How Do I Tell My Boyfriend That I Actually Want to Get Married?

happy couple taking a picture and planning to get married

Thank you for all your stellar advice to us women who have our sh**t together in all areas but one: love.

My question is: How do I tell my boyfriend that my personal goals for my love life have changed since we first started dating? I am a divorced woman in my early thirties. I have a teenage child, my own house, a great job, and lots of friends. When I went back to the dating pool, it was after a 1+ year “guyatus” and I was still pretty bitter about the broken engagement that made me single again. I started dating online and clearly advised my many suitors that I did not want to get remarried, did not want another kid, and did not want to live with anyone.

Fast forward to today. I have been dating a kind and thoughtful guy for the past three months. We are exclusive, and we have a great time together. He has seemed pretty thrilled with my “don’t need a contract” approach to love. We have so much fun together, and I like being with him so much, that I am rethinking my no marriage rule–I may actually want to remarry someday if there are guys like this in the world! This realization has scared me, because I was so confident in my singlehood previously, and I have acted a little “freaked out” since I noticed how much I like being with him.

I get the sense that he does not want anything more serious than what we have, and I am worried that if I wait too long to tell him my change of heart, that he will feel I used the old “bait and switch.” At the same time, I don’t want to have an awkward conversation in which he believes I am saying I want to marry him, because I don’t know that yet. (3 months in, 21 months left to go!) I am also worried I will grow more attached to him, and in the event he is not open to marriage someday, I am wasting my time.

Do I speak up? Do I let it go and watch what he does? Am I overthinking this?

Thank you so much for cheering us ladies on, we sure need it!


I rarely get questions from people who have changed their minds and want to do the right thing.

I usually get questions from people who have had partners change their minds, and ended up getting screwed in the aftermath. The guy whose girlfriend decided to stop contributing to the household. The woman whose boyfriend decided monogamy wasn’t for him. The guy whose girlfriend decided to stop having sex after 8 months to get closer to God.

So kudos to you for thinking a few steps ahead, instead of diving in to the pool headfirst, and hoping that there was some water at the bottom.

Now, generally the women who tell me they don’t want to get married fall in two camps:

    a. Women who take a very liberal worldview and want to rebel against the outdated institution that is marriage.

    b. Women who have been burned by marriage, got divorced, and decided that they’ll never get married again.

I tell all of them to get over themselves.

The anti-marriage folks get really caught up in the way things “should” be. “I don’t need a piece of paper!” “As long as he and I are on the same page, what does it matter?” “If Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn can do it, why can’t I?”

Most people WANT to get married.

That’s all well and good. Except, as Amy illustrated, most people WANT to get married. To make things official. To get their partner’s health benefits. To have kids with the same last name. Again, I’m not saying whether this SHOULD be the case. I’m just saying that it IS the case. Sure, marriage rates are declining, but how many couples do you know that have been together 5 years without getting married? So whether we like it or not, marriage is the default setting for Americans, and the end goal for a vast majority of people who want a relationship that lasts until “death do you part.”

Circling back to you, Amy: of course you’d consider ruling out marriage after a bad marriage. But that’s a false dichotomy. Because your choice isn’t between a bad marriage and no marriage; it’s between a bad marriage and a potentially great marriage. Dissenters would say that there’s no difference between an LTR and a marriage if both people are equally committed. They would be correct — if, in fact, both people were equally committed. But an LTR is far easier to break up than a marriage. You can say marriage is about the piece of paper, but it’s really about the public declaration to your friends and family, and the legally binding commitment to each other. Antiquated? Maybe. But regardless of whether I’m pro-marriage, most men and women are, too.

If you can find a guy you like this much who doesn’t want to get married, just think: there are ten times more guys who DO want to get married.

Those who are anti-marriage aren’t “wrong,” but there are fewer people who want to be like Kurt/Goldie as there are people who want to be like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. As such, it’ll be harder to find a likeminded partner who wants everything that a marriage has to offer, without the piece of paper.

That means two things for our original poster:

  1. You should absolutely tell your boyfriend that, in fact, your long-term goal is marriage, if that is the case. If he runs, then he’s not the right guy for you. Someone else can take the chance of dating him without the hopes of getting a ring. It just won’t be you.
  2. Your experience with this guy should be heartening. Because if you can find a guy you like this much who doesn’t want to get married, just think: there are ten times more guys who DO want to get married.

This won’t be an easy conversation, but it is a necessary one. If you don’t — as you pointed out — you can very well fall in love with him, spend two years with him, only to learn that, yep, sure enough, he still doesn’t want to get married.

Again, I’m not saying that you SHOULD get married; I’m saying that if you want to, this isn’t the guy.

Good luck.

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  1. 1

    Interesting quandary.   Even if the BF doesn’t want to marry her, the “right” woman would probably cause him to have a change of heart.   But it could even be her.   Hard to know no longer than they have been dating.   My dad has said often that he would probably still be single if he had had not met my step mom almost 40 years ago. He was right to take her off the market.   Conversely, my ex and I were only 2 months into our separation when he met his current wife.   I’m still single an unattached close to 10 years later.   I’m not anti marriage or even anti relationship.   I do know that marriage or a boyfriend won’t solve all my problems or be some sort of magic cure-all for anything.   I will admit to being comfortable being single or not in a relationship.   I do believe that most people who are are usually happier.   I don’t think I know what I want.

  2. 2

    A person convinced against his (or her) will is of the same opinion still.

  3. 3
    Karmic Equation

    It seems strange to me to “talk” endlessly for months and not meet. And to “develop feelings” for someone we’ve never met seems even stranger.
    Meet first then go from there. You might not be attracted to him physically nor he to you. Or he’s a bad dresser or has B.O. or you have some quirk that’s a dealbreaker for him.
    I think telephone calls are only needed to verify that the person on the other end of the phone is a “real” person. Once you know that, then meet for goodness sake.
    I really don’t understand why women need to talk for weeks or months before meeting. Weird!

    1. 3.1

      Agreed!   But trust me – it’s not only women who want to talk for weeks or months before meeting.   My friends and I have plenty of experience with men wanting to converse online for weeks only to balk when we hint at meeting in person.   Married?   Not really interested in a relationship?   ‘Fraidy cats?   Who knows…!?

      1. 3.1.1
        Karmic Equation

        Interesting, Henriette. I guess I’ve been usually lucky. Most men I message with want to meet right away. But usually I schedule my dates out one to two weeks as I have to juggle life as well as other dates 🙂
        I’d rather meet in person than talk on the phone as I’m only a phone person AFTER I’ve met them in person. I’m actually very UNcomfortable talking to strangers on the phone. I guess you could say I like to use the phone to MAINTAIN a connection once it’s created IRL, but I don’t like using the phone to create that connection to start. I need a live meeting for that. I think ANY connection made via phone first-or-only is a false connection, doomed to set up unrealistic hopes and expectations.

    2. 3.2

      Completely agree!

    3. 3.3

      Flonie, I would agree that it seems like you are really taking the path of greater resistance for this relationship.   That having been said, you have to live your life in the way that makes sense to you. People can and do make challenging relationships work. It’s just a question of what you want and can/will you do the heavy lifting.

    4. 3.4

      Hahaha I was thinking the same as Karmic Equation, I don’t even have the time to talk on the phone for weeks??, I meet the guy and we may go from there, very simple.

    5. 3.5


      I cannot understand for the life of me why you are putting so much thought and investment into this guy. This is not even a relationship, it’s completely imaginary until you meet. Even if you were just casually dating I’d say you were overthinking this.


    6. 3.6

      I would definitely not continue to converse with a guy beyond a few emails and 2 or 3 weeks at most before meeting.

      I barely have time or energy to maintain the relationships I already have in my life, much less someone I don’t know who has minimal interest in meeting!

  4. 4

    I really enjoyed and agree with your comment, particularly the part about not wanting to convince a man.   Most men and women have an inkling in the first 6 months of a relationship whether they would want to marry their current partner.   Hanging onto a relationship in hopes the man or woman will magically change their mind is setting up for disaster and heartbreak.   Or in your instance, children.   Your response was very mature and I’m glad you’re open to ending the relationship if he says a firm no children, rather than try to manipulate him into changing his mind.   Kudos to you!

  5. 5

    Completely agree with Karmic about talking for weeks and months without meeting.   How could you even stand the suspense?lol   And, what if you are totally not attracted to the dude after all that invested time?   How disappointing it would be.

  6. 6

    I also agree about not talking for weeks before meeting.   I did that once, years ago.   Had great phone conversations that lasted for hours, thought we were really bonding, and I guess I got really excited (maybe she did too).   By the time we set up our first date, we thought we already had great chemistry.   I even brought her flowers for the first meeting.   It was the worst date of my life.   I held the door for her and she asked me if I thought her arm was broken.   I planned the date and she told me how presumptuous I was for not asking for her input.   Absolutely no physical chemistry either.   Lesson learned – the purpose of the phone conversation is to set up a date.   There’s no chemistry before meeting.
    And, regarding the OP’s letter, it has only been 3 months.   There’s no issue of bait and switch yet, but there would be if she allowed the relationship to continue for months or years under false pretenses.

    1. 6.1

      Because chemistry only exists in real life, not on the phone.   One does not necessarily translate into the other.   That’s why many of us are suggesting that it isn’t a good idea to try to establish chemistry long-distance without meeting.   by doing so, you build a statue on feet of clay.

      1. 6.1.1

        I totally agree.   If after a brief exchange of e-mails it doesn’t move to the phone, I stop writing.   One phone call just to rule out conversational incompatibility, two at the most.   If I don’t get asked out after a second phone call, it’s next.
        I really   don’t understand the OLDaters who want endless rounds of e-mails or weeks and weeks of phone calls.   Until you meet in the real world, you have nothing.

  7. 7

    Why not be honest and vulnerable. Let him know that your painful divorce and bad first marriage had left you believing that marriage was not for you for a long time but you’ve been growing and evolving and realizing that a loving partnership through marriage is what you ultimately want out of life. Then ask him how he feels about that. If he seems off put, let him know you are not looking for a marriage proposal or guarantee from him but you want him to know your needs. If they don’t fit its better to know earlier rather than later. If this man cares for you and wants to continue to see you, he will be honest and let you decide.

    1. 7.1

      Julia, your last sentence is why most men feel pressure in those type or situations. Because just because he “still” doesn’t want married, doesn’t make him a bad guy, he still likes her, likes being with her, but he may feel guilty for telling her “No I will never marry you”. I know this may but hard to understand on this site, but her boyfriend is the victim here, not Amy. She changed not him, now that he is with her, he has to change (or lie about changing), or lose her.

      Did Amy, Evan, or any of the other commenters ever consider that he may be falling for her too?! Many women think like starthrower68 mentioned and will say he didn’t really care for her because “Even if the BF doesn’t want to marry her, the “right” woman would probably cause him to have a change of heart“. So… Just because he was honest with her from the start and he put in the work to get, be-with, and keep her, now that “SHE” changed her mind, he is the one at fault because he didn’t want to change for her??? Even Evan, said if he runs he is not the right guy for you… again it seems like she is the victim and was justified for having him work for her, possibly fall for her, just for her to change her mind about something the both agreed on.

      I actually feel sorry for the guy  

      1. 7.1.1

        I never said he was a bad guy or in the wrong. I also added that she could very well be the one too.   Maybe he is falling for her. We don’t really know because he didn’t write in so of course we’re filling in the blanks.   I am very big on not impinging on free will.   If this fellow doesn’t want to get married then ok, so be it.   I never called him a bad guy.   If she has a chance of heart and he does not, then they are better off parting company so he can be with a woman who is fine without marriage, and she should move on to find a man who does. That’s not making a character judgement, but pointing out there may be an irreconcilable value difference. She should not demand marriage and he should not expect her to stay in the relationship if she has a change of heart and he will not get married.   Neither one can impose on the free will of the other.  

      2. 7.1.2

        Woah! Why does anyone need to be the victim? Except in cases of abuse, there are no victims in relationships.

        Say she did talk to him and change her mind. And he decided, nope, I’ll never marry, so they broke up. How is anyone a victim in this scenario? It sounds like two reasonable adults making a decision.

      3. 7.1.3

        OK, why does anyone have to be a victim, if two people are incompatible, they just are. But as far as pressure, I had the conversation with my fiance 3 weeks into dating him. We started very hot but I know he was a big maybe on both marriage and kids. I told him what I needed, in a vulnerable and honest way and he responded with complete honesty. He never really considered himself a husband or a father, never dated women that wanted either but had been going through a lot of changes of the past year. He knew what I wanted before even asking me out (thanks to the question section of OKCupid) and was very very excited by the idea. Obviously its easy when two people are on board but had I waited 6 months, (when we were already living together) things would have been messier.

        A woman is not wrong for wanting to get married, a man is not wrong for not wanting to get married, they are simply wrong for one another.  

      4. 7.1.4

        Adrian,   I do not mean any disrespect to you but it sounds like you have a problem taking emotional responsibility and it seems like you must have been in a situation where you have felt ‘guilty’ before.

  8. 8

    I’d probably tell him how much I enjoy his company and appreciate all of the nice things that he does and that he’s the the man who makes me rethink my views on marriage.   Because that’s the truth, and just see how he responds.   No need to get super serious–just throw it out there as a wonderful compliment.   I am divorced, and very hurt from it, and I would love to meet just one guy who’d be kind to me and change my mind.

    1. 8.1

      I love this LC, but my only problem with it is, most of us men would think she is just saying how much she wants to be with us and enjoys our company, and the thought of her really changing her mind wouldn’t even occur to us, so he may say something along the lines of: “me to”. Then 6-8 months from now when she brings up the possibility of marriage he will be like a deer trapped in headlights. All the while she will be saying but I told you I rethought my views on marriage, and he will be “honestly confused“, but she will be mad thinking he stung her along or is playing dumb.

      Amy’s best beat is to just be direct. LC I am sure even has touched on the topic of how women being indirect and subtly hinting at things goes completely over our heads and we just dont’ noticed, but I’m too lazy to look for that specific blog. Why do you think women are so much better at reading body language and are better at subtle flirting compared do us men. We dont’ do too good with indirect communication

  9. 9

    Amy my only advice to you is to be very careful of what he says after you have the talk with him. If he feels strongly for you he won’t want to lose you, so he will lie to you and maybe even to himself about marriage just to keep you, then 3 years from now with only a engagement, but still no ring but you heart is completely into it, you will be in a bad situation emotionally.

    Read the comment I gave to Julia in # 5. Your boyfriend isn’t a bad guy for wanting to keep you, remember it was you who changed not him, you said he is a good guy and he obviously likes you, but after allowing him to open his heart to you for 3 months then changing your mind or demanding that “a guy who really loves me would want to marry me” isn’t fair and it is a lot of pressure. So to keep you he might lie, or feel guilty if he doesn’t say: “Amy you are the woman who makes me rethink my views on marriage too”, he may be only saying it because it’s what you want to hear and it will keep you there with him

  10. 10

    This is Amy. The subject came up, and I told him I would ideally want to remarry. Not easy! He listened, then stated that he did not think he ever wanted to remarry, but that perhaps he felt that way because he was still bitter about his divorce. He asked why I did not consider long term commitment instead, and I stated that I believed that if a man is truly in love with a woman, he wants to take her off the market. He agreed, and said maybe he just hasn’t met the right woman. If we were further along in this relationship, I think it would be time to say goodbye. But where we are so early on, how long do I wait? I am nervous about my own hesitancy to move on, because it suggests that I am falling for him, and not acting as the CEO of my love life!

    1. 10.1

      Gosh, how many Amys are on this blog?   I’m getting y’all mixed up…

  11. 11

    So my two cents. I was asked ”how come you’re single” by a man. I said, well, cos it would seem i have a sign that says ”commitment” on my forehead and it puts men off. this guy was amazed, said he thought that was awesome that i would be so up front about what i wanted. ( had been dating but not in a serious relationship for four years but was previously married and nervous about ”marriage” but not commitment. I pointed out i never said it but obviously gave off the vibe. Two weeks later that guy asked me out. Within three months he told me, and the world he was planning a future with me so we could grow old together. Six months later he told me, and my parents, and my kids, he wanted to marry me. I was …nervous…but committed to the possibility as long we we took our time (yikes it’ had only been six months). six months after that he changed his mind…wanted to ”slow down”..I was ok with that (publicly – actually i was pretty unhappy but didn’t want to put on the pressure as it were)…and a year after (whilst I waited for a return to the marry me stage) he left me for someone else, that within 3 days of the new relationship, he was telling the world he was planning a future with her for them to grow old together.
    The answer – I say, sure be upfront about what it is you want. don’t expect that it’s going to stay that way, nor that the person who at the three month mark (including you!) is actually going to want to marry the person you are telling. Just see it as ”this is my thing…I think I want to be with someone I might be about to see a future with”. It’s honest without asking for a ring. You might just get it – one day. And if you don’t see that ring…well, yep they didn’t want a future with you after all.

  12. 12

    Amy, 3 months is way too early to decide that you want to marry this guy. You are still in the honeymoon phase and you have a fear of losing him, so you want a marriage certificate to legally prevent him from leaving you. Let him decide if he wants to stay with you long-term, or 5 years or 20 years. Also, what is your age? Marriage mindsets are different for people of different ages. There are also financial considerations if he is richer. There is the idea that only “Losers want to get married because they fear a break-up.”   The guy or woman who is rich, independent, confident, and relaxed isn’t insecure, needy, or co-dependent on someone else for their lifelong happiness. Many Alpha Bad-boy guys want “free sex” without making a long-term financial commitment. That sounds like the type of guy you are attracting, and its every girls dream to tame and marry the bad-boy eternal hot bachelor george clooney types.   There are insecure people who want to get married, and then there are confident independent people who don’t want to get married.

    1. 12.1

      So no confident, independent people ever want to get married and no insecure people ever don’t want to get married?

      1. 12.1.1

        For Amy, the reason her Boyfriend is happy is because there is no pressure of marriage/commitment/children/financial burden. Amy is stuck “wanting what she can’t have” and fears losing a hot guy if she does not get married to him. She is jealous and insecure and in a weak bargaining position. There is a saying that “the person with the most negotiating power is the person who cares the least.” 2 people can be happy, independent, rich, and confident.   Her boyfriend will fee she “lied and trapped him.”   All Men want Free Sex without the long-term financial costs of marriage!   Expectations and Relationships change when there is the pressure of marriage.   Amy needs to ask herself what are the long-term implications of marriage for her boyfriend – financially, and household expectations.   There is certainly more neediness when you get married, and you probably buy a house together, and the wife and husband will demand more from each other in chores, joint bank accounts, etc.   I don’t think Amy has though through exactly what being married to her boyfriend would really mean; or if even her boyfriend wants to get financially married.   There are many divorced guys that simply refuse to legally get married again.   Why would Amy think her boyfriend changed his mind and wants to get married?   All indications show that her boyfriend is happier without getting married.   People find Confident-Independent Men and Single women attractive; and Amy wants to Tame her Independent Alpha boyfriend.   Amy wants to get married for the wrong reasons, which is her insecurity and fear of loneliness.   Marriage should be about 2 people have the same long-term goal to spend the rest of their lives together.   Marriage SHOULD NOT BE forced because the woman or man is too insecure and fears losing her boyfriend. Marriage is about shared future goals, and not about the Chaining a Man down.

  13. 13

    Jay, your questions are answered in the original letter. She doesn’t want to marry her boyfriend because it’s way too early to know. But, she learned that she wanted to get married someday which was a change from her original stance. No mention of insecurity but just how to communicate new goals and ideals and be an honest person.   

    1. 13.1

      Women want to tame the independent lifelong bachelors.   She said she didn’t want to get remarried because she was married to a terrible man.   But now that there is no pressure of marriage/low expectations she is able to attract relax,independent, confident guys that just want to have fun; and not worry about the implications of marriage (financial, social, children, etc.).   She changed her mind because she fears losing him or any other great guy, and doesn’t want her heart to break from a breakup.   She wants to keep this guy for the next 20 years.   Women just think too long term and have a false belief in monogamy.   Men plan there lives months at a time, Women seem to plan their lives years ahead.   She just wants to have sex with this one guy for the rest of her life.   Newsflash, her boyfriend and most men aren’t willing to commit to monogamy after just 3 months of dating.   Marriage should be about whether BOTH the Man and the Woman have long-term goals of monogamy.   It takes 2 people to get married.   A woman can say she gets married all she wants, but what if there are no men that want to marry her?   What if a wrong and incompatible man wants to marry her?   Men want sex, Women want Marriage – they just have different life goals.   Women need to find a man who WANTS TO GET MARRIED, and not find a bad-boy Player hoping to change his mind which she won’t.

  14. 14

    Jay, I hate to tell you this but the bad boy players who never want to be married, commit, etc. are a dime a dozen and become quite tiresome after a very short time.   No doubt there are some women who want to waste time trying to change such, but many, just like the player, will have their fun and move on. It’s the good guy with boundaries that is the rare bird women seek.   Evan gives women hints, information, and advice on how to get them.   I get that you’re having the time of your life lovin ’em and leavin ’em, but really that nonsense just gets old.   All that glitters is not gold.

    1. 14.1

      That’s the point of the article, and probably from most women who want to know how to “keep a man from leaving her.”   Often times, the Bad Boy Player never had the intention of staying long term, but the girl falls in love, and wants to tame him and keep him.   The advice that Evan gives is to avoid falling for these bad boys and try for the short Beta guys who value monogamy over casual sex.   If monogamous companionship is what women want, then they will have better luck with the nice beta guys.   I would tell women that there really is nothing they can do to change the minds to keep the Bad boys from staying.   The Bad boys plan for only months ahead at a time, while women want relationships that last years and decades.   In addition, I would say the financial cost is one reason that prevents men from marriage.   Money is also the primary reasons couples break up.   So I think its somewhat delusional of women to want marriage but not think about how it will impact their financial lives, or more likely, women want to get married because they will financially benefit from having a husband.   A woman who marries well and into a wealthy family, can vastly improve her life more than a full-time job.   Its not that men fear marriage or commitment, its that men fear the high cost of lawyer fees and property loss in a divorce.   Legally speaking, marriage is about shared ownership of property (and symbolically each spouses reproductive organs), and some men just don’t want to be financially-bound to another person.

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