I have been with my common law partner for almost 7 years. We met at work, we have had our ups and downs and even split but reconciled a few times over the years. He was going through a process in life. We are very committed and function as a married couple, he is an active stepfather to my teenage children, and we even own a business together.

However, when we first met he was just separating from his wife. Less so than I had been led to believe, hence the processes he went through for the first few years. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have gotten involved knowing what I know now but its irrelevant now.

The problem is that he won’t divorce. He has one son with her who is almost 26 and lives with her (he won’t leave home). She is several years into a relationship and runs a family business with her new boyfriend from the matrimonial property. He has taken small steps like asking her to list the house for sale but closes his eyes to it when she refuses. He pays mortgage and debts for her. He once wrote a separation agreement and she edited it asking for very high spousal support and he filed it away unsigned and unfiled. He kept her on medical benefits until just recently so he has done a lot to ease the transition.

We are looking at some changes in our lives or moving and new jobs that I hesitate to commit to without feeling secure in my relationship, plus I want to get married one day. I’m close to 40 now, my kids are close to leaving home, and I can’t help but wonder if I’ve wasted my 30’s, if my relationship is a farce, or it will never go to the next level, or like I’m living with someone else’s husband.

He won’t discuss it often or in depth. His excuses are mostly the difficulty or money. Money is not an actual stumbling block. He is very smart and capable. When I broached the subject of legality of rights for me, he had a legal notarized will done naming me as beneficiary and power of attorney. He IS capable obviously, but avoids divorce.

Both his wife and son clearly manipulate him through guilt, asking for money as their only communication. I think he revels in feeling needed. I’m just not sure where the boundary line is, have I gone too far over it, am I impatient or irrational or demanding? I’m lost for ways to address it or whether I should walk away from it. I have read your advice to others for years and would be incredibly relieved and honored to hear your feedback.

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?


I feel obliged to say that I’ve written about this topic a number of times before but each case is different.

Sounds to me like you’ve got a pretty good bead on things.

Your boyfriend either wants to be needed, is afraid of being cut off, wants to have his cake and eat it, too.

As I explain in Why He Disappeared, it generally doesn’t matter WHY someone acts a certain way. Getting the “right” answer only means that you know his motives; it doesn’t change his actions at all.

Basically, this is a dilemma that only one person can solve, Niki. And that’s you.

You’re at a fork in the road.

Would you rather continue in this relationship even though you’re never going to get married?

Or would you rather start over and find a man who is available and wants to marry you?

Your guy DOESN’T. Otherwise, he would have been divorced and proposed to you already after 7 years.


Make no mistake, you put yourself in this position by integrating your life with his, starting a business, allowing him to step-parent your children — all without a formal commitment. He got what he wanted. You didn’t.

Your power — as it is for all women in dissatisfying relationships — is to walk.

Your power — as it is for all women in dissatisfying relationships — is to walk.

You’re not trying to negotiate with him. You’re not going to force him to divorce. You’re going to leave and find a man who wants the commitment that you want. If, after you leave, he follows and initiates divorce proceedings, you might have a husband.

If he doesn’t — and I’m betting he doesn’t — you’ll be free to find a man who puts you first and makes you feel safe for the rest of your life.

One word of caution: if you say you’re going to leave and you DON’T leave, you’ve just sent the message that you’ll continue to put up with this indefinitely the way you did for the last seven years. Frankly — and I know it’s not my life and it’s easy to say from afar — I wouldn’t want someone to marry me due to an ultimatum; I’d want someone who wanted to marry me. Yours doesn’t. Please don’t lose sight of that.

Good luck.