Am I Settling If My Soulmate And I Don’t Believe In Marriage?

groom and bride running barefoot on beach

Evan, I really enjoy your blog, have seen your video clips and have read “Why He Disappeared” several times. Your advice has really helped me in many ways! I think you’re great (in almost all respects) as a dating advice columnist. There is one thing that I want to clear the air about for me, and that is the marriage thing.

I’m in my early thirties, successful, attractive, etc. You know, a “catch.” I’ve been dating a great guy for about two and a half years, and we seem to be coming to the conclusion that we want to spend our lives together. We each have a child from another partner, and we don’t live together. Neither of us feels the need to get married, but we both agree that long-term, committed, monogamous relationships are desirable. And then I read your advice stating that if a man postpones marriage for too long, move on. The general tone I’m getting is that “no marriage” equals “no REAL commitment,” and he is probably “just not that into you.”

I realize that many of your readers (perhaps all but me) are looking for a husband, perhaps ready to have babies, and have the nuclear family we’ve all been told is the “American Dream.” I respect that choice and lifestyle for those that wish to have it. But is it really a “waste of time” or am I “settling for less than I deserve” by choosing a man that is against the act of marriage? For the record, we are in love (he said it first) and he considers me his soulmate. I guess I just want to know that you do believe that love and relationships are more than just the marriage certificate. Thanks, Evan, and I wish you and your new family the very best! —Erica


Dear Erica,

I’m posting your question because it’s not really a question and it gives me an opportunity to rant about something that’s been on my mind for a while.

Two things immediately come to mind.

One, that my opinion actually matters. It doesn’t. As has been crudely put by a wise man “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.”   And it’s true. My opinions are merely my opinions and I don’t think for a second that because I say something that it’s “true,” at least not in the way it’s true that I own a 27” iMac.

Another reason that my opinion doesn’t really matter is because very little that I write is about what I think. You read that properly. If you carried a video camera around with you for a week and shot everything you saw — and then went and wrote what you observed — would you be recounting your opinions? Or would you just be logging your empirical observations?

The way I see it, I was a single guy with a lot of experience for 15 years. I’ve been a dating coach, talking on the phone about relationships for 7 years. I used my own advice to forge a happy marriage over the past 4 years. And I have thousands of emails from people who have gained from what I’ve had to say in my books, newsletters and blogs. None of which makes me “right” about everything, all of which should make me a pretty credible witness to interpret the video of your life.

The next thing I want to clear up is that advice isn’t one-size-fits-all.   Similarly, the exceptions don’t disprove the rule. For example:

Can a woman attract a quality man online with a crappy online dating profile?

Yes, but she’d attract MORE quality men if she had something unique to say.

Can a woman attract a quality man online with a crappy online dating profile?

Yes, but she’d attract MORE quality men if she had something unique to say.

Can a woman have a successful relationship after sleeping with a guy on Date 1?

Sure, but since many men judge women for hopping into bed, she’d usually be well-served to make him wait until he’s shown he’s serious about a relationship.

Can a 55-year-old woman date a 45-year-old man if she’s youthful and vibrant enough?

Well, in the realm that anything’s possible, of course she can. But if you look at the age preferences of most 45-year-old men on Match, you’ll see that it usually runs from 30-45 and cuts off at his age.

Are any of those things my OPINIONS? No. Just observations about how things usually work.

Since 95% of men eventually wed, it would stand to reason that marriage is the end game for most men.

So if I’m asked, without any background information, is it a good sign or a bad sign that a man you’ve been seeing for three years has never once talked about marriage, I’m going to instantly conclude, based on my experience, that it’s a BAD sign. Since 95% of men eventually wed, it would stand to reason that marriage is the end game for most men.

However, if you’re in love with your soulmate AND neither of you desire marriage AND you want the same things in life, never fight and are fully integrated into each others’ lives and families… congratulations! You’re the exception to the rule! And it doesn’t matter what anyone else in the world thinks of you.

Since I am somewhat responsible to the masses, I tend to answer questions with the 95% in mind, not the 5%.

Which is why anyone who insists on no sex before marriage will struggle with my advice. Or anyone who insists that women should pay for the first date will struggle with my advice. Or anyone who insists that she wants to fall in love but refuses to date online, go to singles events, or make single girl friends will struggle with my advice.

If you’re happy, Erica, that’s all I care about.

I’m just perpetually surprised when people who are unhappy with their love lives tell me how wrong I am for giving them advice that would improve their happiness.

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  1. 1

    Nothing to really disagree with in this post. The older and more experienced I get, the weirder I think it is that marriage is the naturual “endgame” of relationships? Why is it like that? It seems to me that marriage is just one of many relationship endgames, where what Erica is describing is another, and equally as valid.
    Also, I know a lot of divorced folks who say that they have zero interest in ever getting married again, though of course they have relationships. How do you reconcile that notion with the above marriage endgame notion above?

    1. 1.1

      You’ve perfectly described me, Lance. At 53, I am just not interested in marriage right now. Do I want to find my life mate–the man I’ll grow old with and spend the rest of my life with? Absolutely. If I met a man who is ideal for me and who insists on marriage, even though I’m lukewarm about it, and who wants to marry me, would I agree to do it? Probably.

      But marriage is just no where near the top of my must-haves list at this point in time. After 22 years of a mostly unhappy marriage, with three young adult offspring (who I love dearly) to show for it, and considering financial realities I’ll have to deal with as I age, I’m not sure if I’ll ever again aspire to be a wife.

      I might change my mind but, right now, it is what it is.

  2. 2

    I don’t see Erica as “an exception” to a rule here.   As a reader of this blog since it’s first year, I have always seen it  primarily  marriage-as-goal oriented – generally for those in their late 20’s through 30’s who wanted a partner to have children with- uh, like it’s author. 🙂

    Many of the commenters over the last 4 years however, have been older, have already been married, have had children, or decidedly not wanted children and participated in discussions anyway. Marriage is not always the “end game” to those who’ve already had the experience or it’s sibling living together without paperwork. People who already have children don’t always feel  a “pull” to marry to have children.   Which would be the case with you Erica and your partner?

    So I’m curious, if you and your partner of 2.5 years are happy with the relationship and lifestyle you have, why does Evan’s opinion on not marrying matter to you? Why have you read “Why He Disappeared” several times? I’m rather a proponent of “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it” myself, and I would think after 2.5 years one would know if their love was into them or not – so what’s the real concern here?

  3. 3

    I am not sure there’s as much a real concern from Erica is that perhaps she’s looking for validation on her choice from EMK.   Erica is an adult.   It’s a free country and she can marry this guy or not marry this guy; unless her family and friends are pressuring her, nobody reading this blog has any sort of investment in what Erica and her soul mate do.   You don’t want to get married, don’t get married, end of discussion.

  4. 4

    Absolutely agree with Selena (#2). What is the real concern here? Does Erica really want to get married? Getting married is a personal choice. For one who wants marriage, staying with a guy who doesn’t want to is  a waste of time. HOWEVER, for one who doesn’t have marriage in mind…why would Erica be thinking if it is a waste of time?

  5. 5

    There is a lot of social pressure to be married, especially at that age, and especially for women. If Erica is such a “catch”, then she may wonder why she  isn’t anxious to  get married, and why her boyfriend isn’t anxious to marry her. Is something wrong with her, with her relationship? Is living together, with or without marriage, even necessary?
    Personally, I do think that two people can have a very strong commitment without marriage. If marriage what such a great indicator of commitment, then we wouldn’t have the high divorce rate that we do. And ironically enough, the more times one marries, the greater the chance of divorce. On the other hand, if Erica and her boyfriend really do feel committed to each other, then what is the objection to being married?

  6. 6

    Re: #3

    It’s Why she’s looking for validation from EMK on her choice not to marry I find curious Star.

  7. 7

    @ Selena #6,

    I agree.   I have been the position before of denying what I really wanted and convincing myself I wanted less just to stay in a relationship.   It has never worked for me because eventually the truth goes “boo”.   Erica may be an apologist for a guy who has his cake and is eating it too.   Obviously that is merely speculation on my part.  

  8. 8

    This is a great answer- but I’m curious, if Erica is truly confident about her choice, why is she on this blog and seeking Evan’s advice to begin with?

  9. 9

    Personally I think the only 2 reasons to get married are that you a) want to have children and/or b) you want the legal benefits and responsibilities that come with health and end-of-life decisions.   ‘a’ is why I want to get married, ‘b’ is why my gay uncle and his partner of 18 years want to get married.
    Other than that is just a status that society pressures us to conform to. Plus its a huge financial gamble. So really whats the point? An excuse to have a party?
    Erica it sounds like she has a fine situation, but I can understand her need for validation. The pressure to conform can be unnerving and its always nice to have support.

  10. 10

    @C. #9
    I agree the pressure to conform can be unnerving and its always nice to have support. I don’t see Erica getting that from EMK’s response though.

    She specifically asked:
    ”  I guess I just want to know that you do believe that love and relationships are more than just the marriage certificate.”

    He concludes that since 95% of men eventually marry, finding lasting happiness with a man who doesn’t want to marry will make her an exception. That doesn’t sound particularly validating to me and it dodges answering her question directly as well.

  11. 11

    I think that if you and your partner don’t feel the need to get married, it’s certainly not a reason to break up with him.   Pressure from society or anyone else shouldn’t make your decision. I’m glad Evan pointed out that advice isn’t one size fits all.

  12. 12
    Ronnie Ann Ryan - The Dating Coach

    As a dating coach for women over 40, I can tell you this comes up often. For some who were married more than 20 years, the jolt of divorce is devastating causing them to they never want to do it again. Is that backlash from the pain or a  protective reaction to avoid such deep vulnerability? Maybe, maybe not. Not everyone needs the ceremony to feel fully committed.

    Regardless of the reasons which are endless and different for each individual, you get to make your own choice. Especially over 40 or if you’ve already been married once, the stigma of living together has practically disappeared.

    For those who want to get married – go for it! For Erica, if you genuinely don’t desire to get married, don’t do it. You’ll save throusands and can still have a long and meaningful relationship with your partner.

  13. 13

    Here is an interesting article about how in France, civil unions are overtaking marriage as the norm.   Thing is it is straight people who are getting them because they are “done” with marriage

  14. 14

    Erika is seeking validation from Evan because she isn’t feeling 100% confident about her or her boyfriend’s view that they don’t need marriage to have an authentic, “I’m committed to you for life” relationship. She also has doubts about whether she’s settling or wasting her time because of the marriage issue. In her second paragraph she wrote, “choosing a man that is against the act of marriage.” Deep down, his view, and her love for him may be clouding her own. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having doubts, as long as they are addressed and resolved.
    As for her reading “Why He Disappeared,” that is a little suspicious. Maybe she read it to be proactive and make sure she didn’t innocently sabotage her good relationship. Better to go in forewarned 😉 than to clean up the mess later.

  15. 15

    Erica:   what would you lose by getting married?   And, if you are not bonded to this man through marriage, are you prepared to wake up every day knowing that he has the freedom to leave?

  16. 16

    True, no one knows the exact intricacies of Erica’s situation except Erica herself, but I’d give her a yellow light – “proceed with caution” – on this one. I know several couples who have never wanted to get married (some who have 25-plus years under their belts), and they have amazing relationships. But if Erica is writing in, asking if she’s settling, there’s probably a part of her that feels that way.

    Times have changed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people’s individual attitudes have. Each person is different. I sense that she might be seeking some sort of permanence or security for her relationship. She just needs to be pretty darn certain that he’s not going to bolt.

  17. 17

    Lovey-G 11
    Erica:   what would you lose by getting married?
    What would she gain?   Marriage is good for protecting custody rights and financial interests.     She has her own child by a previous relationship.   It also sounds like she can take care of herself financially.   What would she gain by getting married?
    And, if you are not bonded to this man through marriage, are you prepared to wake up every day knowing that he has the freedom to leave?
    That happens to married men and married women every day.

  18. 18

    Personally, I totally understand why women would want marriage, even in this day and age.   Marriage is a commitment, regardless of the popularity and ease with which people casually undertake it and just as easily throw it away.   That is a societal problem perhaps, but most of us grew up still seeing marriage as a commitment and an important one.   Who doesn’t want to feel committed to when they are with someone they really love.

  19. 19

    Thank you, Steve (#17) for taking the words right out of my mouth. Why do people still cling to this notion that if there’s a legal marriage, then you’re locked in, safe and sound? Life’s unpredictable, and — married or not — there’s always a chance a relationship will ultimately fail…for any of a billion reasons.  

    To me, it’s obvious that what  Erica wants is not only Evan’s approval (“the expert”) but  the approval of society as a whole. I suspect she also wants to know whether  she means enough to this guy that he would challenge his comfort threshhold and ask her to marry him.

    We don’t live in a vacuum, and regardless of changing norms, we’ve just gone through  centuries where marriage has been promoted  as the ultimate example of security, commitment, sacrifice, and true  love.    It’s hard to shake that  cultural symbol of legitimacy, even if you think it’s a bunch of baloney.  

    My own reason for not wanting to remarry is  not very admirable, nor is it at all gutsy. I figure if I never marry again, I’ll never have  to suffer the humiliation and emotional upheaval  of divorce again. Trust me, since my divorce I’ve been  in long-term relationships where I’ve ultimately been dumped, and it was  just as painful for me…but it wasn’t  a legal matter and didn’t carry the sting of “another divorce.” I realize this is  irrational, magical  thinking,  because  it’s based on  emotion…just like Erica’s  question.

    I have a divorced friend who went through this very same crisis-of-the-heart when she got involved in a serious  relationship. She admitted that she didn’t know if she really did  want marriage again or whether she just  wanted society to look at their relationship as legitimate, OR whether she just wanted to  know her man was  willing to marry her if it was important to her.  They talked about it a lot, and finally he just asked her.   And what did she say?  “No,  but thanks for asking.  That’s all I really wanted.”  After that, their  relationship was much more relaxed and happy  and 8 years later, they finally did get married, after her son was grown.   Is that playing games? Maybe, but for them, it worked.

  20. 20

    @Zann   #19,   see my post in #13.     A lot of people are dumping marriage in favor of civil unions in France, for reasons similar to things you bring up in your post.       I don’t think where you are coming from is magical thinking.   If you end an marriage it costs you financially.   As you mentioned there is also some humiliation involved.     Explaining name changes to people, mentioning court dates, etc.     I’ve met so many divorced people who pretty much have partners but who want no part of marriage anymore.

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