Over five years ago I fell in love. I filled my car with all my belongings, sold everything that wouldn’t fit and moved to be with him. I’ve never wanted a wedding or even a husband. I wanted a partnership…and I got one. A partnership I’ve always appreciated.
Things got rough when my partner lost his dream job and started borrowing money from me. Eventually I couldn’t afford his friendships (beer drinking buddies). Then I got pregnant and had to make the financial decision to move close to my family. This was a pretty good deal for me. My son had cousins and grandparents and I was never lonely. This sucked for my partner. He loves me and our son and we are now together and financially very stable. But he goes through months where he is generally unhappy with the rest of his life and it is tiring for both of us. After our son was born I realized that I did in fact want to have some sort of commitment ceremony and when I brought it up he told me he didn’t think it was a good idea. I decided not to be upset about this because we bought a house together and have a better relationship than most couples we know. Plus, we made the decision to have another baby (due in July). I didn’t push the idea of a second baby, he came to me and said he was ready for a second child. He’s a wonderful father and partner.
A few months later, I brought up the commitment ceremony again and he said, “What difference would it make?” Two weeks ago I took a new job which means a big change of insurance policies. He then suggested we get married to save some money. I don’t know how to feel about this. Is this a *fake* marriage? I’m afraid to ask him for fear I’ll be too hurt to cope. Checking the married box suddenly means more to me than it once did. Do I ask? Do I care to know? Our relationship won’t change because of the new status so does it really matter if we are doing it for financial reasons?
This question isn’t what I thought it was going to be. Candidly, my assistant writes these headlines. And when I first read it, I assumed you had a slacker boyfriend who needed insurance and that’s why he proposed. The fact that you have been together for five years and will soon have two kids together threw me for a loop.
So let me answer your question first and then back into my reasoning.
Yes, it matters why he wants to get married. Motivation matters. There is a big difference between someone who volunteers time on the weekends to clean up the side of the highway and a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit who is forced to do the same thing. Namely: how the person FEELS about his actions.
Yes, it matters why he wants to get married. Motivation matters.
You will soon have a husband (or whatever you call the man who joins you in a “commitment ceremony”) who is only your husband out of resignation. So technically, you got what you wanted, but did you really?
What I see — admittedly from the outside — is a systematic series of questionable decisions. Hindsight is 20/20 and I would be shocked if you expressed any real regret at choosing the man who provided you two kids. But while he may be a great father, it doesn’t sound to me like he’s a great partner.
- You sold your stuff, filled your car, and dropped everything to pursue this long-distance relationship. I have no idea how long you were dating, or how often you were seeing each other, but you pushed your chips all-in for a man with whom you had probably never spent an entire week. But hey, that’s common. You could always change your mind and break up if need be — although it would probably be easier if you had your stuff. Alas, you sold it based on passion and faith that love would win out.
- You never wanted a wedding. That’s okay, too. But that means you will largely attract and accept men who also don’t want weddings. Sure enough, that’s what you got: a man who doesn’t want to get married.
- Your partner lost his dream job, which is obviously devastating. But you put a roof over his head. Why would he need to borrow any money? Oh, yeah, because it was so important for him to go out drinking while he was depressed and unemployed. If the “I don’t want to be married” thing wasn’t a red flag, this selfish, short-sighted behavior should have been. So what happened next?
- You got pregnant, out-of-wedlock. 50% of all children born to women 20-30 are out-of-wedlock, but kids born in these situations are more likely to struggle if their parents aren’t stable. People CAN be stable without getting married. They’re just less likely to be stable because they aren’t AS committed as a married couple. Okay, so you had your child. Your partner didn’t run. All is good, right? Not quite.
- You (presumably unilaterally) chose to relocate to be near your family. Based on the suggestion that you were in a long-distance relationship, that means you were pulling him far away from his friends and family and asking him to blend in with your oldest friends and family. I do understand how much easier it is to raise a child with family around. I do understand that all couples need to make compromises. It’s not abundantly clear that this is a compromise he WANTED to make. And if he didn’t want to move near your family and was forced to do so to be near his child, then you can imagine the resentment he’d feel towards you. If he got a job in Bismarck, ND and told you that you had to move to be with him, you might not be happy either, even if you are really committed to him.
- Now you have a partner who is depressed. I don’t know if he’s working, if he likes working, or if he’s found any friends in your hometown. But if he doesn’t have/like his job, doesn’t have friends, and has nothing more to keep him happy than the role of parent to a toddler, I can see why he’d be unhappy. There’s nothing wrong with stay at home dads, if you WANT to be a stay at home dad. But if you WANT to have your dream job and your drinking buddies and you’re now living in someone else’s life, you are probably going to be seething with regret and resentment.
- Then you changed your mind about the marriage thing. Great timing. You’ve got a partner who is down-on-his luck, who feels trapped in a life he didn’t choose, and you’re asking him to cement it. How is his mood? His self-esteem? His day-to-day treatment of you? It’s hard to make rational long-term decisions when you’re in a place of scarcity. And you’re asking him to make the ultimate commitment — with another baby on the way.
You can’t be afraid of his feelings — even if they’re not what you want to hear.
The issue here isn’t that he’s a bad guy or a bad father. It’s that, from where I sit, you don’t make good decisions as a team, you don’t have healthy communication, and, most of all, you have an unhappy partner who sounds like he’s once again relenting to something he doesn’t want to do to keep the peace.
If I were you, I would ask him about how he feels about living in your hometown, his job, the second baby, and marriage and really LISTEN to him. You can’t be afraid of his feelings — even if they’re not what you want to hear. Once you hear what he feels about all of these things, you can make decisions that reflect both of your desires — which may mean moving, him getting a different job, or even enthusiastically getting married. But you better make sure your partner WANTS what you want; if you don’t, you may get your ring, but you’ll likely get an unhappy marriage, or worse, a divorce, down the road.