My boyfriend and I have been dating for seven years, and I’ve been waiting for a ring for five. We’ve been living together for the past four years now and everything is going well…but I’d really like to be married. Every time I bring up the subject, he brushes it off, saying he wants to be at the right place in his life or something. I don’t know what the deal is, and I’m not happy about it. It doesn’t seem it’s worth breaking up over…but how long am I supposed to wait? We’re both in our late 20s, and I feel it’s a good time to get married. What do you think?
This is a complicated question, because his reluctance to get married could be a few different things. I’ll work gentlest to hardest-to-take:
|life of cyn is published each thursday as part of the arts orbit radar newsletter. click here to subscribe. have a question for cyn? submit it, anonymously if you’d like, as a comment on this post. if we don’t get ’em from you, we have to make ’em up ourselves.|
1) Going with the adage that guys are simple and they simply say what they mean, he may well be willing to marry as time passes and he enters his 30s. Or finds the right career and is ready to settle down, or the whim strikes and he surprises you on a birthday or Christmas with a ring out of the blue.
2) For many, marriage is not a big deal. They don’t get why people would do this, they don’t see the difference, they don’t care. Their motto is: “If it ain’t broke, why fix it.” I’ve known many of these.
3) He may be commitment-phobic—it’s fine to live with you, but the concept of being bound forever is terrifying to him.
4) The cliché – he’s just not that into you…again, great to live together for a long time, be monogamous and all that, but may be waiting for someone better to come along (and he may not even know consciously that’s what is holding him back, so tread lightly in this territory).
Since I of course don’t know his views toward marriage (and marrying you) other than he sounds really unwilling to discuss it, let alone consider it, I’ll attempt to address these scenarios, so you can take them (with a grain of salt) and work with them to help you make a decision, if you really have to make a decision now.
1) You could try being patient and waiting longer, since things are going well. That you’ve been together for seven years, and lived together for four, and it’s still going well (if by well, you mean you rarely fight and still love each other) is good for something—a lot, actually.
2) Ask yourself why the institution of marriage is so important to you. This is one area where you are not of the same mindset. Do you actually value being married, more than being with him? You may have to make the choice: keep living with him for years, or leave him and try to find someone else who believes in marriage. Think this over carefully, and consider the fable about the dog who lost his bone while trying to get the bone in his reflection in the water. Marriage can be overrated. And many couples I’ve known that dated and lived together for several years such as you have gotten married and then divorced within a couple/few years. Can’t really say why, except that marriage can be harder, feel more confining and thus create more tension and stress. Yes, it’s a romantic concept, and can deepen your commitment, but its no guarantee that it will actually keep you together forever, regardless of the vows. Cynical, but true. Again, why fix what ain’t broke?
3) If he’s commitment-phobic, you need to find this out, talk with him, dig deeper. If you can’t get him to talk at length about this thing that’s so important to you, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. You may want to see a couples counselor a couple times or talk with his friends if you can, to get a clearer view on this. If he is, then he may not be the right one to stay with.
4) “He wants to be in the right place in his life or something”? What is “something”—these could be code for saying that he’s satisfied to a great extent with you (he must be to be committed to you for 7 years) but a part of him is still holding out for someone better subconsciously. Very cynical, but possible. He wouldn’t want to tell you this—who would? That would be cruel. He might be open to greener grass down the road. Or, simply, he loves you enough to stay together for an undetermined length of time, and over that time he may decide to marry you, but for now wants to stay open to possibility. Once married, that’s more difficult because it’s hard to extricate yourselves through a divorce, if another he likes better does come along.
So what to do? Definitely you need to make the old pros and cons list. It works. Carefully and deeply consider whether its marriage itself you want no matter if it means leaving him to find a more willing mate, because you may never get this with him. Or do you feel insecure in this relationship only living together? Seven years is a strong indicator he’ll stay because many couples really don’t make it past 3 or 5 years. Marriage is not the recipe for security in a relationship. Things change regardless. I’ve known couples that have lived together happily for 15, 20 years. I’d consider carefully whether it’s him you really want (and you he really wants) before you put marriage above all else.
Conversely, you could try to push the issue, giving him an ultimatum. I hate ultimatums, but sometimes these work, I guess, if you feel the need to force the issue. Threaten to leave, ask for a separation for a couple months so you can each evaluate the value of it, and test the strength of it and desire in it. Consider the show Californication. While it’s a ridiculous show, there is some truth in the plot line that has a woman leaving a guy she was with for several years because she wanted to be married, to the point that she would marry someone she didn’t love as much. Then the ex suddenly wants to marry her. Voila! Push it a little, go away from him. See if that works, if you are that tired of this limbo-like situation, and if he seems too immature to you. Above all else, try to get him in a real talk about it: if you’ve been so close for so long, he should be able to give you some answers, not just brush you off.
Well, long answer, but not knowing enough of each of your mindset—I’m approaching this from all potential angles—you’ll find yourselves in one of these, hopefully. Good luck!