen at 8:12 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


He sounds like someone who likes being partnered but not emotionally exclusive; you sound like someone who wants emotional (if not sexual) exclusivity. I'd advise you to look elsewhere for someone to marry, unless you'd be ok treating it as strictly about the social/financial/legal reasons, and getting un-married down the line, should the absent emotional exclusivity become intolerable.

It sounds to me like something unlikely to change in him.
posted by ead at 9:57 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this might be a stepping stone relationship for you. It sounds like a great adventure! But.... that's about it.

This person is good at saying the right things, you're still infatuated and you live together, but he doesn't back it up with choices or gestures that are in alignment with the deeper meaning of those words. It's confusing to live with someone like that. Feels like you're going crazy after a while.

I bet having someone you can explore your sexuality with is very powerful. It's a great adventure. Enjoy.

But this man, he's not about your needs in the end. And this isn't a poly thing, where you just have to be more open or whatever. I think he enjoys you and cares for you, but he's simply young, emotionally speaking. He romanticizes the past and is selfish by default, but not selfish by intention. What am I trying to say? This person lacks the emotional maturity to be the partner you truly desire. He's not a bad person! But he's never ever going to turn into what you want.

Again, I think this might be a stepping stone relationship for you. Put some protective layering around your heart, appreciate this for what it is, move on when you know it's time.

There will come a point where lip service to your deeper needs will no longer suffice. Even when the rest of the relationship works and is fun, your needs are your needs.

We grow sad when we don't get the exact "emotional nutrition" we require. Make sure you jump before you get sad is all I'm saying.

Best.
posted by jbenben at 4:45 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wow. I'm not even that much into BDSM and the collar business is setting off huge friggin' alarm bells for me.

He says he finds collars more significant so fine: sort out the collar issues (hint: that involves new collars) first, and only if you can do that successfully should start thinking marriage.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:04 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This person is good at saying the right things, you're still infatuated and you live together, but he doesn't back it up with choices or gestures that are in alignment with the deeper meaning of those words. It's confusing to live with someone like that. Feels like you're going crazy after a while.

I just wanted to highlight jbenben's words here. They really ring true to me and are important whatever type of relationship you have. I have been that confused person, and boy did it make me focus on commitment, trying to make the actions match the words. This may be the case for you, maybe not, but that comment reflects some weirdness I had around commitment in a previous relationship.
posted by lillygog at 6:11 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The collar business sounds like, in vanilla terms, giving you the engagement ring that person 2 gave back to him. No doubt he would see this as a very vanilla construct (to use your words) but it does seem very ignorant of your feelings given your qualms about your relationship. If this is what he sees as the main symbol of commitment, then the way he is going about it is dubious.

It sounds like he has a hard time with the idea of commitment and he likes bouncing around from relationship to relationship, but he feels a compulsion to always be not-single.

The poly side is foreign to me, so I may have the wrong understanding, but I knew a guy like this once - so desperate to be in a relationship that it didn't really matter so much who the girl was, as long as he felt attached to somebody. (He is in a great place in his life and career, but he still pins every aspect of his happiness on whether he is or isn't with someone.) The cramming in of serious relationships makes me wonder whether your man is similar. I understand that people meet new partners soon after the demise of relationships, and it doesn't necessarily mean disaster or something unhealthy in their approach, but I'm just saying that this would give me pause to wonder if I felt doubtful that someone wasn't giving me the level of commitment I felt I wanted.
posted by mippy at 7:10 AM on December 16, 2011


@By The Grace of God, we're both regulars on Fetlife. Thanks for telling me about the mefi group though...

As for the re-use of collars, rings, etc, I certainly brought that up to him at the time. Before collars came into the mix he had given me his grandmother's wedding ring, which 2 and 3 had also both worn. I wore that for a time, it seemed reasonable because it was his grandmother's. Then collars came up. As far as he was concerned, what the actual symbol was didn't matter, it was the reality of the relationship that mattered. He said he'd have no problem wearing my ex's wedding ring if that's what we decided to use for our symbol, if we even decided we needed one. He didn't understand why grandma's ring was okay but his collars weren't. I told him "it's not like they were your grandmother's collars." (that made us both collapse laughing). I only wore the ring for a short time, it's fragile and ill-fitting... and I don't feel like it's mine.

@nadawi, you are right, he's always been trying to recreate what he had with 2. When we got together he told me he'd missed me, he'd been waiting for me all his life. He's often told me I'm the perfect combination of all the good things of 2 and 3, that we make each other up from our imaginations. I've always taken all of these things as compliments. We are relatively newish to the BDSM play and successfully topping and bottoming is still something we navigate on a daily basis.

I agree that he's emotionally young in some respects.

A little patience on other (much more minor) issues has yielded successful outcomes for us both, so perhaps some patience on my part for something this major is all that is required.

So many great comments here - thank you all. I knew you'd be able to provide perspective I couldn't see from my vantage point.
posted by thrasher at 8:52 AM on December 16, 2011


It sounds like you really have a lot of respect and admiration for him, which is great. Make sure you don't let that get in the way of your own feelings and opinions, which are just as worthy of your respect!

Hope everything works out well for you both.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:00 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


He's often told me I'm the perfect combination of all the good things of 2 and 3

I find it kind of disturbing just how often he talks about his exes and how often he compares you to them (!!) even if it's meant to be flattering to you.
posted by crankylex at 10:50 AM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


He sounds very charismatic.

Nothing that you stay careful not to lose yourself amidst him and all his exes.

Good luck to you.
posted by jbenben at 11:01 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Nthing"

Thanks for nothing auto-correct!
posted by jbenben at 11:02 AM on December 16, 2011


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