If he likes it, he should put a ring on it. Right?
September 24, 2013 4:28 PM   Subscribe

After nearly two years, my live-in boyfriend still doesn't want to get married, but he's becoming more open to it. I'm ready to go for it. Can this work?

Hard to believe it's been almost two years since I asked this question about my boyfriend never wanting to get married.

The good news: we're still together and we're really, really happy! We moved in together in February and things are awesome. The bad news: the marriage thing is still a challenge.

We had our first really serious discussion about marriage about a year ago, when we started talking about moving in together. I still wanted to get married someday; he still didn't. We both agreed to think more deeply about why we felt the way that we did. I did a lot of reading and thinking about marriage and why it was important to me, and ultimately decided that it was. He has told me that he feels more comfortable about marriage than he ever has before. We've gone from him cringing when I even say the word "marriage" to casually talking about what our ceremony would be like, if I would change my name, etc.

That said, he says that he still needs more time and doesn't know a) when he'll know what he wants to do and b) if he'll ultimately decide if he wants to get married. I'm trying desperately to give him time and space to think about this, but it's getting harder. We're coming up on two years together. I'm 27 and he's almost 33. I get asked when we're getting married daily and we go to weddings constantly. It's hard not to think about how badly I want this when I'm surrounded by it.

We got into a heated discussion about it a few days ago, after we had gone to a wedding and the next day I got a call that two of my best friends were engaged. Our lease is up in May, and I asked him if he thought he would be ready to commit to getting engaged by then. He said that he couldn't and he thinks he would need a lot more time.

So, now what? Part of me feels like a nag and just wants to give him as much time and space as he needs. But part of me doesn't want to wait forever and put myself in a position where I'm missing out on what I need. He suggested going to couples counseling, which I'm happy to do, but.. can this work?
posted by anotheraccount to Human Relations (61 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Why do you want to get married? It sounds like your reasons are that people ask you about it and you go to a lot of weddings. But what are your reasons for wanting it?
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:31 PM on September 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

i have the same question as MonsieurBon. you have commitment. why do you feel as though you need THE commitment?
posted by koroshiya at 4:33 PM on September 24, 2013

Like the others: what do you expect to get out of marriage? Have you tried to convince your boyfriend that getting married has some benefit? If he sees no benefit to doing it, and your only reason for it is, "because I really want to", that's not very convincing.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:37 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's also not abundantly clear that you want to marry this man.

In addition to why do you want to get married/why is it so important to you, why doesn't he want to get married?
posted by sm1tten at 4:39 PM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you want to get married then you want to get married. Don't let anyone tell you that you shouldn't feel the way you do about this.

Having said that, he doesn't want to get married for whatever reason. And if you force it, you may end up regretting it. I think you need to be ok with leaving him at some point and find someone who not only wants to get married but is actually excited to marry you. You are going to have to make this decision on your own without any input from him (as hard as that is).
posted by dawkins_7 at 4:40 PM on September 24, 2013 [55 favorites]

oh, coming back in to say that I think couples counseling is an excellent idea.
posted by dawkins_7 at 4:42 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Has he been clear with you and himself about why he doesn't want to get married? Otherwise I'd be worried that the issue is he doesn't want to get married to you. That is, he may love you, but it's not quite right for him, and that is what is (subconsciously) stopping him.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 4:44 PM on September 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

As you said, it is important to you to get married. He has been honest that he does not know if he will ever be ready. Frankly, it sounds like the idea makes him uncomfortable and "I will need a lot more time" is a way to keep the topic at arm's length.

I see people asking why you want to get married, but it sounds like you have already done a ton of soul-searching about that. And you decided that getting married is important to you. Right? You do not need a well-reasoned argument or a justification for why it is important. "Because I want to be married" is enough.

I'm sorry, but there isn't a way to reason this one out. You want a thing, he doesn't want it and can't promise that he ever will. Listen to the words he is telling you and take him seriously. My vote is to respectfully end this and move on to find someone who wants the same thing you do. You both deserve to be with people who want the things you do!

Don't spend two years of living on someone else's plan or timeline. That is sad, and will make both of you sad in the end.
posted by anonnymoose at 4:45 PM on September 24, 2013 [34 favorites]

He told you almost two years ago that he never wants to get married. He doesn't appear to have changed his mind. If he's willing to go to couple's counseling I think that would be good for both of you, because it might help you address why you have been so determined to change his mind about something he has many times clearly stated is not what he wants right now, and may never be what he wants.
posted by elizardbits at 4:46 PM on September 24, 2013 [18 favorites]

And yes, be prepared for the fact that you may have to end this relationship - truly end it and move on - in order to get what you want.
posted by elizardbits at 4:48 PM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

Couples counseling, yes. Because both of you need to figure out if he's being tripped up by the M word or if this is about him not being there with you.

FWIW, when I didn't want to get married and didn't plan to get married, it was because of the guy. However, I never told anyone I didn't want to be married, or wasn't ready yet, or otherwise make any serious commitments. Also, I am not your boyfriend and don't know what he thinks.

Was he ever married? Did his parents have a bad (or really amazing) marriage?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:50 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just re-read your last question about this and think my prior response still holds true: despite your feelings for him, you two are on opposite trains heading in different directions. Shake hands, move on.
posted by anonnymoose at 4:59 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you want to get married, then you want to get married and that is perfectly valid!

Perhaps it would help if you both discussed the reasons why you do or you don't and then work to a compromise.

Here's a thought... My husband died after we had been married for 7 months. The next few months were hellish, obviously, but it was made a TON easier by the fact we were married. Everything transferred over to my name. He didn't have a will but that didn't matter. I was able to handle all the peperwork myself and get everything sorted in a reasonable amount of time.

I've been married twice, would I go again. Hell yes! After my experience I encourage committed couples who live together or have joint finances to take the plunge (when they are ready).

Good luck.
posted by Youremyworld at 5:00 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

You've done a lot of real thinking about why marriage is important to you, and that is really going to serve you well. I have done the same thing - marriage is important to me, it's a goal I have in life, and I know that it is something I desire.

Sometimes that makes going to weddings or even hearing about other people having weddings or even just seeing married couples or hearing about married couples makes me feel really, really sad. Or angry. Or annoyed. Or bad about myself. You know, not good emotions.

Sometimes it's incredibly hard for me to separate those emotions from the reasons that I feel like I might want to marry a particular person.

I think you both need to really talk about this and figure things out. Couples counseling sounds like a nice idea. The fact that he suggested it is a really good thing - it likely means that he wants to work on this problem and wants to figure it out. Take him up on that - why not? You are happy together and it seems like you do love each other. So, talking it out will probably be very fruitful: it may show you whether or not you can make a marriage work, which is really what you both want to know before you do it.

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 5:00 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

nthing what everyone else said...

My husband doesn't really "believe" in marriage, and it wasn't something he thought he'd ever do... but the commitment was there *anyway* (as the first few commentors have said), and we needed the visa - so he married me. Happily. He calls me names like wifey-poo and wears a wedding ring and brags about his awesome wife/marriage to other people and genuinely generally just enjoys being properly married to me - anyway. Because if the commitment's there and it 'doesn't matter', why not get married? So many comments are questioning why you need it - if it doesn't really change anything, why not do it rather than not do it? You get cake! and presents! (and yeah, lots of handy legal stuff!)

Counseling; it's a great sign if he suggested it! The M word could genuinely be tripping him up. (My husband was tripped up about kids - because his dad was bipolar and a mess, but he is not his father yadda yadda yadda now he's excited about it. Counseling DOES help.)

You may want counseling yourself, regardless of weather he goes to couples with you or not.
posted by jrobin276 at 5:05 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Won't threadsit, I promise. I want marriage because to me, it's a different kind of commitment than just living together. He tells me all the time that he's not going anywhere - and I believe him - but I want to be married to him. I want to be his partner for life, I want to make that declaration before our friends and family. I want to do things with him that I won't feel comfortable doing unless we're married, like buying a house or a car. And believe me, I have thought about this long and hard. For awhile, I really thought/hoped that I could be okay with not being married.. but over time, I've done a lot of soul searching and realized that that just won't work for me.

I have already told him that I will not wait around forever. I've told him that it has nothing to do with how much I love him (and I do, desperately), but I need to do what's right for me.

In response to other questions: His parents divorced when he was young (mine did too). He's never been married. He has told me a hundred times that he wants to be with me for the rest of his life, but he does not want to get married.
posted by anotheraccount at 5:06 PM on September 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

My take on this, with my current husband, is that he didn't care about marriage. I explained to him that it was important to me for the simple fact that if say, either one of us got hospitalized, I would have no rights as a girlfriend, nor would he as a boyfriend. And neither of us wanted our families to make medical decisions for us (much as we love them, distance and other views, etc.). Just general things like that, as well as the solidity of the ceremony. I've known folks who had a ceremony who didn't get married for financial reasons (one losing benefits) but they were very long-term committed to each other.

Also, I said that living together always gives the other one an out. And I didn't want to live together indefinitely. It's not like either one of us is rich (i.e. no pre-nup stuff involved), but I wanted the married thing and we did it. He doesn't see the need for certain things, but he does see the need for me to be happy. In fact, when we went for the preacher interview, when asked why we wanted to get married, he said, "I don't, but she does, so whatever makes her happy."

I have been married three times, and there is nothing that will keep a couple together if they are not right for each other. But there is also nothing that will wear down a person more than some sort of power play of "do you love me enough to do this thing?" And the other one holding out. It's like a poison. I had that in my 2nd marriage... and bad on me for putting up with his shit. He still cheated on me before and after we were married! Go figure!

So you have two people: living together. One is pretty much okay and the other is unhappy. He know you are unhappy but yet does nothing to resolve it. That would be a deal breaker for me, but only you can decide if it is for you. Frankly, it would wear me out. I feel like I struck gold with this guy because he is all about making me happy and I am all about cooking him elaborate meals and we love each other so much even tho' we pick at each other sometimes and there is no one on earth I would rather snuggle with at night than this guy. NO games, just friends, it's so refreshing!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:11 PM on September 24, 2013 [12 favorites]

I think you totally have the right to want to get married and it sounds like you HAVE thought it through. He sounds wishy washy. It might be that he figures out his final answer after you've given him the ultimatum (if it's worth that to you).

I'm not sure if he sounds like he's going to come around to it on his own any time with the next few years so I guess I would think about how long you are okay with waiting, and then I would suggest waiting that amount of time and then laying out for him what it is you will need in order to feel fulfilled (which you absolutely are allowed to do.)
posted by mermily at 5:11 PM on September 24, 2013

Even if this guy is The One and he has specifically told you he plans to love and adore you forever and ever, if he ain't ready for marriage then don't force him into it.

The problem is, that way lies resentment: as will ANY forcing or bullying or "convincing" someone against their will, in the end. You're basically happy, he's happy & slowly coming around to your views; don't mess it up. Unless and until BOTH of you want to be married, the time is NOT right.
posted by easily confused at 5:11 PM on September 24, 2013

When people say marriage, it's a stand-in for all sorts of concepts and ideas and it's not clear how either of you define what you think marriage means. (on preview, I see you just responded with some of your thoughts on the matter)

I'd be more concerned about how he felt about monogamy, what it means to be committed to another person, whether he envisions himself with a single person/you for the rest of his life, whether he wants some of the the legal benefits of marriage without the marriage (does he want to draw-up a living will with you as the primary decision maker, do you include each other in your wills), whether he wants to eventually buy property with you and what would be the logistics of that, whether he wants to fuse your finances, how you want your relationship to be understood by friends and family, how you both would approach rough spots in the relationship, etc.

If you had the security, commitment, and common understandings you want out of a marriage without the piece of paper and the jewelry, would that be enough?

Not that you're interested in my personal life, but my partner and I made all of our solemn, life-long commitments to one another many years before we got officially married (we married after 12 years of living together). Our committed partnership was just as real and serious as the marriages around us, and it outlasted many of the marriages of friends/family that happened while we were living together. There's nothing magical about marriage that keeps the other person from leaving or cheating.

Couples counseling sounds like a great arena to hash a lot of this out. Do that instead of building resentments and constructing an ultimatum.
posted by quince at 5:18 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hon, why wait until May to amicably break-up with this guy and find someone more compatible?

He's basically never going to marry you, and you're willfully not believing him every time he tells you The Truth.

Part amicably and move on. For your sake.

I'm annoyed he's happy to go on and on and on indefinitely, despite knowing how important this is to you. That's a big reason not to spend another second with this guy.

He's man enough to stick up for what he wants (no marriage) but he's not man enough to make sure you're in a position to get what you want (marriage) by letting you go.

Two years? You've waited long enough.
posted by jbenben at 5:18 PM on September 24, 2013 [30 favorites]

You know what else leads to resentment? Settling for live-in when you really want to be married. Neither of you is a bad person for not wanting what the other wants. You just don't want the same things. He has what he wants and your long-term desire is on hold.

If you want to be married then you need to move on to a man who's at least willing to see it somewhere in the future. He doesn't and that's perfectly okay for him.

If you can't be happy without marriage, then cut your losses and move on. You're 27 and right now there are a lot of single men. When you're 37 it's going to be much, much harder.
posted by 26.2 at 5:21 PM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

Thanks for your update, OP. Sorry if my earlier question came off as overly presumptuous -- I wanted to know what each side thought because I think that someone who wants to get married because they've grown up thinking that's what adults do/all their friends are doing it, and someone who doesn't want to get married because their parents got divorced/they don't believe that the legality is meaningful (just an example, I'm not talking about anyone in particular) may find that counseling can help them come to a middle ground.

What you've described probably isn't going to do that.

And if he knows you won't wait around forever, then, why are you? How much "more time" are you willing to wait for him to possibly want what you want so much?
posted by sm1tten at 5:21 PM on September 24, 2013

You know lease is up in May? Sounds like a good time to reassess. Maybe you don't break up, but you move back into your own place if you aren't engaged by then. It'll put you in a much better mental and physical place to make a decision about the relationship. You can see whether both of your convictions hold when the rubber hits the road. If neither of you is willing to bend to stay together you have your answer. If one of you does you have your solution.
posted by whoaali at 5:24 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm a woman. When I didn't want to get married (but was open to have kids), it was because I'd seen too many divorces. It's not that I questioned my commitment, or even my partner's, but that nothing is certain. And there didn't seem a reason to get married. It's a lot of stress to plan, and quite a bit of money (that for example, I could put towards retirement). Plus, I'm an introvert and don't like the whole party thing.

And here's why I changed my mind: The benefits out-weighed the risks. It's much easier to manage taxes, finances, health insurance, and your will (i.e., leaving things to your partner after you die, how easily that's transferred, and how much estate taxes you'd have to pay) if you are married. With certain income distributions, you also get a lot of tax advantages. Your family will stop harassing you about getting married. Random people will stop hitting on you once you have a ring on your hand.

Plus, we're planning a low key, affordable wedding. And I'm not that stressed out about it.

So my question to you is: Can you present wedding to him in a way where the benefits outweigh the risks? If not, it may be time to find someone else, if marriage is that important to you.
posted by ethidda at 5:26 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Our lease is up in May, and I asked him if he thought he would be ready to commit to getting engaged by then.

It seems like you are seeing this as a deadline for you, but haven't actually told him this.

If you have a deadline you want to be engaged by, or you don't want to renew the lease with him, say so.
posted by yohko at 5:30 PM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

On some level, I'm the wrong person to ask about this, because I'm really going to go against the grain here. I'm going to talk about (many) men.

Having been married, nothing magical happens the day after you get married. There's no big change in lifestyle. You don't walk around with any more or less of a relationship glow because you got married. I absolutely DO NOT believe a relationship is more solid because it's harder to break up. It is what it was before the wedding, wonderful or not.

Edit: @ethidda posts some very good reasons to get married. Things that actually do change.

I'm annoyed he's happy to go on and on and on indefinitely, despite knowing how important this is to you. That's a big reason not to spend another second with this guy.

This goes both ways. It's equally important to him to not get married, so I would contend there is no blame to be had here.

You might be able to pressure him into marriage, and maybe that will work. It's not uncommon, and it's not uncommon for a happy marriage to come out of that.

However, I think *you* have to figure out how important this is to you. Seek some therapy. Talk it out with some very close friends or family. The basic question is, if you have the happy life you have now, but he never marries you, is it a deal breaker?

I think only you can answer that question. Good luck.
posted by cnc at 5:32 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have already told him that I will not wait around forever. I've told him that it has nothing to do with how much I love him (and I do, desperately), but I need to do what's right for me.

You've already waited two years.

You need to do what's right for you.
posted by winna at 5:42 PM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

Why do you want to get married to someone who doesn't want to get married to you?

You know what you want. Go find someone who wants to marry you.
posted by heyjude at 6:01 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

You asked if he'd know by May-- eight months from now-- and he said he'd need "a lot more time." That'll be almost 3 years that you're together.

I'd choose a date that *you* are comfortable with and say, "I need a concrete sign we are heading toward marriage by X date, and then I'll head in that direction with you, or in another direction by myself. I won't bring it up again."

And then commit to not mentioning it again. Until that date. At which point you'll have you're answer!

I know it sounds harsh, but a friend of mine had to do this with a very non-committal boyfriend. He did decide to make a commitment by that date, but if he hadn't, she was ready to walk.
posted by airguitar2 at 6:03 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

He has told me a hundred times that he wants to be with me for the rest of his life, but he does not want to get married.

Oh buddy, listen to what this man is telling you. Really listen. He is not going to get married. If you are determined to get married, this is never gonna work. Don't wait until May; break up now. You don't want to strong-arm him into marrying you; that is a poisonous way to start a marriage. You are letting your love for his man blind you to the reality, here.

If marriage is a deal-breaker for you (it's not for me, but everyone has different deal-breakers in life, and that's okay), you need to break this deal.
posted by smoke at 6:05 PM on September 24, 2013 [20 favorites]

You want to get married. He is happy to be with you for the rest of your life. Why not pitch, in a joking way, that you marry for 15 years (your way) then divorce and stay together without marriage for 15 years (his way.) Might help adjust the conversation.

He may mention that as same-sex marriage becomes the norm, employers will stop offering domestic partner benefits so it makes financial sense to start with the unmarried arrangement. You can counter that young people are more apt to commit crimes so you both need to be shielded from having to testify against the other.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:07 PM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with wanting a formal commitment like marriage. It's perfectly normal to want that. It is indeed a social convention, and it is a very useful social convention.

It's also perfectly normal to not want to get married.

The challenge you have is that you want to get married, and your boyfriend does not.

It should be pretty obvious after two years if you are compatible or not. So if marriage is important to you, perhaps you should think about moving on.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:09 PM on September 24, 2013

If you love each other, don't want kids, and everything else is good, I think it would be dumb to end it over the piece of paper from City Hall. I said dumb. Doesn't mean that you're a dumb person...but it would surely be a dumb reason.

I have walked the walk. I am on the very edges of an Orthodox Jewish community. Not being married (and heterosexual) is about 1.5 steps up from being gay in the Orthodox social pecking order. In a perfect world, my de facto and I would also have gotten married. He's already been married...twice...for a couple of months each time. So he has good reason to say he's never doing it again. For us it's nine years together in November.

I have lots of regrets about my life. But marriage as such is not among them.

My natural parents are divorced, like a lot of people's here. My mother and stepfather are now getting divorced after eight years dating and twenty-one years married. The all-American happy couple, a great romance, a great partnership. My mother was the patron saint of divorced women everywhere. She made it. And where is she now?

There are no guarantees. Marriage ESPECIALLY is not a guarantee. Times have changed.

I'm not saying stay with him. But if it's just your friends' weddings...half of those folks will be divorced by age 50.
posted by skbw at 6:11 PM on September 24, 2013

Do the counselling. Seriously. Either it will convince one of you to change your mind, or it won't, and if it doesn't then you'll know what you need to do.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:16 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

For fucks sake, how many times does the OP have to say that she already *has* thought long and hard about why she wants to be married? It's in the question, and it's in her follow up. Can people not just take her at her word that she wants to get married, for the "right" reasons, whatever those may be, and answer the question with that issue settled? I mean, suggesting she needs therapy for wanting to get married? I am the hugest proponent of therapy but that is ridiculous.

If you want to get married, you're allowed to want that. If he doesn't, he's allowed that as well. I think couples counseling is a good idea to help have the conversation in a safe space, and guided by a professional, to see if there is room for compromise. But if his answer remains no, and yours remains yes, then don't wait around too much longer.

(I say this as someone going through a divorce and who does not see herself getting married ever again.)
posted by misskaz at 6:17 PM on September 24, 2013 [29 favorites]

Doesn't sound like he wants to get married at all.

You don't want to maybe lose the relationship pushing on marriage, but waiting more isn't going to get you a proposal. You're going to have to make some kind of decisive move yourself, or accept cohabitation indefinitely.

I think airguitar2's script is good with a guy who is basically open to marriage but can't bring himself to make up his mind. I have some doubts your guy is that guy. You might be better off just moving on and finding a guy who wants to marry. OTOH, I suspect most guys who actually want to get married also want kids. Wanting really badly to be married, but not to have kids, makes you a bit of an tricky match.
posted by mattu at 6:19 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

My thought is that people who don't want to get married shouldn't have to. And they shouldn't have to go to couple's therapy to explain why to a person who does. 'because I don't' is good enough.

People who want to get married really should. And they shouldn't have to go to couple's therapy to explain why to people who don't want to either. 'because I do' is good enough.

Now, I do think that two people who generally think that marriage is a good idea should explain their reasons to each other, because that is about compatibility, not convincing.

But one person who wants to get married and another one who doesn't? That comes down to incompatible values. There isn't anything to explain, just the end of a relationship to mourn.

I am so sorry to for pain, there is something heart crushing about someone you love and loves you, but doesn't have a compatible vision or values about your relationship. It's a horrible, self esteem killing feeling, like trying to 'sell' yourself or 'marriage' to someone who doesn't want to be with you in that way. Marriage isn't some unpalatable food like broccoli, that he needs to warm up to by you slipping it in some dishes or waiting for his taste buds to die. At it's best it is an exciting adventure and an experience where each of you grows within and outside of the relationship. Meanwhile, if you don't want to get married for whatever reason, it can also feel like a ridiculous amount of pressure to keep having to reflect on 'why you aren't feeling it', like it some sort of psychological problem rather than just something you don't want, for a person who doesn't want to marry anyone, ever, or just you, even though they love you.

Don't settle - better to spend your life looking for someone as lovely as your man who shares your views on marriage. It might be painful to never find him, but it is still less painful than than spending your time trying to understand and convince someone else that your vision and values on relationships and marriage are worth them changing theirs. Let him go, to find someone for whom marriage isn't a must have either. In this key way, you two aren't compatible. I'm so sorry for the sadness I think it must be causing you.
posted by anitanita at 6:22 PM on September 24, 2013 [48 favorites]

"Believe what your partner is telling you."

This is good advice that can't be repeated too often. He doesn't want to get married, he has softened his rhetoric a little because he doesn't want to break up.

you gave him a deadline 8 months from now and he immediately balked at it.

you 'won't wait forever', but you are getting reaaal close to forever.

I very much like the idea above of moving into separate dwellings come May; whether you are broken up or not.
posted by French Fry at 6:23 PM on September 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

I asked him if he thought he would be ready to commit to getting engaged by then. He said that he couldn't and he thinks he would need a lot more time.

So, now what?

So now you decide if this is a dealbreaker for you (it sounds like it is) and start believing what he is telling you. I was in a long relationship with a guy and I was always sort of ambivalent about marriage. I'd been married before, didn't feel strongly about it. At one point it was looking like I was going to lose my health insurance and I talked about "Oh hey we could get married and I'd be insured through your job" and the deer in headlights look that I got from him was ... something I should have paid more attention to. We split up a few (long) years later and he is now happily married with kids and I am happily not married with a longtime partner who would marry me if I wanted to (I don't) but is otherwise happy to be with me.

Moral of this story is that sometimes people say they don't want to get married when what they mean is they don't want to get married to you. And sometimes they don't even know that's what they're saying (I'm pretty certain my guy didn't). And I do know other guys who got a wake up call when their longtime girlfriends moved out and decided that was a good kick to make it official and get married, and who might not have gotten the momentum up otherwise.

But really, you should marry a person who is equally stoked about marrying you, not someone you have to sort of counsel and cajole into it. Coming from a place where it's equally okay to be either married or not-married, it should be a valid choice to not want to get married. And this is what your guy is saying. And he might change his mind, but he most likely won't. And if he doesn't, you've sort of known how he's felt for a long while now. I'm sorry the news isn't better but if this were me I'd be finding ways to move out before May, but I think May at the latest is when you should get a final yes/no and be on your way if it's a no.
posted by jessamyn at 6:44 PM on September 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

I was with a guy for 8 years who claimed we would get married. There was always a reason why it couldn't happen just yet. Eventually I got tired of waiting, trying to convince him and trying to make things perfect enough for him to want to commit, and broke up with him (for that and a million other reasons). It was after that he told me, oh yeah, by the way, I was never going to marry you. There should be a special hell for a man who strings a woman along in her prime child bearing years when he never intends to commit. But more fool me for buying it, too.

Anyway, I moved on. Finally met a guy, and within a year he proposed. We got married (yay, very happy!) The difference between guy one and guy 2? Someone who wants to marry you does it. They don't need convincing, therapy or arm twisting to do it. In fact they can't wait to marry you, which is how it should be. I know your guy doesn't want to marry you. How? Because you're not married, and you're no closer than the last time you asked this question (an engagement would be closer). Unfortunately, it's been 2 years and all he's done is stall you, and it's working. So he's still stalling. Don't be me, don't give the guy almost a decade and potentially your chance for a family. Actions speak louder than words and unless there's a ring, the answer is no. You deserve so much better, you deserve someone who wants what you want.
Edited to say I just saw that you don't want kids, but the advice stands regardless. Hugs and best of luck, I know how hard this is.
posted by Jubey at 6:44 PM on September 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

He has told me a hundred times that he wants to be with me for the rest of his life, but he does not want to get married.

You have your answer right there.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:54 PM on September 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

I went through this. We got married. I've talked about this before on AskMe, notably here and here. There's also this other comment about how there are tons of women in this position.

This is a tough discussion, because the idea of marriage is bound really tightly to other ideas that people feel very strongly about. It's bound up with:

public declaration
settling down
starting a family
true love
joining two families
wedding: the ring, the dress, ceremony, flowers, colours, music, the bride's day

I'd recommend picking all of that apart when you talk about this. The word 'marriage' is too broad. Get specific. You and your partner may not be keen on all of the things listed above, or you may not feel that marriage is the route to those things. Marriage is also something that our society talks about in a really gendered way: Men are supposed to dread it, and women are supposed to long for it. So he's getting a lot of anti-marriage pressure (still got your freedom?) and you're getting lots of pro-marriage pressure (when's he gonna put a ring on it?).

To be fair to your dude, I think you've asked him 6 ways to Sunday whether he is in this for the long haul, if he's serious about you, if he's committed to you, if he loves you, and he has said I do! I do! I do! I really really do! And now you are asking for another 'I do'.

This isn't unfair (I also asked), but you should know that for my partner, that felt like I was questioning his commitment. I remember we were talking about it one day (tensely) and I said, "It's just the next step!" and he said, "Okay but then what's the step after that? And after that?" and I was like, "This is … this is The Step! What do you mean what's the next step?" But we didn't share that concept of dating --> living together --> marriage --> babies — well, we shared 90% of it, just not the wedding part. So he was surprised when I questioned the whole progression on that basis. (Other people in this thread have rightly questioned their partners' commitment — we can't tell you which of these two situations you are in!)

For us, it was important that I acknowledged that for him. If this conversation is going to lead to a life-long marriage for you, you need to approach it as a team-building conversation and that means that you need to find ways to acknowledge each other's points. It will be very good for you to reach a conversation where he acknowledges the social pressure you're under and that it is a huge compliment that you want to marry him, and for you to acknowledge how he is a great partner and that this is not about questioning that.

There's also lots of variations you can explore with him here. Like, would he be open to being secretly married? If so, why? Or would he be open to being married without a public wedding? Or with a pre-nup? And if neither of those things change it for him, what's the clincher?

My partner was afraid that marriage would mean Settling Down, moving to the suburbs, buying a car, having kids, not working on the relationship anymore, etc. He watched other friends get married and then stop trying to woo their partners, and he disagreed with that. And that wasn't what I wanted either, but we had to have many conversations about what marriage did and didn't mean for us and get on the same page about it. For me, I thought we were already acting married and I just wanted to make it official ("let the government know about what already happened"). He's still not as hooked into the marriage idea as I am, but that's okay. Our relationship keeps getting better every year.

- Unmarried To Each Other (book with lots of ways of exploring this question, including marriage)
- Alternatives to Marriage Project (including alternatives like "married, but not just yet" or "married, but not that way")
posted by heatherann at 6:57 PM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

In my twenties, I lived with somebody who told me (for various reasons too dumb to get into here) that he didn't want to get married; however, within two years of our breaking up, he was married to his next girlfriend. It was then that I had the "lightbulb over the head" realization that he didn't want to get married to me. That hurt. (I wound up married myself only a year or two later.)

A contrasting point of anecdata: a very dear friend has been with his GF for many years, living together for much of that time. He was adamant about not wanting to get married, and she was adamant about wanting to. They moved from NYC to KC, and something happened along the way to make him change his mind. I think that he realized he was "all in" (my words, not his), and he proposed late last year. They are getting married next spring.

So yeah, a man can change his mind, but I would not advise your waiting as long as my friend's GF did.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:10 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

If his options are to marry you, or to lose you forever if he doesn't marry you, which do you think he'd choose? I honestly think he'd rather lose you forever. He doesn't want to get married, or he doesn't want to marry specifically you, whichever. It's been two years and nothing has changed. Move out and move on.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:12 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I want to get married. I equate marriage with commitment, being "all in." Prior to marriage, it is not a full, encompassing commitment to me. Its like if commitment was on a scale of 1-10, 1 being some dude you grind on at da club and 10 being marriage, I'd want a 10. A lot of the responses to your question seem to be saying there is something amiss in you because you have a 9! Screw that. You want a 10, 10s exist, you deserve a 10, you should get a 10.

I waited 6 years, and it never happened, or even got through the can't-bring-it-up-without-feelings-getting-burned stage. Then I became single and bought my own house. Don't be me. (Be you, let him go and find someone fitting to what you want.)
posted by WeekendJen at 7:22 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I mean, suggesting she needs therapy for wanting to get married? I am the hugest proponent of therapy but that is ridiculous.

Couples' counselling isn't meant to talk people into things they'd rather not do. It's meant to force two people to lay their issues out and have a serious discussion, in the presence of a neutral third party who is skilled at guiding these types of conversations. Sometimes the outcome of such therapy is "you two should break up." I would never, ever get married without going through couple's counselling first.

And frankly I think the OP will feel better about dumping this guy after going through this type of counselling with him, because she will finally have to really listen to and believe what he tells her.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:29 PM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

Anecdata (Cause its my favorite kinda data) my GF and I lived together for ~6 months, she moved out (a planned, friendly move) for a year, and we lived together for ~1.5 years, and then we decided to get married. It will be in a year. I know it may not be relevant to your situation, but the wedding talk came kinda out of the blue to both of us and is kinda odd to us both. but we want to do it, and for me, it really was at the 3 year mark where I said 'what do I want? Do I want to keep doing this?"
posted by Jacen at 7:49 PM on September 24, 2013

I think some people might wonder why you want to get married if you're not having kids, but I can see why that would make it MORE important to you.

Having kids is a huge commitment, a 'we're in it for the long haul', and what ever happens, you'll be my co-parent - it's not something you can go back on. They're family now, so even if things turn to custard you're basically kinda stuck at least being reminded of them for the rest of your life.

As a never-having-kids person, you're never going to have that commitment, so it kind of makes it *more* important to know that the person you're with is serious about it, serious enough to be willing to go through a big hassle if they want to leave you, really.

Marriage is what you do to tell the rest of the world that your partner, is now your family. Not just a boyfriend who you'll have fun with for a bit, but then leave, but - family. Your family is now my family, my crazy relatives now yours, and vice-versa.

Fundamentally, marriage is a bit like an adoption.

Where I am, a bunch of friends went with a Civil Union, so they had the legal and social recognition (ie a party recognising 'this person is family to me'), without some of the historical/exclusionary baggage that they objected to.

Anyway, point is, if he isn't enthusiastic about doing the 'You are now legally family' thing... Leave.
It's easy to say - oh, you're awesome, I want to be with you, but it often has the subtext of "I feel like I want to stay with you forever, but that's only how I'm feeling right now, and actually I'm not that sure about it". Is he wanting to buy a house or a car together? Or do other commitment signals? If he is, that's a good sign, but does he realise what a hassle buying a house together will be without being married?
You'll only feel miserable if you stick around with someone who can't commit to you in the ways you need commitment.

Be with someone who WANTS to be a family with you (no kids needed to be family!), and wants to be with you when you're old.
posted by Elysum at 8:20 PM on September 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with wanting a formal commitment like marriage. It's perfectly normal to want that. It is indeed a social convention, and it is a very useful social convention.

Repeat the above line to yourself. Just look at how hard and long the LGBT community fought for the right to marry their partner. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married; you do not have to justify yourself to anyone. However, your partner has made it very clear that he does not want to marry you. The old cliche about the only person you can change is yourself is true. So unless you are willing to change your dream of marrying this man, you need to move on.
posted by JujuB at 8:38 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wait 8 months from today, don't stress about it, don't nag him and don't bring it up. Then ask him. Buy him a ring. Get down on one knee. If he can't handle that, dump him. That's my advice.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:00 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, why don't you propose to him? Then take the conversation & decisions from there.
posted by HFSH at 10:04 PM on September 24, 2013

or, what Potomac said.
posted by HFSH at 10:06 PM on September 24, 2013

He has told me a hundred times that he wants to be with me for the rest of his life, but he does not want to get married.

I think at some point you're going to have to just believe him when he says this. And reply directly "You're not *going* to spend the rest of your life with me without getting married. That's not what I want and I can't live like that." Then just leave it for a bit. You're not telling him what to do, not giving an ultimatum, just really clearly telling him how things are and what's going to happen. Some guys do change their mind after they realise it's the only way they're going to get the forever they're banking on, many don't. And at least this way when the probably inevitable, and hopefully not too drawn out or put off, breakup comes he knew the situation and was able to make an informed decision about how to proceed.

Because there's nothing wrong with wanting, needing, to be married to stay together. And there's nothing wrong with not wanting to get married but stay together anyway. It sucks when your needs don't line up for these things. What is wrong here right now is that he doesn't seem to quite get yet that the latter isn't going to happen for you. It's OK to take a bit more time to make sure he's clear on that before you let this all go (although, sadly, that is probably what you'll need to do to be happy in the end).
posted by shelleycat at 1:42 AM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

(1) You still haven't really specified 'why' he doesn't want to get married.

Or why you 'need' it.

(2) Even for people who absolutely do want marriage, 2 years is very soon for a lot of people - 3, 4, 5 years isn't exactly uncommon!

I think it does sound like he's getting used to the idea, so I wouldn't be putting a deadline on it quite so soon. Particularly given kids are not a factor (often the sub-2 year marriages are child related, especially in your age group!)
posted by Ashlyth at 1:50 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is this about committment or about the institution of marriage?

Here's a way of turning it around on him so you can see if it's the institution of marriage or if he's just not wanting to be married to YOU.

Tell him, "I understand that you don't want to be married. I can accept that, but if we're going to make a life together, buy property together, have children together, I need legal protection. Will you come to a lawyer with me to codify our relationship? Would you feel okay with a civil union?" His answer will be telling. This is an eminantly reasonable thing for a long-term, co-habitating couple to consider, especially if his desire not to marry is philosphical.

Frankly, I doubt if it's "marriage" that he's reacting to. There are very few folks who when they realize that they want to make a life-time committment, won't decide that marriage is the easiest way to do it, ESPECIALLY if it would please the person whom they love and cherish.

He has told you repeatedly that he doesn't want to marry. Why don't you believe him?

You are 27, it's time to fish or cut bait. Your boyfriend is being cruel and selfish. He KNOWS you want to be married, and he KNOWS that he doesn't, and he gives you just enough hope that he'll change his mind so that you'll stay in the relationship. At this point, the relationship is all on his terms.

If you truly want to be married, and you want a family within that marriage, this man is NOT the man who is willing to live that life with you.

Try counseling, but you have a fundamental incompatibility here. I suspect it's the big one that you focus on, and that once you realize that neither of you are going to change your mind about what you want, that you'll see that there are lots of ways in which you are incompatible.

What have you put on hold to wait for this man to change his mind? Buying a house, having children, moving to a different city?

Once you live your life in your OWN best interest, you'll wonder why you ever wanted to stay in this relationship.

It's going to be painful, it's going to suck, you will second-guess yourself at every turn, but ultimately, you have to leave to get what you want.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:40 AM on September 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Couples' counselling isn't meant to talk people into things they'd rather not do. It's meant to force two people to lay their issues out and have a serious discussion, in the presence of a neutral third party who is skilled at guiding these types of conversations. Sometimes the outcome of such therapy is "you two should break up." I would never, ever get married without going through couple's counselling first.

I wasn't talking about couples counselling - you see in my very same post I advised to go ahead with that. I was frustrated with the comments that suggested that the OP get individual therapy to "figure out" why she wanted to be married so badly, when it's clear she has thought long and hard about it and is firm in her decision. Sorry it made it seem like I was responding to you, but it was more a general frustration with some other comments in the thread.
posted by misskaz at 7:55 AM on September 25, 2013

I'm in exactly the same situation as you - except I've been with my boyfriend for 5 years officially.
I asked this question fairly recently and I'll tell you where I'm at.

I have compromised and come to the conclusion that we can continue to lead a happy life together, as committed un-married partners and I'm really, REALLY ok with that.
I did a lot of soul searching to get to this point and I'm happy with my choice.... BUT, you seem to want to get married very, very much and I was kind of on the fence about the whole thing.

One thing I will say, is that your boyfriend likely won't change his mind on this. Fast forward 3 years and you're in my shoes and it's going to be that much harder to break up with him when you're 30. you may start resenting him for wasting the "best years" of your life (whatever they may be). If you want children, the matter is further complicated.

If marriage is REALLY what you want, and he REALLY doesn't want it, then you may have to cut your losses and move on, I'm sorry to say. Or else, you have to do some soul searching and choose to be a in a happily unmarried relationship, and you absolutely have to be OK with that choice.

I really do understand your situation. It's hard. I chose not to say goodbye to my fantastic relationship, keep my man and say goodbye to marriage. you may choose otherwise, but whatever decision you make, it'll be the right one for you. Memail me if you want some more specifics.

Good luck!
posted by JenThePro at 9:27 AM on September 25, 2013

Your boyfriend is being cruel and selfish. He KNOWS you want to be married, and he KNOWS that he doesn't, and he gives you just enough hope that he'll change his mind so that you'll stay in the relationship. At this point, the relationship is all on his terms.

This! Ruthless Bunny hit on it, and jbenben up there too.

Look, it is perfectly reasonable for all this aforementioned reasons to want to marry. You have made your position clear and you are unhappy with living together unmarried ad infinitum.

The problem is not that you want to get married and he doesn't. The problem is that there is something that really hurts you about this situation, he knows it perfectly well, and he does nothing about it because it suits his needs perfectly well.

That is unequivocally shitty. A massive, massive red flag. Much as you wish things would resolve into happily ever after, I think it is this specific aspect of the situation that guarantees you won't get one of those with this man, even if he does put a ring on your finger.

Gently, from one who's been in similar struggle, I think counseling would be a good idea specifically to examine the issue of why you made your way into a situation where you'd find such a dynamic tolerable at all.

Check out a book called Love Without Hurt. Really good advice for getting your head and heart out of a situation where you are being treated with such little compassion by someone who purports to love you.

Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 10:13 AM on September 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

There was a time in my life when I felt strongly that participating in marriage would be a betrayal of my values.

If I was with, truly loved and committed to, someone who felt that they needed to be marriage, I think I would have been most worried about sorting out whether our values were truly compatible enough to be in a good committed relationship. Counseling might have helped sort out whether that was the case or not. If I felt like that was in order, I'd start working really hard on a compromise. Whether it's religious marriage without civil marriage, civil marriage without religious marriage, a private legal marriage that never gets mentioned to anybody, a commitment ceremony that is or is not accompanied by a legal marriage, etc, something that respected and accommodated both of us.

It sounds like he's not willing to do that. He's holding himself and his wishes and his comfort first. That's fair enough but it means that you also need to hold yourself first, and I think that means you need to walk.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:20 AM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry for the late response, as I have been thinking about this for a few days.

I'm headed towards 9 years with a man who promised to marry me, and we are still not even engaged. I made it clear before we even started dating seriously that I wanted to be married eventually. Similar to Jubey above, I have gone through my "prime child bearing years" in this situation. Dissimilar to Jubey, this isn't a deal breaker for me, and I'm not even sure that I want kids. I'm happier being with him and not married than I am forcing the issue or leaving. (Sidebar: I "forced the issue" with my first husband and we were divorced in 4 years)

If marriage is a deal breaker for you, and he says he does not want to be married, get out and get out quickly. If you want to be with him (rather than just "married to someone"), it's a harder decision to make. You are still pretty young, so I don't know if I would panic, for what it's worth.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:33 AM on October 1, 2013

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