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.

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  1. 61

    I know a mother with three children who met her current partner nearly ten years ago while her kids were still at home.  My ex boss, a senior partner in a law firm with a girl in every port finally married … a single mother in her forties. He adopted her daughter.  They went on to have two children together.  A friend of mine with three daughters living at home met someone in her forties and married him in her fifties.  They are still married over ten years later.
    Certain people have very strong beliefs on what they feel is acceptable and unaccpetable and when they say “men  this” or “women that”, they’re really saying “me” not fathoming that others have different experiences.  Every example contradicting them is an exception and they are the absolute norm. Well, there are enough exceptions that you don’t have to give up hope.  Sure, the carefree bachelor around town may not be your best match, but women younger and more beautiful than any of us have been disappointed by those men too. 
    As for finances, I bought my own flat. I earn a good salary but should I end up with someone yes, I will be happy to be splitting the bills and not having to pay single room supplements to go on holiday.  That doesn’t make me a scrounger. It’s called sharing.

  2. 62

    Marymary in #61 says it best

  3. 63

    Simple don’t date men who are aren’t able to accept you come as a package and a family if you already have children.
    Only date men who pursue you and prove with their actions that they want the whole package.
    Don’t pursue men, let them pursue you and prove themselves worthy of being in yours and your childrens lives.
    And any man who calls women names like grifters or any other degrogatory names,  is not worth a moment of your time. Men like that are worthless to you and best completely avoided.

  4. 64

    I think Selena has a point in #34.  If marriage is Cahnie’s goal, then this is the wrong guy for her.  However, why should marriage necessarily be the endgame?  The guy has stuck around for 7 years, has moved in (despite retaining a refuge for his work), and is apparently well-integrated into her “family”.  Are a piece of paper and a piece of metal going to somehow make that permanent?
    FTR, some people want to be able to work at home, some people don’t.  I refer you to The Oatmeal:  Maybe the guy needs a place to work without kid-ly distractions.
    @ Goldie #35: I sincerely doubt that for every man who isn’t interested in dating a single mom that there are a hundred others who are.  I’d be surprised if the ratio was even 1:1.

  5. 65

    @ Joe, my bad, I was thinking about my age group (40s). A man who would want to date a woman in her 40s with no kids, and would not compromise on that, might as well say he wants to date a unicorn and won’t compromise. He’ll be waiting a long long time. Besides, most men that are dating in their 40s and 50s, already have kids of their own, so it doesn’t come as a shock of their lifetime to them that other people may have children too. I have already agreed that the situation is different for the younger crowd, but I can honestly say I have never met a man in my age group (or older) that said he was holding out for a woman with no kids. And I have plenty of single male friends who sometimes talk to me about these things. No one is that idealistic. For someone in their 20s, I agree, it wouldn’t even be 1:1. And, I might add, pretty much every guy (and woman) I’ve talked to draws the line at very young children. So I’d say it says a lot in Cahnie’s man’s favor that he got together with her when the kids were 10, 7, and 3 (and he himself was 29 at the time), stuck around for seven years, and apparently conducted himself in this relationship in a way that makes both Cahnie and her kids happy (otherwise she’d be referring to him as her ex by now). You and Selena are right. He just might be a keeper.

  6. 66

    @Joe – you sound like my fiancé when he was trying to dodge getting married to his ex girlfriends. ” I’m not anymore committed if I had a piece of paper” etc, why must marriage be the end game etc.  Well I’m not exactly sure what internal process he went through when he met me but all of a sudden he felt like marriage is a higher level of commitment, that it does signify something special and all the sappy cultural norms are true.  It beats me how men go from being skeptical about marriage to being its cheerleader but I’m glad in my case the process existed. He can’t exactly even articulate himself but it just happened and its just how he feels.

  7. 67

    @Goldie – my gut reaction to the original post was much like Evan’s PS.  I think there is something off in this relationship and parties sense that in some way.  She does not seem secure in the level of emotional safety as represented by the next level of commitment he is providing and wants an extra level of commitment.  I think the financial part is just an excuse to have him closer.  And he does not feel comfortable being closer.  He is already practically living there but balks from any official recognition or finalization of that.  If its a matter of workspace he can keep a studio apartment and still get married.  But he does not want to blend their identities together permanently in any way.  Do you think it’s good to be with someone who is rejecting you and your family on such a fundamental level?

  8. 68

    The significance of that little piece of paper is enormous indeed. A man and woman can practically be living as man and wife, but that piece of paper legally binds them to each other – so if one decided to break it off to pursue someone else, there are legal and financial ramifications for that.
    I think Cahnie senses her boyfriend has one foot out the door, or at least wants to keep his options open. He is 36 without children and if I were him, would be wanting to keep my options open too – since I may want to have kids one day and Cahnie, at 40 with three children (one under 12) is not likely to provide me with the children that I may want some day.
    I think he is battling a battle between wanting to be with Cahnie and sensing that there is no long term future with her. I really think he should be honest and not say things that are not the real cause of his lack of committment – ie losing his identity blah blah.

  9. 69

    Well I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks a 29 yr. old man who gets involved with a woman with 3 young kids, sticks around for 7 YEARS (longer than many marriages last) helping her raise her kids…just might not be a total douchebag. Especially when SHE says he loves her and she is happy.
    Having read this blog almost from it’s inception, I know the commentary is predominately from women who wish to be married, or re-married.  I knew what the typical response would be to this letter and almost didn’t comment – why bother? Minds are going to be made up: guy’s a jerk for not marrying her after 7 years. Never mind that he’s BEEN THERE for 7 years while her children were growing up and emotionally supporting their mother. That doesn’t count. That’s not as important as a certificate put away in a drawer.
    I wrote because it can be hard enough in this life to find someone you genuinely connect with. Hard enough to find someone who WILL stand by you. Love you. Someone you can love in return. The letter writer appears to have that. SHE doesn’t mention dumping him, she is confused why he feels the way he does about marriage. Thinks it’s childish. I am merely pointing out she might have good thing here – why throw it away? She might regret it if she did.
    @Marie #67:
    But he does not want to blend their identities together permanently in any way.  Do you think it’s good to be with someone who is rejecting you and your family on such a fundamental level?
    What a load of…hyberole.
    There is so much projection going on in this thread it would be amusing – if it weren’t so sad.
    Choose happiness folks when you find it. And when you find it, realize how fortunate you are.

    1. 69.1

      Selena #69, the issue isn’t whether he’s a douchebag. It’s whether he is likely to give her the commitment SHE wants. Something prompted Cahnnie to write in the first place: she felt she was not getting what she needed from her boyfriend. He might be a nice guy, but I think it’s unlikely at this point that he is going to change his mind and be in an official committed relationship with her.

  10. 70

    Choose happiness folks when you find it. And when you find it, realize how fortunate you are.
    Except the OP wouldn’t have wrote to Evan if she was happy.You seem to set aside her right to happiness. She is unhappy in the situation, its highly unlikely to change, she should leave and pursue happiness.

  11. 71

    Selena- I don’t disagree with your overall sentiment but the OP does not seem happy. Whether she should or not, she’s been wanting to marry him since Year 2. She’s upset that he planned to move in and pulled out at the last minute. She’s losing respect for him ( calling him childish). This sounds to me like a woman who has been trying to wait out her boyfriend’s not ready-ness, not someone who has been pretty blissful and content for 7 years. Being happy as long as you don’t talk about one subject, when that one subject is a big one and something you’ve wanted since the second year, doesnt sound that great to me.

  12. 72

    From the letter paragraph 3:
    We are really happy as long as we don’t talk about this kind of commitment.
    I form an opinion based on the words the person wrote.
    I’m weird like that.

  13. 73

    @Selena – while I agree with a lot of your past comments I have a hard time figuring out where you’re coming from here.  I haven’t read all of the comments but the majority of them here aren’t calling the guy a douchebag at all but rather say he is justified in his desires.  In fact most people have been exceedingly nice to the OPs boyfriend. I certainly have never criticized him or his character and his choice isn’t wrong.  and I’m not saying that marriage should be for everyone.  But the fact of the matter is marriage and/or cohabitation is important to the OP and there lies the fundamental difference.  They have divergent visions of their ideal future life together, and different hopes and dreams for that.  To me, if the OP allows herself to continue to stay in this relationship despite her unhappiness at the elephant in the room, she would be settling and not in a good way.  As Julia says, she deserves a chance at finding happiness the way she has defined it for herself.  Now if she makes the calculation like you suggest and decides to continue and accept the relationship on his terms that to me is a cost benefit analysis.  She has a right to decide that but what do you make of Evans comment that he will leave eventually anyways?  You haven’t addressed.  If they are so bloody happy together why would he leave?

  14. 74

    @ Goldie# 50:  There actually are women over 40 that never had kids for various reasons.  We are a minority, but we are out there.

  15. 75

    I can see how you interpreted my comment the way you did.  I do not think that all single women w/kids are grifters, and I definitely wasn’t accusing the OP of that.  I was specifically responding to another poster’s comment that I believed to be inaccurate.
    My point was that many guys (that have options) will simply avoid them altogether because of the possibility of being expected to financially support and/or help raise the kids down the road.

  16. 76

    Chance how does a woman who already has children expecting a man to help or finacially support/provide for her and their family if and when they decide to take the plunge and co create a shared life together make her a grifter? As if he wants to and is willing to take that on they now become part of his familiy. As he already knows she has children how on earth can she be classed as a grifter? As grifter means to cheat or swindle.
    What exactly do you think is that woman cheating or swindling out of him in your eyes?
    Any woman with childen can hardly hide the fact that she has them and if she is dating, most women are dating in the hope of finding someone to share and co create a loving relationship and life with. So where exactly is the deceit swindling and cheating?

  17. 77

    I’m not so sure this guy isn’t into her – I don’t think he would have stayed with her 7 years if he wasn’t.  Also, she feels as if he loves her, she hasn’t complained about that.
    I get the feeling this guy might just be an uncommittable type, a commitment phobic, or maybe a bit emotionally unavailable.  These guys are not bad guys, but they do like to keep the relationship on their terms and they do like to maintain a bit of distance. Bottom line, he is not in the relationship with both feet and Evan’s advice is absolutely spot on correct.

  18. 78

    I form an opinion based on the words the person wrote.
     I’m weird like that.
    I look at actions. Happy people don’t write dating coaches about their situation. People can lie with words all the time, actions rarely lie.

  19. 79

    @Marie #73
    …but what do you make of Evans comment that he will leave eventually anyways?  You haven’t addressed. 
    I did address that in comment #24. Second paragraph from the bottom.
    If they are so bloody happy together why would he leave?
    Indeed, why would he?
    Marie, unlike many of the commenters, I am not convinced that this woman has been desperately unhappy for years because her lover doesn’t want to marry.  SHE has been married. SHE knows marriage does not guarantee permanency. Neither does dumping someone you love in hopes of finding someone else. I’m merely suggesting to the LW (and anyone in a similar situation) to examine what they really have.  Maybe, just maybe, it really is a good thing – as is.

  20. 80

    @Julia #78
    Her actions have been to stay with this man for 7 years. Why would she do that if she were so unhappy?  While also claiming they ARE happy until they talk about this issue.  Her words and actions do seem to match up.

  21. 81

    Not all men who refuse to marry their girlfriends of 7, 10 or more years are commitmentphobes. In many cases (by no means all), the real reason is that those women have not made it beneficial for the men to take the next step.
    Men will naturally evaluate every transaction they find themselves in (including romantic endeavors) using cost-benefit analysis.
     When a man gets involved with a woman, he will instinctively place her into a category (just friends, friends with benefits, girlfriend potential, or wife material). Sometimes, a girlfriend has some deficiencies which the man has complained about, and is hoping that the woman will address. As long as she does not address those deficiencies, she will never be promoted to the next stage, no matter how long the relationship lasts. As long as she has enough qualities to qualify her as a girlfriend, she will continue to be that, but no more. This sometimes explains why men seem to be comfy with a prolonged relationship with the same woman without marrying her.
    Unfortunately for the woman, she thinks that her refusal to address the man’s concerns as a girlfriend is an expression of her “independence”, and the man’s acquiescence is an acceptance of her status. Alas, she does not know that that is exactly why the man refuses to “promote” her to the position of a wife, though she is a “good” girlfriend.  The fact is, a marrying man will marry a woman in no time, if he finds her a marriageable woman.
    The situation above might be somewhat different. Chances are, the man has evaluated this woman over the years, and he had concluded that all she will ever be is a girlfriend. The woman, by omission or commission, had unwittingly accepted that arrangement. However, she is now trying to renegotiate the relationship, and the man is not interested in changing the terms.
    So, there are four possible outcomes:
    1. The woman gets out of the relationship. Will be painful for all concerned, including the kids. Not a likely scenario. 
    2. The man concedes and marries her. The marriage will inevitably break down soon afterwards, because the push is one-sided. Again, not a likely scenario.
    3. The man moves on to another relationship. Possible, but not the most likely scenario.
    4. The status quo is maintained; the woman accepts that she is unlikely to get married to this man. Most likely scenario

  22. 82

    @Julia #78:
    I look at actions. Happy people don’t write dating coaches about their situation.
    Actually, they do. This woman needed advice. We all need advice all the time, and that is no proof of our unhappiness.
    People can lie with words all the time, actions rarely lie.
    The OP had no reason to lie to the person giving her advice. She is an adult, and intelligent enough to know that when you mislead your advisor, you will get a wrong advice. Let’s give adult women credit for being adult enough to say what they mean and mean what they say. 

  23. 83

    @ Aisling #74: I do know that you guys, er girls, are out there 🙂 I just pointed out that making “no kids” a deal-breaker, if the man is looking at the 40 and over crowd, would limit his options by a large margin. (Just like the examples, often discussed on this forum, of women holding out for a man who’s over 6 ft tall, has never been married, and makes over 100K. They do exist, there’s just not enough of them to go around.) So for that reason, to the men that I know personally, it is not a deal-breaker.
    As for why Cahnie wrote the letter – I honestly think that, all these years, she’d had that mental picture of the future in her head, that involved moving in together and getting married, and now she’s realizing that the future, with this man, may not happen exactly the way she envisioned it. So she’s trying to figure out what takes priority, her future plans or her bf. Like I said before, I just recently found myself in a similar situation, and my bf chose to end it – but we didn’t just want slightly different things, like it seems to be the case here – the arrangements that he and I wanted were, long-term, pretty incompatible with one another. Whereas Cahnie’s bf seems to want basically the same thing she wants, except for minor details like keeping his studio and not getting a marriage license. (I have to admit that getting or not getting married *is* a minor detail to me personally, so I am biased here.)
    As to why Evan said “he will leave you eventually anyway”, I honestly do not know. I’m kind of wondering myself. I don’t get this vibe from the letter. Keep in mind he is an artist. Yes, “he will lose himself and everything he loves to do if he moves in and gets married” would be strong words coming from a CPA, but an artist’s mindset is different.

  24. 84

    Goldie … There is a big different with dating someone  with small children and someone who has adult children. Alot people are open to the idea of dating someone with grown children but dating someone with 3 small children can be a huge stresser on the relationship. 

  25. 85

    He doesn’t need to marry her, he is already getting the benifits of her behaving like a wife without her being a wife Along with coming and going when he pleases so he gets to have his cake and eat it, he is hardly going to give up that.
    Lesson don’t treat him like a husband with all the benifis that come with that if he isn’t committing to you and asking you to be his wife. If a wife or life partner is what you want to be.
    Of course he will stay and get his feet under the table without making a committiment if there is a woman out there who is willing to offer and be available for that. I’m sure he is as happy as Larry with that arrangement.
    Company when he wants it, meals cooked when he wants, laundry done, someone willing to share their bed and body. All this and without having to commit and to be able to come and go as he pleases.
    Cut him loose, learn from it  and be open to finding someone who values what you have to offer and realises how lucky he is and wants to commit, share and co create a life with you.

  26. 86

    He could have watched male friends and family go through divorces they didn’t want. Seen the devastation that they go through, so he is terrified of getting to that level of legal commitment also. We men normally loose large portions of our assets and access to our children. Many men have observed the forced change in adult relationships and are reacting to that as best we can. It isn’t commitment phobic, it defensive relationship skills. It seems like their is no loyalty, love, respect long term.

  27. 87

    @Rose # 85: Well put.  There are also women, especially those over 40, who do not want to live with someone or get married.  Some actually like the arrangement the OP describes.  Companionship with plenty of personal space.  If one wants marriage, it makes sense to cut your losses and believe that there is someone out there who wants the same.  This scenario is one of several reasons I do not believe in cohabitation before marriage.  I’ve always felt that it is a bad deal for women who truly desire the status of wife. Of course, if both parties have the same relationship goals, it is a different story.

  28. 88

    Okay, Rose, in all fairness. This guy’s second residence also happens to be his place of work. Do all of us, who to to work at an office every day, also “come and go as we please” so we can get our cake and eat it too?

  29. 89

    True Josh he may have and that maybe the case and if it is then any man in entitled to live his life however he chooses and choose to stay single.
    And if a woman wants to be married and have a family, then she is entitled to whatever she wants to and the two would not be a compatible match, so are wasting each others time.
    Men don’t lose their assets when they get divorced. They were shared assests so they get shared and split dependant on the individual circumstances and legnth of the marraige, children etc.
    If a man doesn’t want a family and to take that risk then stay single. Can’t have your cake and eat it though unless you find a women who is ok with that.
    And if as woman you want a family and to be married then don’t let a man get all the benefits of having a wife until you are one. Stop agreeing to being an indefinate for now girlfriend or semi live in lover. Take control of your own life.
    Most women don’t want to keep being a for now girlfriend or to have endless flings, they want to get married and share a life and family with a man who they love and loves them. Relationships move foreward, stay stuck or fade to nothing. And after seven years it is stuck and not going in the direction of happy ever after.

  30. 90

    Lol Goldie do men really get away with I’m sleeping at the office tonight darling?
    Get an office then and get real. What a load of BS

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