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.  



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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  1. 21

    This guy isn’t getting married because he doesn’t have to. He has most of the benefits of marriage without having to make a real commitment. It’s an wasy arrangement or him that’s gone on for 7 years. I’m curious, when he says, “he will lose himself and everything he loves to do if he moves in and gets married”, exactly what does that mean? Does it mean that he’ll lose the freedom to come and go as he pleases? To keep his art studio as his private space? Or does it mean that he doesn’t want to lose the option of meeting other women?

    1. 21.1

      I cant even leave my cat there at his place for over 3 hrs and gets anal on her shes just a cat, imagine a baby!! Then he tells me he wants 5 kids!

  2. 22

    I am thinking, would it be easy, if you are 40 and have three kids, to find a new man who would be willing to marry you? Not impossible, but very difficult. Most men would shy away from giving full committment to a mother +3.
    Otherwise, I do understand the desirability to be married: it tells the world that he did finally choose you, above all other women. Unfortunately, in real life, that would be a rarity, given the circumstances.  
    I have a friend, who is a divorced mother of two, and she has a boyfriend who almost lives with them – very similar situation, except he is an accountant and not an artist. She does not necessarily desire to marry him (as she already has children) but she gets pissed at his unwillingness to introduce her to his family and friends.   He  keeps the fact that they are together away from public attention; at one point he even told her that his parents would be upset that he is dating an older  divocee with kids instead of someone younger and single. At the same time, he seems to be ok as a subsitute father to her kids – gets on really well with them, helps with chores, takes them from school, etc., and, even thought the situation is not ideal, when she weighs the pros and cons, she still chooses to be with him.

    1. 22.1

      He needs to be a man and introduce her to his family and friends. He either loves her for what she comes with or not. It sounds like he is into it but fears judgement. Time to stand up for the woman he loves.


  3. 23

    @Andy 16.   Interesting comment: thanks.   I noticed that you thought the fellow in question was expected to shoulder the financial (as well as emotional & physical) burden of co-raising the OP’s children.   I can understand the emotional and physical demands: anyone who spends time around children is somewhat responsible for ensuring they don’t drown in the pool or get bullied in plain sight (for example).   I’ve just been surprised by how many men assume that if they get involved with a single mother, that paying for the child is part of the package.   I don’t think that the OP mentioned anything to this effect in her post.
    If this has been your experience, I certainly don’t want to dismiss it.   I’m not a mother so your answer certainly won’t offend me.   But, I’d like to hear from all men on this blog; when you meet a woman with children/ a child, do you assume that she’ll want you to shoulder financial responsibility?   Have single moms actually let you know that this is what they expect or is this merely a nebulous fear/ an assumption on your part?   I ask because about 30% of my friends who are actively dating have children and none of them would expect a new partner to pay anything for her offspring… ever.   But, maybe they’re unusual.   Should every single mom who is dating online include something in her profile specifying that she does not want someone to financially support her kids?

  4. 24

    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.
    Sounds like living together to me.
    I recently said I want him to fully move in because I think it would be financially better.
    Financially better how?  Is he not  contributing to the household expenses?   Do you want more of a contribution? Believe you would have more spending money if he gave up his studio?
    We are really happy aslong as we don’t talk about this kind of commitment.
    If you are really happy, then why is such a commitment so important?  Why do you keep bringing it up?  How would him giving up his studio/marrying you affect your day to day happiness?
      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.   He keeps saying he will lose himself and everything he loves to do if he moves in and gets married.
    He’s not  thinking like a child, this is the way he really feels about making the kind of commitment  you are asking for.  
    Yes, he could leave you at some point down the road. He could STILL leave you at some point down the road even if he gave up his studio. Even if he married you. There are no guarantees against that happening.
    If you really aren’t happy with the relationship as it is, then yes you should move on. But if you aren’t unhappy  in the relationship, you may want to evaluate whether the things you  say you want are truly that important to you after 7 years together.  

  5. 25

    Whether one believes in marriage or not, I think it’s important to remember what it means when someone decides to get married. They are saying to that person that I want to spend the rest of my life with you and doing everything that I can to make you happy and forsaking all others because you are the only one for me! They are so sure of this partnership that they are willing to share everything in the eyes of the law, their family and friends and/or their religion. I agree with Zann that marriage certainly does not guarantee happiness but when a man wants to marry a women (for reasons of love) it is the ultimate expression of love and you have to admit that it carries way more weight than a man saying I’m happy as things are ie. living together but with no desire to get married, “we’ve a good thing going, why change”. As Evan has said many times when a man wants a women he will do everything in his power to keep her and make sure no other man gets a look in! I think most people aspires to this sort of security with their partner in life and Cahnie is one of them. Cahnie says they are really happy but… one of her core desires is not being met therefore it is not a good relationship. People can argue that marriage is not important if the relationship is good and he’s committed but at the end of the day it does matter to Cahnie and that’s all that really matters.
    Hope everything works out for you Cahnie

  6. 26

    I hate to say it, but…
    …he’s just not into you.   Move onto someone else.

  7. 27

    Despite my earlier comment, you have one chance I think to get a proposal that may or may not work.
    For six months, do not bring up marriage, or living together, or the benefits thereof.   No hints, Don’t mention there is a six month deadline. Try not to even think about it.  After the six months, re-evaluate.
    This worked for three of my friends. one who had been with her boyfriend for over three years, one for five years, and one for seven years.
    The small chance this has will only be realised if he is able to come to the decision himself and not because you are trying to convince (nag)  him.  

  8. 28

    All will become clear if you finish his sentence for him.
    Instead of: “I’m not ready to get married.”
    What he’s really saying is: “I’m not ready to get married… to you.”
    I bailed out on a 7-year, go-nowhere relationship to a guy I was “certain” loved me (even though he cheated on me, kept breaking up with me, let me keep breaking up with him, etc.) Boy, am I glad I did. I never would’ve met the sweet, loving man who I’ve now been married to for almost eight years.
    Cut this fishie loose. He’s had his chance. He’s not interested, and it’s next!

  9. 29

    A word to the women out there: if you still nurture the hope of being married by a very eligible bachelor, please do not become a single mom. While it is true that some men don’t mind dating single moms, most of us single guys will not marry them. It is just biology. Men generally do not have the motivation to jeopardize their lives and limbs for other men’s kids while those fathers sit on their butts doing little to nothing to provide for their offspring.
    A colleague of mine, a 32-year-old attractive professional woman, recently told me she wanted to become a single mother, because her “eggs are rotting away”. All I could do was to encourage her not to lose heart in searching for the right man, but at the same time realize that by becoming a single mother, she has automatically ruled out many of her colleagues as potential husbands.

    to #28:
    “…kept breaking up with me, let me keep breaking up with him, etc.) Boy, am I glad I did. I never would’ve met the sweet, loving man who I’ve now been married to for almost eight years.
    What exactly did you expect this guy to do when you decided to break up with him? Adults take responsibility for their actions. When you broke up with him, he did not let you; you took that decision. Try to take responsibility.

    “…. He’s not interested, and it’s next!
    This was the message that this man has ben trying to send to the OP for the last 7 years. So far, she has refused to get it.

    1. 29.1

      Guess what?    Some moms become single because the husband LEAVES THEM!!   Do you think they willingly become single moms unless the situation is unbearable?      You act like a single woman with kids should not expect serious commitment from a guy.

      1. 29.1.1

        Now where I live 3 black women all single mothers and no husbands around and they are from africa not canada!

  10. 30

    I think that its interesting that this conversations has turned into a conversation about the merits of marriage, not shocking though. The OP WANTS to get married her boyfriend of 7 years won’t even move in with her, she would be crazy to continue this relationship. For whatever reason her boyfriend can’t commit to her in the way she needs so she needs to give him up and find someone who will. Not try to change who she is or what she needs in a very fundamental way.  

  11. 31

    While I agree that people, both men and women, should avoid having children out of wedlock, single parenthood is unavoidable when one gets married, has children then gets divorced. This isn’t a choice for divorced people.   People who have children are no less deserving of marriage and committed relationships.   Granted they need to be in a relationship with someone who truly accepts them and their children as a package deal and doesn’t see it as “baggage.”
    So-called eligible bachelors think it can never happen to them–that they aren’t faced with the possibility of marriage, children, then divorce and single-parenthood. People who are divorced, like the  woman who sent her question to Evan get married with the best intentions  for their families and unfortunately marriages  end and there are children involved. Divorcees didn’t plan or choose single parenthood.
    If you don’t want to date women with children that is your choice and you shouldn’t, but  don’t assume that all men think like you. I’ve known many men to date and marry women with children.   And men need to get rid of this idea that it’s ok for them to be single parents but it’s not ok for women.

  12. 32

    As a single parent for the past 10 years, I can tell you that I won’t let just any one into their lives let   alone live with a boyfriend.   I forged a tight bond with my children and the times I have dated someone I have been the one to compartmentalize.   

  13. 33

    I agree with Evan and previous commenters: if her long-term goal is marriage, she must end this relationship now. She should indeed have ended the relationship five years ago, and the extra years are now just sunk costs.
    But she is obviously conflicted since her relationship is otherwise happy and she is probably well aware that going back on the dating market as a 40 year old mother of three is not going to be a walk in the park. It’s easier to wait and hope for the best. What is your priority, Letter Writer? Immediate gratification of a loving companion who will not marry you, or keeping yourself available for meeting your future husband with little chance that it will happen before your kids are all grown?
    This being said, I find this post a good reminder that it’s up to the partner who want more to make sure they’re not over-investing themselves on a dead-end situation. Sure, it’s best if the guy who only wants casual sex clearly states his intention and does not lead his date on, and it’s best if the man who does not want marriage stop wasting the time of his girlfriend when he realizes that she wants more than he does. However it’s natural to look for one’s own benefit, and stall/stop progressing as soon as the sweet spot is reached.
    So much emphasis is put on “securing the boyfriend” that it makes women fall into autopilot mode as soon as they become a girlfriend. Ladies, if you want “more”, you have to be diligent and look at signs of progress within the relationship. As Karl R said one time, a relationship must show signs of progress every three to six months. In the dating phase there is a time frame when exclusivity is agreed upon if it has to happen at all, and similarly there is also a time frame to enter marriage when it’s what both partners desire. Do not let love make you over-invest your time or energy.
    It’s hard to end a happy relationship where there is no apparent conflict. But having vastly different relationship goals (or other serious incompatibilities) makes the relationship pointless for the long-term. The sooner you find out about these incompatibilities, the easier it is to do a graceful exit before having wasted years of precious energy and time. Love is simply not enough for a successful relationship.

  14. 34

    If I read the OP correctly, not only has this man been her life for 7 YEARS, he’s also been in her children’s lives  since the youngest was 3, the oldest 10.   I’m guessing he figured out quite some time ago what dating a single mom was all about. Especially since he does live with that family despite retaining a separate residence. This doesn’t sound to me like a man who is “stringing her along” until he finds someone without “baggage”. He’s had 7 years to do that,   yet Cahnie believes he’s in love with her. Says they are happy until this issue comes up.
    It’s possible Cahnie could find another man who wanted to marry her. But I’m not so sure why one would want to trade a happy life with someone who loved her and her children for a possibility. That’s what I think she should be weighing.

  15. 35

    Offtopic – it is my pet peeve when people read something extra into what a man (somehow I’ve never seen it done to a woman) is saying. There’s one example in this thread, but I’ve seen it many times on this forum, when the man says “I’m not ready to get married” and people immediately inform this man’s SO that it really means “I’m not ready to get married to you.”. You know what? it may mean that, it may mean a million other things, but can we just give the man a benefit of the doubt and assume that he is an adult in sound mind, and means what he says? Do we need to finish his sentence for him? Haven’t we all been in a state where we’re not ready for a relationship? I know when I tell a man I’m not ready for a relationship, it doesn’t mean “… with you”, it means I am NOT ready for a relationship, be it with him, George Clooney, Pope Francis, or a male clone of my own self — I’m not ready for a relationship with anyone. If I don’t want to date this particular man, I come right out and say so. Don’t most people? Men especially, in my experience, don’t like head games. They say what they mean to say. In this case, the two of them are “really happy” outside of this disagreement and the LW believes he loves her, so where did this “with you” come from? I just don’t think this trend of putting words in men’s mouth is fair to them.
    #29, 31 – I agree with Ren. Yes there are men who wouldn’t even consider a woman that has someone else’s kids. Well these men are probably not a good match for this woman, because of where their priorities lie; and, for each of these men, there is a hundred others who do not mind blended families at all. So I wouldn’t go around spreading this idea that single mothers (not single fathers, eh?) are damaged goods.
    @ Selena #24, you do have a point! Living separately did not work for me at all, but you’re right, these two are not even living separately per se. And as an artist, even if they do move in together, he still will need a studio where the kids, pets etc cannot come in and disrupt, or accidentally damage, his work. So maybe let him keep it?

  16. 36

    I’m so tired of single parents assuming their boyfriends or girlfriends should move in because it would make more financial sense. Who would benefit from this arrangement. He wouldn’t … He’s not an extra bank account, maid or someone to drive your kids around. Of course he doesn’t want to marry you! Move on find someone who wants to be with you and your kids or don’t date till your kids have left the house. Stop being self fish  

  17. 37

    @Zara, where did the OP say she wanted to live with her boyfriend because it made financial sense and she wanted help with her kids? She said she wanted to live with him because she wanted commitment.
    Why is there this assumption that single parents are always after someone’s money?
    Why you are saying has nothing to do with the question and it sounds to me like you think single parents should be left out to pasture and are unworthy of relationships.   That’s unfortunate that you are so narrow-minded. I hope you never end up a single parent.

    1. 37.1

      Ren#37, the LW DID say that it would make more financial sense if he gave up his place and lived with her. Apparently she thinks he doesn’t know it would be cheaper for him in terms of money. But I think that she thinks this arrangement would morph into a marriage, and it hasn’t. And after 7 years it probably won’t. If after 7 years a guy is still telling the women he doesn’t want a committed relationship, he is never going to give her that kind of relationship.

  18. 38

    Zara, it would make financial sense for both of them if he moved in, not because she wants to mooch off him, but because it is cheaper for both of them to have one residence than two. Less rent, less mortgage, less to pay for utility bills… for both of them. Of course this is all assuming they have their finances together and run their household together, since they’ve been together for seven years. Maybe your assumption is that, he only pays for his own studio, comes over every day, crashes at her house, eats her food, uses her electricity and water and pays for none of it? in that case yeah, you are absolutely right, he would not benefit from moving in together, but something tells me that is not the case.  
    Yes, he is an extra bank account, because he lives with them and is for all intents and purposes a part of their family. If he is not an extra bank account, that would mean the OP supports him financially? why would she do that?

  19. 39

    @Ren 37:   The OP wrote, “I recently said I want him to fully move in because I think it would be financially better”  so, yeah, there was talk about living with her boyfriend bc it made financial sense.   However, like you, I didn’t see any mention of her wanting help with the kids.   

  20. 40

    Writers words are I want him to move in because it would be financially better.
    Im not saying single parents can not date or have relationships but they have to understand if they have younger children some people will not move in or commit.  
    divorce rate for second marriages is high! Why because of ex’s, children and financial obligations!  

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