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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Cahnie

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

Your boyfriend doesn’t want to marry you.

He’s never going to want to marry you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He always says he isn’t ready.”

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

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

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

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

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

Now’s your chance.

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

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

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

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Taylor

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

    1. 1.1
      beta

      Thanks, Taylor, I am in the same situation. My boyfriend of 7 years refuses to talk about living together or get married!! Today is a day I said no more bulshit!!

      1. 1.1.1
        Yvette olivas

        Are you still with your boyfriend?

  2. 2
    Angie

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

  3. 3
    Luisa

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

  4. 5
    starthrower68

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

  5. 6
    jlhsr

    you really dont think he will change if she leaves?
     

    1. 6.1
      Barbara

      I don’t think he will change. I was in the same situation and boyfriend said he wanted to move forward. Then changed his mind because he lives with daddy at 51 years old and gets treated like a kid…no responsibility what so ever. So I think maturity does have something to do with it.

      1. 6.1.1
        Raechel Taylor

        I was in a relationship for 5 years with a man who lived with his father as well. One of the last conversations we had, he called HIMSELF a “boomeranger” which is a child of a person from the post WWII “baby boom”, who returns home to life off of parents. He knows he is comfortable, he admits he lacks motivation and faith in himself to create his own life. And when I left, I wasn’t angry, I just felt sorry for him and the life we could have had if he was able to get past his shortcomings. What that really adds up to is that I was more in love with what I hoped he could never be, than the person he was today. The day I left was the day I recommitted to loving him enough to let him be the person he is today without expecting him to be someone else. Best decision I ever made.  

  6. 7
    Joe

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

  7. 8
    Sunflower

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

  8. 9
    Sparkling Emerald

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

  9. 10
    Pauline

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

  10. 11
    marymary

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

  11. 12
    Goldie

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

    1. 12.1
      Janice

      I understand with kids involved and he has no kids he would not feel comfortable moving in with you. I am a single woman whose dated single dads with kids who work alot and I felt like the bottom of his list of things to do and esp. if he has daughters! So from that point I told myself the next man I meet with be single and available, no ex and no kids, same as me. I was singlefor 5 whole years thats the time I needed to find myself or so I thought. So I met this guy in my complex and we have been seeing each other 2 years I am 2 years older than him. He had a tendancy to push me away, turn cold, take me back he did this like over 20 times to me. I am not from this city so I dont have much social networks. Hes also a golfer and plays in tournaments. He always told me if he met someone he likes more he will tell me and wed break up, same for me. He also waited for sex 5 months so I had alot of respect for him as I believe in that too. Lately his health is not the best. He lost his job 8 months back this was a hige dent in our relationship before this he paid all the time, hes the old fashion type so am I. If I have money I spoil him but Im not working now either. He hangs with golfers with money and they go to eat and drink, karoke bars etc. He always said he loves a woman his age or older.Hes told me he loves me and considers me his wife, but he said he wont marry me or live with me. Hes talked about adopting and foster care or if I can have kids but its normally when hes drinking. I went there before he went on a golf trip for 4 days and he had said hes leave me his key so I could watch movies as I do not have tv at home. Just before ( we spent 4 hrs helping him prepare!) he said hes not leaving me his key! This is 2 years of being together and hes no kid he is 51, if he was 21 I could understand as hes just new in dating etc. Hes been a bachelor for decades. So he went and played bad. We met again, he wrote me a love note of promises that he will be honest and good to me and make me happy, then 15 mins later ( he was drinking), he said no forget that and burned the note. He started throwing things around he was very angry ( cause he loss his golf major) and his rich brother came first! to put more salt in his wound. Then he freaked that I left earrings there, 2 sets and he got very angry and said why do you do this,I said for no reason I just forget, he said im not cheating if thats why your leaving them behind. I found out 3 wks ago he hangs with a 21 yr old bartender with his gold buddies and Im mad and uoset about this and Ive told him and he said its no big deal, so I said Im going to find a 24 yr old hunk and get him to be my body guard and take me to bars to protect me ( cause he said they need to protect her as shes a babe!). Hes lucky i never hit him for that comment. So I had to leave as glass was flying all over almost hit me, came home and he calls and tells me sorry to come back, I said this is bs, I will leave here and you wont hear from me again, and he said no dont I want you in my life. Since then we went out one to a concert and critizued that I yawn too much ( well thats because Im tired on antitiobics its not from him), and I pee too much! (what can I do about that nothing!). My health is so much better than his he has arthritis and takes injections for 12 yrs I have nothing wrong and Im 53! Hes done a few other things to me and he does not bring them up he flirted with a lade at a bar last month and left me standing alone and still denies he was flirting why would a guy go talk to a girl alone at the bar for what other damn reason what a liar!! And he did other things that night I was so shocked he was trying to get me to take my clothes off for his friend who we visited and neither of us budged! So disrespectful wow he was nothing like this for 2 yrs now hes turning like this! Some men have hobbies and good friends and like that life and only want a woman when they want to see them if I want to see him too bad! He says 2 times a week like thats no relationship! We are not 20 we are 50!!

  12. 13
    AllenB

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

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

  13. 14
    N

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

  14. 15
    Nicole

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

  15. 16
    Andy

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

    1. 16.1
      Raechel Taylor

      So the guy becomes her 4th child and sits around a house she pays for to explore his creative talents as an artist. I don’t think so. I always say if you aren’t a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. He is doing her no favors. After the kids move away, he’s not likely to suddenly change his PERSONALITY and commit to a mutually satisfying life together. 

  16. 17
    J

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

  17. 18
    AllenB

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

  18. 19
    Sparkling Emerald

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

  19. 20
    Zann

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

    1. 20.1
      Rock

      I agree. I think he does love her because he is only 36 and been in the relationship for 7 years. He is an artist , independent and most likely needs his own space and peace of mind. I am sure that he would commit down the road but 3 kids take a lot of time and energy. Not to mention paying child support if a living arrangement didn’t work out. If she is happy being in love with a guy that ticks all of her boxes as a woman, keep it as is. If she is looking for a daddy and to share half the financial and parental responsibilities then she should look elsewhere- this man is not interested in a kid- living arrangement at this time and why should he be ? I do not believe he should “have” to live with her but, if it is what she wants then time to move on. He probably loves her but does not want the parenting responsibility.

      1. 20.1.1
        Janice

        If a man and woman cannot live together married or not they are not in real life. It seems men want the perfect life their independence and a woman when he is free. He wants to be single when hes not with her and in a relationship when hes with her, you cannot have your cake and eat it too! Also drop your single friends and bars and that whose scene the guy I am with still goes to bars with male golf buddies most are married mind you and I do not feel that is fair as I am his girlfriend. I am not 20 I am 50!! Hes had 30 years do go hang at bars ffs…he can use the my parents almosit killed each other drank every day excuse all he wants he should be well over that now. I had rotten men abusive men 3 times in my life I only met one good man my whole life that  iswhy I am not married and do not have kids! I thought this guy was the one, he even tells me he thinks Im the one too lately but Im about to give up on him he is all over the map!! Another huge issue is I have NOT MET HIS FAMILY IN 2 YEARS!!

    2. 20.2
      Cheryl

      I 100% agree with your invitation to OP to exam all of the above. I have been in a 3+ year relationship with my boyfriend who has been with me and my 5 year old daughter since she was 2. We are both attractive, Successful, educated. I’m 37. He’s 43. My daughter is well mannered, sweet and beautiful. We all have a very loving, honest and respectful relationship. I can honestly say he is committed to me and my child. He will and has dropped everything for us if I needed him to. But The talks about moving in together caused tension in our relationship. I know we would never get married, and I’m okay with that although I think it’s a novel idea. And at some point, I realized that if he wanted to, if he was ready, whatever the case, he knows my desires. And I feel I stayed without moving in together, there’s no one to blame but myself. But our relationship is amazing. So I just shut up. But deep down, I want a family. I want someone who will commit 100% to me and my daughter. To be home for meals, to have bedtime stories nightly, to host family and friends at our home. It’s important to me. I’m sick of packing mine and my daughters things to slumber at his condo… it makes me sad to leave my love. But the other day, he was telling me how much I needed to to put down for s downpayment on a house for “x” amount of dollars. No mention of how much WE needed to put down for a house. I hear what he’s saying. And I’m not gonna shame him for where he is. And I completely disagree with Evan that HE will eventually leave me why would he? If we kept this arrangement, he’s got the best of all worlds that he is most comfortable with

      We had a miscarriage in January. He said if he ever wanted children or get married or live with someone, it would be with me. But he has so much trauma from growing up watching parents bicker and stay miserable, he’s got a lot of baggage. I believe in time he may get over it. There is so much value in the commitment and love we share. And moving in together isn’t a guarantee for longevity or success. But I aspire for more and I don’t see moving in together in our near future. I will have to leave to find what I want. And if it doesn’t work out for me, I know I’ll always have a loyal and loving friend who would accept me with open arms again as long as on his terms/timeline. I beleive we can all have everything we want in life…

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