Financial benefits of marriage.
April 2, 2013 3:08 PM   Subscribe

The (unromantic) case for marriage.

My boyfriend and I have been together 2.5 years, living together 1 year. He is my best friend and I love him to bits, but lets talk money here..
We both make roughly the same amount before taxes (around $55k each) so we split rent, utilities, groceries, and furniture purchases in half. The difference is that he is self-employed and works from home, while I have a corporate 9-5 job about a 1/2 hour drive away. Some of my friends are surprised that he doesn't pay more for rent since he gets to use and write off an entire room as an office (we have a 2 bedroom place). We've thought about moving into a one bedroom and then he would have to find an offsite office but that actually turns out to be more expensive and I love our place so I sacrifice paying for half of one room that I don't get to use.
Here are how our finances differ:
I have a newish car with a car payment of $350 a month, plus I pay more in gas and insurance than he does since I drive daily.
He has an old clunker that has no payments and lowest insurance possible and barely pays for gas since he barely drives (we use mine when we are together). He would like a better car but can't afford it right now.
My work gives me medical benefits so I pay about $50 a month for an HMO. He on the other hand pays $300 a month for Kaiser. We are both healthy.
I have 3 savings accounts: a regular savings I use for vacation funding, a CD as a nest-egg, and a 401k. Altogether I have over a year's income in my total savings.
He has no savings except an IRA he can't touch. My school loans are paid off and his are deferred.
Recently we paid our income taxes and his is close to 22% of his income, about twice what I pay*. He did quarterly estimates but he underestimated, and so now he has to work paycheck to paycheck the next couple months to pay off the taxes, and this is really stressing him out, especially because of these upcoming expenses: wedding gifts for 3 couples this Summer. He also has to spend a pretty penny on a new suit and a crazy elaborate bachelor party weekend for one of the weddings.
I also really really really want to go to Europe next Summer for at least 2 weeks. We've both been to Europe before but never together and we agree it will be awesome--it'll be during the World Cup and we can cheer on our favorite European teams in pubs and alleyways, a dream vacay. We have over a year to save for it.

Now the issue of marriage..I think its a good idea, and if anyone stands to benefit its him: I can put him on my medical benefits plan, add him to my car insurance, my savings would become 'our savings' so he doesn't have to stress out every time we have a trip in the future and maybe we can save for a second, more reliable car.
And *big bonus*, if we decide to get married next Summer we can ask our loved ones to contribute to our Euro-trip as a honeymoon in lieu of gifts (we don't need any stuff).

But for reasons he can't seem to explain to me, he's not that into marriage. When I ask if he sees a future with me he says 'yes' but can't seem to discuss the details. I ask him if he's anti-marriage and he says no, he just doesn't think about it that much. This makes me feel..insecure.

I get that it can be a turnoff watching our friends get sucked into the Industrial Wedding Complex..but thats not me!! I don't want a princess dress or a diamond or a 5 tiered cake. I just want him to be my official family, and for us to make serious longterm plans together--like a house and baby before we are 40--and for him to be the person I leave everything to if I die and vice versa. Its for the same reasons I support gay marriage. Basically I want the piece of paper..and to throw a modest dance party for our friends. Does that make me a crazy nagging cliche?

Soooo I ask you Metafites, were you able to convince a reluctant partner to become your spouse? How? Was it worth it? What about the other side..the case for not getting married..Am I wrong that it will be better off financially than our current sitch? Will becoming a joint economic unit actually make our taxes higher thus not even worth the savings in other areas? I know theres a difference between one person making 6 figures over 2 people making that together, so are we better off (tax-wise) as an unmarried cohab'ing couple?
Thanks in advance.

*is this normal? He has an accountant so I guess its correct but seems awfully high to me.
posted by hellameangirl to Human Relations (44 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
When I ask if he sees a future with me he says 'yes' but can't seem to discuss the details.

This is not something that a practical approach to the financial benefits of marriage is going to fix.

I just want him to be my official family, and for us to make serious longterm plans together--like a house and baby before we are 40--and for him to be the person I leave everything to if I die and vice versa.

These are important and valid reasons for wanting to be married, yet you bury them near the end of your question and tack on a disclaimer about being a "crazy nagging cliche." You don't need to prove the practical merits of what you want. That you want it is enough. Do you want it enough to insist that your partner discuss it with you? Because although you might not get the answers that you want, you at least deserve an honest conversation or two about it.
posted by headnsouth at 3:18 PM on April 2, 2013 [13 favorites]

If somebody is reluctant to engage in the topic of marriage, you will not be able to logic them into it with financial reasoning. All of this budget stuff is a red herring.

The real issue here is that you want a solid legal commitment to the future and your boyfriend does not seem prepared to make that. It's an emotional and relationship issue alone, and you'd be better off thinking about it and addressing it on those terms.

(By the way, in my house, I'm the work-from-home freelancer and my husband is the 9-to-5er, and yes, we wind up paying about 20-25% of my income in taxes. It's not so dissimilar from how much you pay on a W-4, except you have to pay an extra percentage in FICA that your employer would pay if you were a regular employee.)
posted by Andrhia at 3:19 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

"the case for not getting married" is that he doesn't want to marry you.

May this change? Perhaps. But "logistics, etc" is not why he should want to marry you. He should want to marry you because he's in love with you and wants a future and babies and etc with you. You need to sit him down and talk about your future and figure out if you're both on the same page.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:21 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm a bit confused about your actual question here, because you sort of have two of them; you start out asking about your shared rent and whether he should be paying more, but then you side-shift into marriage. And I wonder if that may be part of why you're confused, actually - you're maybe sort of feeling like you have to come up with rational, logical reasons to justify why you want some clarity about your future together.

And you don't need to come up with reasons to justify why you want this clarity. Wanting to declare your mutual commitment does NOT make you 'a crazy nagging cliche", it makes you a person who knows what she wants, and a person who wants to know whether or not the person she loves wants the same thing or not. And it also makes you a person who wants to know what he thinks so you can make up your mind whether or not what he wants is a dealbreaker for you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:22 PM on April 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

Am I wrong that it will be better off financially than our current sitch?

It is likely that, as a couple, you'll end up paying a few thousand dollars more in income taxes. This is the marriage penalty, and it tends to hurt couples exactly like you, where both partners have approximately equal middle class incomes. Also, you can put him on your car insurance without being married.


But for reasons he can't seem to explain to me, he's not that into marriage

This doesn't sound like it's about finances at all. You want to get married? Make it clear to him that he's got exactly one year to either propose or end the relationship. Some guys will coast along forever if they don't see the necessity of marriage.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:32 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

were you able to convince a reluctant partner to become your spouse?

ick ick ick

don't do that

I find your situation confusing. He's living paycheque to paycheque, he can't afford a decent car; you seem to be 'Okay that sucks but whatever; I hope he can save up so he can go to Europe with me,' instead of looking to support him. That's cool for a pair of college kids but kinda weird for partnered adults.

It's fine to have a great friend you love to bits and not help them out financially, but if the urge to do so is absent I wonder why marriage looks like an appealing proposition.

Which is my take; I am sure there are people who are happily married whose financial lives are even more split than yours. But what's stopping you from helping him now? The whole dynamic seems odd.
posted by kmennie at 3:33 PM on April 2, 2013 [13 favorites]

You're mistakenly scapegoating your boyfriend's reluctance to talk marriage on financial stuff.

He doesn't want to get married to you right now. That's all there is to it -- and if you have to persuade him to marry you, I can almost guarantee that no good will come of it, no matter how successful you think you've been in changing his mind.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:37 PM on April 2, 2013

You shouldn't get married to improve your current financials. Marriage is long, things change a lot. Layoffs, new jobs, kids, houses, cars, illness, travel (and, unfortunately for some, divorce). Money is gonna be a problem for the rest of your life, you can't marry for money. You have to find a firmer foundation than that.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:39 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

"But what's stopping you from helping him now?"
I don't know, his pride I guess? I've told him if he needs help to just ask me but he won't. And he doesn't normally live paycheck to paycheck its just right now since he underestimated how much he owes in taxes. Also, the-soon-to-be groom offered help to pay for my bf's new suit (since he a groomsman and is supposed to get a certain suit) but he has refused.
If I end up paying for the whole Euro-trip then thats fine, but was thinking it'd be cool to make it a honeymoon and get some help from our families. Insurance is the biggest expense, but I refuse to pay for his when he could just get on my plan for much less.
posted by hellameangirl at 3:44 PM on April 2, 2013

it sounds a bit like you're trying to pitch marriage to your bf like it's a business deal. that really isn't what marriage is about as i'm sure you already know. it's more about 2 people coming together because they are crazy about each other and want to make a lifelong commitment to one another because they can't imagine their lives without each other. i don't think you can skirt around that and need to have some hard discussions with your guy about the relationship, rather than finances, and your future. try asking specific questions if your bf is hesitant to talk about it. such as:

do you see us getting married in a year or two?

do you want kids with me? when can you see that happening?

etc. etc.

be specific and you will get more specific answers. just be prepared that you may not end up hearing what you'd like.

question for you: how old are you guys?
posted by wildflower at 3:47 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can put him on my medical benefits plan

Sure. And you will have this job forever without your benefits getting "reassessed" to hell and he will always be self-employed and it will only cost $50 to insure him, always? My husband insured himself when he was not self-employed, on mine last year he was $500, this year $400, I expect it will go back up next year.

add him to my car insurance,

Don't have to be married for that. Savings are the same.

my savings would become 'our savings' so he doesn't have to stress out every time we have a trip in the future

He will instantly become comfortable with that? Magically all your money is his? There will never be any discomfort about his contribution versus yours?

and maybe we can save for a second, more reliable car.

You don't have to be married to save money. Being married is almost certainly going to cost you on your taxes, if that's where you think you're going to find that savings.

And *big bonus*, if we decide to get married next Summer we can ask our loved ones to contribute to our Euro-trip as a honeymoon in lieu of gifts (we don't need any stuff).

If that's how you roll, that's fine. But you could probably tell your loved ones "hey, we thought about getting married for the money but decided not to" and get financial gifts for not doing it.

[Don't get married because the "big bonus" is a free vacation. Good lord. This is like signing up for a 23% interest credit card because you get a free coffee mug.]

Given the tax fucking we've gotten nearly every single year of our marriage, I really honestly wish we hadn't gotten married - just for financial reasons.

Marriage isn't going to fix a single one of your problems. If y'all can't be partners now, a piece of paper isn't going to magically fix it. Your update makes it sound like you have more respect for the paper than the person and can't see out farther than a vacation and a free suit. I don't think anyone can offer you a line of reasoning that's going to make that work out.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:50 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

So qxntpqbbbqxl says I should give an ultimatum, but These Birds of a Feather says that won't work :/ 2 couples I know, the guy hemmed and hawed for 10 years. 1 of those couple finally tied the knot at 40, but now kids may not be a possibility. The other couple is now engaged, but the woman is 37 and is also thinking its too late for babies. I guess thats why I feel rushed.
posted by hellameangirl at 3:51 PM on April 2, 2013

Lyn Never, I never said the Euro-trip would be free at all, I just thought it'd make a nice honeymoon and if anyone would like to help out (like my parents who already offered) that would be even nicer. I'm sorry I gave you the wrong impression. Obviously you think marriage is a mistake so I will take that into consideration, thanks.
posted by hellameangirl at 3:59 PM on April 2, 2013

It sounds like something my old fuddy-duddy grandparents would have said, but maybe it is the old "why buy the cow when the milk is free" thing?

In other words, if he is getting everything he would otherwise want out of the relationship, why should he want to be married? You seem to want to explain to him that there would be something more that he is not getting, but that isn't likely to be convincing. He probably likes the place he is in with you and therefore there is no reason for him to want to change it--especially going down the marriage road which is a difficult one for all couples.

But, if his options are (1) lose you or (2) marry you, then he'll likely be willing to make a choice. I don't know what choice he would make, but that is likely the only thing that is going to drive him to make the choice.

Also, if you are best friends and have the type of relationship that can support a marriage, then you have to be able to have this discussion, even if only person wants to do so. That is something you have to do in marriage: indulge the other person's desires even you consider them annoyances.
posted by dios at 4:00 PM on April 2, 2013

Now the issue of marriage..I think its a good idea, and if anyone stands to benefit its him: *snip financial talk*

But for reasons he can't seem to explain to me, he's not that into marriage. When I ask if he sees a future with me he says 'yes' but can't seem to discuss the details. I ask him if he's anti-marriage and he says no, he just doesn't think about it that much. This makes me feel..insecure.

i wanted to add that i get the sense you are feeling a bit desperate about the relationship by trying to say how much marriage will benefit him financially. unfortunately, it doesn't sound too much like your bf wants to marry you. it seems more like he wants to be with you for the immediate future but not long term unless you two are really young. sorry for being so blunt.
posted by wildflower at 4:04 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was reluctant to get engaged. I needed a lot of time to get used to the idea. Now I have come around and I am very excited about getting married, but that never would have happened if my fiance had been constantly trying to convince me to get married. I don't think you're doing that, but it seems like you're thinking about it.

Re: ultimatum: are you ready to leave this guy if he won't marry you? Because if you're not, then you don't have too much bargaining power here. But you need to know whether this is a dealbreaker for him or for you before you know what your next step can be. And stop worrying about the financial aspect, the vacation, other people's courtships, etc. Make sure you understand his and your feelings about this and things will resolve themselves for the best.
posted by chaiminda at 4:06 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh sorry, I think someone asked our ages..I'm 34 and he is 31. This is my first time living with a boyfriend. I always wanted to wait until marriage but then at 33 I decided I was getting old and marriage might never happen and to give living in sin with my lover/best friend a shot. I guess since its been a year I'm starting to reaccess the situation.
posted by hellameangirl at 4:06 PM on April 2, 2013

sadly, there is no way to make someone go from lukewarm to enthusiastic about marriage solely on the basis of an economic argument. It's like trying to talk a football fan into liking baseball instead because the season tickets are less expensive on a per-game basis*--it's really an emotional decision.

There's a middle ground between "I want to get married next summer" and "hemming and hawing until age 40." I don't think it's unreasonable to make it clear that you'd like things to be heading toward marriage and that if you feel things are stagnating you'll move on, but it seems like this is the first time it's really been discussed between you. He may just not have thought about it much. I would lay your position out--the one where you want to be a family, not the one where you save money by getting married--and let him mull it over for a couple of months.

Back to the financial question...

Even with marriage, his taxes are unlikely to go down significantly due to self-employment taxes. Basically, he has to pay FICA taxes--Medicare and Social Security--that are normally paid by the employer, along with the employer's contribution to health insurance. What this means is that you are effectively getting paid more than he is even though you have about the same take-home income-- you are making 55K plus the cost of FICA, health care, whatever other benefits your employer offers, and he is making 55K and having to pay FICA, health care, etc. out of his own pocket. This adds up to real money--at my workplace it adds about 30% to the cost of an employee over the salary--even though you don't see it in your take-home pay.

If you want to be kind, then, you might consider reallocating your breakdown of expenses to reflect the fact that you are, in actuality, making a fair amount more than he is. That might help him get around the "pride" aspect of struggling to cover costs.

*this obviously varies depending on which team
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:16 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think you'll have to suck it up and break up. You can't convince anyone of jack if they don't want it. Stop letting him waste your time. Build self-esteem. He's just not that special.
posted by discopolo at 4:23 PM on April 2, 2013

So qxntpqbbbqxl says I should give an ultimatum, but These Birds of a Feather says that won't work

They are both right.

You should give an ultimatum if it's important to you. It might not work. That's the price you pay. If it's not really that important, don't give the ultimatum.

Personally, I think you should talk through the financial stuff first. He's broke and you are talking about Europe. If you each pay your own way, splitting things 50/50, then he can't go to Europe. If you pay as a couple, splitting up the expenses in some way that's "fair", then perhaps he can. Both of these are perfectly viable ways of living, but you have to decide where you are.

This is the sort of thing that serious couples need to be able to talk about.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:23 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh man, do I feel you! My boyfriend and I have been together for 6 years. When we started dating, I basically knew he would be the guy I would marry. Not just because we hit it off, but because we were at that age and blah blah. He was thinking something more like, "hey this girl is cool, I wonder if she'll still be cool tomorrow". It's not fair, because every day that passed without a proposal felt like a rejection, but he had NO IDEA I was even thinking along those lines.

About 4 years in, I freaked out a little and was like "Well if not 4 years, then when?! When is the appropriate time to get engaged?" and he was like, "it just doesn't feel like that long to me."

NOW he is gung ho about the idea, and we have purchased rings and started thinking about a date. We're not into having a big wedding and we already own a house together, but it'll be nice to have the piece of paper, despite the bigger tax bill. The thing he said that made the most sense to me was, "I just never had a relationship that got better and better, and I can't imagine my life without you." I think he was waiting for it to get bad, or for me to change, and so far it hasn't happened and he is pretty sure we'll continue to be us after we get married.

So I guess I would say, it takes time. 2 years might not seem like that long to him, even though you've probably been thinking of him as a potential husband for a long time. I hope it works out!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:25 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

"ultimatum: are you ready to leave this guy if he won't marry you? Because if you're not, then you don't have too much bargaining power here." No I'm not ready to do that because it would tear me apart. I'm near tears thinking about it.
From the very beginning though I did make it clear that I wanted a family. I did ask him when we were dating if he was anti-marriage/kids and he said he wasn't. I don't bring it up often, but when I do he is just..vague.
The Elusive Architeuthis, thanks for your detailed response. I'll ask him how he feels about reallocating how we pay for things.
masquesoporfavor, thanks for your understanding and congrats!
posted by hellameangirl at 4:29 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you really want to have to convince an unwilling partner to marry you? Do you really want to be with someone who isn't into a future with you?

You're not ready to leave him yet, and that's ok. But if you want a marriage and kids relationship, start thinking about these things.

I really think finances aren't the right approach, by the way, since he's never indicated that finances play into his unwillingness or lack of enthusiasm. The right approach might be couples therapy. For sure you need to tell him your future together is important to you and that you'd like to learn, together, how to discuss it. That's the best you can do, I think.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:46 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I got married for purely financial reasons, which I came in here to talk about*, but I find I want to answer your question a little differently: mr e & I made a life together because we love each other. That life together didn't require getting married, at least not by our value system. Among other things, it's about the quotidian bits and bobs of having a shared household, doing things as a team. If y'all are doing that, then that's pretty good. I'd say work on that, having a strong relationship, and then if and when you need to make it formal, you'll both be happy about it.

* He needed his wisdom teeth out, and getting married was the only way to get him on my dental insurance. There are other paperwork-ish types of things that seem to be easier because we're married. You can definitely buy a house, put each other in your wills, etc. without the paper; it just takes more forethought!
posted by epersonae at 4:52 PM on April 2, 2013

My ex promised marriage, mainly to keep me from leaving him. I met him when I was 18 and he was 24. We moved in together when I was 26 and he was 32. Six years and an engagement ring later, I packed his stuff and told him to leave because he was emotionally and verbally abusive instead of telling me he didn't have the balls to get married or be a decent husband. Now he sends me rude emails because he realizes no one wants his jock the way they did when he was a young, hot athlete. And he's really bitter.

(I'd like to take this opportunity to state that I'm more attractive than him (which he knew) and have a better earnings trajectory. You're still young and may meet someone before you turn 38 because most guys age faster than women do. Start by dumping this dude and dating up a storm. You must. This guy is holding you back and wasting your time. You have to be on your own side. This live-in boyfriend is just not that special. Start reading Baggage Reclaim and I think you'll realize how thoroughly unsatisfying your boyfriend is and what a nightmare it would be to be hitched to him.)
posted by discopolo at 4:57 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

"i get the sense you are feeling a bit desperate about the relationship by trying to say how much marriage will benefit him financially." *sigh* I guess thats what it is.
When we moved in together I was trying to be progressive and open-minded and not care about whether we get married or not..because really, what the difference between marriage and simply cohab'ing with your partner? But then talking to my gay friend recently about why he wants to marry his bf I started feeling like 'yeah, I want that too!" things that are just automatic when you're married --my gay friends will need a fancy lawyer for all the contracts to make them a family whereas we straights can get it so much easier.

A few of you mentioned couples therapy..anyone have a good resource in the downtown LA area?
posted by hellameangirl at 4:59 PM on April 2, 2013

You put words in my mouth. I did not say that you should not give him an ultimatum. I said that if you have to persuade him it's bad news bears. You are trying to get him to see how logical it will be to get married when what you really truly want is for him to be emotionally ready and willing and wanting to get married. Trying to use the former to obtain the latter didn't really work for many people I've known.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:04 PM on April 2, 2013

When I ask if he sees a future with me he says 'yes' but can't seem to discuss the details. I ask him if he's anti-marriage and he says no, he just doesn't think about it that much. .... I did ask him when we were dating if he was anti-marriage/kids and he said he wasn't. I don't bring it up often, but when I do he is just..vague.

I don't see where you're telling him what you want, how you feel, what your goals are. You're asking him using broad generalities that he doesn't have to answer, instead of telling him how you feel and asking him head on a version of "will you marry me?"

He's not communicating directly with you, but you're also not communicating directly with him.
posted by headnsouth at 5:24 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I will link to my answer here, which explains how I proposed to my once reluctant husband. Mainly for tax reasons. And residence. (We are still married 10 years later, by the way.)
posted by lollusc at 5:25 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

At 34 you're reaching egg fertilization choice time. Have you discussed things with him? Seriously I can't answer your question in terms of financial merit, because babies are a net bank account drain.
posted by Phalene at 5:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I get the sense that you are trying to find the most analytical (and unemotional) information out there, in order to "reason" him into marriage.

I don't think that is going to work. Even within the most logical and pragmatic couple, there are emotional variables at play when it comes to marriage.

And this seems especially true when it comes to him: it sounds like he has (an) emotional reason(s) for not getting married. Maybe you should find out what that is, before trying I find just the right piece of data that you think with convince him...
posted by vivid postcard at 5:49 PM on April 2, 2013

There is only one thing sadder than the man you love being wishywashy about a future with you and putting you on hold while he figures out what he wants. And that's eventually realising that it's never going to happen and while you've been waiting, you've lost any chance of having kids. A man whose arm you have to twist into making a commitment is not going to be a good husband or father, even if you could convince him. I know you love him, but watch how quickly that turns into resentment when in 4 or 5 years time he moves on to someone he does want to marry or commit to, or just decides that he's not that into you and you're left with little chance of achieving your dream.

Yes, I'm painting a bleak picture but at 34, you're at a crossroads from a fertility point of view. I know many many women who have been in your boat, with a man who was selfish enough to lead them on for years without letting them know that they were never going to commit, only to have the penny drop when it was too late. (Heck, I was with one for 8 years myself, luckily I got out in time). These men think nothing of squandering your prime years to have kids and find someone to make a life with.

Basically unless it's a yes, and he's excited and can't wait to get you down the aisle, then it's a no and you need to cut your losses and move on. You need to have a frank and honest conversation about where he sees your relationship going. Stop trying to be cool and open minded like it's not that important to you if it clearly is. Two and a half years is long enough to know and if the answer is I'm not sure, then it's basically a no, and show him the door. I'm sorry for the tough love but life is too short and you deserve someone who can't wait to commit to you. I don't think this guy is it. Financials or not.
posted by Jubey at 6:24 PM on April 2, 2013 [13 favorites]

I did ask him when we were dating if he was anti-marriage/kids and he said he wasn't.

You need to talk to him about if he wants to have kids with you.
posted by yohko at 7:02 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

[Comment deleted; OP, it's great you're finding this helpful but AskMe is really for getting answers, not for a two-way discussion where askers work through their thoughts out loud; at this point maybe just step back and see if there are other answers. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:18 PM on April 2, 2013

There is theoretical marriage. This is " I'm not opposed to marriage." Then there's actual marriage. This is "I want to marry you." It doesn't matter if he wants to get married someday or that marriage makes financial sense. The only thing that matters is if he wants to marry YOU.

Because my sense is that you're good enough for now and good enough to cohabitate with but he's not seeing marriage to you. And there's really no changing that in someone. You're 34. If you want to get pregnant, then you don't have time to waste with someone who's a marriage dead-end. (If you're open to single parenthood or adoption, then you've got lots more options).
posted by 26.2 at 11:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

As others have pointed out, you can't really "convince" someone to marry you--they have to come around to that decision on their own. You have two options: you can prioritize getting married, or you can prioritize staying with your current boyfriend.

If you prioritize getting married, then you have a frank discussion with him. You tell him it's important to you to get married, you've been together over two years and are both in your 30's. That's enough time to know how you feel about each other, and you're both old enough to make this kind of commitment. If he needs more time, he needs to specify how much time (hopefully months, not years), and you then decide if you can wait until that time for a decision. If he is not ready to commit (now, or after the agreed-on time), you need to be ready to leave. Granted, that doesn't feel like you are moving toward marriage, but if he's not going to step up, you need to move toward getting married to someone else. This will be a scary step to take, and there is no guarantee on what comes next, only that if he doesn't want to get married, and you do, then it brings you one step closer to finding someone to marry who is completely enthusiastic about marrying you.

If you prioritize staying with him, you need to embrace the idea that you may never get married. He does not show any real signs of wanting to get married. If you stay, do so because you are happy with the way things are right now, and you will be happy if they stay that way. (Of course, there are no guarantees that they will: he could one day wake up with the wedding bug, or he could decide he's not that into the relationship, or you could, etc.)

In short, you have to decide what you want (and what you want cannot involve wanting him to do or to want something--e.g. I want my current boyfriend to want to marry me).
posted by pompelmo at 11:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Adding to the chorus: don't try to convince someone to marry you. All the rationalizing is just avoiding the real topic.
posted by ead at 7:21 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year and a half; we moved in together a few months ago. Marriage has been a sticking point throughout our entire relationship - he is vehemently opposed, and I thought it was something I wanted. I've spent a lot of time thinking about whether marriage or a relationship with someone I love so much is more important to me, since unfortunately this is an either/or situation.

We had our first real fight over the weekend because of this issue, and basically it boiled down to him saying he needed more time to think about this because his thoughts about marriage actually have been evolving. But he can't guarantee that he's eventually going to want marriage. Now I'm trying to give him his time and space and continue to think about why marriage is something I want and if it's something I can give up for him.

All this is to say, as others have said: you cannot make him want this. I talked to my boyfriend about the legal aspects and how if he were in a car accident today I wouldn't be able to see him in the hospital. His response was, "Well, there's a one in a trillion chance of that - not worth getting married just for that." Reason and logic do not work in this situation. This is a very personal, big decision that you both need to make. He has made his choice; now you have to make yours.
posted by anotheraccount at 8:57 AM on April 3, 2013

We spoke last night about money and the Eurotrip. We decided to set up a 'Euro fund' where we both stash money for it--if I contribute more so be it.
I still have a lot more to think about before I declare that 'I need marriage or else'.
Thanks everyone.
posted by hellameangirl at 9:37 AM on April 3, 2013

I'm coming at this from the perspective of a culture where marriage is much less common than it is in the United States and typically happens much later if it happens at all, so take that into account.

From the very beginning though I did make it clear that I wanted a family. I did ask him when we were dating if he was anti-marriage/kids and he said he wasn't. I don't bring it up often, but when I do he is just..vague.

What seems worrying to me is that you guys don't seem able to communicate about these issues as a couple. You need to have a discussion with him where you frankly tell him that you want children and you want them in the next two years or whatever and make sure that he wants that too. If he doesn't then you have to decide whether you want to keep this relationship or have children.

If you guys are aligned on the more important issue of having children, then ask him to marry you. If he doesn't think of it as a big deal, then you do the proposing.
posted by atrazine at 9:38 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with you that "really, whats the difference between marriage and simply cohab'ing with your partner?" Think of yourself as ALREADY married. The elephant in the room here, to me, is the having-kids question. THAT is where the real committment is. Once children are born, you can't return them if you decide it's not your thing.

Considering that you live together already, maybe your boyfriend is actually non-commital only about the kids question. It's a huge decision and, from what I've seen from my own experience and those of most of my friends, having children has a strong tendency to turn happy marriages into never-ending cold wars. Your whole life changes. Paycheck-to-paycheck will be the norm. It's not all bad, but it's far from rosy.

If your boyfriend likes the situation you have now, he may intuit that your questions about the future are a harbinger of the end. Given your relative ages, I can understand him wanting to avoid the discussion, but if you are certain you want kids, I'd think you would want to get this situation resolved sooner than later. Good luck!
posted by see_change at 10:33 AM on April 3, 2013

A lot of folks are jumping to conclusions about what your boyfriend does or doesn't feel about you and your relationship. It could just be that he feels like he really has to have his finances in better order (after all, you do!) before he can ask you to be his wife. It sounds from the wedding thing and your previous offers that he's pretty self-conscious about being able to pull his weight, money-wise. It could be Anything, we don't know, because we haven't asked him.

It's great that you guys have set up the Eurofund. And I agree with others that you should tell him what you want in the short and long term. But I also think you guys could start smaller, talking about joint household expenses and money. Those, too, are emotionally charged topics, and if y'all get better at discussing Those, you'll gain skills for discussing all sort of other emotionally charged topics.
posted by ldthomps at 10:50 AM on April 3, 2013

I'm not sure where you live, but where I live (in Canada), you could just designate him as your common law spouse and then you could put him on your medical and car insurance.

I also think you need to get him to an accountant. Someone who is self employed should be in a lower tax bracket - maybe a financial professional could help him shift some of his expenses to the business. (For example, is he paying 50% of the rent and then designating a portion of that as business use of home? Maybe he should pay 50% just for the use of that room and you "let" him stay for free in the bedroom, turning the whole thing into a write off, if that is okay with your tax authorities.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:15 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to have children you should break up and find someone who knows they certainly want to do that. IT SUCKS, but I think it will avoid heartache and regret later. Teh dropoff in fertility in your mid thirties is REAL for women.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:48 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

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