Can I Ask My Boyfriend for a Timeline to Get Engaged?

I stumbled onto your blog a few years ago, after getting nowhere in my dating life, staring down the barrel at 30, and starting to get terrified that I was going to spend the rest of my life alone. I read almost all of your posts and one of your books, and while I admit I initially had trouble with some of your advice, it did make a certain amount of success if I was honest with myself. And definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Clearly what I was doing wasn't working. So, I gave your advice a try, and I've now been with a wonderful guy for 2.5 years, we've been living together for a year, and we talk about marriage and kids as something that will definitely happen eventually. So, I want to start with a heartfelt thank you, because before I found your site, I'd given up hope of ever getting here.

There is, of course, a “but”…

As I said, we talk about marriage and kids as an eventuality, but there's never been a specific timeline attached to that. We're both recently 33 now, and for the past six months, it feels like all anyone ever wants to talk to me about is why we're not yet engaged, when we're getting engaged, my advancing age, my declining ovarian reserve, etc. It sucks. It's like we hit the two-year mark and I magically stopped being a person and turned into a naked left ring finger and some ovaries -- all attached to a ticking time bomb.

But if it was just the rest of the world, I could handle it. Once we hit the holiday season, several of our friends who have been dating for a shorter time than we have got engaged. My reaction has shocked me. The initial announcements, proposal stories, engagement photos, dress photos, etc. have all been like punches to the gut. It has hurt. A lot.

Emotionally, I don't think I can take another "engagement season" if I'm not part of it.

Finally, my question: What are your thoughts on asking your partner for an engagement timeline? I've read your recommendation that couples not get married before three years -- but I couldn't tell if that meant waiting that long to get engaged, or just not walking down the aisle until the three-year mark. I've also read your advice that women just be clear about what would make them happy, because a man who loves you will want to make you happy.

So... do I just make some general statements about how I'd like to get engaged sooner rather than later? Do I set a date in the future and ask now for a ring no later than that point (seems ultimatum-y and unromantic)? Do I hold off altogether until we hit the three-year mark in the hopes that he pops the question on his own by that point? If he doesn't, we'll only be a few months away from engagement season, and since I know a ring is not an insignificant purchase, I don't really want to spring an "oh hey, I'd like to be engaged in the next 60 days" on him at that point.

The added wrinkle for us is that he is miserable at work. He constantly talks about all the things we'll do once he has a new job. It has a very "that's when our lives will really start" feel to it. I'm worried "get engaged" is on that list. And he's been "going to get serious about finding a new job in the next three months" the entire time I've known him. If I can ask for a timeline, can I ask for an unconditional one?

Thanks, Evan!

- Liza

Thanks for the kind words and the long email, Liza.

Let me begin with a theory of mine: you should never be afraid to ask your boyfriend a question, because asking the question doesn’t change his mind. All your question does is reveal what he’s ALREADY thinking.

You should never be afraid to ask your boyfriend a question, because asking the question doesn’t change his mind.

Once you understand that, you can feel comfortable to express yourself freely, without fear. Because you’re not issuing an ultimatum. You’re asking a question that deserves an honest answer, and a good man (which I presume you have) will answer you honestly.

Is there more “power” in being the cool girl, letting things play out organically, and giving him the space to choose to propose to you when he’s ready? Absolutely. But I don’t think this is a case of either/or, where you either have to remain silent with anxiety or you give him 60 days to pull the trigger.

A good rule of thumb in life is, “First seek to understand.” So instead of hitting him over the head with a spreadsheet of your ovulation cycles, how about, in a tender moment, asking him how he’s feeling at work and what he’s doing to switch careers. Your interest in HIS happiness should be at least as important as his interest in YOUR happiness.

Once you’ve allowed him to speak, listened to his plan, and validated his feelings, you can then pivot to the crux of your issue. It is certainly NOT about your friends getting engaged faster nor is it about “engagement season,” which in guy-land isn’t even a thing.

Most importantly, remember this precept:

Communication isn’t about finger-pointing. It’s about problem solving.

  • His problem is that he doesn’t feel happy or stable to make the most important decision of his life (which is perfectly valid.)
  • Your problem is that you’re anxious about getting married because of your friends moving faster and asking uncomfortable questions.

I understand your feelings, but honestly, in my opinion, your fears don’t outweigh your boyfriend’s fears. You can get married at 35 and still have 2 kids. Your boyfriend can’t do much at all until he’s no longer miserable.

Your boyfriend can’t do much at all until he’s no longer miserable.

Which is why I would approach this in such a way that emphasizes understanding for his plight and minimizes your plight (“Jessica couldn’t believe you didn’t propose, much less during last engagement season!” is unlikely to get you the reaction you want).

Once you hear how he’s feeling, you can talk about your desire to see a general pathway to marriage – without pressure or ultimatums – just so you can breathe easy and know you’re on the same page.

He will be able to respect and understand that, and, if he’s committed to you, will do everything he can to deliver. I can assure you that your “timeline” will be dependent on him getting happy, not on 60 days or 3 years or the peer pressure and optics from your friends.

If you love him and trust him, you must give him the freedom and support to get there, instead of ratcheting up the pressure to make a permanent choice before he’s ready.

If you love him and trust him, you must give him the freedom and support to get there, instead of ratcheting up the pressure to make a permanent choice before he’s ready.

I know that may sound like a very man-friendly answer, but then again, you wanted to know what he’s thinking and what will get you the best results. This will.

Good luck, my friend.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Jeremy

    Hmmm.  I don’t know.

     

    My father talks about going on a cruise to the Greek islands or the Norwegian fjords.  In fact, he’s been talking about that on and off for the past 20 years.  Hasn’t gone though, and it isn’t for lack of time or money.  My brother has been talking about how much he hates his job for the past 15 years.  He is a senior vice president at one of our major banks, works crazy hours and makes a reasonable amount of money.  He is totally miserable at his job.  Has made absolutely zero effort to look for another.  My best friend hates his front door.  It squeeks and lets in drafts.  He’s been talking about getting a new one for years.  Hasn’t pulled the trigger, though.

     

    What all these people have in common isn’t just their inaction.  It’s their personality.  They are perseverators.  They love to complain.  They hate to act.  They are funamentally anxious and fear the consequences of making a wrong decision, and so they allow inertia to dictate their lives….until someone in their lives takes the responsibility for change upon themselves.  My father goes on trips when my mother books them.  My brother will change his job when his boss fires him.  My friend will change his door when his children break it.  And not before.  Because that’s who they are.

     

    I don’t know your BF, obviously.  But you do.  You say you are living together – whose idea was that?  You say he is different than the guys you dated before – how so?  In your history with him, is he the sort of guy who sees that a decision needs to be made and makes it, or is he the type of guy who complains until someone else makes a decision?  If the former, I think Evan’s advice is spot-on.  If the latter, he may need you to provide more guidance.  Ultimatums never work.  Pressure is anathema to the anxious personality because it only increases perseveration.  But a quiet, post-coital “I love you and I want to marry you” or something kind of like that is a loving hit-over-the-head hint about what you want.  And if he replies that he wants a new job before he gets married, help him find one.  And if he continues to perseverate, you have your answer. IMHO.

    1. 1.1
      Lana

      I think you have some good insight in your response, Jeremy. Some people do not act until there is absolutely no way to go forward in a specific situation. You hate your job but until you lose it, no action is taken to get a better job.

      My ex-husband sold his house only after our divorce — despite the fact that when we first separated and then reconciled, we agreed to sell the house and my condo and buy something new so we can give our marriage another chance and start anew. It did play a role that our reconciliation did not work out – because I felt he wasn’t fully committed to “us”.. first he agreed to sell the house, then the changed his mind, fully knowing how important it was to ME to start new elsewhere. He was too loyal to the house and refused to sell. After the divorce, he finally decided it was time. So the point is, this kind of people – who like to complain but don’t like to act – only do things when THEY are ready or there is absolutely no other choice.

      The BF in the original post seems to be the kind that until/unless he gets to the mindset of “I’m ready to get married” he will not propose, and I agree that ultimatums, if they work, only work on the short term.

       

    2. 1.2
      Nissa

      I agree with you, Jeremy. I also was having those feelings when I read that part of her post: And he’s been “going to get serious about finding a new job in the next three months” the entire time I’ve known him.I would guess that this is very much his personality and is not likely to change. If the OP is fine being the alpha of the relationship, then that might work. I think Jeremy’s suggestion of how to bluntly-yet-kindly raise the issue is a great one. If he’s passive, she can even say: I can’t think of anything I’d like more than to marry you – let’s do it in flip flops on the beach in Cancun! (Or whatever might appeal). My point is to give him an idea of the plan, and then drop it, so that all he has to say is “We could do that”.

    3. 1.3
      Lynx

      Excellent point, Jeremy. If he is a perseverator, then Liza might want to put some deep thought into whether she can tolerate that personality type until death do us part. There are a lifetime of decisions ahead of them, especially once there are kids in the picture. If he doesn’t have time for a job search now, being child-free, he definitely won’t have it later. Does she always want to be the initiator of every major life change, dragging him along behind her? 

      1. 1.3.1
        S.

        You all have nailed it.  She’s 33 and while it’s not all about her and her ovaries, I don’t see that waiting another two years with this man without progress is in her best interest.

        Sure, do your best to make him happy and find work. But I’d say if there is minimal progress on that in six months.  Then there may not be.  Maybe she can live with his timeline, but maybe he’s not wanting to really get married for a while, either.

        It also gives her time to find someone else if this doesn’t work out.  And to spend two years with that other person and still have their biological kids if she wants hopefully without too much trouble.

        OP – If this has already been resolved I’d be curious how it went.

        1. Emily, the original

          S.,

          It also gives her time to find someone else if this doesn’t work out.  And to spend two years with that other person and still have their biological kids if she wants hopefully without too much trouble.

          Agree. And with the next guy, maybe pay attention to how he makes decisions. Does he follow through or is he still complaining about something six months later and doing nothing about it? It’s the kind of behavior that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

  2. 2
    Nissa

    Emotionally, I don’t think I can take another “engagement season” if I’m not part of it. This is all you need to say. It’s heartfelt. It’s true. It gets right to the heart of the matter. It’s not a long, drawn-out, wishy-washy dithering that doesn’t address the issue. It’s not a list of demands. It’s just, “this is what I want”.I recommend saying this to your boyfriend and see how he reacts. If he starts backpedaling, that tells you everything you need to know. Pay attention to the behavior, not the words. If he gives you reasons why now is not the moment, that’s his way of breaking it to you gently that maybe he wants to get married (but not to you). Maybe he does want those things, but he’s missing a burning desire to have them with you. Haven’t we see on this very blog how many people, of both genders, don’t want the truth? And how that for someone who doesn’t want to hear the truth, how it justifies not being truthful with the other person?If within a month, he comes up with a ring and a date, then amen. But anything other than that, is probably the start of the slow fade.It’s not that marriage is necessary or best for all people. But if it’s what is right for you, the action that will align your behavior with what you say you want, is the above.This is exactly the reason that I would tell people (in general or anyone I was dating) that if they don’t know after two years, it’s because they are fine with how things are…which means they aren’t interested in anything more.

    1. 2.1
      Gala

      I actually completely agree with it.

      1. 2.1.1
        Marika

        I personally would heed Evan’s advice.

        There is a LOT of pressure on women in our late 20’s/early 30’s to settle down. From our family & friends and even our own bodies. I don’t think men have that same experience.

        I know many people who pressured their boyfriends into marriage, including myself, as I too was feeling that pressure. For me, it was a shambles. I was an extreme example as we were a bad match and my ex had serious problems with commitment. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. But other women (and, in fact, men) who got married because the other person talked them into it or before they were ready..they tend to be not ‘all in’, sort of there but not giving the relationship their all. One of my friends constantly says she would not still be with her husband if they didn’t have kids. She met him not long out of a relationship where she got her heart broken, and her now husband was everything her ex wasn’t, dependable, loyal and kind. He proposed and she went along with it as she could trust him and enjoyed his company. She is now tempted to cheat as she’s not overly attracted to him. Other people I know are just really ‘meh’ about the whole thing – wouldn’t cheat or do anything extreme but it’s not a great marriage.

        The best marriages? Those where both parties are really into it and decided on their own that marriage was the right path, at that time, with that person. I wouldn’t pressure this guy. I certainly wouldn’t talk about ‘engagement seasons’ (there’s no way he’ll be able to relate to this). I remember my ex saying to me “do you want me, or the ring?”. He was simplifying, but he had a point. He didn’t want to lose me and he knew I was hung up on the marriage thing, so he proposed. It lasted less than 3 years.

        Please give him more time. Please ensure you marry someone who wants to get married. To you. Now. 33 seems old, but in time you’ll see it’s not old at all. You can afford to wait a bit longer. Please don’t push it or get hung up on the idea of being married. A wedding is one day. A marriage is a lifetime. Your friends getting married all seem happy now, but you have no idea what the future holds. Focus on your relationship. Don’t compare yourself to others (waaay easier said than done when your clock is ticking, I completely get it!!). But I would urge the OP to try.

        1. Emily, the original

          Marika,

           I remember my ex saying to me “do you want me, or the ring?”.

          But don’t you think men do this, too. I knew a guy in his 50s who was divorced twice, hadn’t dated in years (claimed to have no interest) and had lived with his dad for years. His dad died and he was married within a year. I was shocked. So was it “the ring” or “the woman”?

        2. Jeremy

          “Do you want me or the ring?”  Powerful question.  Problem is, most women want the ring.  It’s not that they don’t also want the man, but they already have the man, you see.  What they don’t have is children and status.  It’s hard to want what you already have, in the face of what you don’t.  In the case of the OP, her BF has gone from being the love of her life to the impediment to her happiness.

           

          The problem in the OPs situation is a problem of unequal power.  He has something she desperately wants.  He doesn’t consider that he has anything.  To him, the notion of getting married right now is like Mrs Happy’s serviette analogy.  He has everything he wants.  A live-in girlfriend, sex, emotional support.  What will marriage give him that he wants right now?  Nothing.  What will marriage give her that she wants right now?  Everything.  She is at a desperate power disadvantage.  He doesn’t recognize that a power imbalance exists – because he’s happy with his relationship as it is.

           

          How can she get him to prioritize marriage?  The answer is the same as the answer to Adrian’s question of how a woman can prioritize desire – if your partner loves you, he/she will consider your priorities important because they’re your priorities.  They will not consider your desires to be proverbial serviettes.  If he loves her, her telling him that marriage is important to her should make him consider it seriously.  And if he won’t – whether because he doesn’t love her enough or because he isn’t in the right stage of life – that should tell her to move on after 2.5 years.  Because, Marika, in all the examples you gave in your comment, the problem wasn’t that marriage was entered into too quickly, it was that it was entered into with the wrong person.  People who failed to make the priorities of their spouse important enough to themselves.  Will the OP’s BF do the same?  She won’t know until she asks.

        3. S.

          I agree with Jeremy, but would add one other thing.  This guy doesn’t seem to be prioritizing himself. He’s not perfectly happy. He is with her, but not with his job.  So that shows an ability to be unhappy for a long while without leaving.  He’s not even trying to leave that job yet. This doesn’t bode well for someone getting married who hasn’t proposed all on his own.  Last thing she wants is their marriage to be like his job, something he’s unhappy in but doesn’t leave.

          I find that if a person isn’t actively trying to make themselves as happy as they can, it’s difficult for them to try to make someone else happy. While Evan can suggest that she support him with this, the onus for his personal happiness with his work and ‘the his life that starts then’ is on him.

        4. Gala

          And what on earth is wrong with wanting the ring? E.g. marriage? Stating your needs is not “pressuring”. It feels like there’s some sort of conspiracy that men started that would shame women for wanting commitment and marriage like those are the BAD things and wanting them or mentioning them makes you a nag, a stage 9 clinger, a .. whatever. F that.

          Now, I don’t personally want marriage (and as this is my want, to be in an unmarried committed relationship, this is what I stated to my boyfriend), but if that was the opposite I would have said so, and would encourage any woman to voice her desires. In fact, moving in together without a clear timeline on how the things would progress would be (and has been in the OP’s case) a mistake. Like Jeremy pointed out, the guy has everything he needs, she doesn’t.

          The solution to that is not to placate him even more (so that he’d have more of what he needs). The solution is to not resign the lease the next time. I think she should state her feelings – not in a “I want you to do X” way, but rather “i feel X” way, and if he still doesn’t step up she should not resign the lease and get her own place. What I would say is “it doesn’t seem like our relationship is progressing, and I understand that you might not be ready, however cohabiting without marriage for a prolonged period of time is not what I had in mind nor is what I want. For this reason, I would like to get my own place and if/when you’re ready to take this to the next level we can start really building out life together”.

        5. Jeremy

          @Gala, “what on earth is wrong with wanting the ring?”  Nothing.  What would be wrong is wasting another year or two with a guy who is wishy washy about marriage when she is ready and raring to go.

           

          I have a cousin who was dating a girl while he was in chiropractic college.  She was smart, pretty, and we all agreed she was a great catch (maybe a bit out of his league).  He graduated from school and she let it be known to him that she hoped to get married in the near future.  He balked and said he wasn’t ready.   Maybe when he was stable in his career and had a solid client base.  Maybe once he had saved some money.  Maybe, maybe, definitely, maybe.  She dumped him.  Told him that she could not waste her early thirties waiting for him – they had already dated for 3 years.  He let her go.  To this day, he simultaneously regrets it but isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready for marriage.  That’s who he is.

           

          Best decision she ever made.

        6. Clare

          Jeremy,

          In this particular thread, I agree with you 100%. I see Marika’s point, because I was one of those who felt the pressure to get married in my twenties, and I ended up regretting it. So I would not encourage anyone to rush the process or give in to pressure.

          However, as you rightly point out, it is not how quickly we get married that is the problem, but rather to whom. I would say that by the time you are in your thirties, it is a normal and natural desire to want to see appreciable progression in the relationship and to want to get married within 2 or 3 years. That is a separate issue.

          The issue of the person to whom you are getting married is an issue on its own. I dated a guy off and on for 5 years from my late 20s to early 30s. A huge sticking point in our relationship was the lack of progression and commitment. He was a dyed in the wool commitmentphobe. Eventually, I found the will and strength to leave, thinking that I could just couldn’t take the stalling any longer. But I look back now and realise that, even if he had proposed, I would have been utterly miserable with him. I would have gotten the validation and status that I so desired, but I would have been deeply unhappy because of his multiple issues, of which commitment phobia was just one.

          In this light, I hope that Liza considers her desire to get married and have children and her desire to be with this guy forever as two separate issues, as they do not necessarily have the same solution. Someone who is willing to coast along in a job he is miserable in for years on end would not be someone I could be happy with.

        7. GoWiththeFlow

          Jeremy,

          “What would be wrong is wasting another year or two with a guy who is wishy washy about marriage when she is ready and raring to go.”

          I know a handful of couples where the woman did initiate a “Where is this relationship going. . . I am ready to settle down, are you?” discussion.  The guys came through with a proposal within a few months.  The thing they all had in common was that the conversations reminded them that time flies while you’re building a career, saving for a house, etc.  While there are certainly better and worse times to marry, if you wait for perfect you may wind up alone.

          IMO many times when the woman does not bring up what she wants her life to be with the man she’s with, it’s because she’s terrified of the man telling her it’s not what he wants.  Thus they remain stuck in relationships where that will never end in marriage.  I’ve been on the receiving end of a “sorry, not what I want” from a boyfriend I had hoped to marry.  It hurt terribly.

          But at least I knew and was then free to find someone else.  My niece has just gone through what I hope is the final breakup with a man she has dated for 10 years.  Out of all my nieces, she is the one who has most consistently wanted to be a wife and a mother.  This guy had a troubled family background, because of which he said to her more than once that he didn’t want kids.  But she kept deluding herself that things would change.  At least, at the age of 30, she still has time.  But she wasted most of her 20s on this relationship, and now she has to figure out how to meet men and date.

  3. 3
    Clare

    For once, I agree with you, Jeremy, and I disagree with Evan.

    That’s not to say I don’t think Evan has some good points – he does. And I think his advice is good advice in some circumstances, just not this one. I think Evan’s advice goes a little too easy on the guy here and doesn’t empower Liza enough in her own relationship.

    Liza, if you and others are looking for advice on the opposite end of the spectrum and for a laugh, I suggest you post your question on the “Waiting” forum of the WeddingBee site. I do not agree with the advice on there because it is so “if he doesn’t propose to you within your desired timeline leave him” in its slant, but because of this it is often incredibly funny and will certainly make commenters on this blog laugh out loud. Here is an excerpt from one of the pieces of advice:

    “This is the 12,437th time a guy has stalled claiming he has to plan the super-duper-magical-memorable proposal with the Hope Diamond.  He needs extra time to work out all the details and arrange to have Adele sing for you.

    Honest expressions of how you’re feeling are not ‘pressure’.  There are reasons why you are feeling so awful about the status of your relationship and it’s not all you.  He’s not going to faint like a goat because you let him know your true feelings.”

    Like I said, I do not agree with this brand of advice, but it is humorous and it can sometimes be helpful to get the other side of the argument. It can feel pretty frustrating to essentially be told that a large chunk of your future now rests solely in the hands of someone else because you are ready, he isn’t, and you must now cool your heels until he is – even if that is technically the truth.

    As to my own opinion on your situation – I would say you need to honestly examine your reasons for wanting to get married. “Engagement season” and the fact that all your friends are getting married and engaged, and witnessing pictures of flowers and dresses on social media are not good enough reasons. Woman up and deal with your responses to these things. What other people choose to do with their lives should have no bearing on the decision you make. To people who stick their noses in your business and ask impertinent questions – you do not need to answer these or defend yourself. If you are a bit on the strong-willed side, like me, you might like to come up with a pithy response which you have ready. I remember when I was married and people would constantly ask me when we were going to start having babies. When I said I wasn’t ready yet, they would give some version of “you don’t want to leave it too long,” at which point I would ask them if they would be willing to adopt if I realised motherhood wasn’t for me. This usually shut them up for good on the subject.

    Once you clear away all the stuff that has to do with other people, you might find that you are not in as much of a rush as you thought. If this is the case, this is great because then you can give your boyfriend a little more time. If your true reasons have to do with wanting a confirmation that he is as committed to you as you are to him, this signals a possible issue in your relationship which you might want to have a look at more closely.

    If your reasons have to do with wanting to take your relationship to the next level, go deeper with your intimacy and commitment, have children and gain some of the rights that are typically only reserved for a spouse, then these are important, and I would suggest that you become a little more proactive. Absolutely talk about where your bf is in finding a new job, if this is standing in the way. Help him look, support him actively. As Evan said, bring up the conversation. You shouldn’t be afraid to talk about anything with him. And being proactive here means communicating your feelings. This can come from a strong place which is not about pressure, but simply about getting clear on where you both stand. Once you have clarity, you can decide on how you want to go from here.

    I personally would add not to give your power over your future away to anyone – not to your boyfriend, and not to family and friends who try to pressure you or who make you feel insecure because they are getting engaged. Decide what you want for your own life, and live your life accordingly. At a certain point, it will become apparent whether your boyfriend is going to be a part of that or not, but you make the decision. If it is to wait for him and give your relationship more time, then great. And don’t be afraid to leave him either if you realise that you don’t want the same thing. Do what’s right for you.

    1. 3.1
      Nissa

      Clare, while I think that your point of ‘don’t let what other people are doing determine what you do’ is very valid, I don’t think that’s what she meant.The OP started the post by saying that she was ‘staring down the barrel’ of 30, had been ‘going nowhere’ in her dating, and ‘was terrified’. None of that sounds like it’s based on comparison to others. I remember being 24 and fearing that I would be alone the rest of my life. I’m sure that feeling would have been much worse if I had been having it at the age of 30+.  She then says “if it was just the rest of the world, I could handle it, but…”. I’m interpreting that as: I’ve been trying to shut out the truth, but it’s much harder to ignore when it’s in my face due to all my friends – people who I feel are equivalent to me – getting what I want, when I don’t seem to be getting any closer to what I want.I know this feeling. For me, I don’t want sweets most of the time. Until it’s right in front of me, and I am seeing it, smelling it and hearing someone gobble it down, in front of me. That’s when I break and eat the cookie. Because knowing people are out there in the world having cookies doesn’t bother me, because I’m not being presented with current stimuli. When I am, I have a hard time not responding to that stimulus. I think most people would have a hard time in that circumstance.I think how I would recommend she approach it by being very clear about what she wants: I am ready for marriage now. I am ready for children now. I’m pretty sure that if he doesn’t, that will make him run. If he does, then he’ll get the idea that you are ready to be with a man who will step up – and that if he doesn’t, someone else will.

      1. 3.1.1
        Clare

        Nissa,

        I agree that it is likely because other people have put it in her face what she wants and isn’t getting that it is upsetting her so much.

        But she also refers to the pressure other people put on her:

        It’s like we hit the two-year mark and I magically stopped being a person and turned into a naked left ring finger and some ovaries — all attached to a ticking time bomb.”

        This pressure can be pretty intense and pretty damaging, and it’s worthwhile to get some distance from it. Other people will try and pressure you to do all kinds of things that have nothing to do with what might really be best for you, for their own reasons. On the whole babies thing, for instance, my mom started asking me on a regular basis “when I was going to give her grandchildren” and I had to put my foot down with her because I needed the space and clarity to make my own decision.

        I was simply suggesting that Liza needs to get clear on what she wants independent of other people’s pressure; after all, she is the one who has to live with the consequences of this decision, not them, and ultimately it is between her and her boyfriend. He may not be right for her and it is hard to see that when the pressure of marriage is in your face – this was the mistake I made when I got married in my early 20’s.

        To me it sounds like Liza is ready to get married and is frustrated by her boyfriend’s not being clear and procrastinating. As a 33 year old who wants kids, I don’t think talking about marriage and kids as an eventuality one day is good enough for Liza.

        1. Nissa

          Pressure from others can be strong. I hope that when your mom pressured you, you told her “but I already gave you Grandcats”.

  4. 4
    Nissa

    He’s not going to faint like a goat because you let him know your true feelings.I just laughed until I snorted. In my cubicle at work. 🙂

  5. 5
    No Name To Give

    Is it ever really the perfect time to do anything? Nope, not so much. Yeah, circumstances can be better sometimes than others, but he’s got the paralysis of analysis or something.

  6. 6
    Aly

    I’m a long time reader and my boyfriend recently proposed after 4.5 years. He’s a procrastinator as well and doesn’t like to make decisions. Plus we’ve both been through nasty divorces seven and 5 years ago and have four kids and wanted to go slow. There was some pressure there from me and coworkers. Anyway we couldn’t be happier and I’m glad I didn’t feel the need to have any strict timelines given extenuating circumstances. Anyway great advice as always!

  7. 7
    Christine

    In the UK we don’t have an ‘engagement season’, which is probably a good thing. I like Jeremy and Nissa’s responses to the OP’s dilemma. Whilst 33 is still very young, I understand her anxiety about the lack of full commitment. I have a daughter of nearly 30 and am wondering when her bf is going to propose, however I would never put any pressure on him. A man has to be ready; anything less will only lead to failure of the marriage.

  8. 8
    Marika

    Jeremy 

    Good points all. I hadn’t quite thought about it like that. I see what you mean. I would, however, suggest raising it in a way that is likely to make sense to him. I personally think the suggestion of talking about ‘engagement seasons’ is likely to either not make much sense to him, make him not take it seriously, or else make him feel like it’s all about the dress, ring and party, rather than him. I would be pretty gentle in broaching it when clearly he’s feeling work stress already. These conversations can be tricky! But I suppose in a good relationship, there’s no need to walk on eggshells 🙂

  9. 9
    John

    Many men will not get married if you are living with them and having sex with them. That is the reality.

    A woman would be wise to learn what motivates men and act accordingly.

    If a woman makes a man wait until marriage to live with her, he would be more motivated to get married. Remember, the man gets sex, companionship, etc. without any commitment of marriage.

    What would you think if your boss paid you even though you didn’t do any work. If your boss stopped paying you, that would probably motivate you to do your work or go somewhere else.

     

    1. 9.1
      Marika

      Kinda sounds like game-playing to me, John. I understand explaining that you consider living together a stepping stone to marriage (I did that myself), but to deny it to force marriage? Wouldn’t a lot of guys feel that was manipulative?

    2. 9.2
      Clare

      John,

      Whilst your argument has a certain logical soundness to it, there is one major problem with it – You cannot really know someone until you have lived with them.

      As almost everyone who has cohabited can attest, there is a world of difference between seeing someone a handful of nights a week for dates and sleepovers, and sharing the same house 24/7. You see ALL kinds of things that you can blissfully overlook when you are just dating – such as their budgeting habits, their neatness, their willingness to do household chores, how they deal with their moods, how they prioritise, the list goes on and on.

      I would NEVER, never marry someone until I had lived with him. However, the approach I adopted with my ex-husband was that I made absolutely sure we were on the same page about our goals for the relationship before I moved in. If a man goes back on his word after I moved in with him and says he is suddenly not ready for marriage when we discussed it beforehand, I would regard that as being deceitful.

      1. 9.2.1
        Emily, the original

        Clare

        If a man goes back on his word after I moved in with him and says he is suddenly not ready for marriage when we discussed it beforehand, I would regard that as being deceitful.

        He might have had every intention  of marrying but after living together realizes those things he overlooked while dating now bother him about the woman. (Or vice versa and she finds things she doesn’t want to live with for the rest of her days.)

        1. Clare

          Emily,

          Yes that’s true, but if that is the case, he should say so. Not say “I’m not sure I’m ready to get married,” which would also be deceitful.

        2. Emily, the original

          Clare,

          Yes that’s true, but if that is the case, he should say so. Not say “I’m not sure I’m ready to get married,” which would also be deceitful.

          I agree, but he could be confused about what he wants. A guy with the personality of the OP’s boyfriend — he talks about looking for a job but does nothing about it — probably doesn’t make decisions unless forced to. And maybe that’s something she learns after living with him and then decides she’s the one who doesn’t want to marry him. She gets tired of him being flim-flammy. I’m probably projecting. I just dislike indecisiveness. It’s like … make up your mind or go away.

    3. 9.3
      Jeremy

      John,

      “Many men will not get married if you are living with them and having sex with them.”  Men get married because they want to get married.  Because they have an internal pie-chart of things they want, and marriage is the way to get those wants met.  If a man’s internal pie chart is that he wants only sex and companionship, he will not marry if he already has those things.  If his pie chart is such that he wants children, a family life, and all the sociological benefits of marriage, he will marry regardless of whether or not he is already living with a woman.

       

      If a woman makes a man wait until marriage to live with her, he would be more motivated to get married.”  This might be true, but is it to either of their benefit?  In very religious communities where premarital sex is prohibited, dating is often very abbreviated and marriage occurs quickly.  Because the kids involved are horny as hell.  Are those marriages better?  The young women involved might be happy for the quick engagement, but less so after the wedding is over.

       

      I agree that women would be wise to learn what motivates men.  They would also be wise to understand their own motivations (which the OP seems to not), and to marry men who understand their own motivations (which her BF seems to not).  Otherwise, you have 2 kids rolling the dice with each other, and the stakes are high.

  10. 10
    BlueSky

    My boyfriend of over 2 years wants us to wait until we are more fit to become engaged?
    I have been sick the past half year and have gained weight due to less exercise and too much comfort eating.
    He first brought up getting married last September but I wasn’t ready to make a decision that early. In January I said I was ready. He had to save for the ring. Money saved, no engagement. Now he wants us to.be more fit first, which is nice person code for you need to lose weight first. He says he wants us to have good photos?! And be at our best on the most important day of our lives.
    We live 2 hours apart. If we married I would move there since he has roots and I don’t. Plus I’m literally allergic to my city. So I’m taking all of the risk with moving jobs, locations, etc. I do not like his city and would never move there on my own but will for him. We plan to move to an alternate location in a few years.
    We’re Catholic and don’t plan to live together before marriage. I’m really frustrated that we say we know we are going to marry but are waiting on this. It makes it very hard to time job transitions, leases, etc. I do not want a short term apt/hotel or short term job that seems like is the only answer if we don’t time this well. I feel like I have all of the stressful moves to make.
    His not wanting to marry until I lose weight — by itself and with the additional coordination problems — is almost starting to make me rethink getting married at all.
    I told him today that I felt like I was the one taking the biggest risk and most stressful moves.

  11. 11
    Debbie

    A very good friend of mine told me why would the guy need to marry you when he already has the cake and eating it too. In one respect I believe that. I would definitely be supportive of his issue and maybe tell him if he isn’t happy then you will help him find the job where he will be happy. Maybe start by suggesting jobs that involve his hobbies. Once that conversation is done then definitely deliver your issue and if he is true to his words, he will be supportive to your needs as well.

    Much success and luck

  12. 12
    Adrian

    Hi Jeremy,

    You said, The problem in the OPs situation is a problem of unequal power.  He has something she desperately wants.  He doesn’t consider that he has anything.  He has everything he wants.  A live-in girlfriend, sex, emotional support.  What will marriage give him that he wants right now?  Nothing.  What will marriage give her that she wants right now?  Everything.  She is at a desperate power disadvantage.  He doesn’t recognize that a power imbalance exists – because he’s happy with his relationship as it is.

    First thank you for showing that a guy’s lack of desire to marry his girlfriend doesn’t automatically make him a bad guy who is somehow stringing her along or who is selfishly getting what he wants so he doesn’t care about her wants. Though after reading some of the comments I doubt everyone sees that as a real possibility.

    My question to you is something I have struggled with understanding since I first joined this site a few years ago and that is understanding why a woman can have all the things she says she wants and needs from a partner: attractiveness, loyalty, shared goals and values, financial stability, shared laughter, kindness, sex, and emotional support. Yet despite all this she will dump the guy-with the encouraged approval of her friends and family-just because the guy doesn’t want to get married.

    Could you help me understand this please?

    Especially when there are women who are married but not as happy as she is but she still would rather leave that relationship to re-enter the searching/dating market just to obtain marriage. I am NOT saying this is wrong because as Evan explained it to me it’s her deal breaker so she needs it from a boyfriend period. I just don’t understand it, especially when after years of dating/searching she has finally found (in her opinion) a high quality partner.

    If he was cheating or made her feel insecure I could understand, but the stories are always he is the best guy I’ve… Or I’ve never met a guy who made me so happy… Or after years of bad dates and relationships I’ve finally found a guy who… If this guy is such a great catch why throw him back because he doesn’t want to get married? Does the dream of marriage outweigh the reality of a good relationship? If marriage is the ultimate sign of commitment then why do some married men cheat and some boyfriends don’t?

    Anyway I just don’t understand it… What am I not seeing?

     

     

    1. 12.1
      Emily, the original

      Adrian,

      The OP is 33 and she references her declining ovarian reserve. A lot of women who want children would prefer to do so when they are married. I’m guessing that’s at least part of it.

    2. 12.2
      Mrs Happy

      Dear Adrian,

      you asked Jeremy (but I’m chiming in),

      “despite all this she will dump the guy… just because the guy doesn’t want to get married.  Could you help me understand this please?”

      and I can only give my point of view, but since I’m a woman who suddenly got to a point where she wanted marriage, and would’ve broken up with my now-husband while we dated had he not wanted marriage and kids, maybe I can illustrate one woman’s position.

      I am not proud of this now but I considered boyfriends quite disposable, even interchangeable, when I was younger.  I loved or liked them, but if things didn’t work for even superficial reasons, I’d break up, and there would be another guy to follow.  I have never considered husbands in this way; for me, once I was married, I was ‘all in’, and together forever, giving much more to the man and relationship.

      Flipping this assumption (which I did without realising), I just assumed men thought the same way.

      Thus when I got to a stage of life when I wanted to be ‘all in’, I didn’t want to go ‘all in’ with someone who wasn’t similarly ‘all in’, and I believed the show of that, was marriage (rightly or wrongly, and it will differ for different people because some consider defacto an equal commitment to marriage; I don’t).

      There are dozens of things I would do for a husband that I’d never do for a boyfriend, and I wanted to move to a deep relationship where we meant so much to each other that we would do those things for each other if necessary (or he would do his own list of ‘for-wife-but-not-for-girlfriend type things), and the relationship would move past the disposable.  I wanted to build a life together with a man, have a family, have the mindset of a future together, a unit within society, a secure base, and I personally would only have that mindset within marriage because for me any other relationship was disposable. It was my need for the marriage, as much as wanting him to commit – marriage meant I would commit and be able to do the for-husband type things I was yearning to do, and not walk away when problems started, and finally build something serious after many years of fun dating.

      This seems awful to say, but since I wanted a serious ‘all in’ relationship, and I knew I could fall in love with any number of men (I’ve always loved falling in love), although the current boyfriend mattered of course, if he didn’t want marriage, I could just move onto the next man I would fall in love with and want to marry who would also want marriage.  That may be what those women you referenced feel.  They want the most committed relationship and a future with a man who feels the same way, over the boyfriend of the moment.

      In my experience, after a while, boyfriend-girlfriend level relationships feel superficial, because fun and sex and endlessly going out, just aren’t enough.  For some people that switch to ‘this isn’t enough’ takes years, for others, decades, after starting dating, and for some people the switch never happens.  I think people tend to marry the person i) they’re with, and ii) who they feel is good enough, when that switch happens.  I think it’s perfectly acceptable for the switch to occur at different ages for different people.  No-one should shame men (or women) who aren’t ready to marry by calling them players or commitment phobes or immature: they are just people who don’t want to marry, yet or at all, and there is nothing wrong with that.  I was one of those people for many years.

      1. 12.2.1
        Marika

        Adrian

        Please know that Mrs Happy’s response is the response of (to borrow Jeremy’s way of approaching these things), a realist. If I were you reading it, and knowing your personality type (I think) I would be disheartened.

        I’m not being critical here, and certainly from what she’s written, her marriage is strong and will probably last forever.

        Mine didn’t last, but for what it’s worth, everything she wrote is almost the exact opposite to how I feel about men and marriage.

        Not all women think the way she described. I personally wanted the man himself, flaws and all, but I wanted him to commit to me, not baulk and potentially have one foot out the door. I would want to know, with any man I deeply loved, why don’t you want to marry me? If the answer was reasonable and nothing to do with me, I could potentially get past the together-forever-but-not married thing. For me it was never about the title/institution, but what that represented about the strength of our relationship.

        1. Emily, the original

          Marika,

          And I don’t know about you, but when Mrs. Happy writes:I am not proud of this now but I considered boyfriends quite disposable, even interchangeable, when I was younger.  I loved or liked them, but if things didn’t work for even superficial reasons, I’d break up, and there would be another guy to follow,” that is completely different from my experience.  Sure, there were some who I was very glad to be away from when it was over, and, yes, there were some who were disposable and totally unmemorable, but many affected me very deeply. Heck, there were guys I didn’t even date but had strong feelings for who hung in my mind for a long time.

      2. 12.2.2
        Jeremy

        Mrs. Happy, I enjoy your comments – and I say that without any hint of sarcasm.  I might bicker with you, mainly because it’s fun, but I like the fact that the word “should” figures so little into your comments and that you focus rather on what “is.”  I pride myself on my rationality but my idealist side sometimes interferes.   Your personality also seems to be heavily rational, but less idealistic.  Notwithstanding that, your comment above is indeed tinged with “shoulds,” (at least as pertaining to your beliefs about yourself), and it leads me to ask you 2 serious questions:

         

        1)  If a woman believes that men (boyfriends) are disposable and fungible (in the sense that if one fails, another will be along), what makes a husband different?  It is her beliefs about him, or is it his beliefs about her?  Is it that she believes he won’t leave her if they marry, or is it that she believes she won’t leave him if they marry?  And if the latter, what exactly is stopping her?  And if the former, is she the rule or the exception?

         

        2) You talk about the “switch” that happens as a woman matures – fun and sex and endlessly going out become not enough.  And you’ve mentioned in the past that the reason you personally felt these things insufficient was that you wanted stability, children, and the social benefits of married life.  But tell me – once a woman has stability, children, and the social benefits of married life – has them irreversibly – do her feelings toward her husband change back more toward how she felt originally about her boyfriends?

         

        1. Mrs Happy

          Dear Jeremy,

          to answer your questions, and obviously I can only speak for myself,

          Q1) Most men are boyfriends and husbands to various women at different stages of their lives. Thus there is nothing intrinsically different about any one man, when he becomes either a boyfriend or husband.  The main issue is the contract.  Marriage says ‘I won’t walk out … because you fell asleep on a date… after a fight…. just because I’m in a bad mood with you.’  I think that belief (I’m not walking out) exists in both of them; the thing that stops her and him from leaving the marriage, is the state of being married.  The bar is higher, no-one walks as easily.  Laws, society, judgement, duty, untangling lives, amongst many other hurdles, stop them walking with ease.

          Q2) I cannot imagine my feelings for my husband lessening to the more will-o’-the-wisp memories of past boyfriends.  My relationship with my husband is an integral part of me.  Boyfriends didn’t get that.

          As a woman I felt and cared much less for boyfriends than I did and do for a husband, but I didn’t completely appreciate how much that would occur, until I was married a while.  Generally people don’t tend to downgrade feelings over the long term, whilst in a good relationship.  Intensity can vary, but once strongly connected there is often always something intense there.

          I only have 2 hours of daylight left now, so I’m finishing the answer there and going off to walk the track I did last week – before it gets so dark I step on a snake again.  I can elaborate if this answer is too summary.

        2. Jeremy

          Please do when you have time.  I understand the contractual aspect of marriage.  But my fascination with your answer was more with the psychological aspect.  It seemed, from your original comment, that you felt that you were the one who needed the contract – to prevent yourself from leaving.  I found that fascinating because most of the women I’ve heard from want the contract to prevent the man from leaving.  You are, frankly, the first woman I’ve ever heard from who wanted to proverbially bind herself in chains to prevent herself from doing what she would otherwise tend to do.  My sense was (and I admit I could have been totally wrong) that it was because you wanted children and stability for them – especially since you once wrote that without kids you likely would have married but not stayed married.  If this is the case (and again, I am making assumptions) – is it the marriage that does the binding in your mind, or the kids?  And if the latter, what happens when the kids grow up?

           

          I don’t mean to pry into your personal life, and please ignore my questions if they are too personal.  I find this discussion fascinating, though, and it provides me with enough enjoyment that I need not take walks in bear-infested areas 🙂

        3. Mrs Happy

          Dear Jeremy,

          there is no light explanation for why I wanted to bind myself in marriage, and I hope my explanation does not bore readers of this site; since it’s one woman’s take on marriage it is subject appropriate so I’ll post it.

          I bet lots of men have motivations similar to mine – they know they will be more content/happy long term in marriage, even though it means giving up short term shiny new things, novel excitements and pleasures, so they take the plunge and willingly make the trade.  And I’ve always thought more like men than women generally, even though in exterior I am very feminine.  I tend to love men’s logical brains because I like thinking analytically.

          I grew up in a very unhappy household with an incredibly selfish, self-absorbed and lazy mother, and I suspect my little girl self looked at my family environment and the constant alcohol-fuelled fights and thought, ‘no way am I signing up for this when I’m older’, because all my life I had a fierce determination not to marry and to live alone (so there wouldn’t be fights).  At the same time I was being schooled and taught by Catholic nuns who preached the sanctity of marriage and family; the Catholic church, like most religious institutions, places males superior to females, and that message too trickled down to my little infant self.

          I live in a country with free access to university education with entry only determined by final high school state-wide exam results, and free health care (and these available to women – I am so lucky), so when I was a teenager I left my family and lived independently while studying (and lived on $30 a week after paying rent and electricity bills – dire, abject poverty).  Got my degrees, started my professional career. During this time I repeatedly refused all sorts of marriage proposals and other propositions that would see me financially supported by (sometimes quite older) men, because I wanted to avoid having to stay in a house where there were fights nightly or anyone had a hold over me that way.

          Then, bang, I got to a life stage when I suddenly wanted to be married and have kids.  I cannot believe it really.  Out of the blue.  I suppose I saw that it could be done peacefully if you picked the right person?  That it was the normal thing to do?  That it was how adults’ social circles were made?  Your ideas about status and social position may have played a part, but not too much for me I suspect as I had those to a degree because of my work, my career had become successful.

          I wonder if I reject your power hypotheses (I actually think they hold some merit) due to discomfort with the ideas, precisely because for me the mere idea of one spouse holding power over another is hateful and I would never want a part of that.

          You are right about the stability for kids part.  I want my children raised in a 2-parent household and will do a lot and if necessary sacrifice a lot to ensure that happens.  I don’t know what happens when the kids are grown, and I’ve years before that occurs.

          The marriage is a bind too though.  I won’t walk easily like I did with past boyfriends.  I’m more invested.

          Jeremy, I wonder whether other women want to bind the man largely for financial reasons. It is a very vulnerable position to be looking down the barrel of poverty or even just reduced financial straits if your boyfriend/partner/husband leaves you with children who need around-the-clock care and you can make little in the way of earnings.  For obvious reasons I would never voluntarily put myself in a financially vulnerable position again, but most women do from quite a young age e.g. when they make career decisions around what will best suit a family and the bringing up of children. It makes sense that women who want kids will want as many legal guarantees as possible, so maybe if your world is made up of couples where the wife does all the kid stuff and the man earns, then all you see is the woman wanting marriage so as to prevent the man from leaving?  But then again if you’re a clinical doctor and/or at a uni you must have female colleagues who are more independent.

          Are there really bears near you? What type? How close?  You’ll be glad to know there were no snakes seen on yesterday’s bushwalk.  I’m sort of proud of the fang and scratch marks on my leg now though.  Battle scars.

      3. 12.2.3
        Nissa

        Mrs Happy, I really like what you said here. When you say: I wanted to move to a deep relationship where we meant so much to each other that we would do those things for each other if necessary – this is a good articulation of how I feel.I know that when I meet a man and he meets my criteria, as a satisficer, I’m very likely to have zero interest or really fall for him. I too, don’t want to go ‘all in’ with someone who is not going all in for me. While I don’t consider the relationships disposable, I have felt as though I was disposable to them. And having been married before, anything less feels like not enough.

    3. 12.3
      Jeremy

      You are making the incorrect assumption that the ultimate goal is a relationship with a man.  If that were true, marriage would matter much less.  But although having a good relationship with a man is part of most women’s goal, it is only one part.  And as women go through different stages of life, the other goals become more important.  Children.  Status.  Lifestyle.  Some women don’t think about children until they hear their clock ticking.  Some women (like the OP) don’t think about status until they feel their friends leaving them behind.  Some women don’t think about lifestyle until they think about children.  But most will, eventually, and marriage is the ticket to those things.  That is why I wrote that in the case of the OP, her boyfriend has gone from being the love of her life to being the impediment to her happiness.  Her relationship with him is only part of her goal, and she needs marriage for the rest of it.  If he won’t give it to her, her goals can’t be met and she won’t be happy, no matter how much he loves her, no matter how faithful he is to her.

       

      Your comment is full of the assumption that the relationship with a man is the woman’s goal.  Understand that this is not so.  Otherwise life and women will disappoint you.  How many times have I written that women’s priorities change predictably?  Men need to understand how and why this works.  Because while young women will deny that this is the case, older women will look back in retrospect and tell you that is should have been obvious.

      1. 12.3.1
        Adrian

        Hi Jeremy,

        If women’s motivation for relationships and ultimately marriage is children, status, lifestyle then in your opinion what is the motivation of us men to marry?

        1. Kevin

          There is more pressure than motivation….mens motivation is maybe this will shut her up for a few years lol

        2. SparklingEmerald

          Hi Adrian  I know you addressed this to Jeremy, but I would like to chime in.  I think children are a bigger motivator for men to get married than women.  Men can get sex and female companionship without marriage, but having children outside of marriage is harder for men.  Sure they could try to adopt, find a surrogate, or try and find a woman willing to cohabitate and have children with him without a marriage, but the easiest path to fatherhood for a man is marriage.I found this out the hard way.  My ex wanted a family (as did I)and he was very sexually excited by me (and I was by him) so we married.  We were actually very happy for many years, during the newlywed phase, and while our son was young.As our son became a rather difficult teenager my husband turned his back on me, and when our son went to college he basically told me “Thanks for the baby, mama, good bye”.I don’t think he intentionally married me, just to knock me up, have me raise his child, and then be on his merry way.  We both married while we were in that sparkly haze of a new-love buzz and very excited about the prospect of parenthood.  Our relationship never really grew beyond that initial infatuation phase, with each other, and our beautiful baby boy.  His goals changed over time.  He wanted to be a dad.  That goal was met, and the role of fatherhood diminished.  His next goal was basically to pursue very intense, risky outdoor sports. Moderate mountain hiking and or nature walks, or moderate flat land bicycle riding is my maximum comfort level with the outdoors, so according to him, this made me “boring” and “not very athletic”.His procreational goal had been met.  The next phase of his life his goal were recreational.  I was unable to meet those goals.  As heart breaking as the split was for me,  I now see that the best our marriage would ever be once the nest was empty, would be us living parallel lives.  I am now very happy that the split happened, since I now get to spend my retirement years with someone more compatible for this last phase of my life.

        3. Adrian

          Hi SparklingEmerald,

          You said, “but having children outside of marriage is harder for men.”

          Very interesting I never considered that. Are you saying that men want the ideal family: kids, house, new car in the driveway, etc and therefore marriage is the only way they can achieve that?

          Because that is the only way I can imagine men seeing marriage as a way to get children. If there were not so many single mothers and deadbeat dads in America then I would probably see your hypothesis as being more valid. But for now I just don’t see a man needing to court, marry, and support a woman just to get kids.

        4. GoWiththeFlow

          Hi Adrian,

          If a man wants to be a father as in having a day in and day out relationship with his kids, then yes he pretty much has to get married.  If he just wants to spread his seed, that’s a different matter.  But for an actual deep, bonded relationship with his child, proximity to the child typically flows from proximity to the child’s mom.

          I remember something that was written in an article on why not to cheat in a men’s magazine.  A reason given on why not to cheat was because it could mean the difference between a bedtime routine of saying good night over the phone vs. getting good night hugs when you personally tuck them in for the night.

          Just ask men who divorced when their kids were younger what the hardest part was, and a common answer is not seeing their kids every day. Or look at the struggle gay couples who want kids go through.  It’s difficult and extremely expensive for them to create a family with kids.

          It’s not so much the biology part as it is wanting to be in the long term role of a father that means men need to get married to e in a position to fulfill that role.

        5. SparklingEmerald

          Hi Adrian, You asked”Are you saying that men want the ideal family: kids, house, new car in the driveway, etc and therefore marriage is the only way they can achieve that?“Yes, that is pretty much what I am saying, but by “men” I don’t mean ALL men, but I do mean there are many men who want children and ACCESS to those children on a regular basis, and for THOSE men, marriage is the easiest and most logical path.”Because that is the only way I can imagine men seeing marriage as a way to get children. If there were not so many single mothers and deadbeat dads in America then I would probably see your hypothesis as being more valid.“In these scenarios, single moms/deadbeat dad’s, my hypothesis is this:  (and I am probably being a traitor to my gender here).  These are instances where the “mama wanna-be” got pregant “accidently on purpose” by a man that SHE wanted to have kids with, but he either didn’t want kids, or didn’t want kids WITH HER.  So she tries to trap him into marriage or at the very least child support by engineering an “accidental” preganancy.  I know the spit is going to hit the fan against me for betraying my gender this way, but believe me, I have listened to many a bullshit story about how a woman “accidently” got pregnant.”But for now I just don’t see a man needing to court, marry, and support a woman just to get kids.”Well, if a man want to be more than a sperm donor, and have a close relationship with his kids, marriage is the most effective route.  And guess what, many men actually WANT the total package, and adoring wife who gives him children.  Just ask Evan.  He is one of them/

        6. Jeremy

          Adrian, there are men who are internally motivated to marry and men who are externally motivated.  Those who are internally motivated want to marry and are actively searching for a wife.  I was such a man.  The man’s internal pie-chart of motivations usually includes a desire for children and family life, companionship, emotional support, a good sex life, and a certain lifestyle.  Not terribly different from women’s internal pie-chart, but with much less emphasis on status and security, and usually more emphasis on the sex and emotional support – and a desire to lock those down.  Hence, marriage.

           

          Men who are externally motivated marry to go with the flow.  In my first comment on this thread, I used the word “perseverators” to describe the personality I was discussing – and that is an unconventional use of the word.  That word is more commonly used to describe a person who repeats an action incessantly and is unable to stop.  A mental perseverator is one who continues to turn an idea over and over in his head but unable to ever come to a resolution.  Expends an exhaustive amount of energy thinking, but never acts – always goes in circles.  Know anyone like that?  I do.  Such people don’t make their own decisions.  They are led to them.  They give others power over themselves so as not to have to make decisions.  I know LOTS of men like this.  They married because it was expected of them – by their girlfriends, by their families, by society.  And such men are often content being married…..but their spouses are less content with them, IME.

    4. 12.4
      S.

      attractiveness, loyalty, shared goals and values, financial stability, shared laughter, kindness, sex, and emotional support.

      But they don’t have shared goals if she wants marriage and family and he doesn’t. And she doesn’t sound super-happy in her letter.

      That said, in my community people do have long-term love relationships without marriage.  Like that 80-year-old couple who were together for over 30 years that I link to often here. 🙂 (And even they got married in their 80s! You gotta ask, why?)

      My hairstylist knew her husband since high school.  They were together ten years and had three kids, one with special needs, before they got married.  She was patient with him about it and knew neither one of them was going anywhere.  But their relationship clearly wasn’t just boyfriend/girlfriend.  She said even as a girl she really had a sense of the man he would become and she was lucky that she was right.   They got married six years ago a year after the birth of their third child.  She later said that the told her he was waiting until he turned 30 but he never told her that all those years.  This makes sense to me.  High school sweethearts, sure, he might want the freedom of not being married for a while even though it’s clear (as far as I know) he wasn’t with anyone else.

      But their relationship didn’t stagnate.  It kept moving forward.  She didn’t put childbearing on hold.  This is what people even in my family do.  They may not marry, but they live together, raise children, share finances.

      So both people in the couple have to decide what ‘all in’ means for them.  What many women want is stability. (The people in my family do not have a lot of money or social status as people on this board might mean.) Not meaning financial stability but the reassurance that this man is going to stay.  What a lot of men want is the very freedom to leave.  Once a woman knows a guy is committed and isn’t going to leave and that she can still move on with their shared goals, I don’t think marriage becomes such an issue.

      So yes, while you are figuring out your goals, all in may mean what you describe.  Then later, once you’ve dated and experienced a little, all in may mean all that and marriage.  For some all in is everything but marriage like that elderly couple.  There isn’t one way to do all of this.  No clear answer what people want because everyone has different goals and gets there different ways.  Some of us want marriage but never want kids.  Some of us want kids but never want marriage.  There is no monolith here, Adrian.

      And I don’t think most women change. My friends even at 18 years old in college knew they wanted marriage and those that did married and those that didn’t, like myself, didn’t.  I didn’t want marriage but I did want stability.  Some of that I’ve found in myself.  I’ve found with men, not many nowadays want to do the decades long-term, stable relationships I observed as a child.  They want a perpetual girlfriend, not blending families and lives.  They associate that with marriage so it’s not as flexible as I once imagined. I wish it was, though.  But my wishing doesn’t make it so.

    5. 12.5
      Gala

      Anyway I just don’t understand it… What am I not seeing?

      Putting aside fulfilling Disney princess fantasies, literally the only thing a legal marriage accomplishes is that it makes it hard and expensive for either party to leave the arrangement. This is why women tend to want it, IMO, two reasons, “because that’s what everybody does!” and legal ties.

      Coincidentally, this is also why many divorced people don’t want to ever remarry. My boyfriend and I are both divorced, and our combined legal bills could have been a downpayment on a house… Needless to say neither one of us wants to get legally married again, though we do want to build a life together.

      1. 12.5.1
        SparklingEmerald

        Why do so many on blog insist on ignoring the family aspect of this.  Most women who want children would prefer to be married.  Yes, many women can and do adopt, get pregnant through AI, or just get impregnated by some rando guy and go it alone, but that is not the #1 choice for most women.  (I actually have a friend who went the AI route when she found herself 40 and single, and I have one friend who’s sister sought out a rando guy for a one night stand to impregnate her with the intent to be a single mom).  Children is a BIG reason many men and women want to get married, so why insist that it is just because “everybody does” ?

        1. Jeremy

          Children is a BIG reason many men and women want to get married, so why insist that it is just because “everybody does?” 

          Ahem?

           

          But seriously, SE, to address your question (which I think is very important) – it is because people don’t understand their motivations at any given time.  I got into an argument with a commenter named LAScott a few posts ago because she brought survey-type research to show that most women claim that “love” is their main reason for marriage, followed by “companionship.”  When I disagreed with these reasons, she accused me of being unscientific.  I had a quiet chuckle at that – I teach statistics and research analysis at my local university.  So one of the things I do best is dissecting research for flaws.  And any research that depends on asking people for their motivations does not actually show the motivations.  It just shows what they think at the time.  I have no doubt that if you ask a woman who is contemplating marriage why she wants it, she will search her brain for reasons and invent the excellent-sounding ones of love and companionship.  But marriage doesn’t provide those.  Not beyond what an uncommitted relationship would.  What does it provide?  Children.  Security.  Status.  Lifestyle.  If you want marriage, that’s what you must want, because that’s what it gives you.  Anything else is invented.  And, having said that, it is totally FASCINATING to listen to the reasons that different people invent.  The stories we tell ourselves, and believe.  And then what happens when we change the stories.

        2. Gala

          Jeremy:

          “Not beyond what an uncommitted relationship would.  What does it provide?  Children.  Security.  Status.  Lifestyle.”

          I completely agree with you. The reason I wanted to get married the first time around was purely for the status. I wanted the ring, and the status of a wife of a guy with certain social standing, which is why his family, career, etc. were important considerations. I wanted to be admitted to that circle. But then it turned out that it would’ve been cheaper to buy my own ticket..

        3. SparklingEmerald

          Jeremy – I do enjoy your comments and find them very interesting, and even though I spend a lot of mental space analyzing different aspects of my life, I couldn’t be happy if I took it to the level that you do.  Analyzing every micro, mini and maxi goal in my head, past, present and future, and the same goals of all the significant people in my life.I said children is a reason, and you listed children in your response to me as one of your “approved” reasons, so I don’t see where I was wrong.Also, just because someone has a reason you don’t agree with, doesn’t mean they are making shit up, telling themselves stories, or trying to appear grand.  It just means they have a reason you can’t wrap your head around.As for me, I really don’t know why I married this time around, as all I was really looking for was a committed companion and lover.  I am well beyond child bearing years, so that reason is out.  I have my own financial security, own my own home, so financial security isn’t the reason.  If anything, fear of losing my financial security would be MORE of a reason to not marry, but I did anyway.  As far as status goes, being previously divorced TWICE, a third walk down the aisle could be a stigma in some cases.  One of my wedding guests even signed in with “3’s a charm”. Also being twice divorced, I don’t have that 100% secure feeling that we won’t ever divorce, but I do love and trust my husband and feel that our relationship will last for the long haul, married or not. (Also, being seniors, until death to us part isn’t as big of a commitment for couples in their 30’s 🙂 )So why did I marry again ?  I ask myself that from time to time, and I really don’t know.  What I DO know is that we are both very happy and content and enjoy our marriage, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. 

        4. Jeremy

          @SE, my comment was never intended to imply that you were wrong – I don’t think you were.  The “ahem” was meant to imply that someone had, indeed, mentioned children as a reason for marriage.  One reason.  Of several possible valid ones.  Obviously people marry for other reasons.  My mother in law married well beyond her childbearing years – she did not seek children, security or status.  She sought companionship.  Could she have had companionship without marriage?  Yes.  So why did she marry?  She doesn’t know any more than you do, other than the fact that it relates to the stories we tell ourselves.  We tell ourselves that if we are in love, marriage should be the next step.  It means commitment, even though it doesn’t.  We act irrationally.

           

          It’s not that I expect people to analyze their motivations – life has taught me that most don’t.  I do so, not because I’m neurotic, but because it comes as easily to me as breathing.  I’d have to gouge my eyes out not to see it.  And once you see it, it can’t be unseen – and it is helpful.  Like Marika with her guardians 🙂

      2. 12.5.2
        Evan Marc Katz

        The majority of divorced men want to remarry.

        And, lest you take a completely one-sided stance against marriage, the institution itself is not just a legal trap. There’s something to be said for the trust, comfort and emotional investment of being married. Having the ceremony. Declaring it to the world. Being legal beneficiaries. Knowing that you’re all in and no one is waking up one day with a change of heart and a packed bag. So I can completely understand and validate your reasons to NOT want to get married, but please don’t talk to married people as if there’s nothing different between marriage and “boyfriend/girlfriend.” There is. That’s why so many people do it.

        1. Gala

          Knowing that you’re all in and no one is waking up one day with a change of heart and a packed bag.

          Technically, they can still do it, this is how divorces begin, it’s just gonna cost them. And also, I don’t really view it as a positive. I want this freedom for myself. If he stops trying, if he starts taking me for granted, if he disrespects me, etc., I want to be able to pack the bag and go and not be put through a ringer in court just for desiring to exit an abusive situation. And I am ok with him having the same freedom. I he decides that for whatever reason he doesn’t want to be with me anymore, surely I don’t see any reason to bleed him dry in court, he should be able to just go.

          I am not against marriage per se – it’s a right choice for many people, especially the ones in their late 20-ies who have their entire lives ahead of them and can build their life together. But at my age in mid 30-ies, myself and people I date already have baggage, we have been around the block, we have pre-existing assets, liabilities and dependents, and merging all that .. for what? Doesn’t seem to make much sense.

        2. Emily, the original

          Gala, 

          I want this freedom for myself. If he stops trying, if he starts taking me for granted, if he disrespects me, etc., I want to be able to pack the bag and go and not be put through a ringer in court just for desiring to exit an abusive situation. And I am ok with him having the same freedom. I he decides that for whatever reason he doesn’t want to be with me anymore, 

          I completely agree with you on this. I may feel differently if I wanted kids, but I want someone to be there because he wants to be there and not because of the legal hassle of getting out of it.

        3. Gala

          @Emily

          Actually, kids are kinda separate from this whole marriage thing. Legal marriage or lack thereof does not affect one’s obligation towards their kids. Put simply, the dad will still owe child support. Of course, you don’t want child support, you want a guy who will stick around and be a good father. But then again, how’s signing a marriage license gonna compel anyone to do so if they don’t want to? It won’t… it’s gives people false comfort, the illusion that the other party can’t leave (they can), won’t hurt them (they have capacity to hurt them more) etc.

          Another thing is, people don’t understand compounding. I have 30 years to retirement. $50K on divorce lawyers may seem like a lot even today, but the REAL cost of it is much higher, compounded at 8% it would have been almost half a million dollars for me in retirement! When I think about it, it really hurts. And it wasn’t even my choice to litigate, I wanted to settle. But people use divorce courts to inflict hurt on their former spouses and my ex wanted to bleed my dry. I will now have half a mil less in retirement because i was dumb enough to sign on the dotted line. Fool me once! Basically, at this point I view marriage as a threat to my financial security more than anything else…

        4. Emily, the original

          Gala,

          I just meant that I’d want to be married if I had kids.

           Basically, at this point I view marriage as a threat to my financial security more than anything else…

          I agree. I would never put myself in a situation where someone else’s actions could impact me financially. I had a friend who wanted to divorce but her husband wouldn’t leave the house and she couldn’t get him to help her clean it up and declutter it so they could put it on the market and sell it. She couldn’t afford to pay for an apartment and the mortgage (if she stopped helping him pay for it, the house would go into foreclosure, which would affect her credit). So she had to rent a room somewhere so she could leave him even though she had put far more money into that house. What a nightmare. He was holding her hostage.

      3. 12.5.3
        Nissa

        There’s a HUGE difference between just living together and being married. I feel qualified to talk about this because I lived with my husband for years before we got married. To summarize, to me being married meant that my husband was choosing me vs just living with me because it was convenient. I actually didn’t think it would make much of a difference, but I fell more in love with my husband once I married him. I had more of a commitment to him and gave more. For me, the social aspects were nice, but they paled in comparison to the internal emotional benefits.

  13. 13
    Cate

    Adrian,

     

    Absolutely she will dump the guy if she does not get marriage.  After putting all of your love and sacrifice into a relationship for several years, it is reasonable to expect a commitment.  No woman wants to be a girlfriend for life.  That gives all the benefit of marriage without any responsibility.  I had this conversation with my SO after 4 years of dating.  I did not say “You have to marry me.” What I did say is that, I am looking for a commitment, and if you are not interested, I will find a man who is.  Guess what, we got engaged and are now married.  The difference in being married is absolutely huge.  I have legal status as a spouse.  I am the beneficiary of my husband’s life insurance and 401K by law.  He is also my beneficiary.  This provides us security for the future in both of our lives if anything happens to us.

    In addition, a marriage solidifies your relationship socially to friends and family.

    We also are thinking about children in the future.  I work full time and earn an excellent salary, so it is not about money.  For me and many other women, It is about your SO recognizing that you are important enough to be called “wife” and not just “girlfriend.”

    1. 13.1
      Adam Smith

      Honestly this post sums up why women are smarter than men; so few men can see marriage/relationships as the legal and social negotiation that they are – unless theyre divorced:)

  14. 14
    Kevin

    My simple question to all women that feel the next “Step” is marraige…what is the next “Step” after ur married…since women will forever be unsatisfied…marraige is just the beginning of demands

    1. 14.1
      Chris

      This is harsh but has some truth. Many women tend to idolize marriage. The anticipation of it affects their feelings for their boyfriend, making it easier to overlook whatever his flaws are.

      But after the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon are over, reality sets in that being married often just feels kind of mundane. And its often hard work. And they start to really notice flaws and annoying habits in their husband.

      The main reason why many men are reluctant to marry is fear of divorce. Will they stay married, even when the relationship matured and feelings have cooled, even if he doesn’t do as many chores as she’d like, or he forgets to say how much he loves her sometimes?

       

  15. 15
    Cate

    Chris, the things such as minor fights about chores are why all couples should go through some pre-marital counseling or preparation about their expectations.  Anyone who is willing to leave a marriage because of fights over chores never really cared about being married.

    A man can refuse to marry if he wants, and the solution for a woman is to find a man who wants to be married.

    There are still many good men who consider marriage a positive institution, in spite of things that could go wrong.  The ability to take a leap of faith with another person and put your commitment ahead of all your fears is the key to marriage.

  16. 16
    Lynx

    Here’s what I don’t understand about long-term, cohabitating, unmarried relationships: after a certain point (which I believe varies by state), it’s considered a common law marriage and, in the event of a split, it’s treated just like a legal marriage in terms of division of property, child support, etc.So, if the argument against marriage is the pain/hassle of a divorce, that’s not a valid reason. 

    1. 16.1
      Gala

      You understand it incorrectly. Only a handful of states recognize the so called “common law marriage” (the most ridiculous construct ever if you ask me). In the majority of states cohabitation does not entitle you to anything.

  17. 17
    Marika

    I love your story, Sparking Emerald.

    While I think your wedding guest was a big ride with her remark, clearly 3 is a charm and it gives me so much hope and positivity. Keep posting!

  18. 18
    Marika

    Emily 

    I definitely can’t relate to the ‘boyfriends as disposable’ thing. But I feel things way more deeply than most people I know. Some breakups were fine, some wanted, but most were pretty hard on me.

    I may be turning a bit into Jeremy here…but last night I was at dinner and a friend of a friend was going on and on about how she can’t believe her daughter’s friend’s parents let them go to parties and she was blaming this on their culture (which is my culture) etc etc, all coming across as full-on judgy…and out of nowhere a voice in my head said “she’s a Guardian”. Then I relaxed, listened to her politely and let it go. She even told me I should get off online dating and go and meet a guy at church! Hehe.

    It really helps.

    Mrs Happy and I couldn’t be more different in our approach to men and relationships. In some ways I envy her as I think it’s easier being like that (low investment until marriage, realistic and rational expectations, not very emotional), but I’ll never be that way. So I need to be myself and just find the person who works best with me. And my flaws ☺

    1. 18.1
      Shaukat

      @Marika,

      She’s not a “guardian,” whatever that means; in fact, that lady is most likely just a judgmental religous fanatic who’s been socialized into a very specific cultural framework. Most people aren’t born with that type of self-righteousness ingrained in them, it’s contingent based on environment. I like Jeremy’s comments overall, but one problem I have with his approach is that he tends to pigeon hole people into these neat categories which don’t really exist in a pure sense. Your initial instinct was correct.

      1. 18.1.1
        Marika

        I disagree, Shaukat. I was there, it wasn’t like that. Anyway, I find it much more helpful and productive to think of people in terms of how & why their motivations and backgrounds may lead them to think / act in certain ways, rather than to write them of them as, for instance ‘fanatics’.

        In her own way she was trying to be helpful. She just doesn’t understand online dating. Or how people can date not knowing what they want. If I had no exposure to it, I wouldn’t get it either.

        I do hear what you’re saying, but Jeremy’s approach works for me to help me understand people who think differently, without attributing negative motivations to them.

      2. 18.1.2
        Jeremy

        The categories don’t exist in any pure sense, as I’ve written many times, Shaukat.  I don’t pigeon-hole people.  They pigeon-hole themselves.  The woman Marika describes is a woman, not a “guardian.”  Her personality is likely complex and nuanced.  I could tell Marika not to listen to the advice of this woman because this woman’s base assumptions likely differ too much from hers to make her advice be worth anything.  That her advice seems to be based on judgmentalism, on a certain set of societal values, on conformity to externally-imposed ways of thinking.  Whereas Marika’s base assumptions (as she has described them here, at least), seem to be based on what she desires internally, not on externally-imposed values.  They seem to be based on a sense of meaning, identity authenticity – and those base assumptions are not congruent with those of the woman giving the advice, and so the advice is meaningless, conversation about it is pointless.  Or, I could use a shorthand that says the same thing, with the caveat that the short-hand is a heuristic and so is prone to systematic error – so be careful with it.

         

    2. 18.2
      Emily, the original

      Marika,

      But I feel things way more deeply than most people I know. 

      I’ve felt the same way my whole life. With some people, I wonder if there’s anyone in there. No soul.

      Mrs Happy and I couldn’t be more different in our approach to men and relationships. In some ways I envy her as I think it’s easier being like that (low investment until marriage, realistic and rational expectations, not very emotional)

      It probably is easier. I just can’t relate to analytical, logical people. It’s probably that I was raised by engineer/mathematical types who made no sense to.

  19. 19
    Jeremy

    Dear Mrs Happy, thank you for your reply to me above.  It was powerful and personal, and it affected me deeply. I thought long and hard about what response might be appropriate.

     

    You wrote that you resist my power hypotheses because you dislike the idea of one spouse having power over the other.  Given your history, I understand why.  It’s the same reason I hate the idea – because we grew up powerless. Stuck with the priorities of those irrational authority figures who meant well, but were totally un-fit to exercise authority over us.

     

    By the sound of it, you and I both grew up seeking power.  Not power over others – neither of us had any interest in that.  But rather, the power to forge our own lives as WE saw fit, not as others did.  The power to be independent, not need to value the opinions of others as pertaining to ourselves.  I think that neither of us probably saw it as seeking power at the time – I know I didn’t – but what is power other than self-determination?  I just wanted to be in control of my own life – to have the power to do what I wanted and get what I wanted – while still living a good and honorable life.  And I just assumed that that was what everyone else wanted too.  But I was wrong.

     

    Love and desire – comfort and arousal – we all want both, and we tend to think of them together but they are not at all alike!  Love is about sharing equal power.  Desire is about unequal power, desiring the thing we don’t have.  Power balances precariously on a proverbial scale in every relationship – if the balance is too even, if there is too much comfort and not enough arousal, the relationship becomes one of a fond brother and sister, of friendly roommates working together to raise children and attend dinner parties together.  If the power imbalance becomes too great or too one-sided, the spouse at a disadvantage loses comfort and seeks ways of re-gaining it.  And the spouse with the greater power loses desire – how can you desire something you can obtain so easily?  It is like a serviette, is it not?   If we want both love and desire, we need a series of power gradients with each spouse having certain advantages but with the net sum close to equal.  Whether or not we think about these gradients or sums consciously (and most don’t), we feel the lack if we lose the balance.  In the same way that most people might not know about the Golden Proportion, but can still sense something amiss in the features of a face that lacks the proportion.

     

    I personally found this notion difficult to accept.  Because I didn’t want to believe that desire should depend on a power gradient. I didn’t WANT a power gradient.  It was what I had spent my whole life trying to avoid.  I didn’t want power over others, didn’t want others to have power over me – but without that, you can’t have a relationship that has both love and desire.  Many women are content with just the love.  It’s good enough.  But most men aren’t.  And you can’t have a good relationship where only one spouse gets what they need.

    1. 19.1
      Jeremy

      BTW, no bears within about an hour’s drive from me – and even those are only black bears.  No brown bears or grizzlys like you’d find in British Columbia. I do understand about battle scars, though.  My sister recently finished another round of chemotherapy for her cancer.  And although we bought a very lovely wig for her, she prefers to go about with just the short stubble on her scalp.  She dyed the stubble pink.  It was a battle scar.  She wore it with pride.  Didn’t want to hide her trials and triumphs under a false veil of normalcy.  We try to give her as much love and support as we can.  She had several well-meaning friends who either failed to contact her (because they didn’t know what to say, not because they didn’t care) or who did contact her, but over-shared about how her illness made them feel and pissed her off.  It’s hard when a loved one is ill.  

  20. 20
    Sven

    Why not spend three months salary on a gift for him ,  get down on one knee and propose to him?  It’s 2018.

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