How Long Should I Wait For a Real Commitment?

Hi, Evan.

I love your column and think you do a great job of answering questions and concerns with sympathy, empathy and insight. Flattery aside, I have a dilemma. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about 3 years. I’m truly happy with him about 90% of the time. We discussed moving in together when my lease is up in October, but now I know he’s not ready. He’s really independent and values his alone time. I tell him that he can still have that if we’re living together, but he’s still not sure when he’ll be ready. That worries me.

He feels really strongly about living with me and equates it to marriage. We knew a couple who broke up after living together. I asked if that’s why he doesn’t want to move in—because he’s afraid we’ll break up and it’ll be a pain to move out. He said he’s not worried, that if we move in together, he’s sure we’ll stay together, like it’s a forever thing.

Right now we see each other 4-5 times a week, and I mostly I stay at his place. He also has this professional project that’s a big priority. He’s been working on it for more than 2 years so I don’t know if that’s also a factor in why he’s reluctant to move forward. We almost never fight, but when we do it’s always about the bigger issue: our future together. I want more, but he’s not ready. I’ve told him that I’ll wait and believe he’ll be worth it. I know this all sounds like justification, but he really has made improvements in the past year. Before me, he was in two longer-term relationships, and he said that he’s never had what we have now, that he’s never even considered marriage and kids with anyone else before and that I’m not just his girlfriend, I’m his best friend. He’s never even considered giving a girl a key to his apartment! But when he moved this past July, he let me decorate/organize his kitchen which he said was big for him because he likes to be in control of that.

I told him that, regardless of what the future holds, I won’t regret any of the time we’ve had together because I love him. So I realized that I said I’d wait for him, but I still find myself trying to pressure him to take the next step. I think I need to stop if I truly believe it when I say that I’ll wait and be patient, but I’m not sure how to do just back off and give him the space he needs to make a decision. Am I being completely foolish and just a pathetic girl? I truly believe that a lot of couples don’t have what we have, but a lot of those couples still have more commitment…and therein lies the rub… So I’m seeking an outsider’s view. Help? Thanks, Sophie

Dear Sophie,

I know you’re looking for advice, but I want to use your email as a teaching tool. See, I edited Sophie’s letter for brevity (really, I did!), where she mentioned how her relationship started…seeing each other once a week, then twice a week, then three times a week. By being patient and not putting pressure on her boyfriend, she allowed it to develop into a healthy, loving relationship that has a chance of going the distance.

Had she not taken this stance, her boyfriend would have bailed, and she would not have the chance of going the distance. So while you might think, “Yeah, but she may have wasted three years on a guy who won’t marry her,” you’d be mistaken.

By being patient, you allow a healthy, loving relationship to develop.

Sophie said herself that her relationship wasn’t a waste of time, no matter what happens next. She’s just (rightfully) insecure that her boyfriend’s afraid of taking the next step. But what course of action gives Sophie better options? Cutting him off after a few months because he’s not positive that she’s “the one”? Or patiently allowing him to fall in love with her, to consider her his best friend, to know that he can’t picture his life without her? I think the answer is obvious.

I proposed to my wife after 14 months because my girlfriend was 38, we both wanted kids, and I was a dating coach who finally figured out what was important in life.

But my story is the exception.

I have three very close friends who were with their girlfriends for 3 years before proposing. Their girlfriends were all 3-4 years older, and they were feeling far more biological pressure than I suspect that you do. And yet, despite their ticking clocks, they hung in there patiently, just like you… right up until the 3-year mark. That’s when they decided to leave if they didn’t get a ring. As well they should.

At the 3-year mark, there’s literally no new information that your boyfriend is trying to gather about you. He loves you. He’s attracted to you. He enjoys hanging out with you. He has everything he wants with you.

Which is why it’s so comfortable for him to keep things exactly the way they are now.

The problem is that it’s not comfortable for you to walk this tightrope, investing more and more time with a man who is not ready to commit.

Thus, the only leverage you have is to walk away from him and see if he follows.

At the 3-year mark, there’s literally no new info that your boyfriend is trying to gather…

Sure, you can wait for another year.

Sure, you can move in together.

Sure, you can discuss a future together.

But this doesn’t give you what you’re looking for. This is just moving deck chairs around the Titanic, spinning wheels, making noise. These are just things that you might do to avoid breaking up, but they don’t ensure that you’ll be together forever.

If you want to be married, it’s time for him to step up and marry you.

If he doesn’t want to marry you, it’s time for him to let you go.

After 3 years, there are no valid excuses. Only some version of “I’m not ready,” or “I’m not sure”. Too bad, mister. You had three years to figure it out. You don’t get three more.

You talk about your boyfriend’s “professional priorities” that prevent him from proposing. Bullshit. My best friend is getting married this week even though he’s quitting his safe job as a lawyer to start his own company. I assure you, if your guy wanted to marry you, it would happen.

Waiting is just moving deck chairs around the Titanic.

What you don’t want is to be the woman who holds on, hopefully, giving him everything he wants and sacrificing everything that you want. I know someone who has spent 7 years – her childbearing years – waiting for her boyfriend to propose. He negotiated for her to move in with him, and that’s where they stand. Satisfying for him. Not so much for her.

If you’re willing to be that woman – the one who waits forever for the day that never comes, then that’s your prerogative.

You’ll have another 3 years with your boyfriend.

What you won’t have is a husband.

Because he doesn’t want to be a husband.

And you knew it.

And you ignored it.

And there’s no one to blame at that point but you.

You did the right thing to get here, Sophie.

Now cut the patience, get your answers, or move on.

Good luck.

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  1. 61

    Agree with Honey and others above, age makes a difference. If they’re in their 20’s, I think they *at least* need to complete their 20’s before getting married, which could mean several more years hence. It’s completely irrational to think that married is the end-all be-all of a relationaship, and that if they don’t get married now even though the relationship is perfectly healthy, you have to break it off. Why? Just keep doing what you’re doing. You have the rest of your life to be married and live under the same roof, if that’s indeed in the cards.

  2. 62
    Sophie (OP)

    Thank you all for you comments and input.
    I actually do agree with Evan’s advice to a point (I do think that every relationship and guy is different), but at the same time, I probably will be that ‘stupid’ girl who still waits. I will reach my threshold eventually but I haven’t yet.
    Selena actually nailed how I feel about a lot of it. The 10% of unhappiness comes from the lack of forward progress. I know that that percentage should be weighted because it could potentially collapse the whole relationship, but I really am so happy when I’m not thinking of that, and I’m a really good avoider…
    Maybe it’s not the healthiest way to go on in a relationship, but I am happy and I truly do believe that he will just get to that point. Maybe I am being foolish, but I know that he does really love me and care for me and I know I am one of the most important people in his life. None of this comes easily for him. I  know I can be too understanding sometimes, but I’d rather be foolish down the road than end something that I don’t want to ever end. If that makes me stupid then I am stupid! I don’t know what the future holds, but I know my present is happy, even if she is living in ignorant bliss…

    1. 62.1

      You sound like someone trying to convince herself it is ok. Not like someone who believes it. Read your comment again and tell me you are not trying to convince yourself. I’ve been where you are. The moment you break up that same guy will be married to the next lady in meets in less than a year. Time for you to move on.

  3. 63

    Sophie #64

    Thanks for writing back in. I wish things could be more clear for you, but there is nothing ‘stupid’ about enjoying the present. The future has a way of taking care of itself. 🙂

  4. 64

    Sophie, within all your conversations with him, has he indicated that he does see a future with you?  Men will stay with women they know they will not end being with forever–they won’t volunteer the information that’s what they are doing, but if they are asked the question, they very well may come clean.  It would be pretty low character of a man to lie straight out to the woman he’s intimately involved with, and this man doesn’t sound like he’s of low character.

    The other comments above apply too.  We don’t know what age you two are and we don’t know what your ultimate goal is. 

    I think it’s also important to accept that wanting more security in a relationship, i.e. marriage, is NOT a bad thing and you are not a stupid woman to want that. 

  5. 65
    Sophie (OP)

    He has said that he thinks he wants a future with me but he doesn’t know when it’ll actually happen, and, yes, that does worry me. I am 31 and he’s 30 so we’re not exactly spring chickens anymore!
    I know I’m not being unreasonable wanting more commitment. I am waiting and hoping that it doesn’t come back to bite me in the butt some day, but I do believe that he (and what we have together) is worth the wait and that the gamble is big but the payoff is bigger.
    @Jessica, that really was well said. Thank you.

  6. 66

    @Sophie (#67)
    Thanks for the clarification-very helpful.
    If, at 30, he says he thinks he wants a future with you, but doesn’t know when it’ll happen, then he’s given you his answer. He didn’t say he didn’t know “if” it’ll happen, just when.
    As a man in his forties who, in his 30’s, avoided marriage like the plague, I understand what he’s saying. He hasn’t resolved what “being married” looks like.
    Does he have a great, stable career? Perhaps he’s concerned about his ability to provide. He may also be smart enough to realize he doesn’t know enough about life/himself to commit (not saying this is true, just may be a thought he has). If this is the case, then he’s feeling a lot of responsibility towards you-he may be concerned about not screwing up your life. He may take proposing marriage as a VERY serious commitment, one that takes LOTS of forethought.
    Men often see this very differently than women – hence this blog. Most guys I knew in their 20’s and 30’s either didn’t want to get married or were ambivalent – some knew the wanted to be married. Compare that to most women I’ve known wanted to be married, and only one or two were indifferent to it.
    Do you both want children? Have you discussed this at length? (I don’t recall reading it in your letter-it may be there and I’ve forgotten). If you both want children, then this is a great subject for commitment. See other articles from EMK about having kids. You’re already post-prime for getting pregnant, though still in very viable years. As you approach 40, those odds really drop (and please, don’t anyone jump on this advice-it’s a real concern, backed by real research that it’s harder for couples to conceive as they age…our the 30’s aren’t our 20’s). My point being that he may not have considered the concerns about having kids.
    Have you explained to him, in a non-confrontational (i.e. non-demanding) way, that being married is important to you, and why. I know I was rather dense about it until some lengthy and in-depth discussions with my GF. She helped me develop a new perspective on marriage – so even us old dogs can learn new tricks given the right circumstances/presentation/paradigm.

  7. 67

    Sophie (OP), I think you’ll really need to step back and contemplate what it is that you really want and then be prepared to take action–even though that action may be hard.  You’ve been with this man a long time and he’s not very sure in his ability or willingness to commit to you–obviously.

    I  like Bill’s last post, including his comments on childbearing at an older age.  I do think your approach needs to come from YOUR point of view and what YOU want–NOT what HE is unwilling or unable to do, for whatever his reasons.  IMO, it’s perfectly reasonable to express what you want and why it’s important to you (if you haven’t multiple times already), and then say that he has every right to feel the way he feels and to take his time, but he can’t have you all to himself while he is doing that.  I would not say a lot of words and I wouldn’t put forward an ultimatum.  Hear what he has to say, really listen to what he has to say.  Then I would suggest separating yourself from him for a little bit…let things sink in on BOTH sides.  Be patient, let HIM come to YOU…men don’t process as quickly as we do (and it’s maddening! :). This will be difficult for sure…but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.

    Coming from a woman who is older, TIME is something that is so precious.  You can’t buy it, you can’t trade for it, you can’t gather it,  you can’t save it–it’s very limited commodity.

    Good luck Sophie!  You sound like an awesome, mature woman!

  8. 68

    This is a tough call I think. I’m 31 also and I’ve never cohabitated with a boyfriend. My longest relationship went 4 years and never got to that stage mostly because he was afraid. I do like my freedom but I understand the longing for a stable “home life” with the one you love, so I think my next relationship to last a couple years I’m going to want that element.
    That said, I have friends who just moved in together after being in a relationship for 7 years. I have another pair of friends who have moved in together after 4 years and just got married after 10 years (she finally gave an ultimatum). So, I guess some people come around after awhile. But who knows if anyone will last, and there is a strong possibility that both pairs of my friends I mentioned will have trouble starting a family, as they are all mid-to late 30s.
    I think how strongly you want children is the main question here, because if you don’t want them then I don’t think there’s any reason to rush into cohabitation/marriage if you are already mostly happy with how things are.

  9. 69

    Sophie, I can see you recognize and value the relationship you already have, yet obviously you are unhappy with the lack of forward progress (which is why you have posted to the blog).  That’s perfectly understandable.

    Obviously, you are looking for commitment or — because you say he’s already made improvements — some reassurance that you are not waiting for a future that will never come.

    When I read posts like these, I am reminded of the advice I frequently read (often from male relationship experts like EMK) that when a man decides that a particular woman is “The One”, there is no obstacle too great, and no timing problem or financial issues that can’t be accommodated.   Poor people make commitments to each other all the time.  People get married while one or both are seeking higher education.  Or are in long-distance relationships, etc etc.

    In other words, they make it work.

    You are not saying that any of these things is preventing your boyfriend from committing.  But women are very self-sacrificing with relationships, while men tend to be more self-oriented.   If my partner said to me (randomly) that it would make him happy if I wore a green shirt every Tuesday until 2011, I would do it…No matter how unusual… because I know he’d be happy that I did.   Your boyfriend knows that some sort of sign of deeper commitment (e.g. moving in together, or a ring) would make you happy … but he cannot do it for you.  That says something to me.  This may be a man you cannot rely on to put your needs ahead of his, or in future to make you happy or attend to your needs.

    I know wearing-a-green-shirt-on-Tuesdays is trivial compared to making a life-long commitment, but the point is that he needs to step up to reassure you, because that is what YOU want.   Sorry, but it seems like he cannot, so you may be best to move on.

  10. 70

    I can totally relate to where Sophie is coming from. Being a woman who has dated a man for 5 years-LDR,  in my mid 40’s, dating a man in his mid-50’s, I have finally decided, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. IF a man wants to be with you, he will move heaven and earth to do so. If you are not happy in the relationship (and I can’t say I am/was not happy), but without the commitment to back it up, something that shows he is committed to you, you must move on. It hurts like hell. But if your needs are not getting met, and you’re not feeling secure, what’s the point? Time is precious, as we start getting older, even more so. We may love these men with all our hearts, but if our hearts are not feeling safe and secure, its time to move on. If they love you (enough), they will come after you (us) and give us what will make us happy as well. Just my two cents.

  11. 71

    Evan, I have been reading mails for a long time now and I have never felt the need to respond to anything, other than your survey a few days back. You know, what all this proves?

    That you can do whatever you think needs to be done but it all boils down to destiny. You will be with the person you are meant to be, when you are meant to be.

    According to all the rules put forward by many, she did everything right, not putting pressure, being patient blah blah blah.. But it still didn’t work, did it? She is being advised to tighten the screws(even though nobody said it the exact same way but that’s what it boils down to).

    I believe that what is meant to be will be. You can be most obnoxious, most irritating, ugly as hell, it doesn’t matter. You will be with the person you are meant to be, when you are meant to be. Maybe my Hindu background has something to do with it, but that is what I believe in.

    1. 71.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @J – You can believe in destiny. I believe in using best practices.

      So if you do everything right and it STILL doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that the next time, you shouldn’t do the EXACT same thing.

      Imagine a baseball player who takes a perfect swing, hits it to deep center field, and the center fielder catches the ball before it goes over the fence. The batter came six inches from a home run. Instead he got out.

      Does this mean he should quit baseball? Does this mean that he should re-tool his swing? Not at all.

      All it means is that the next time the batter gets up, he should take the exact same swing and trust that a certain percentage of the time, it will result in a home run.

      This isn’t destiny. You make your own luck with your optimism, your effort, and your ability to persevere.

  12. 72

    Why is there the disclaimer that  3years is plenty long enough (UNLESS YOU’RE UNDER 25)? I have been with my boyfriend for 3 years and we’re under 25. I want to move in together and he’s not ready, just like Sophie’s situation.

    How does our age factor into the situation though? I would actually argue the opposite. It is rarer for a couple our age to stay togetehr this long. So shouldn’t that mean more in terms of wanting a commitment?

  13. 73

    Wow, this is so similar to my situation. And I think I know the answer, I’m just too scared to face it.
    My partner and I have been dating for 3 years. We’re both 30, and have been living together for 1.5yrs. He is shortly being posted overseas (for work) for 2 years. He loves me and wants me to come with him.
    But he isn’t sure about marriage and about marrying me (“oh maybe I would like to get married in like 5 years time”… by which time we would have been dating for 8 years?!? )
    If I don’t tell him thats not good enough, I stay in the relationship and move country with him. He keeps a great relationship, pursues his professional career, and gets to put off commitment. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.
    And me? I give up my great job, my friends and move country hoping and hoping that suddenly he’s going to wake up and realize he’s ready to commit? Really?? Who am I fooling? Evan is right, he’s collected all the information he needs, why am I still under assessment/probation?
    Sophie, I totally get what you’re saying about just sticking it out coz everything else about the relationship is going well. I’m terrified to call my relationship off. He’s a fantastic guy and I have no doubt he loves me. But our future goals just don’t match up. You have to set a timeline, I think. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in 5 years time hearing the same overplayed line. Inability to commit is a personality flaw to take into account for compatibility as much as anything else.
    Don’t avoid a difficult decision just because it is difficult and you’re scared of being alone. That’s what I’ve been doing.

  14. 74

    Thank you all for this insight! Everything is so much clearer, I didnt even have to ask my question, you guys helped me solve it 🙂

    Just remember, life is short, and we are only here for so long…

    I hope everyone finds their happiness…


  15. 75

    Get out now. You are trading your integrity, your spirit, and your self esteem for a person who will not ever commit to you. If he were going to, he would have done so by now. He is using you to fill in the blanks. You are, or were, probably a joyful person, with a lot to offer. Do not waste yourself on someone who is not deserving of you. There is no need to be angry, or vindictive. Just understand that you deserve someone who shares your ideals, shares what you want from a relationship, and wants to build a life with you. You can spend years waiting for things to change, and they won’t, if you stay where you are, hoping every day that things will get better.

    1. 75.1

      This is true. Life is short, you are only here for so long. Don’t waste your child-bearing years on someone who will not commit to you.  You will regret it the longer you stay in this relationship. Best of luck to you! 🙂

  16. 76

    Wow! That response could almost have been written for me. I’m 40, intelligent, loving, attractive, successful…. But I’ve been hanging on to a guy for over 4 years who won’t even give me keys to his apartment (let alone talk marriage with me), I’ve been waiting in a dark alley for him to get home from work so he can ALLOW me entry. There was once a proposal but after 6 months without a ring being produced he told me to “buy my own”. He’s done so many hurtful things 🙁 After reading your response, I’ve told him I can’t live one more second in this wishy-washy non-committed farce and I need to get an answer about our future from him. I want some form of direction or closure so I can move on with my life. It’s true, after 3 years there’s really nothing more he’s going to learn about me that would make or break the relationship. It’s up to me now to be strong and stand up for what I want.

  17. 77

    Great comments everyone, including Evan’s advice! When it comes to romantic partners you may deem the one you are with as “worth waiting for”, but the bottom line is you have to be in the same place in your life as eachother (within a reasonable time period) or that particular relationship is just not right for you. Yes, different people get to that commitment phase at different times so you have to give some lee-way for the other person to come around, but 3 years with no solid plan of a future together is time enough. This man might mostly make you happy, but he is clearly not in the same place in his life as you are and I think you should find someone who is. There is definitely someone else out there who is “worth waiting for” and IS as commitment-minded as you are. It’s a tough turning point as I understand how you would not want to throw away the past 3 years you’ve built with this man, but if you don’t say goodbye you may build another 3 years of resentment with him, meanwhile passing by the opportunity to build a life with someone else who is just as ripe and ready for love and commitment as you are. Breaking up hurts badly, but it’s worth the months of suffering in order to open the door to the right relationship. Which brings me to the point that there is no point in the ultimatum or the “seeing other people” while he makes a decision. Just close the door to that relationship completely, suffer for a time in order to heal that wound, then open the door to a fresh start and never look back. If your heart is open to meeting someone who wants the same things as you and compliments you well then you will!…and you will have an even deeper and more satisfying relationship with that person than you do with this man you are with now…Best of luck with you decision.

    1. 77.1

      @Positiveenergy: Love it! Thank you.  I agree, I was in a three year relationship and had to let go because his true colors came out. He lied about marriage and having a real commitment, so I was done. It took a year for me to get over him. It  as painful, but that was worth the wait of finding myself and getting into another relationship. It doesn’t take long to find someone else worth your time and that won’t play these games.

      @EMK, thanks for your awesome advice!

  18. 78

    Discussions on timing for sex and marriage are my favorites! Ever!
    This thread is quite old but I’m glad it came back from the archives because I had not run into it before.
    I agree very much with Evan’s advice regarding the early stages of dating, and how important it is to allow trust, friendship, and love to develop and to get to know one another well first. And it takes time. I personally disagree with the timeline of three years (at 33 years old, I allow less time for the courtship as I have already explained in other threads), but my main point for this post is not the actual timeline but how the timeline is communicated. Or how it is NOT communicated for that matter.
    Whatever your timeline is, I strongly believe that it should be communicated with appropriate advance notice. Playing it cool, being patient, hoping that he is actively figuring things out is cute, but ineffective if he is not self-aware and purposeful. And most men are not. Most men enjoy the status quo. Most men do not commit to more than they are asked to. Yes, Evan – and some other commenters – were purposeful, which allowed their girlfriends to remain “cool” since they knew their men were working hard on it, but such men are the exception to the rule. Most men need encouragements to contemplate their relationship goals and face their commitment fears. Bill admitted this tendency:
    Bill #68: “Have you explained to him, in a non-confrontational (i.e. non-demanding) way, that being married is important to you, and why. I know I was rather dense about it until some lengthy and in-depth discussions with my GF. She helped me develop a new perspective on marriage – so even us old dogs can learn new tricks given the right circumstances/presentation/paradigm.”
    At “prefered deadline minus 6 months to one year” (end of second year if on a three-year timeline, at the 12 month-mark if on a 18-months timeline, etc), an explanation along these lines: “Hey darling, I love you very much and I’m happy about the relationship we have created so far. I would like you to know that I desire to progress towards marriage at some point in the near future. I would like you to think about your relationship goals, and how I fit into them so that we can discuss the possibility of marriage before we reach our (third, 18 months) anniversary.” will be more effective than simply walking away at the deadline, hoping for him to run after you. If he has not yet SERIOUSLY thought about his relationship goals and/or if he suffers from some unaddressed commitment fears, he will need more assistance to become mindful of them and possibly get through them. You are the only one able to trigger a desire to address them but even if he does want to address them, time will be needed. It’s worth it to communicate early and give enough time to work on it before your timeline or your patience runs out. Waiting and possibly walking away might result in the waste of a good relationship and of a good man.
    But if such conversations to not make him step up and work on your questions or if you learn that your life goals do not match, then you know what you have to do. As Ange said:
    Ange #76: “Inability to commit is a personality flaw to take into account for compatibility as much as anything else.”

  19. 79
    Vicki K

    I’m with those who advise you to stop being patient. But I don’t see it as giving him an ultimatum. For me it’s about getting clear about what your needs are. 

    Your focus in your letter is largely on him – what he wants, what he’s got going on, what he let you do or doesn’t want to do. What do you want? What is it you are hoping to create? Is this man going to help you co-create that?

    It sounds like the answer is no.  After three years, he should know one way or another. He may fear losing you or fear being alone, and so he’s stringing you along, but it’s not going to help you create what you need.

    You need to value yourself more than that. What’s best for him may be to not be married for a while. What’s best for you, from what you find yourself longing for, is to create that family with someone and have that deeper commitment. 

    If he can’t step up to the plate, then he should lose you. You’re worth a hell of a lot more. You’re worth a man who can’t wait to start his life with you.

    When you find it with someone, you’ll wonder how you ever came to see anything less as ‘loving’.  

  20. 80

    Bill 44. Your advice is really to go to the gym and become fitter and more toned, to make him marry her?

    I actually laughed out loud when I read that! Are you a teenager?!

  21. 81

    Evan’s a hypocrite. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve commented on a relationship not moving fast and they say a crappy comment like his-3 years isn’t too long to wait EXCEPT Evan only waited 14 months. If he wanted to be with her, 3 years was enough time to decide. Get out now!

  22. 82
    Karl R

    Dana said: (#84)
    “they say a crappy comment like his-3 years isn’t too long to wait”
    Evan told Sophie that 3 years was long enough to wait for a proposal. (I believe Evan has previously stated that 3 years is not too long to wait for marriage.) Evan also told Sophie to leave if her boyfriend was unwilling to propose.
    Waiting 2 years to propose and an extra year to get married is rather normal. (I proposed around 19 months and got married around 39 months.) But this should not be a fixed number. It must depend a lot upon circumstances. I don’t care if a couple has been dating for 7 years … if they started dating at age 13, then 20 is still too young (and too soon) for them to get married.
    Dana said: (#84)
    “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve commented on a relationship not moving fast”
    I’m not going to search through the blog looking for where you mentioned it. If you want to link to your previous comments, I’ll take a look at the specifics surrounding your comments (and any direct responses).

  23. 83
    Karen thompson


    I just read your story and I am going through the same thing. We have been going together for 2 years and I don’t pressure him at all. If he brings it up I’ll just smile and comment but nit too much like timelines. When I was drunk one night I gave him an ultimatum of 3 years. I told him that I didn’t mean that and that when be is ready that’s fine. I mean if your ready and he’s not I would leave cause guys are not stupid cause they know that some women r not gonna wait forever. I think he should have done something by could say something like we have been going out for 3 years and I would like to move forward with our relationship. But because you r hesitating I think that we should part ways for now. Good luck

  24. 84

    I read every single post on here, and most of you are right. At the end of a day you can be the most beautiful, patient, loving, educated, well put together woman but if a man isnt ready he just wont marry you. Its simple. I just recently ended a 3 year relationship..and by recently I mean 2 weeks ago. The expression it hurts like hell is an understatement. But, like Evan said 3 years is plenty of time to know if you want to marry that person. I completely understand where Sophie is coming from. Ive been there with my ex. If I just live him selflessly and give him timr in return he’ll respect me for it and marry me. I was wrong. At 2 years we had the talk and we fell apart. He kept saying he doesnt know if he wants to marry and he needs space and how his lost and blah blah every excuse you can think of. So what did I do? I left him. 2 days went by I found a letter under my door saying its not me its him and his sorry and how im such an amazing person but he just doesnt deserve me. Sure I cried but, if thats whst he wanted I sure wasnt going to beg for him back. The week after he was begging me to forgive him. That he was under stress and didnt mean it. So I said, do you know what you want now? Yes ! You and all of you. Will you propose when were both ready? Yes! Ok so I took my time but eventually we were super happy. So I thought. A year went by, to only repeat what happened a year ago. You fooled me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me. I trully believe in the no contact rule. Im finding myself again. I have values, one day someone will value them with me. 

    1. 84.1

      I’m so sorry.  I had the same thing happen- he told he he would propose at the end of 2013
      He didn’t. 

  25. 85

    You nailed it Evan.  2 months ago I broke up with my boyfriend of 3.5 years… yes, I stuck around for an extra 6 months because he said he would propose and I believed him.  He didn’t. 

    1. 85.1

      Evan!!! I’m engaged to my current man.  I’m very happy.  Your advice was very valuable and I recommend you to everyone 🙂

  26. 86

    I am finding that the more I come on to this site and read the letters and comments, the more I find myself understanding what it is I want from a relationship.  And also, the strength to make changes to have it.    I think Evan’s description of “just moving deck chairs around the Titantic” rang a little too true for me right now.  

    For the last 10 months I have been dating a man who I have known for 21 years.  He is 56 and I am 51.  One would think we would have it all figured out by now.  We dated some years ago, stayed very good friends after.  We each went about our lives after realizing we couldn’t be what we wanted years ago, but we maintained communication through the years as friends.  We each dated, married, divorced others during that time.  

    Well, now we are both single again, and we reconnected 10 months ago and started seeing each other again.  We spend time together one or two nights a week.  Gone on several weekend trips together, communicate in someway every day.  We have fun and enjoy each other quite a bit.   We love each other and tell each other so.


    We are not progressing past where we have been since about 2 months in to seeing each other again.  There have been some conversations, each of us saying we don’t want to jump into living together or even marriage.  He has told me that he feels that we are moving forward, albeit slowly, but he feels momentum.  I in turn do not feel that same momentum.    The other night we talked quite a bit and I feel he was very honest with me on what he wants and doesn’t want right now.   He loves me, wants to spend time with me, doesn’t want to lose me, but realizes that if he doesn’t make some sort of more fluid forward motion he is risking just that.    He also explained how he is still smarting from a very messy divorce over the past few years and all the damage that caused to him financially and also with his relationship with his adult children.  he told me he realizes that he does want more for us as a couple, but he is afraid to make more of a commitment right now.  And that he feels that he shouldn’t be afraid and that he needs to do something.  Yet he is afraid and not really doing anything. 

    Well, he told me.  And I have to realize that what I want right now and what he is willing to give are not the same thing.    So , I have decided that I really need to step away some.  I am not giving up on him.  I am not saying I will not see him and that I will avoid him.   I am not completely walking away from this man that I have known for so long, but what I am doing is giving each of us a little more space.  Give myself a chance to not try so hard to force something to be more right now, and maybe give him a chance to follow me when he realizes he really will lose me if he doesn’t make the effort.  

    If he wants to truly be with me, he will follow.  He will follow me now, just as easily as he would 3 months, 6 months, or a year from now…or not.  What I realize is that if I don’t make some change then I will be in this exact same place with him months, even years from now.   I don’t want to be here then.   I want more from this man, and if he is unable to give it, then so be it.  Right now I have to listen and pay attention to what he told me, because he did tell me.     

  27. 87

    So I had a boyfriend for 6yrs started dating at age 22. I gave him the ultimatum but he didn’t meet it. So I cut him off. 2 months after the breakup he meets someone else and 9months of dating he gives her a ring. I’m still glad I cut him off because it just means he was never going to commit to me because I made him comfortable as we were. I was very predictable to him. Nothing new and exciting about it anymore for both of us. My advice will be for you cut him off on time before you get to six years. You pretty much not what he wants to get married too. A guy knows if he wants to commit to you within the first 6month.

    1. 87.1

      EXACT same story here. He is also married. But don’t assume things about yourself. Me I asked him upfront in a letter recently, I always thought I was not enough. He stills feel “passion” for me and likes me alot, but in his mind he was never going to marry me bc he was not happy with the relationship in general… So, just close the chapter and wish him and above all yourself well

    2. 87.2

      @Tade: Wow! You have dodged a bullet and didn’t waste anymore time! Good for you! 🙂

  28. 88

    A very interesting article but like other readers I think the age of the couple makes a difference to timescale for many reasons.

    What if this couple were in their 50s as I am and had been dating for over a year. A seemingly perfect relationship, all possible boxes ticked. However we live a distance apart, so although we usually see each other 2 to 3 times a week it takes a bit of travelling and we are both busy. When he needs me for something I stay for a length of time but he is in no rush for us to live together, suggesting waiting another 2 years…..why? He has been married for 20 years followed by living with a partner before he met me.

    I feel that at our age…what exactly are we waiting for?

    It is easy to find that “he” has everything he requires without any commitment, so why would he bother and I have a feeling that this is what I have unwittingly done whilst trying to make him feel wanted and loved!

  29. 89

    what a very interesting post! not sure how old it is, but I felt compelled to pitch in.

    first let me say something about this silly timeline/ultimatum business many people here seem to buy in and live by, I’ve seen 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and anywhere in between, the question I have to ask is, DO you truly believe, that you personally have the capacity to really know your partner so thoroughly over this period of time, that you can safely and reasonably accurately predict the happiness of yourself, and by extension the happiness of your children for the next say, 20 years?  do you fully understand his core beliefs? do you truly understand his values? do you comprehend the reasons behind his decisions and the motivations behind his actions? do you truly understand what makes him happy? what makes him feels fulfilled? what makes him feels content? accomplished? actualized? and please consider these questions very carefully, because if you are one of those people who aims to set a timeline for marriage instead of aiming for true understanding of the fundamentals of a lasting relationship, then you might not like the answers you find here:

    let’s perform a logic test, let’s start from the negative, say that you don’t know the answer to most of the questions I’ve asked above, and I suspect most people in the dating pool don’t, then I must ask, how would you really know that his answers to these questions (presuming that he is actually self aware enough to know the answers to these questions in the first place) are not going to conflict with your own core beliefs? and if such conflicts arise after both of you have became more aware of who you are through time and life, do you believe such conflicts will sustain your marriage, or undermine it? and if such conflicts serves to undermine your marriage and you end up having children together, do you believe these conflicts will be of any benefit to the children you raise? and if such conflicts become so severe that you end up having to divorce with children in the tow, do you believe it would be a happy situation for the children? so the logic in this set of arguments is really pretty simple, if you don’t know the answer to these very fundamental questions, it means you don’t really know your partner well enough, and if that’s the case, even if you got married, you run the serious risk of having a marriage that will not last, or worse, a marriage that will eventually cause harm to the children.


    let’s run the same logic test again from the positive side, let’s say that of the questions I’ve asked in the beginning, you believe you know the answer to most of them, well that’s great, because if you did, you don’t need ANYBODY, to give you advice, if the guy says he’s not ready for you to move in, or he’s not ready to get married, or he didn’t want to get married, or he needs freedom or alone time or whatever, you would know EXACTLY why he’s making that decision, and unless you have a double digit IQ, knowing the precise reasons behind his decisions, you would also know exactly what to do in order to give yourself the satisfaction you seek in life.


    Let’s do a recap, if after knowing your guy for 1 year, or 2 years, or 3 years and you still don’t know the answer to the questions I posed, like our OP for example (no offense meant), then you lack the very tools necessary to even reasonably predict your own happiness down the road after marriage, so I must ask, what gives you the right to demand an ultimatum? what gives you the right to say that 1 year, or 2 years, or 3 years, is enough to know someone to the point where you need, or could’t get, no more information? and if that’s the case with you, have you asked yourself where he stands in this whole equation? what gives you the right to say that he is in the wrong for not being ready when in fact, neither are you?


    what I’ve noticed with many people that I see, is that they easily become satisfied with the status quo, and they don’t bother to ask the really hard questions, of themselves, and of others, and naturally as a result, they ultimately become victims of their own lack of knowledge and insight. there is such a thing as a honeymoon period, a period when you are in love, and your emotions clouds over your ability to analyze logically, that period is accepted to be 18-24 months,  for many, it is only AFTER that period has passed, that you start to notice your differences, that your rose colored glasses start to come off, that you can truly start to see the long term implications of your differences, and that discovery process in itself, takes time. so ask yourself, is 3 years really enough to know a person with whom you are contemplating spending 30-50 years together with? Is a time line/ultimatum  even the right approach when you don’t even have half the answers?


    so to the OP, this is my best suggestion, start asking the hard questions, to him, to yourself, because when you know the answers to those questions, you would be ready to take actions without anyone telling you what you should do.

  30. 90

    I don’t know what to say after reading this. First of all, I knew how it feels being in Sophie’s shoes. I felt like it’s me in the situation where I don’t even know how to decide even until now. It’s been almost 5yrs.yet I’m still in a relationship where I know he do loves & cares for me that much,  I do love him too in a way that I almost forgot that it’s been ages that I’ve been waiting for him to marry me. The fact that we’re in a long distance relationship, it makes me wonder if what am I doing is right or wrong. I’m single never been married & no kids,  he was divorced & got 5kids in his past marriage & ex gf. I’m on my 30’s he’s on his 40’s. It’s been my dream to get married, settle down & have a family I can call my own… but I’m a woman & I got tired now. Finances & his work are always been the main reasons… but what about me? I wanna run away & make my own life but I’m just too stupid enough to still hope of something which I don’t know when will gonna happen…

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