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

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.

Join our conversation (331 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.  

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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 

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.  

  10. 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! 

  11. 41

    @Ren @37:
    The LW wrote: I recently said I want him to fully move in because I think it would be financially better.
    Presumably because she would benefit from him not paying a mortgage, etc. elsewhere?

  12. 42

    I didn’t see the part where she said it would be financially better. But even still, before and after that she said:
    “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.
    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.”
    Where did she say it would be better for her financially for her and her kids? It sounds to me like she’s saying it would be financially better for him since he practically moved into her place and keeps all his stuff there. If she said that and she didn’t have kids would it be seen is so bad? She’s looking out for him more than herself or her kids.
    People are busy attacking the fact that she’s a single parent and therefore unworthy of a man instead of the issue at hand, which is that he doesn’t want to commit to her. Is it because she has kids that he doesn’t want to commit?  Only he knows that. He knew she had three kids going in and stuck around for seven years.
    Bottom line is she needs to get rid of him if he doesn’t want what she wants. Her being a single mom has nothing to do with it.

  13. 43
    Karmic Equation

    Single moms out there…
    A good man who lives with you is not going to go out and grab a bite to eat and not pay for the kids too.
    If they go shopping together, food, clothing, school stuff, he’s not going to not chip in.
    So while there is no overt mention of “men supporting the kids”, of course a man will. Probably not in terms of providing for their college tuitions and such, but lending money for gas or other incidentals like that? You know it’s going to happen.
    If he keeps his own studio and never officially moves in, he contributes when he feels like it, but it won’t feel like an obligation, because he can always flee to his studio when doesn’t feel like it.
    If OP wants to marry and he doesn’t then she needs to decide if that is a deal breaker and break the deal they have or accept it. Another OP who wants to somehow change her man. Doesn’t work.

  14. 44

    Wow Zara, all I can say is it sounds like you are projecting a whole lot. Have you been burned by a single parent?

  15. 45

    “…for each of these men [who do not date single mothers], 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
    Apparently, the OP wanted a single, eligible bachelor with no kids, though she came into the relationship with 3 kids of her own. The fact is, men in that demographic will not readily marry a single mom with 3 kids, as the OP has sadly learned. The men who don’t mind blended families are generally divorced dads with kids.
    Also, there is a world of difference between a widow, a divorced woman with kids, and a never married woman with kids. Thus, in men’s thinking, not all single moms are created equal. Strictly speaking, only a never married woman with kids is a single mom.

  16. 46

    Here’s a little advice to single moms and dating.  Speaking from years of experience (I was a single mom for many years), and now 51 years old.  A decent man who has character will not just “date” a single mother.  He will consider the situation.  A guy who is self-absorbed and out for his own gratification will.  Of course only time will tell.  I always felt that being a single mom was a feather in my cap as far as weeding out the players and the keepers.    

    1. 46.1

      I am going to disagree. If a woman has been married before the chances of getting divorce has greatly increased. About half of marriages end up divorce. Having 3 children is certainly a plateful. I remember my father who was a single dad having to provide 2 kids and when my father remarried and had another additional one it was very difficult.

      Depending how much this guy makes it can be a huge risk for him. Child support for 3 children and lose everything he owns. Why should he take a risk in that situation. Also men are typically treated poorly. If I was him I wouldn’t see her. I would never date a single mother because of what she can do. If you listen to Tom Leykis there were plenty of men that didn’t follow the advice of Tom and they thought they knew better. Some of these men ended up dating or marrying single moms and pay a dear price for it. All of them said they thought this woman was different.

  17. 47

    For those of you debating whether he doesn’t want to get married ever or just doesn’t want to marry the OP, that can be really difficult to know.  Sometimes the guy himself isn’t too clear on this until he meets the girl that he eventually does marry.  My fiancé was with an ex for 9 years, then another ex for 3 years.  He told the first he never wanted to get married and dodged the second because she wanted kids.  His parents have a bad marriage.  It wasn’t until he met me that he seriously started to think about what marriage meant and whether he really wanted to write the institution off.  He actually thought about whether he could one day marry me on our second date because he knew that what I was looking for in general was a relationship leading to marriage and if he couldn’t give me that one day he had best get out of the way.  Knowing his history I made very sure to clarify with him 1)did he ever want to get married and 2) if he ever saw himself getting married to me (this came 6 months later).  If you are of a certain age and want kids or marriage/re-marriage, don’t make assumptions.  These things need to be clear. Helpful also is if you had an internal timeline and don’t wait 7 years to find this out.

  18. 48

    @ TheThinker #45, “Apparently, the OP wanted a single, eligible bachelor with no kids”… We don’t have the information about what the OP wanted. We just know who she ended up with. Maybe they just liked each other, or (gasp) he liked her and pursued her until she said yes? Is eligible bachelor even still a thing these days? Even if it is, an artist would hardly qualify as one. Personally, I probably wouldn’t want to get involved with a man who in all seriousness thinks of himself as an “eligible bachelor”. So, if he doesn’t want me either, great, our feelings are mutual.

  19. 49

    The problem with comments from people like Ren is that they wear rose-coloured glasses when it come to relationships, believing that “love” will conquer all, and that if a man or woman truly loves someone, he or she will be with that person no matter what.
    The harsh truth is that people approach relationships as a cost-benefit excercise – men readily accept and acknowledge this. Many women are in total denial, even though their behaviour and attitude to relationships indicate ottherwise.
    Sure, many men would go for single mothers – because they cannot get anyone better – these men may be quite physically unattractive and/or may not have great career prospects. They may be very happy to “take on” another man’s children if they get to have regular sex with a single mom who is still quite young and very beautiful.
    Men who are in great demand by women – tall, attractive, successful, intelligent, sociable and wonderful husband/dad material can get any woman they want – and they generally do not want single moms unless she is truly truly exceptional – much more so than him.

  20. 50

    @ Androgynous, I agree that people approach relationships as a cost-benefit exercise, but I believe it’s not in the way you imply they do. The reason why people end up choosing partners who have children from previous  marriages, is that they live in a real world. After a certain age, if a man wants someone that’s not young enough to be his daughter, and if he insists that he has to have a woman who’s never had children, he will, one, be looking for a long time, and two, because his pool will be so limited, he’ll have to compromise on her other qualities if her not having children is so incredibly important to him. Of course if he wants a trophy wife, then you’re right, he’ll be more selective on things like children and could also choose a much younger woman. But if he’s looking for a partner to share his life with, then his definition of both cost and benefits is not as straightforward as real material cost and benefits.

  21. 51

    I was once in a similar situation as you. Fortunately, I had only been dating the guy for 14 months. He acted like he saw a future with me in the beginning, but after a year, he said that he wasn’t sure and started giving mixed signals (he hadn’t met anyone else yet, and did not want to give up the sexual benefits) I really cared for him and was confused by his behavior. Thank goodness I found Evan’s blog, learned that this gentleman was wasting my time, and ran–not walked–away from that relationship. Six months after I broke up with him,  he met and married a woman 14 years his junior, after dating her for only ten months.
    When I look back, I realize that he never really saw a future with me. He told me afterwards, that he said things he did not mean because he was speaking only in that moment. This guy that you have been in a relationship for the past seven years has made it clear that he does not want to marry you. The longer you continue to stay, the deeper the pain will be once he decides to move on–especially so if he decides to marry someone else shortly afterwards. 

  22. 52

    I agree with poster above that said she  OP, has already been there, done that (wedding and kids) and a live in boyfriend is a reasonably good deal (for her age/situation/marriage market value). The boyfriend sounds reasonably happy and content, (is it real feelings, love, comfort, inertia, laziness? don’t many men stay married for these reasons) it’s already been seven years, we don’t know if he’s got one foot in and one out. He might very well stay forever.

  23. 53

    I think Androgynous was spot on, actually.  It’s still pretty easy to date childless women well into your thirties.  There are many options out there.  As a man gets older, the women’s children are are close to being, if not already, out of the house.  So, it’s easy for a guy to avoid the grifters.

  24. 54

    [email protected]
    Yes, you’re right in saying that men past a certain age do date and marry women with children. The crucial difference here is that these older men do not have any step-parenting responsibilities whatsoever since the children of his partner would almost always be adult children. So in effect, he is dating a “single” woman in all but name because she does not need to devote as much time or energy to her adult children.
    The problem arises when children are still young and need a lot of parenting. Most men are not up for that unless they really have no other options for relationships.

  25. 55

    Whoever said we are projecting words into the boyfriend’s mouth when he said he’s not ready to be married and we think he means not ready to be married to her… well, people are saying this because the relationship is 7 years. You should know after being with someone for 7 years that you want marriage, unless you are one of those people who says they don’t believe in marriage but people say that all the time and when they meet the right person, they change. Move on in the relationship. My last relationship was on/off again but it wasn’t progressing on his part. Yes I was the one being on/off but my feelings were deepening but I chose to get out because I saw the signs that he wasn’t serious for a relationship and I wanted one. He was a divorced dad with 1 son who was 10 so that was partly why it was on/off and he looked older then his age.

  26. 56

    i cant believe how this has turned into a discussion on dating women with children and all of the negative opinions about that.  It makes us single moms feel like there is no hope…..

  27. 57

    @ Androgynous: “The problem arises when children are still young and need a lot of parenting. Most men are not up for that unless they really have no other options for relationships.”
    Cannot argue with that! To be honest, I’m not up for that myself. I did bail on a single dad once (two special needs kids and one young child) because the potential responsibility was just too much for me to handle. So yes, I agree on that count.

  28. 58

    So now single women with kids are “grifters”? The OP got together with her boyfriend when the kids were 10, 8, and 3. He knew was getting involved with a women with young children. After 7 years, I’m guessing he has a relationship with them as well as with the mother, especially if he practically lives in their house, keeps his stuff there, has keys, and comes and goes as he pleases. And the OP has been supporting herself for all this time (plus whatever financial support she gets from the children’s father, if she gets any). I’m guessing that the “artist” is not a wealthy man.
    Why is SHE the one labeled a “grifter”?

  29. 59

    I also date man with two small kids. First of couples of months were great but I realized I didn’t want to be a step mom. I also felt my needs were not being met. it was not his fault he just didnt have enough time. I understood that … And moved on. Now I have a partner who doesn’t have children and I feel alot happier. 
    When single dads have asked me out I poliety declined them. small children do not fit my lifestyle. I might be called selfish … But Im happy.

  30. 60

    jlhsr- I wouldn’t feel that way if I were you. It may be better to set your sights on another single Dad, but even if you’d prefer a childless guy I would not say there is no hope, just potential issues to be aware of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *