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


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. 21

    Great post Zann. On all points.

    A marriage certificate does not “lock him in” (or her)  as evidenced by divorce statistics. But as realistic as people are/become as their lives unfold, there is still a romantic aspect “of being asked”, even when you know in your hearts you don’t need a state issued certificate. 🙂

  2. 22

    @Zann #19,   Selena #21.
    It is a pretty big thing for a man to ask a woman to marry him.   It is hurtful to be turned down.     I’m glad the situation in #19 didn’t end the relationship.     If I got an answer of “no” to that question, it would be very hard for me not to move on.

  3. 23


    Steve, I suppose I see traditional “proposals” more as denouements to romantic comedies. In my own life, the possibility of marriage was actually discussed, and put on hold for a reason (finances, school,   knowing each other longer, waiting until we were more stable as a couple) rather than an outright “No”.   You say it would be very hard for you not to move on if a woman answered “no” to your proposal, but I find it odd that a man would propose at all to a woman without having a sense that marriage is what she saw for their future as well. Something that the couple had talked about long before an official proclamation.

    I was engaged the first time when I was 21. The ring was a surprise, (I was expecting a dog from the pound),  but not the intent really, as we had been living together for 6 mos. and saw the relationship continuing.

  4. 24

    @ Steve #20,

    I admit I’m not exactly well read in civil and family law, but it would seem to me we’re playing a semantics game here.   It must just be easier to walk away from a civil union because it’s legal and doesn’t involve one’s faith or religious practices.   If we go in with the attitude of it being easier to walk away from, then what is the point of a civil union.   After all, if a marriage license is nothing more than a piece of paper, the civil union certificate is too.   Evidently we don’t need such a thing in this day and age.

  5. 25

    @starthrowner #64
    Here is a short summary of the article.
    It is happening in France.   In a nutshell, Civil Unions are gaining on marriage in popularity for two reasons.     The first is that they provide all of the legal benefits of marriage, but they can be dissolved in under an hour.   No divorce drama.   The second, is that according to the article French society is strongly secular and many people are turned off by religion.   Civil Unions are giving them a way to formally couple without getting the church involved in their lives.

  6. 26

    I understand people not necessarily wanting the church in their lives (atheists, etc), but I think the root of all this is- not wanting to commit- aka, ‘keeping your options open’ for life. Committing to someone takes a lot of strength of character, depth, and selflessness- these aren’t strong traits in most people in modern Western civilization.

  7. 27

    @Sayanta #26,

    That is the crux of it.   If we don’t like this spouse, albeit a civil union  one, we can go get another.   The grass may be greener elsewhere, but you’re gonna have to mow that grass too.   A civil union makes one less accountable.   Nobody likes accountability in this day and age.

  8. 28

    @ Steve and Starthrower, I knew a couple who were PACsed. My friend was on a temporary work visa in Paris and fell in love with a frenchman. They wanted to stay together after her job ended, so they got PACsed. Three years later they broke up without major drama and now shes back in the states. So its more than a certificate but still less than marriage, because marriage holds more risk and thus, weight. I think its the perfect idea for young people who want to be together (like the example of the teachers in the article) but can’t predict what the future will hold.
    I think Sweden is even more extreme than France, as some people there want to outlaw marriage entirely, saying its outdated and unfair to individuals. Either way I think they have low marriage rates too, yet committed couples raising kids together are common.
    Check out this stat: “In Sweden,  couples with children who  cohabitate but don’t  marry  tend to stay  together  for longer than married  couples with kids in the United States.”


  9. 29

    It’s my understanding that in France, property can only be inherited through bloodline or marrriage. So perhaps a  couple who wanted to purchase a home together without being married, might choose an official civil union if it offered that same benefit – protecting one’s interest in property from being passed to a relative in the event of a partner’s death.

  10. 30

    @C #28
    The article I read about the French popularity of civil unions among straight people said it was about a lot of people who, as in this thread, have been burned by divorce and just don’t want to think about marriage again.
    My opinion is that French styled civil unions aren’t weaker commitments.     People will leave marriages if they aren’t happy, despite the financial and legal issues.     Look at the 55% divorce rate in our own country.   The difference is that French civil unions don’t add extra punishment to the inevitable.     The only non-winners are the divorce lawyers.
    IMO, the idea that the nasty legal and financial penalties of divorce keep couples together may be a myth like the myth that people need religion to be moral.

  11. 31

    Steve, I wasn’t disagreeing with you on the whole. I just know from my friend’s experience that the PAC was used more like a way to keep a girlfriend in your country for awhile longer, and not “as death do us part”. That doesn’t mean other people don’t treat it as a more major commitment.

    Yes America does have a high divorce rate, and a no-fuss civil union would be a nice alternative. But again, look at my stat about Sweden..they don’t need marriage to be committed and on average commit longer than Americans do. So maybe marriage isn’t the problem with American couples, just commitment in general.

  12. 32

    I agree with Selena.     Once the protection of children and financial interests are of the picture a marriage/marriage proposal seems to be about a psychological desire for two people to demonstrate a commitment in a visible way.

  13. 33

    On the subject of soulmate couples who are also divorcees ambivalent towards marriages – see Elizabeth Gilbert’s great book “Committed – A Skeptic makes Peace With Marriage” it is about the research she undertook about marriage after she and her soulmate “had ” to get married if they were to be able to live together in the US.

  14. 34

    @Cecilia #33
    Sorry to hear that.   I always liked her character.     I always though the actress who played Nellie ( also has a book out ) would be the one getting divorced 🙂

  15. 35

    Nothing to feel sorry about! At the end of the book when she describes the day that actually did get married (at home in their kitchen) she writes “I did not have any way of knowing with certainty on that afternoon what peace and contentment were awaiting me in this marriage (reader: I know it now), but  I did feel calm and grateful all the same“.
    Methinks that she has no regrets about the US Gvt forcing their hands,

  16. 36

    On a related note,   New Hampshire Republican have introduced a bill to phase out government supported marriages for everyone, straight or gay in order to make marriage a purely religious institution ( which of course doesn’t include gays )

  17. 37

    I’m from the UK and several of my friends and relatives are in long term committed relationships (from 6 to 14 years) but aren’t married. Each couple is living together and some have children together.
    So I found myself being a bit confused by all this talk of marriage as the ultimate. On Rori Raye’s site too where she talks about the ring on the finger and nothing else as true committment.
    I’m 47 and I’m just starting to realise (after 15 years since a long term relationship) just how totally clueless I am about dating : ) So I’m reading and reading and learning as much as I can. I’m trying to seperate good advice from bad. Whose advice is credible and whose isn’t?
    I like Evan’s blog and Rori’s too – they both come across as credible. But it is odd for me being a sort of ‘spiritual but not religious’ person for want of a better phrase, to read about marriage as a kind of default ideal.
    For me, I think my general cluelessness stems from being a child of the 60s. My parents got married very young – my Mum was only 21 and met my Dad when she was 16. She’d hardly had any dating experience and never offered me any guidance. I’m the eldest of 3 so never had much insight into my brother’s dating habits. And then there’s the whole 60s thing. Men and women are proclaimed equal which I agree with but along with that seemed to come this deeply entrenched idea that men and women are the same. So I’ve had to completely change what I’ve been brought up to believe in culturally (the men and women being the same idea). Strongly connected with that is the 60s liberal attitude to sex. So the pill came along and that meant that women could have sex without getting pregnant. There seemed to be an assumption that they would then have the total freedom men have and would benefit from that. But freedom to have sex without committment doesn’t suit most women.
    So anyway, relearning things. But which things? It’s very confusing!

  18. 38

    I am 59 years old. I’m in pretty good shape, and I look about 10-15 years younger, in spite of having various physical problems. My circumstances involve a situation in which I encountered a difficult situation after my significant other passed away, whom I was with for 30 years. I had lived with my significant other.

    Within the last 2 years, I have been dating a much younger man who is 20 years younger than myself. We met through a neighbor. He helped me out with some work that i needed to have done. Initially, I was so physically attracted to this man. And, due to his circumstances of living with his parents, his low income, and as a result of some sexual preferences, he had difficulty with meeting women. Simultaneously, because I have a low income, I have had difficulty in meeting men, who prefer to date women who have good jobs or incomes, or, because many men would rather date young and very beautiful women. But, the man whom I am dating, is not interested in getting married.

    Then, at his point, although I did not want to get married initially, now I really miss having a partner with whom I can spend more time with, and share my life with. I am now ready to seek out a soul mate partner, in a monogamous relationship, who is perhaps 10 years younger than myself. I am not sure about where to begin with this. But, I appreciate having read about some individuals who are interested in dating and even marrying, at older ages.


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