How Long Should You Stay With A Boyfriend Who Does Not Believe In Marriage?

How Long Should You Stay With A Boyfriend Who Does Not Believe In Marriage?
Dear Evan,

First of all, I love your advice. In fact, it’s because of your advice that I’m in my first serious, long-term relationship. (We’ve been together a year and a half and live together.) Now, however, I’m confused about the state of my relationship.

See, ever since we started dating – even before we started dating and knew each other through friends – I knew this guy didn’t believe in marriage.

I know you’re going to say: “Why didn’t you pay attention to the negatives?” I can honestly say I didn’t realize at that point that it mattered to me. I’m fairly young (late 20s) and it is just beginning to dawn on me that I’d like to get married. Now I realize how much I do want to get married to the person I love. He still doesn’t believe in it. He believes in long-term commitment and family, but not marriage (his family history is pretty rocky). I said to him that I don’t want to wait, and if I weren’t engaged after a couple years together I would think of moving on.

This really hurts him – to him, BECAUSE I want to marry him and wouldn’t just want a relationship, it means I love him less. He’s offered the following compromise: in a few years, when we decide to have kids, then we can get married. I’m scared, though. Is it stupid to wait that long? And is it a bad idea to marry someone who is basically like “fine, fine, we can get married.” I know he loves me and is committed to me, but I wonder how healthy that is.

Now I feel that this big difference in values is constantly hanging over me, and is making me feel negatively about things.

For a point of reference: our relationship is pretty good. We rarely argue (I would say we’ve had about 3 large arguments in our relationship, and maybe a smaller disagreement every couple of weeks.) We both want kids. We both have our irritating habits but we accept them. –Katie

Dear Katie,

Thanks for your kind words. I’m thrilled that you found a serious, long-term relationship using my advice, and I’m candidly delighted that you even quoted the advice you ignored about “ignoring the positives and believing the negatives”.

It would be easy for me to tell you to run from him. But I’m not so positive that you would be closer to achieving your goal that way.

Except now the chickens are coming home to roost. Or something like that.

Listen, I can’t tell you anything about your relationship that you don’t already know.

I think it’s unfortunate that he has such a distorted view of marriage that he’s given up on it as an institution.

I think it’s great that you’re trying to understand where he’s coming from – how it hurts him that he feels that HE’S not enough without a ring on your finger.

I think it’s telling that he attempted to come up with a mutually agreeable compromise, especially since it’s one where, apparently, you get exactly what you’ve always wanted: a husband, a ring, and a baby

So you’re faced with the timeless dilemma that all women face – should I stay or should I go? This very question was the topic of an hour long FOCUS Coaching call so believe me, I’ve got a lot more to say about it than I can compress into a single blog post.

It would be easy for me to tell you to run from him. I’m sure some of the other readers will say just that. But I’m not so positive that you would be closer to achieving your goal that way. And what we’re always trying to figure out here is effective vs. ineffective – what’s the best way for Katie to achieve her dream of marriage and kids with a man she loves?

So here’s the reason I think you might want to stay and make things work:

As Dale Carnegie pointed out many years ago, people don’t want to be sold; people want to choose.

You meet a pushy car salesman who wants to give you a great deal and won’t let you off the lot until you buy…and you’re not gonna buy from him.

That same car salesman takes the time to ask you what you’re looking for in a car: speed, price, mileage, safety…and you WILL buy from him, because you’re getting to choose on your terms, without any pressure.

The way you have the greatest leverage over your man is if he can’t imagine his life without you.

This is what women routinely forget when they’re angling for marriage. The more you pressure him to know that he wants to spend every day of the rest of his life with you and give you half of his income if he’s wrong, the less he’s going to want to do it.

So your arbitrary timelines: six months, nine months, one year, a year and a half… they don’t mean anything to your boyfriend. They’re arbitrary ticking clocks that you’ve created to justify your insecurity about investing time in one man. If you push for marriage too soon, before he’s ready, you will not get married to him. The woman who does get married to him will be the one who is patient enough to let him choose her.

The way you have the greatest leverage over your man is if he can’t imagine his life without you. One and a half years into knowing my wife, I could easily imagine life without her. Three years in, and I would be a hopeless, lonely, drooling idiot without her.

Your age, Katie, is a considerable factor. If you invest two or three more happy years in your boyfriend and decide to have kids at age 32, then you will likely get everything you want.

If, for some reason, your live-in boyfriend of 4 ½ years – a man who is virtually a common law husband – a man who says he loves you and wants to be a father someday – if, for some reason, he balks at marriage before kids, THEN you dump him.

However, unless your boyfriend is a liar, such behavior would be entirely illogical and inexplicable. And since he’s your boyfriend, I’m not counting on him being a liar.

I think he’s a good man who loves you, wants to be a dad, but wants to make sure he’s not making a huge mistake like so many others he knows.

Enjoy your relationship, become indispensable to him, and he will voluntarily want to lock you in for life when you’re both ready to have kids.

Remember, men act in their own self-interests and it’s in his self-interest to keep the woman he loves the most.

If I’m wrong, you would still be 32 and have your prime dating years ahead of you.

This woman and this woman gave their relationships 2-3 years to fully cement and ended up getting the marriage they always desired. It just took a little more patience.

If you think he’s “the one,” then I think it’s worth the risk. Good luck.

24
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Comments:

  1. 91
    Fusee

    The letter writer is/was in an interesting situation given the fact that she entered a relationship accepting that her boyfriend was not open to the idea of marriage (how honest and mature of him to have stated his opinion early on) and changed her mind later on as the relationship developed. Compromizing of that question is going to be a must in their situation.
     
    However I am concerned when I hear of such scenarios. Simply suggesting to wait, assuming he will eventually get there is pretty risky to me. So many people are simply not ready for a life-long commitment despite their “perfect partner behavior” and their babbling about the future, and often will not become ready within their ongoing relationship. It’s either a matter of their partner not being the one, or a need for much more maturing, which usually happens between relationships. Proposing to wait for marriage until the time comes to have kids, or until an older kid graduates, or until getting a new job, or until X happens = excuses to delay taking ones responsabilities. Which does not have to be getting married right at this second, but must certainly involve assessing goals and compatibility and exploring the potential of the relationship.
     
    I’m encouraging women who desire to build a solid, happy, long-lasting marriage to certainly make sure early on that their prospect is open to progressing towards marriage as a general life goal for themselves, but to focus the early dating stage in getting to know him in depth and making sure that he will be a solid husband. What is the point of obsessing about marriage when you are not even sure that you are both truly compatible in your values and life goals?
     
    Personally marriage is important to me, as well as the willingness to progress purposefully towards that goal. But most important is the quality of the person I will marry because I’m not interested in rushing into a doomed marriage. I want to build a solid, healthy, and happy one and would opt out of the relationship at the first sign of character defects incompatible with that goal. Since the possibility of marriage as well as following a reasonnable timeline were deal-breakers to me, I made sure that he had the same ultimate goal for his life and was ready to get there sooner rather than later if we were to work it out together. Once that was figured out and we were truly loving and trusting each other, we focused on carefully assessing our compatibility of values, lifestyle, goals, etc. It is crucial to make sure that we saw eye-to-eye or were able to make healthy compromises on the question of where to live, children, career and money management, spirituality, etc. Then and only then does it make sense to discuss marriage in more depth.
     
    It’s okay to desire marriage, but make sure you are both able to be exceptional spouses to one another. This is not a given. Few people have the necessary character qualities and relationship skills, and few relationships have the potential to progress into that direction.

  2. 92
    Cecily

    Quick question.. Would he want to marry someone who is so quick to move on? I know I wouldn’t. 

  3. 93
    starthrower68

    @ Cecily,
    How much longer should she wait?  The BF is pretty clear he does not believe in marriage.  There is no way, as it currently stands (assuming there has been no update) that both people get what they want in this situation.  How much more time should she invest *hoping* he changes his mind?  There is a phrase that says “hope deferred makes the heart sick”.

  4. 94
    Shel

    I think the way men are behaving now days is awful.. Your cheating women and children out of security and contentment and love…. Here goes…why should men and women get married? Answer- when you find your compatable other half the very least they should offer if they wish to have children with you is MARRIAGE… Why? Because we as women need to feel treasured and secure that when we do fall pregnant and carry a child in our bodys that we will be looked after and cared for, for a women carrying a child is sacred and beautiful and giving birth going through trauma and pain that No man would ever encounter they need support, I nearly died and my baby during child birth, and my husband walked out when she was 9 months old for a fitter model! My body changed in actual fact women’s bodies take a battering! you don’t feel sexy for quite a while after but you do get your mojo back  all I wanted was that no matter how things were, that the special gift I gave to my husband and myself was sacred to us and remained special, that magic I don’t see very often?? But that is how women tick. We just want to belong and be special to our partner. Not a man expecting you to go through all that trauma and bodily change for them just to say I don’t want this anymore im off and I’ll chuck you £300 maintenance a month whilst you look after my children raise them, feed them, dress them, I’ll have them 1 night a week, so you have no life whilst I go and have a fantastic career and sleep around with women who don’t have children! What a cheek! And to top it off if your not married you walk away with nothing whilst he keeps the home! I don’t think so!!! You men need to step up, take responsibility and stop behaving like Hugh Hefner! Rant over, please feel free to comment x

  5. 95
    Jade

    read most of the comments. and this has made me truly depressed. i am a woman who wants marriage and i am with a man who doesn’t. i love him and he loves he. he wants to act like we’re married without the ring. Why would a man who would love you, care for you, share all things with you, ect. not want marriage? 
    I am not worth it, I am just a place holder. I am not special or good enough. That is why he doesn’t want marriage. At least that is how he has made me feel. and he’ll have to live with that as long as we are together. that he couldnt give me the one thing i wanted. I didnt want nice cars, money, a nice home, i dont want materialist things, all i wanted was his hand in marriage. 

    1. 95.1
      Karen0818

      I feel the same way, that you feel :(

  6. 96
    Karen0818

    I been with my boyfriend for 3 years and half have a daughter. And to this day he’s saids he doeS NOT believe in marriage and will never get marry.(his parents have been happily marry for 35years)  I’m ready to walk out the door because he saids he will never get marry. I believe in marriage n was stupid enough to move in, my biggest mistake that I have made my entire life! He didnt want kids, it just happen. If he is telling you he is going to marry you than be patient there is hope for you. For me there isnt he had told when we started dating that he wanted kids and marriage but after he changed his mind and when I remind him of this, he deny it deny it deny it, he said he would never say that. (According to him he doesn’t remember things how convinient) the first time I remind him he told me he said that so I can give him a chance. Now the story has change  he never said that. I’m stupid for staying with this man. He doesnt even believe in presents for any occasion. Im not materialistic but every woman likes to be spoil. I’m still with him because I have no where to go. But I’m working my ass off to get my own place and take my daughter with me. He saids marriage are old traditions that dont exist. That is just paper, but Im the bad person for not caring about his feeling n values. But he doesnt care about mine. When we talk about something that bothers me he turns it all around on himself poor him n this and that. i would give him hints he never took them there is no hope. I’m not even going to be part of his best friends wedding because I don’t want anything to do with weddings because I’m so hurt that the person I love doesn’t want to marry me. For you Katie there is hope hang in there a lil longer. Good luck and I hope you have a happy ending. 

  7. 97
    Nic

    I have been in a relationship for 4 years.  We are both in our 40’s and divorced.  I have a teenage son.  When we first got together we discussed our future, living together, marriage etc. but agreed we should take our time for the sake of my son, and agreed we would wait a couple of years (plus our previous marriages had only recently ended).  then about a year later he told me he wanted to wait even longer.  He has now told me he isn’t sure what he wants.  He has assured my he loves me and doesn’t want us to split, but enjoys living alone and the relationship we have now.  He never wants to marry and is not sure if he wants us to ever live together.  He prefers to ‘see how things go’ and that it is not in his nature to make plans.  I am a planner.  I’ve asked if we could somehow agree to ‘meet in the middle’ and he has agreed to try and spend more time with me (we currently spend 1 night a week together when my son is at his fathers, and maybe a couple of evenings and an afternoon).  He still hasn’t given me a key to his house, and I have yet to meet all his friends. He is good friends with his ex and I know they occasionally spend time together. He has never wanted children, so I think my son is the problem, though they do get along.  I don’t think he wants the responsibility.  I am devastated by his recent announcement and he knows it, but never offers any words of reassurance (which I know I should be grateful for, hollow promises are no use to anyone).  The thing I find really upsetting is that occasionally he will talk about our future together and maybe even mention marriage.  It’s doesnt happen often, most recently a couple of months ago, but when I bring the subject up he says he has changed his mind and he apologises for leading me on. I adore him and cannot imagine life without him.  I am torn between thinking he genuinely loves me and things may change when my son is an adult, or that he is not really into me (though he may not release it) and one day he will meet someone else and leave me.  I honestly don’t know what to do, but the thought of not being with him fills me with despair.

  8. 98
    Mary

    In my country, marriage is something that happens very rarely. The rate of marriage is, in fact, one of the lowest in the world. So my point of view might interest some people here…(By the way, sorry if I make some mistakes, english is not my first language…)

    Here, marriage is not something common or obvious. It’s not the ”normal” way of a successful relationship. The big majority live together and have kids but never get married…Or get married when they are older, because it’s cute and romantic.  It’s not necessary and someone who doesn’t want to get married is just considered as normal. Someone who wants to get married is considered as a sensible and romantic person, it’s cute. 
    We have something called ”conjoint de fait” and with that we basically have the same rights than with a marriage, for the child, and everything…But at the end nobody gives half his things when the relationship ends. The child are protected and that’s all. 
    I don’t understand that vision of marriage. Having kids is a bigger way to show someone that you love him and that you want to spend de rest of your life with him…Because no matter what from now on you will have to be near that person for at least 18 years.  It is a waaaay bigger proof of engagement that a piece of paper ( and I’m not talking about religious marriage here, it’s not the same thing – I understand that if you have Faith you want to do what it says). I really don’t see why just loving someone is not enough, and for me if you’re willing to force someone to do something he don’t want, and if his love is not enough and you’re willing to leave him just for a ring and a piece of paper…You don’t really love him. You can desire marriage but love should be the priority. And I don’t believe in ”if he truly loves you he will accept this for you” because he could tell you the same thing. Marriage is not important ( unless you have religious view on it).  It’s just the way you’ve been ”brainwashed”: ” YOU SHOULD MARRY TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIP!” But it’s not true.  You miss the point. Love is more important than marriage and leaving someone for that is, well…A proof that you never loved him as much as the idea of marriage. For me, at least.

    1. 98.1
      Iridium_moon

      Hi Mary

      I’m new to this excellent site, and am fascinated by the stories here. Like you I was puzzled by so many posters banging on about marriage. I also see it as a pointless institution, way past its sell-by date in an advanced and civilised society. Where are you from? (I’m a Brit.)
       
      Your comment that women who end an otherwise satisfactory relationship because a man won’t sign a ridiculous legal document, prove they were not as in love with the man as they thought, are bang-on. And don’t think men don’t realise exactly that when pressurised into marriage by a woman.
       
      Staying fully-committed yet unmarried provides a huge incentive to work on the relationship and make it continue. Either side could leave at any time. I believe that is a good thing.
       
      Once married so many men and women drift into taking each other for granted, indulge in less sex and more cake and alcohol, and so metamorphosise into unattractive fat slobs.
       
      Can anyone here say they haven’t seen it happen, again and again? :)
       
      Cheers, Mark.

  9. 99
    Sensible person

    Why oh why do women push men to get married nowadays, why???? If he wants to marry you at any point in your relationship, he will ask you, if you MAKE him ask you, pushing him to meet your parents is the first sign, talking about your married friends, relatives etc, it’s enough to make any guy run even if you are a model or brain surgeon, just slow down, a year and a half is nothing, he hardly knows you, 3 years down the line, fair enough he hasn’t proposed, then probably best to leave.  You are relatively young too, if you were late thirties that would be different, time would not be on your side to have a baby no matter what the magazines say.  Just don’t push him or you’ll either push him away for good or he’ll marry you because he is being forced too and guarantee that will end up in the divorce courts.  Calm down and slow down.

  10. 100
    Sensible person

    Nic, also sorry but you sound terribly needy and insecure, my advice, get out, he doesn’t love you enough, he doesn’t even want to live with you, this is not a relationship just in his eyes some companionship, not married by 40, no kids, please do not waste any more time and think about your son more, he should be your number one not some 40 year old bachelor who will never marry.

  11. 101
    Miss AZ

    To me it’s more important that the person shares same feelings and believes rather than the official registration of marriage. I want him to feel the same way I do. I want him to WANT  to spend his life together, not just push him with ultimatum. I know I will never feel good about it. It will always haunt me (unless there is a huge financial gain.) I told my boyfriend when we met that I am not looking to get married, but that can change. I think it became a challenge for him, so he tried everything to make me want to get married, however after 2 years  I felt like I was ready to move forward to make future plans because I was tired of  “dating” he didn’t want to make plans. Of course he didn’t say it, but actions are louder. At that point I didn’t want somebody who didn’t WANT to marry me and I wanted to move on. It is really hard to accept this, but will be even harder down the road. I am not giving any ultimatums I even suggest that we remain friends (which never works), but I would rather be alone than with the person who wants everything I have to offer  (financial stability, affection etc) but doesn’t want (or maybe can’t) change what they WANT. 

  12. 102
    Julia

    Anita I know it hurts but you must leave him. When he tells you he wants to stay in touch tell him that you won’t respond until you are ready. Let him know that his love is not enough and if he truly lives you he will allow you to heal. This is a non negotiable, if you want marriage and children you need to find a man who wants the same. Good luck. 

  13. 103
    steve

    I take issue with the assertion that he “has such a distorted view of marriage”.  I think that is a distortion in and of itself.  While for some it offers stability, for others it is a liability.   Divorce is easy, they don’t even care about infidelity or if you carried your weight in a marriage, but you can still walk away with half of the material goods.  Divorce is basically rubber stamped these days and give the lower earning spouse license to do whatever they want and still expect half of everything.  And indeed it means a lot of different things to different people.

    His view isn’t distorted at all.   The romantic view of marriage is the one that is distorted, based solely on emotion and not on reality.

    1. 103.1
      Kate

      It appears that you are referring to the wife as the lower earning spouse.  However, when researching divorced couples across all socioeconomic levels, I have found that the wife is often the higher earning of the spousal pair in middle class situations.  This changes and is distributed more equally in the upper middle class.  

      These earning standards change once again in the upper class, and poverty level situations have distinct deviations as well.

       

       
       

       

  14. 104
    ann

    I believe if a guy truly loves you and want to have all the benefits as a married person then he should put the ring on and be committed.It shows that his relationship to you means something and have value

  15. 105
    Cece

    Speaking from personal experience that article is a load of crock!
    I was patient for 16 years and four kids later and still he won’t propose, did I nag…nope not at all. In fact I only aired my anger at him this prior year! All I got was an apology in return and the same old bullshit. So my advice is to move on before you end up with kids and nothing to your name because you were a stay at home mom and he put all the properties he bought in his name only.  No social security benefits no assets no career nothing. He has it all and I have nothing. So I cry bullshit on the anti marriage bs. Just a way to entrap women, men get all the benefit in the end. Congrats on falling for the unmarried propaganda of the new generation!  I wish  knew now what I didn’t know at 21! So an answer why girls are stupid and get stuck in half sided relationships…because they don’t learn better until there thirties and they are overly forgiving and patient. Woman will put up with a lo of crap from men because its in our nature or programming to do so.

  16. 106
    Kamilla

    I think it’s good to wait a long time before you marry someone.

  17. 107
    Atton

    Men in modern society simply cannot gain substantive benefit from marriage. The risk shear risk of divorce and the price that come’s with it are simply too high. The increase in suicide during and after marriages out weight any benefit. It is an investment with massive costs and few to no returns. The effects divorce on children are unacceptable and abusive custody battles have no place in modern society.   Even Jesus would likely have objection to the broken system of marriage today. 
     
     

  18. 108
    Grant

    Marriage is for the brainwashed . Why would you take a perfectly good thing and get the government involved ? It isn’t stacked law wise fairly at all if it doesn’t work out it’s like putting your relationship through a meat grindr after it’s expiry date . 

  19. 109
    Erika

    When I met my (now) husband he didn’t want to get married. He had a rough divorce and just didn’t want to go through that again. I told him, “one day you’re going to wake up and say, ‘I’ve got to marry Erika.'” I was absolutely sure that day would happen. And it did, four years later. I was surprised and elated that had asked, and I never put a timeline on it. I just waited, patiently, for him to realize how awesome I am. We got married three weeks ago.

  20. 110
    Shanae

    I think there have been some excellent points made! But I also think that if you find someone who you truly love, and they are all you have ever dreamed of, they make you happy, and you can imagine spending the rest of your life with them, then maybe you don’t need the piece of paper.  My boyfriend has the same view as a few people on here, ie that marriage is suicide for men if it goes downhill, and neither of us are religious and that is essentially what marriage is.  I have always assumed I would marry, but now I am so happy with my boyfriend that if he does not want to then I accept that. It does not mean so much to me, especially because really it’s just an expensive day with a pretty dress and a pretty ring and a signed piece of paper, that I can forgo it to be happy with him.  

  21. 111
    Jessica guerra

    I been with my boyfriend for 7 years and I had my kid on May 7 2014 and I would like to get married to be happy I know a lot of people don’t believe in marriage but that’s a would earful day of our life’s cuz you are making a new life 

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