My Boyfriend of 7 Years Doesn’t Want to Move In or Get Married. What Should I Do?

My Boyfriend of 7 Years Doesn’t Want to Move In or Get Married. What Should I Do?

I am 40 and my boyfriend is 36. I have been previously married and have three kids 17, 15, and 10. He has none. We have been together for 7 years now. I have wanted to move in and get married since year two. He always says he “isn’t ready.”  

A year ago he started living with me, kind of. He keeps all of his clothes at my house sleeps there every night and spends his down time there even when I am not home. I recently said I want him to fully move in because I think it would be financially better. He still keeps his apartment with his things in it. He calls it his “studio” (he is an artist) and he, after a huge disagreement, finally agreed it was the right thing to do.  

Well, the day before the big move he backed out. He said he wasn’t ready and that he didn’t want to promise me anything in the future for fear of hurting me. He wants to keep it the way it is. I am so confused. We are really happy as long as we don’t talk about this kind of commitment. I believe he is in love with me but what do I do? Wait? I am confused what is going to change in his mind. He keeps saying he will lose himself and everything he loves to do if he moves in and gets married. He just sounds like a child to me. I appreciate your advice. Thank you. 

Sincerely,

Cahnie

This is going to be really hard for you to accept, Cahnie, but there’s no other way to say it:

Your boyfriend doesn’t want to marry you.

He’s never going to want to marry you.

If he actually DID marry you, it would be largely against his will and he’d end up resenting you for it.

And if you twisted his arm to get married and he resented you for it, it would probably not be a very happy marriage.

If he actually DID marry you, it would be largely against his will and he’d end up resenting you for it.

I know you just wrote me a three-paragraph email and I’m telling you to completely erase the past seven years, but, well, what were you expecting?

In fact, I’m going to guess that what I’ve just written only goes to confirm what you already know deep in your heart.

“I have wanted to move in and get married since year two.” 

“He always says he isn’t ready.”

“The day before the big move, he backed out.” 

“He didn’t want to promise me anything in the future for fear of hurting me.” 

“He keeps saying he will lose himself and everything he loves to do if he moves in and gets married.”

Honestly, sweetheart, the writing is on the wall in ten-foot fluorescent orange letters. GET OUT!

The fact is that he doesn’t want to move in with you or marry you – if he did, he’d have done it years ago. He has a relationship completely on his terms, and you didn’t have the guts to walk away in Year 3.

Now’s your chance.

Honestly, sweetheart, the writing is on the wall in ten-foot fluorescent orange letters. GET OUT!

Unless you want to write me this same exact email in one year, which is exactly what I predict if you don’t break up with him NOW.

P.S. If you NEVER want to get married and are content with this arrangement, you can keep seeing him, but you know what? He’s STILL going to break up with you eventually, so you might as well begin the healing process now.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Taylor

    Evan is right. I wish I had found this blog years ago. Would have personally saved me a lot of grief. Move on. He’s a stringer.

  2. 2
    Angie

    Evan, I agree with everything except the “he’s STILL going to break up with you eventually”.  If the OP wants a relationship the way she described, this is not the man for that.  He clearly likes his space and independence.  You have called him a child in this letter… Do you even LIKE the guy, or do you just feel like you’ve invested these 7 years hoping he will become a guy you do like?
     
    There are a few things that aren’t mentioned here… OP, did you ever offer to find a place together where he can have a separate room/space where he can do his art?  Or do you just want him to move in with you?  You haven’t mentioned how he feels about your kids.  Maybe he loves you, but the idea of being a full-time stepdad isn’t appealing to him. 10 is still really young. Also, your claims of “financially better” are beating around the bush. If there isn’t an actual issue of finances (meaning you both live just fine and neither is unable to pay the rent/mortgage), this is a moot point.  It sounds like neither of you are being honest with eachother, and maybe you are playing it superficially b/c, as Evan said, you don’t want to see the writing on the wall.
     
    There is an interesting Freakonomics podcast about Time as an investment, and the longer people spend on something, the less they want to walk away even if it’s not what they want.  Evan is right. You can either get real, and choose to accept your guy and the relationship for what it is or you can walk away and start over.  I don’t think it’s true that he won’t change.  People mature at different rates, but the truth is that some people would’ve given this up at 25 and some people won’t give it up until 45.  And when he does mature, who knows what he will want?  You both are at completely different maturity levels.

  3. 3
    Luisa

    @ Angie, I don’t think it’s about them being at different levels of maturity. He doesn’t want to move in and marry her, plain and simple. And he has never wanted to. He seems to have been consistent in this, at least. 5 years is a long time for her not to face it…
    Sticking your head in the sand is not a demonstration of maturity. We’ve all been guilty of this at one point or another in our love lives. I didn’t walk away from a disastrous marriage early enough, didn’t have the guts or maturity to see the writing was on the wall for me. I did eventually but it took me a while. 
    At the end of the day, they want fundamentally different things, eg she wants marriage and he doesn’t, it’s not going to work. No matter which way you spin it. Most likely, they’ll break up and he’ll fall in love and marry the next woman he meets. She’s better off getting out, spending some time healing and looking for a man who CAN offer those things.
    When a man decides that a woman is wife material, he’ll ask her to marry him. I’ve seen plenty of my male friends go from hardened bachelors to family men as soon as they met the right woman.
    The OP’s story seems very one-sided…she is driving all these conversations and he is refusing…all on his terms. 
    You never know, if she does leave him, he might change his mind (on his own accord). Regardless, I know these things are easier said than done and I wish her well…

  4. 5
    starthrower68

    I wonder if the OP is a regular reader? I’m betting she knew the answer she was going to get. I am not without compassion for her; but this will not be an easy exit.  She’s poured 7 years of her heart and life into this. But the only way to deal with a guy who wants his freedom is to walk away from him. This one reason my personal policy is no to cohabitate.

  5. 6
    jlhsr

    you really dont think he will change if she leaves?
     

  6. 7
    Joe

    Evan is 100% right–the LW should have bailed in Year 3.  The fact that she didn’t is essentially tacit approval that she’s OK with not being married to him.
     
    @ starthrower68 #5: Yup.  If he wants his freedom, she should give it to him! :D

  7. 8
    Sunflower

    I’ve been there more than once (younger days).  It’s hard to see the writing on the wall sometimes when you have feelings for the person and have invested so much time into the relationship.  But as hard as it is Cahnie, don’t waste any more of your precious time on this man.  You are in the prime of your life and given the ages of your children, they need and deserve a whole mom and healthy role model.  Dump this guy ASAP!  The more time you waste on him, the less time you take away from meeting the right guy.  New beginnings Sista :) 

  8. 9
    Sparkling Emerald

    Based on the limited knowledge gleaned from the letter, I would say that this is a classic “string along” situation BUT, she’s stringing herself along, hoping he’ll magically change.  There is no indication in her letter (unless I missed it) that he has ever even thrown a crumb of hope her way.  No “I would like to get married, but first I have to accomplish X, Y and Z”  or “I think I’d like to get married but I have reservations about A, B & C” 
    If she’s a regular reader of this blog, then she KNEW what EMK would say, and he certainly delivered. She needs to VAMOOSE ! I’m not saying it will be easy (if it was, she wouldn’t have stuck it out for 7 years) but EMK is right, this guy has consistently showed her “the negatives”.  She just didn’t believe or act on them.
    I’m not a mind reader, but I wonder if part of the issue is that she does have 3 minor children.  Being a single mom of three is a TOUGH obstacle to negotiate in the dating jungle.  I wonder if she’s settling for this road to nowhere (or at least this road to something other than her desired destination) because she feels as a single mom to 3 children, that she should be grateful to have ANY relationship ?

  9. 10
    Pauline

    The writing is on the wall. You said in your letter you had a huge disagreement before he agreed to move in as it would be financially better for both of you. What does that tell you? He isn’t one of your kids, he’s an adult and can make up his own mind and has done by saying he can’t go through with it. He’s been telling you for a long time that the relationship isn’t going anywhere, you either aren’t listening or think you know better.
    Either way, it’s time for you to move on. There is another guy out there who will love you and your kids and want to commit to a life together without you having to argue them into it.

  10. 11
    marymary

    If he broke up he’d be doing you a kindness.  Sadly, that’s probably something you’ll have to do youself given his  lack of oomph.

  11. 12
    Goldie

    How did they manage not to figure out over the course of seven years that they want completely different things out of a relationship?
     
    Then again, I shouldn’t be talking, as my relationship of two years just ended for that exact same reason (I wanted to ultimately live together, he didn’t, both of us were oblivious to the fact that the other person wanted something completely different). For a number of reasons related to my and his children, and to his career, neither of us would’ve been able to move for another few years. So I just assumed that we both saw living separately as a temporary arrangement, and that, once we got the kid/career problems out of the way, we’d live happily ever after. Lesson learned. Never assume. Sit your two butts down and have a talk about how you see your future as a couple. You might be surprised.
     
    In Cahnie’s situation, okay I agree with the other commenters that the man shouldn’t have kept telling her that he’s “not ready” to move in, when he knew damn well he wouldn’t ever be ready. But right now, it sounds like he’s finally clearly expressing what he wants. He does not sound like a child to me. He sounds to me like a man who knows what he wants out of a relationship, and is able to articulate it. He has every right to want that kind of arrangement. There is nothing wrong with that kind of arrangement. It just happens to be the opposite of what Cahnie wants. So, yeah. It is not going to work, there is no earthly way to make this work, you two have a very serious disagreement on your hands about something fundamental, and you won’t be able to find a middle ground on it, because there is no middle ground – either you live together or you don’t. Time to move on.

  12. 13
    AllenB

    I don’t understand your PS, Evan. What if he decided a long time ago he doesn’t want to get married and what if she is OK with the current arrangement?  Why are you so sure that relationship would end any sooner than any non-marriage LTR. True, some people will flee something that might be worked out when they hit a hard point if they are married, but after 7 years, no doubt they have seen a few of those already.

    If marriage is what she wants (and it is clear to me that she does) she should leave, but in the speculative world of your PS, why is this LTR any more doomed than another based on what you know from the OPs letter?

  13. 14
    N

    What Mr. Katz said. Leave. Now. I’m your boyfriend in reverse. I have dated men type A, type B and everything in between with the same end results when the pressure is on to “commit.” I can’t commit. I use words i.e., I am not ready, I don’t know what I want, Let’s be happy about today, I am on major therapy :) The last one asked how long should he wait. I was forthcoming and said I do not know. If all else fails, I cut them loose. Not string men along.

  14. 15
    Nicole

    Wow, I’m impressed, no one has tried to call this guy a cad (which he isn’t) b/c it’s the letter writer who thought if she waited him out, a guy who didn’t want to marry her ever would marry her.
    If your goals for a relationship aren’t aligned, don’t turn it into a stand-off.  

  15. 16
    Andy

    No one can blame the BF for not wanting to get married. He may love her and want to be with her, but 3 kids (none of his own) is a huge commitment. Being responsible for them as a physically, emotionally and financially is a tough pill to swallow.
    But if she is looking for a marriage then she is out of luck, he isn’t going to marry her. But does marriage have to be the end goal? She has been married already and has children. Finding another man willing to marry her with these circumstances is not going to happen easily either. If the BF cares for her and treats her well why not just stay with it?
     

  16. 17
    J

    AllenB- I think it’s doomed because her boyfriend keeps saying ‘not ready’ when what he means is ‘not ever’.  The OP clearly should’ve left long ago but I also get the impression that there is something about this relationship that isn’t quite right for the boyfriend, not what he wants long-term and when he admits that ( or finds what he wants) he’ll probably leave. 

  17. 18
    AllenB

    @J-17
     
    This relationship is doomed because she does want to get married, he doesn’t and they aren’t even fully communicating.  It has gotten to the point that she is starting to denigrate him, calling him a child in her mind. They are toast. 
     
    Evan proposed an alternate history where she doesn’t want to get married either and he still says he will break up with her eventually, so she might as well start moving on now.  If she didn’t want to get married, I want to know what fatal flaw Evan still sees.

  18. 19
    Sparkling Emerald

    EMK – P.S. If you NEVER want to get married and are content with this arrangement, you can keep seeing him, but you know what? He’s STILL going to break up with you eventually, so you might as well begin the healing process now.
     
    Some have questioned this P.S.  This is my theory.  Most people want to marry & have kids eventually.  Perhaps the sense is that this guy doesn’t want to marry HER, but some day, the tug of fatherhood will tug at him, and he will look for someone unencumbered, (or less encumbered, perhaps with just one child), so he can start his own family “from scratch”.  How often have you seen, experienced, or heard of someone who finally breaks up an LTR, because the other “wasn’t ready” “wasn’t sure” “couldn’t predict where this relationship would go”, etc. only to have the non-committing partner marry the NEXT person they got involved with.  The orig LW didn’t say weather or not she wanted any more children, but with one almost grown, and having already 3 children, it wouldn’t surprise me if she was done with motherhood.  Perhaps this guy wants to be a father someday, but doesn’t want to tell her that.  She could be a stop-gap girlfriend, until he meets his future wife.   This is just my speculative, unscientific, theory, your opinion may differ :)
     
     

  19. 20
    Zann

    Right up front, let me say that I’m not an advocate of marriage as a goal in and of itself. Marriage doesn’t guarantee happiness, especially if you go into it expecting that your now-spouse will change for the better. There’s a lot about this relationship we don’t know. Yes, he may be a guy who can’t/won’t commit & who hangs in there by sheer momentum and because it’s easier than going out and finding a better relationship. But it’s also possible he’s been a loyal, supportive boyfriend for her these past 7 years, is bonded with her kids, adds a lot to her life, but simply doesn’t want to marry her or live with her and her 3 kids. So, I would encourage her to ask herself why it’s so important that they live together or marry. Is it a power play on her part, or does she believe marriage or cohabitation will quell her insecurities by “locking him in?” The truth is, it’s hard to find a good relationship, and even harder if you’re raising 3 kids. I’m NOT saying she should settle, because if she’s convinced she won’t be happy without further commitment, she won’t. But I am suggesting she look at her reasons for leaving a good relationship (if it is good) based solely on the fact that she sees marriage as a must.   

  20. 21
    Ruby

    This guy isn’t getting married because he doesn’t have to. He has most of the benefits of marriage without having to make a real commitment. It’s an wasy arrangement or him that’s gone on for 7 years. I’m curious, when he says, “he will lose himself and everything he loves to do if he moves in and gets married”, exactly what does that mean? Does it mean that he’ll lose the freedom to come and go as he pleases? To keep his art studio as his private space? Or does it mean that he doesn’t want to lose the option of meeting other women?

  21. 22
    Kiki

    I am thinking, would it be easy, if you are 40 and have three kids, to find a new man who would be willing to marry you? Not impossible, but very difficult. Most men would shy away from giving full committment to a mother +3.
    Otherwise, I do understand the desirability to be married: it tells the world that he did finally choose you, above all other women. Unfortunately, in real life, that would be a rarity, given the circumstances. 
    I have a friend, who is a divorced mother of two, and she has a boyfriend who almost lives with them – very similar situation, except he is an accountant and not an artist. She does not necessarily desire to marry him (as she already has children) but she gets pissed at his unwillingness to introduce her to his family and friends.  He keeps the fact that they are together away from public attention; at one point he even told her that his parents would be upset that he is dating an older divocee with kids instead of someone younger and single. At the same time, he seems to be ok as a subsitute father to her kids – gets on really well with them, helps with chores, takes them from school, etc., and, even thought the situation is not ideal, when she weighs the pros and cons, she still chooses to be with him.
     

  22. 23
    Henriette

    @Andy 16.  Interesting comment: thanks.  I noticed that you thought the fellow in question was expected to shoulder the financial (as well as emotional & physical) burden of co-raising the OP’s children.  I can understand the emotional and physical demands: anyone who spends time around children is somewhat responsible for ensuring they don’t drown in the pool or get bullied in plain sight (for example).  I’ve just been surprised by how many men assume that if they get involved with a single mother, that paying for the child is part of the package.  I don’t think that the OP mentioned anything to this effect in her post.
     
    If this has been your experience, I certainly don’t want to dismiss it.  I’m not a mother so your answer certainly won’t offend me.  But, I’d like to hear from all men on this blog; when you meet a woman with children/ a child, do you assume that she’ll want you to shoulder financial responsibility?  Have single moms actually let you know that this is what they expect or is this merely a nebulous fear/ an assumption on your part?  I ask because about 30% of my friends who are actively dating have children and none of them would expect a new partner to pay anything for her offspring… ever.  But, maybe they’re unusual.  Should every single mom who is dating online include something in her profile specifying that she does not want someone to financially support her kids?

  23. 24
    Selena

    He keeps all of his clothes at my house sleeps there every night and spends his down time there even when I am not home.
    Sounds like living together to me.
    I recently said I want him to fully move in because I think it would be financially better.
    Financially better how? Is he not contributing to the household expenses?  Do you want more of a contribution? Believe you would have more spending money if he gave up his studio?
     
    We are really happy aslong as we don’t talk about this kind of commitment.
     
    If you are really happy, then why is such a commitment so important? Why do you keep bringing it up? How would him giving up his studio/marrying you affect your day to day happiness?
    .
     
     He said he wasn’t ready and that he didn’t want to promise me anything in the future for fear of hurting me. He wants to keep it the way it is.  He keeps saying he will lose himself and everything he loves to do if he moves in and gets married.
     
    He’s not thinking like a child, this is the way he really feels about making the kind of commitment you are asking for. 
     
    Yes, he could leave you at some point down the road. He could STILL leave you at some point down the road even if he gave up his studio. Even if he married you. There are no guarantees against that happening.
     
    If you really aren’t happy with the relationship as it is, then yes you should move on. But if you aren’t unhappy in the relationship, you may want to evaluate whether the things you say you want are truly that important to you after 7 years together. 
     

  24. 25
    Cat

    Whether one believes in marriage or not, I think it’s important to remember what it means when someone decides to get married. They are saying to that person that I want to spend the rest of my life with you and doing everything that I can to make you happy and forsaking all others because you are the only one for me! They are so sure of this partnership that they are willing to share everything in the eyes of the law, their family and friends and/or their religion. I agree with Zann that marriage certainly does not guarantee happiness but when a man wants to marry a women (for reasons of love) it is the ultimate expression of love and you have to admit that it carries way more weight than a man saying I’m happy as things are ie. living together but with no desire to get married, “we’ve a good thing going, why change”. As Evan has said many times when a man wants a women he will do everything in his power to keep her and make sure no other man gets a look in! I think most people aspires to this sort of security with their partner in life and Cahnie is one of them. Cahnie says they are really happy but… one of her core desires is not being met therefore it is not a good relationship. People can argue that marriage is not important if the relationship is good and he’s committed but at the end of the day it does matter to Cahnie and that’s all that really matters.
    Hope everything works out for you Cahnie

  25. 26
    Ren

    I hate to say it, but…
    …he’s just not into you.  Move onto someone else.

  26. 27
    marymary

    OP
    Despite my earlier comment, you have one chance I think to get a proposal that may or may not work.
    For six months, do not bring up marriage, or living together, or the benefits thereof.  No hints, Don’t mention there is a six month deadline. Try not to even think about it. After the six months, re-evaluate.
    This worked for three of my friends. one who had been with her boyfriend for over three years, one for five years, and one for seven years.
    The small chance this has will only be realised if he is able to come to the decision himself and not because you are trying to convince (nag) him. 
     
     

  27. 28
    BeenThruTheWars

    All will become clear if you finish his sentence for him.
    Instead of: “I’m not ready to get married.”
    What he’s really saying is: “I’m not ready to get married… to you.”
    I bailed out on a 7-year, go-nowhere relationship to a guy I was “certain” loved me (even though he cheated on me, kept breaking up with me, let me keep breaking up with him, etc.) Boy, am I glad I did. I never would’ve met the sweet, loving man who I’ve now been married to for almost eight years.
    Cut this fishie loose. He’s had his chance. He’s not interested, and it’s next!

  28. 29
    TheThinker

    A word to the women out there: if you still nurture the hope of being married by a very eligible bachelor, please do not become a single mom. While it is true that some men don’t mind dating single moms, most of us single guys will not marry them. It is just biology. Men generally do not have the motivation to jeopardize their lives and limbs for other men’s kids while those fathers sit on their butts doing little to nothing to provide for their offspring.
    A colleague of mine, a 32-year-old attractive professional woman, recently told me she wanted to become a single mother, because her “eggs are rotting away”. All I could do was to encourage her not to lose heart in searching for the right man, but at the same time realize that by becoming a single mother, she has automatically ruled out many of her colleagues as potential husbands.

    to #28:
    “…kept breaking up with me, let me keep breaking up with him, etc.) Boy, am I glad I did. I never would’ve met the sweet, loving man who I’ve now been married to for almost eight years.
    What exactly did you expect this guy to do when you decided to break up with him? Adults take responsibility for their actions. When you broke up with him, he did not let you; you took that decision. Try to take responsibility.

    “…. He’s not interested, and it’s next!
    This was the message that this man has ben trying to send to the OP for the last 7 years. So far, she has refused to get it.

  29. 30
    Julia

    I think that its interesting that this conversations has turned into a conversation about the merits of marriage, not shocking though. The OP WANTS to get married her boyfriend of 7 years won’t even move in with her, she would be crazy to continue this relationship. For whatever reason her boyfriend can’t commit to her in the way she needs so she needs to give him up and find someone who will. Not try to change who she is or what she needs in a very fundamental way. 

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