My Faithful Boyfriend Wants to Get A Better Job Before We Get Married. Is He Just Making Empty Promises?

couple having a conversation

Hi Evan,

I’m 25 yrs old, and I’ve been with my boyfriend (he’s 29) for one and a half years. We met through a Christian website and after 4 months of dating, we went steady as a couple. On both our profiles, we did state that we were looking for someone to date and hopefully, settle down and have a family with. It was four months into being exclusive as a couple before he said “I love you” to me, and he said that I was the first female he’d ever said it to. He has introduced me to his family and relatives (I see his family once a week) and he has been back with me to visit my family overseas.

Lately, we have been talking about marriage, and he says he would like to settle down soon. He has mentioned that he would like to get married at the end of this year or at the latest, early 2010. But at the moment, he is trying to get out of shift work and getting a job with regular hours, and he says until he gets a job with regular hours, he will not get married. He said that this year is the transitional year for him, as he has been in shift work for 10 years and he has already started classes for a new career in welding.

My question is, how do you know when a man is serious about marrying you and not just trying to drag things on? I have come to realize that I would like to get married before 28 and have kids soon, as I feel my biological clock is ticking. I don’t think that I could wait any longer for more than 2 years, and I made a deal with myself that if we were not, at least engaged by this year’s end, I would walk away. I do not wish to waste more time, as I am not getting younger.

So how would you know if a guy means what he says or is just making empty promises? Or worse, dragging things on?

It would be great if you could help me out on this one, thanks Evan!

A loyal reader,

Dear Adele,

Give yourself a break. You’re a smart cookie who is in a healthy relationship with a responsible guy who loves you.

First piece of advice from the old, married, dating expert: Chill out.  Seriously. You’re 25 years old. Want to hear a ticking biological clock? Come visit the Katz household.

Second piece of advice: Give yourself a break. You’re a smart cookie who is in a healthy relationship with a responsible guy who loves you. There is absolutely no indication that he’s a player who is using you. How do I know this if I’ve never met him? Well, it’s written all over your email.

He’s been dating you exclusively for a year and a half.

He said “I love you” to you for his first time ever.

He brings you to see his family every week.

He has been to see your family overseas (a very expensive ticket for a wanna-be welder).

He is trying to make more money to be able to afford to support you and your fictional children.

Third piece of advice: Give him time.

I give you credit – because, unlike a lot of women I know – you’re focused on your love life at a young age. That means you’re not waiting until 38 to say, “Hmm…maybe I should start prioritizing a relationship”. However, you are boxing yourself in if you’re acting as if you have to be married with children by age 28.< The truth is - you don't know a fraction of what there is to know about life and love at age 25. In 5 years, you'll look back at the 25-year-old Adele and shake your head. At 35, you'll look back at 30-year-old Adele and do the same thing. There is simply no better teacher than life experience - and the further along you get, the more you realize that you don't know anything. It's like that aphorism: "We plan. God laughs." Ask anybody over the age of 40 if their life has gone according to the plans they had at 25, and they'll likely give you a warm, semi-patronizing hug.

So throw out your timetable, your ticking clock, and your plans, and go back to supporting your loving boyfriend.

That’s what I’m giving you right now as well.

I want to give you permission to just “be” – to live your life, not according to the arbitrary plans you set for yourself, but rather, to go with the flow that your relationship dictates. See, if you’re in love with this man, and you’re planning a future, guess what? It’s also HIS future. Which is why YOUR desire to have a ring and kids in 2 years is semi-irrelevant. Is he in the position to provide for you and those kids? If not, it sounds to me like he’s taking a smart, methodical route to becoming the man you’d want him to be.

So throw out your timetable, your ticking clock, and your plans, and go back to supporting your loving boyfriend. After all, that’s exactly what he’s trying to do for you.

And if you’re another reader who doesn’t think your boyfriend is as solid as Adele’s boyfriend, please check out these three articles that may illuminate your current situation:

How to Tell If a Guy’s Falling In Love With You

How Can You Tell If Your Boyfriend Really Loves You?

What You Can Learn From a Real-Life ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ Situation

Why Doesn’t My Boyfriend Tell Me That He Loves Me?

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  1. 1

    Evan – your advice is spot on, as usual. Wonderful response!

    If I could add one thing – I’m a guy in my 40s, and I spent my 20s trying to do all the things that were expected of me. Go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, etc. I made my parents, siblings, teachers, neighbors, everyone who ever touched my life, proud.

    And then I stopped and wondered – now that I’ve built the life everyone else wanted for me, what do “I” want from life? I was early 30s when I asked that question, and I’ve been doing things differently ever since.

    Looking back, I wish I had waited to get married until after I had that “what do I want out of life?” moment. If I’d figured that out first, I would have been better suited for that initial marital relationship. (I’m divorced)

    Back to Adele’s letter – I think it’s great her boyfriend wants to have a solid job and secure future before he commits to marriage. Give him time and space. Don’t box yourself into getting married on some timetable. Let him be happy with who he is, and with the direction he’s headed. It already sounds like he’s happy with Adele.

    dadshouse´s last blog post…Three Mathematicians Go Into a Bar

  2. 2

    Yeah, waiting to make important life decisions until finances are right seems to be kind of a guy thing, I don’t know. It’s easy to get trapped in a space where you never feel like you have enough time or money or patience to do things like get married and have children, no matter how much time or money or patience you have.

    I say, sure. Wait it out. He certainly seems like he’s genuine, like he cares. But if he’s still singing this song in a few years sit his ass down and tell him it’s time to take the plunge–lighting cigars with 20 dollar bills or no.´s last blog post…How to Find Sex: the Art of the One Night Stand – Part 15 Having Sex

  3. 3

    Have to agree with the above posters that Evan’s advice is right on the money. But Evan’s post brings back the whole idea of an ideal deadline by which one should be in a serious, committed relationship. The OP, at 25, is jumping the gun with her fears. In this article Evan talks about how it’s rather late to start looking around at 38. In Why (Some) Women Might Consider Settling ( we hear 30, 32, and 34 as good times to compromise, because it’s the women 35-45 who are in the lousiest position. Perhaps my question is at what point do women’s chances of finding a good partner start decreasing? And at what point are they rapidly decreasing?

  4. 4

    He sounds genuine on a number of levels, but you won’t really know 100% until you spend a more time with him. I would not pressure him as it is a turn off, and he doesn’t sound like he is seriously stalling. His reasons for delay are sound.

    As Even wrote, you certainly are not in any kind of rush now at your age, but as a woman you can’t really let things drag much past your 30s. There is always hope of course, but things will become more difficult.

    This is often a delicate situation. He seems very much worth waiting for, but if it turns out that you put 2 – 3 more years into it, and then it doesn’t pan out, you might have to rethink your plan. Factor in a few more years to find someone, and then putting 3-4 years into that – suddenly you are over 30. If you restart once again over 30, you will find the number of men ready and willing for a relationship has diminished.

    The following does not of course apply to you, but to the others who are reading this post and are in a similar situation, but their men are not introducing them to family, or they have been stalling for some time.

    I know a man who confided in me that he was struggling in a live in situation with a woman who was expecting marriage. He didn’t (as he told me) mean to do it, as he would have never even brought up the subject of marriage. He would have preferred that she never bring it up, and they never argue about it. He just wanted things to coast along in a nice live-in arrangement where she cooked for him and kept him company. He also deep down hoped someone better would come along, and by not being married, he felt he could much more easily break it off. She tried ultimatums, even having her co-workers try an intervention when he was sitting at a local bar. Nothing worked. Basically he liked a lot about her, and he was saving money by shared living arrangements. If she made things really ugly with her marriage pressure, he might leave, but he was content to let it coast. He told her things like “I don’t really believe in the institution of marriage” as he felt that looked like he was doing this on principle, so how could she argue against that? But he confided in me that it was just that she wasn’t the right one, and that he might marry someone, just not her.

    1. 4.1

      Yes, yes, we all know we’re worthless to men when we’re over 30.   Moving on….

  5. 5

    @Li-Ann #4
    I hate what the guy you talk about is doing to his ‘girlfriend’, yet I know it happens quite often. Hopefully a wman will read that story and recognize herself in it and get out of a hopeless situation.

    For Adele, just because there are guys that string women along for years doesn’t mean your guy is one. It’s good to be aware of these things and to try to avoid getting yourself into a bad situation, but don’t start looking for a problem where there is none.
    And though Adele doesn’t have to start ‘worrying’ about kids yet at age 25, I say it’s better to think ahead than to ignore the issue and risk putting yourself in a situation where your options are more limited.

  6. 6

    I am not going to comment based on my life experiences (because I forced my first husband to marry me because we had sex. Albiet lousy sex, but I was raised that sex is for marriage only. That marriage did not last.) I will comment based on my two brothers’ lives, who dated their now wives for nine plus years prior to marrying them (yes nine!) And…now they have both been married to their then girlfriends for about 15 years with children, etc. I give them credit for being stubborn and getting a game plan going that would endure. I am certain, in fact I know, that thier now wives put pressure on them to marry- to no avail. If you love him, you will wait. Not always easy- but as Evan stated in so many words…time is on your side. Good luck!

  7. 7


    What a heartbreaking story. Your friend must not really like the woman he is living with that much if he is willing to use her in such a way. I hope she realizes what he is doing and moves on to find an honest man who actually loves her and wants to marry her.

    I’m curious as to why he told you the truth about the relationship, and what was your response to him.

  8. 8

    We were both in this sports club when I met him. I had known him from the club for several years before he spilled the beans, so I guess he figured I was a good listener. He was finding that his relationship was getting in the way of his sports as his girlfriend was pressuring him to spend more time with her kids. He told me the noise and commotion around the house from the little kids was really frustrating him (he has no children of his own), and that she had recently started trying to get him to help her with some of her responsibilities to her kids.

    Later on we all went for drinks, and she started to make a few comments about her perspective. She asked me if I thought that he was at the age to get married, and other leading questions. When he left the table briefly, she told me all her friends were telling her to get rid of him, and that they suggested an ultimatum. She wanted to know what I thought about the ultimatum plan. He was back before I could say anything (thankfully). He tried to say something about his desire to travel the world, and the need to be able to drop things to travel, and she tried to counter saying he was getting old, and it was time to settle down and become more mature.

    Naturally, when a guy (or a woman) is doing something unkind to their partner, he doesn’t want to look like a jerk, so he tried to justify his actions to me privately by suggesting she was pushy and pressuring him, and pointing out that he didn’t need the added responsibilities of driving her kids around. From her point of view I saw that she was doing a lot of housework for him, all the meals, and I didn’t see that she was getting much for it but companionship. She complained that she was frustrated that he’d rather spend time on his private pursuits and sports than doing things with her. Bottom line is that I feel he should just move out as that is totally unfair to lead her on in this way. He thinks because he has told her directly that he doesn’t believe in marriage, that makes him somewhat off the hook as he has warned her.

    Last time I spoke to him he said he was giving himself a deadline of taking action before a certain time frame. The time frame passed, and I have not spoken to him since then, but I know they are still together, and she is probably still waiting for something to change. He was also talking about the financial implications, as in he’d like to save more money before moving out, but that is just plain self-centered.

  9. 9

    @ Li-Ann #8 Wow. It makes it even worse that there are children involved. I hope something happens to make her wise up and leave (not issue a fruitless ultimatum) because it doesn’t look like he’s going to do anything anytime soon (since really, he believes he is already off the hook). How sad.

  10. 11

    there is a limit to the wait though. One woman I know has been dating her boyfriend since they were both 16. They’re now 40, and he hasn’t proposed. The sad thing is, she still thinks he’s planning to.

  11. 12

    I think that many women in this situation wish to get resolution in a timely fashion, but are afraid of the result. I know I would be. It is only now that I’m older that I realize the value of not blowing through your 20s and 30s.

    I have to say in defence of women where men think they are too pushy about this – men should realize that unfortunately as a general rule a woman’s value to men plummets with age*, and there are good reasons for not delaying. The man in my story can still re-start and get someone else in his 40s, and even be considered eligible, but it isn’t the same for a woman.

    I had a co-worker who was 26 who had been living 1.5 years with a man who would not commit. She had already been fielding a lot of questions from her family as to when she would marry as a younger sister had married. She chose to issue the ultimatum. Here’s the problem – perhaps some women think that going into the ultimatum are unprepared for the fact that it may not work. It did not in this case. She told him she would move out if she didn’t have an answer within a certain time frame. He didn’t give her an answer, and she kept her word and moved out. This was impressive, as a lot of women might have still issued second chances, and that only prolongs the misery. She still expected he would call, and he never did. At least he didn’t play with her. But, as a woman, you have to be brave to issue this ultimatum.

    *Note that this statement of fact does not mean I approve of the concept, but evidence is everywhere.

  12. 14

    “As a general rule a woman’s value to men plummets with age” from Li-Ann’s #12

    This brings me back to the question I posed in #3. At what age does a woman’s value start to decline? Or perhaps stated differently, at what age is a woman at the pinnacle of her attractiveness to men? And at what age does that value start plummeting rapidly?

    I’ll go first. I’d say the value starts declining at 30 and starts rolling faster downhill around 35. I would also theorize that women who have a feature that decreases the size of their dating pool (height, weight, race, etc) have earlier peaks, or shorter peaks (say, instead of being at your peak from 26-30 it’s 27-29 or what have you). The more your trait is discriminated against, the more rapidly your value declines.

    Anyone else?

  13. 15

    RE: Youth. I feel that men are able to overlook other negative aspects of a woman’s “whole package” simply because she is young and fresh looking. A woman with an unattractive personality will still get attention when she’s in her 20s, but men are much less willing to accept that when she is older. This can mean that when she is older, she will suddenly take a more dramatic hit on the size of her dating pool.

    As for peaking, it can get complex. Some women can preserve their looks to some extent and can look up to 10 years younger. They will still get the attention on the street from strangers, and their peak may be longer than average.

    I wonder what a man thinks when he meets what he thinks is an attractive 35 (or so) woman, but later finds out that she is 43. Does the actual number turn him completely off, even though the visual is good? We already know that online the number 43 is a turn off, and often excluded in searches by men. They have a negative visual association with that age. Yet, in person, a 43 year old could be attractive. You can post pictures online to prove you still look okay, but that won’t help much if the men exclude you from their search criteria.

    If he wants kids, naturally it will, but I am wondering if he would still want a serious relationship if he wasn’t interested in kids.

  14. 16
    Karl R

    Li-Ann asked: (#15)
    “I wonder what a man thinks when he meets what he thinks is an attractive 35 (or so) woman, but later finds out that she is 43. Does the actual number turn him completely off, even though the visual is good?”

    Speaking as someone who doesn’t want kids, some of the concern about age revolves around looks. It’s very rare for a woman to look better at 35 or 45 than she did at 25. But if you’re good-looking, you’re good-looking … and you’ll get attention purely for that reason.

    And if you look young for your age, that indicates that you’re probably in much better health than your peers.

    There’s even some benefit if you’re 40-something and have a figure that a 20-something would envy. I can bet that you have a better chance of staying that shape during the next 10-20 years than the younger woman does.

    On the other hand, the closer you are to my age, the more likely we are to be compatible in terms of maturity and interests. (I prefer women close to my age, so I’m not particularly representative of the men who prefer women substantially younger then them.)

    A-L asked: (#14)
    “At what age does a woman’s value start to decline? Or perhaps stated differently, at what age is a woman at the pinnacle of her attractiveness to men?”

    For physical attractiveness, women probably peak in their early 20s, but for most the decline is minimal through their late 20s and even early 30s.

    In terms of maturity, a woman continues to improve into her 30s and beyond, but the amount of improvement is not as much as what she goes through in her 20s.

    I would guess that puts a peak (for most women) around 30. The decline in her looks will be much more in her 30s than in her 20s, and the improvement in her maturity will be much less in her 30s than it was in her 20s. And a 30 year old still has plenty of time to start a family (since the majority of men want to have children at some point).

    Men peak later because there’s less emphasis on their looks, there’s more emphasis put on their earning power, and they remain fertile much later in life.

    And I think that’s a big part of why Adele’s boyfriend wants to wait to propose. He wants to get his earning power up to where he can support a family.

  15. 17
    Evan Marc Katz

    Karl usually gets things right, but I gotta jump in on this one:

    “…the improvement in her maturity will be much less in her 30’s than it was in her 20’s.”

    Let’s quickly take a poll:

    How many women reading this learned 100% more from 30-40 than from 20-30? I’m guessing almost ALL of you.

    However, looks almost always trumps maturity/wisdom in the eyes of men. This explains how women’s peak VALUE to men may occur at age 30, but their peak as mature and fertile women doesn’t occur until 35.


  16. 18
    Karl R

    Evan said: (#17)
    “How many women reading this learned 100% more from 30-40 than from 20-30? I’m guessing almost ALL of you.”

    I was basing that comment that a couple of my friends (women in their 40s) made two weeks back. They specifically stated that the difference between the 20s and 30s was much larger than the difference between the 30s and 40s (which is, admittedly, not quite the same statement that I made).

    My own experiences supported their comment. At 20 I was a college student; I was being supported by my parents; and I still believed that my life was going to go according to my plans.

    In order to poll myself, I made 2 lists: life-changing events from 20-30, and life-changing events from 30-39. List one is almost triple the length of list two.

    To be fair, I don’t have kids. Of the two ladies, one doesn’t have kids either, and the other had kids in her 20s. If someone became a parent in their 30s, that would probably make a huge difference. (Which I didn’t consider initially.)

    I am interested in seeing what the poll says.

  17. 19

    Karl’s post: “I prefer women close to my age, so I’m not particularly representative of the men who prefer women substantially younger then them.”

    Aha! So how come you seem so puzzled whenever I say I don’t want to date guys more than five years older than me?

  18. 20

    Peak value? What are we talking about here? Commodities or people?

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