Should I Stop Having Sex With My Boyfriend Until He Decides If He Will Marry Me?


I have been dating a man for 3 years. He’s amazing and we are in love. He told me he loved me first over 2 years ago and he says it to me daily.

Two problems: 1. His ex-wife was diagnosed with breast cancer as of a year ago and we do not know how long she has to live. He has four children with her and they have been divorced for over 5 years. And, 2. He has not asked me to marry him.

How long should I wait? I know it sounds a bit cold…but should I give him the benefit of the doubt and wait until his ex-wife dies? He tells me he can’t get married and hurt his children while their mother is still alive.

Should I stop having sex with him until he decides if I’m his future wife? My gut tells me that I should not be having sex with a man if he is not sure if he wants to marry me at some point. (Our sex life is amazing…really don’t want to give it up).

Thank you.

Oh, god. Not this again.

Let’s get the easy part out of the way first: Sex is NEVER to be used as a weapon.

This guy is your loving boyfriend of three years and you’re thinking that the best way to procure a ring from him is to PUNISH him by withholding sex?

Are you kidding me?

Cutting off sex from your partner is childish, selfish, petty, and, above all, ineffective in making a man WANT to commit to you for life. It demonstrates that you have no clue how to communicate verbally, establish healthy boundaries, and be a fair and even-keeled partner. Literally, NOTHING could be a worse idea than you floated above.

By the way, none of what I said above means that I think your partner is a healthy bet for a husband. That’s a completely separate question. But now that we’ve dispensed with why it’s always a bad idea to use sex as a weapon, let’s talk about the real issue at hand: whether this man is a good investment of your time and energy.

Cutting off sex from your partner is childish, selfish, petty, and, above all, ineffective in making a man WANT to commit to you for life.

I’m working on limited information here, so forgive me.

All I know is that you say that he’s an “amazing” man who tells you he loves you every day and that you’ve been together for three years. For all the women who are inclined to reflexively side with you because “women good/men bad,” please pay attention to the OPs words: she’s HAPPY and gets treated well by her long-term boyfriend.

However, if Paula wants to be a wife, and not just a long-term girlfriend, she needs to get some clarity as to whether this relationship has a future, not just a present.

He’s not “wrong” if he wants to avoid hurting his children while their mother is still alive.

At the same time, you’re not “wrong” to want to get a ring on your finger after three years together. That’s why you need to communicate in a healthy, matter-of-fact fashion to your boyfriend. You’re not going to attack him, or berate him or threaten him. You’re going to ask him to help you solve an intractable problem.

First of all, ask him, point blank, if he intends to marry you.

Is that direct? Yes. Should he know the answer after 3 years? Yes.

If he hedges — and pulls out that typical guy stuff like, “Why do we have to rush things? Why do we have to label things? Why do we need a piece of paper?” you have your answer: your guy wants you as a girlfriend, and nothing more. You must have the courage to leave him.

Ask him, point blank, if he intends to marry you. Is that direct? Yes. Should he know the answer after 3 years? Yes.

However, if he says yes — but he doesn’t want to do it until his ex-wife has passed away — then you can follow up with some more empathetic questions. Ask him why he feels that way. Do his kids know about you? Love you? Have a relationship with you? Want him to get back with his ex? These are all things that I can’t answer which are germane to your situation. Personally, I think he needs to be able to stand up to his ex-wife and his kids and tell them his intentions, but I don’t know the nuances of your relationship or his family dynamics. Only you two do.

Personally, I’m skeptical. Sounds to me like he’s making excuses to avoid marrying you and this is just a convenient one. However, if YOU determine after talking to him that he loves you, he treats you well, he wants to marry you, and he promises to do so shortly after his ex’s passing, then, by all means, stick around.

It’s a lot of “ifs” but you should be able to trust your gut if you think he’s a man of character.

Then again, your gut tells you that you should cut him off from sex to get him to propose.

Forget that I said that last part and get an answer about this guy’s intentions right away.

Join our conversation (52 Comments).
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  1. 21

    Yes, Paula should stop having sex with the BF, take a step back, and allow both of them to examine their relationship and whether they can have a future together, or if they should break up.   Of course, she never mentions her age or if she wants biological children of her own, so I’m guessing she might be over 40.   Most women want the security of marriage, especially older women who fear being alone.   If Paula is pondering not having sex, and moving out, then I think she needs to trust her gut.   Its been 3 years already so Paula deserves some solid answers.   Take a break for a month, and figure out if there are other men out there for you, that can give you the security that you want and deserve.

  2. 22

    Clearly a conversation is needed between these two people. I wouldn’t write either one of them off just yet. The OP is struggling with her feelings of being shoved aside for other priorities in his life and is unsure how to get through to her BF her feelings of dismissal. The BF may just be feeling caught between his conscience and his GF. His ex IS dying after all. That’s no small thing, especially when kids are involved. His priorities kind of have to be elsewhere to some degree right now.


    Before anyone here sits in judgement over her thinking of withholding sex, realize that this is FAR more common in marriages than people are admitting here. It’s just not so simple.


    When a person feels that their partner is not hearing them, is refusing to listen or see their side, is causing them pain, it’s not beyond the pale to look for what that person values and snatch it away to get their attention. Sure, it’s petty and passive aggressive, but it’s been done as long as people have been mating. Let’s not cast too many stones. How many of us have also found ourselves doing things we normally wouldn’t out of frustration? I know I’ve done this very thing. I now understand that it doesn’t work. If your partner refuses to acknowledge your needs after you’ve calmly and politely tried to discuss it like adults, then he isn’t going to “get it” after you cut off the sex supply. It’s like putting a band aid on gangrene. The relationship problem existed BEFORE the withholding and that’s what needs addressing.


    The mature way to deal with problems of this nature are to discuss it like adults and try to come to a compromise that works for everyone. If one partner can’t do that, or a middle ground can’t be found, it’s time to walk because I can promise you that type of thing does not get easier the longer you are married. It only gets worse.


    This fella may be hedging or he may not be. What the OP needs to do, IMHO, is to   first be compassionate. He may be feeling overwhelmed and heartsick. He may need her support, not her pressure, right now. That’s what real relationships are about, being there for the other person when they need you and vice versa.   That being said, I wouldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt forever. At some point, it’s appropriate for the relationship to move forward if that’s what they’ve agreed to. If he’s using the ex wife as an excuse to hedge that’s not cool and the OP needs to be aware of letting things linger for too long. She should take stock of what she really wants out of life and be prepared to walk away from him if he doesn’t want the same things. He also needs to be honest and not continue to dangle her on a hook if he knows he isn’t into a deeper commitment.


    Either way, communication seems to be failing here.

  3. 23

    This is not about whether you should withhold sex. This is a question of whether you should walk away.
    STEP 1 – Your Personal life goals — Aside from this man, do you want to have a happy marriage and children of your own? If so, you need to make the decision about this relationship with that in mind. Everything you stated is about him but you need to take a step back and re-acquaint yourself with what you want out of life. As a woman, you have a time limit on when you can do that and don’t allow people on this forum to paint you as “selfish” because you want to assert your personal goals.
    STEP 2 – Divorced Man with Four Kids — you need to ask this man in plain English if he wants to re-marry and have more children. IN PLAIN ENGLISH. Some divorced men view re-marriage, especially with that many kids through a financial lens. And the thought of a new wedding, new honey moon, new home, new babies + ex-wife and 4 growing children can overwhelm a guy. He may love to have you “around” but will not be able to take on this responsibility of re-marriage and new babies. If you are 30 and above,   be prepared to suffer the short term pain of hearing him say no but this would free you to pursue what YOU want in life. This is NOT your husband and the folks that are suggesting that you should take on the “for better and for worse” of HIS life and the guy not do the same for YOU, is one-sided and unfair to you.
    Observation – Breast Cancer “diagnosis” is not a death sentence. His ex-wife may be one of many victorious breast cancer survivors. Or she could live a long-time suffering, rebounding, relapsing and lose her battle 1, 3, 5, or 20+ years from now. The man that tells you that you should wait to see this through is actually telling you a lot. I am not available to commit to you in the way you want; put your desire for marriage and a family of your own on hold for 1, 3, 5, 20+ years.   THIS IS NOT YOUR HUSBAND and you should not be making personal sacrifices as if he is.

    Observation — Pulling Back on Sex as a way to Gain Leverage won’t work — I understand the psychology of feeling like you are not secured in this relationship with a ring. The only leverage you feel you have is sex. I think subconsciously you know you are at a disadvantage because who can “compete” with the explanation of “hurting four kids and an ex-wife with cancer”. The sex card will not trump the complex family situation. Withholding sex will not change the long-term situation in your favor.   Why? Because he will still be bound by these huge responsibilities that will limit his ability to give you ANY of the things you want.
      Have that conversation soon. Check the answer against your personal goals. Do the math… take note of what Mrs. Happy said. That scenario would be your life.

  4. 24

    The bigger picture is that the OP’s main concern – marriage – is small potatoes in relationship to 1. the exwife’s potentially terminal cancer and 2. the four children’s present and future. Marriage, at this stage would seem heartless and thoughtless, esp. if you consider what the kids are going through. I get the impression, from the letter, that the OP is too self-absorbed to consider the whole situation and that she will not do well as a step-mom.

    The unconfortable question then becomes, from the BF’s perspective, “is this woman good enough to become the stepmom to my 4 kids if their mother passes?”.

    I met a man I really like who is in the middle of   a divorce and we go on platonic dates from time to time (I also date others I am less enthusiastic about..) and we are very connected but there is so much going on in his life that a relationship is out of the question (complicated ex, 3 kids, middle of divorce, his dad has terminal cancer) for the time being.

    But one of the first questions he asked was if I wanted kids (at 37 I think my time has passed but I want to be a stepmom). He made it clear on the third date he is looking for someone who might be comfortable living with 3 kids at least part of the time. I had never dated anyone who had kids before, and make not mistake, it’s not about “you” anymore, you are number 2 if that, and if you are considering   a man with kids you have to be very comfortable with that scenario.   I am not sure how the OP feels about the kids but that is the most relevant part of this puzzle. If the woman isn’t a good stepmom or isn’t empathetic abt what they are going through, chances are he will not want to marry her just bcs his kids are his #1 priority.

  5. 25

    We don’t know his side of the story.

    Maybe his ex took him to the cleaners in the divorce, and now he associates marriage with divorce and alimony, and he is just using his ex as an excuse and really doesn’t want to get married again because of the financial hardship that the man always faces.

    I am divorced no kids and I am unsure if I would get married again (at least not without a prenup the next time).

    Evan is right that she needs to simply confront him to find out what her next steps should be.

  6. 26

    Is she really even using sex as a weapon or is not wanting to have sex with him a manifestation of her negative feelings about the situation?

    When I have been upset with past boyfriends, the last thing I felt like doing was having sex with them. This does not mean I loved him less or was not attracted to him. It also does not mean I’m using sex as a weapon. However, my fear is that we don’t legitimately believe a woman is allowed to say ‘no’ to sex when she is upset with her partner because then she’s just using it to ‘punish’ him. No. Not wanting to have sex is not a ‘punishment’. I am not his Mommy.   Don’t put women in that position that they are not allowed to say ‘no’ to sex when they are upset with their partners. Not wanting to have sex with him during a specific point in our relationship is because I don’t feel like it and don’t want to make myself vulnerable with him when I am upset with him. How I feel about the relationship, my partner and myself   is directly related to how much I feel like having sex or not.

  7. 27

    1) yes, i agree with everybody that withholding sex as a manipulation tactic won’t achieve the desired outcome.   All manipulation tactics backfire when the other person is aware they are being manipulated.

    2) after 3 years, you should already be getting to know the children.   If you are marrying somebody with prior children, and they are still very close, then you are also joining family with the children, and i think you should feel “in love with the kids” before considering marriage.   Just a fact you need to face.   Imagine if you hate them…or if they hate you?   You wouldn’t want to live that life…nobody would.

  8. 28

    Why are you having sex before marriage? Try courtship than dating! Dating does not always mean love and marriage! No man is going to marry you if you keep giving it up for free! Have some morals and self respect! Practice celibacy , humans really don’t need sex , they just think they do, no wonder there is so many pregnancies and STDS ! Never have sex before marriage!

  9. 29
    Kaitlynn B.

    I usually agree with you, Evan, but not in this case. I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I don’t think she is trying to use sex as a weapon. If she was doing it to try to force him into marrying her then ok, but that’s not what’s happening. I can’t speak for all women, but I cannot have sex with a man if I’m questioning the relationship, I’m upset with him, or if I don’t feel comfortable being with him at the moment. If she doesn’t feel comfortable having sex with him then she shouldn’t be persecuted for saying no. It also doesn’t mean she’s any less attracted to him. I am extremely attracted to my boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean I want to have sex with him all the time. If she doesn’t want to have sex with him until he decides, then let her. It’s not a punnishment, in fact, based on the post, she is only thinking about how sex at this time might negatively impact her.

  10. 30
    She's confused

    I think you’re supposed to cut off the sex after he marries you not before 😆😆😆😆

  11. 31
    Cean Houston

    Basically she doesn’t give a crap about his children’s emotional well being. She’s selfish and can’t wait for his ex to die so she can be out of the picture plain and simple. We can dress it up and justify all we want but that’s pretty much the reality of the situation.

  12. 32

    Well, idk…. I recently decided to hold off on physical intimacy with my boyfriend. We have had a few difficulties recently. However it seems instead of working through them, we have sex instead. And then we never really talk about the issues at hand. I want to work on the things that are keeping us from moving forward with our relationship. And let’s be honest, when a man is getting everything he wants without a commitment, then why commit? My boyfriend and I are incredibly attracted to one another… so it’s not been easy. BUT he has come a long way and seems to even almost like the fact that I’m not letting him take advantage of the situation. We are enjoying getting to know one another on a different level. My boyfriend won’t move forward because he has kids and they live close to him… I live an hour away. He is a great father and I respect what he’s trying to do. However, moving in w me wouldn’t stop him from seeing his kids as much as he would like, it would just take a little longer to get there. I guess my feeling is… he doesn’t have any trouble sleeping at my house when he wants intimacy… so where’s the problem? We’ve talked and I just thought that it’s only fair that if his kids will determine when we can move forward w our relationship as far as living together, then he wouldn’t mind if they call the shots on his sex life as well. Besides, we can only benefit from getting to know one another better… I’m excited to set the sex aside and spend time w my best friend. He’s a fantastic man and he does love me. He just feels trapped in his situation and I WILL support him, but he is finding out that things can have another answer. In my case, it was the right thing to do. Demanding respect in this area is not wrong. And   if with holding sex is what it takes to get him to wake up, then so be it. However, be aware that it could very well backfire and you could lose it all. His ex wife is his ex for a reason, and it IS sad that she is passing… however, that is no reason to move on. You can be engaged and get married after she passes out of respect. There’s no reason to make a big deal out of the engagement. It does sound like an excuse. I look at it this way, he may just need that bit of a wake up call… but honestly, I think taking a step back from the whole thing rather than just the physical part is a better idea. He sounds a little shady.

  13. 33

    To clarify, my boyfriend wasn’t on board w the whole thing… at first. Now, we are kind of having fun w it.

    It IS very important to consider what the kids are going through.its also very important that you both be honest with one another about the situation. If he doesn’t want marriage, don’t stay. It breaks my heart to think of that woman dying of cancer and there’s someone out there hoping it happens soon so she can have her way. It hurts for two reasons, obviously the woman passing is feeling a lot of different pain. Physical and emotional. I also think that he reason for their divorce would be an important detail as well. Think about it.

    The other reason… the woman writing this question has possibly been led on by a man that she has fallen in love with. Don’t act like you’ve never been desperate before. LOL with that being said, I’ve never hoped that someone would perish so I could take their place. If she knew her worth, she wouldn’t bother with that. I’m not going to attack her. We really don’t know all the details and that can make a huge difference. With holding sex isn’t always wrong. In fact, it can make u stronger. It can build trust and an unvreakable bond. In this case… I think it’s the wrong idea. It’s not meant to build anything, it’s meant to hurry things along. Where’s the romance in that? Is that a story you would want to tell your grandkids? Support the man, love the children and if possible, exercise compassion for the ex wife. She may be trusting you with the lives of her children someday… that is devastating to everyone involved. Get grounded and start finding your worth. No one should feel they have to stoop to that level to get the love they want in their life.

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