How Long Should You Stay With A Boyfriend Who Does Not Believe In Marriage?
Dear Evan,

First of all, I love your advice. In fact, it’s because of your advice that I’m in my first serious, long-term relationship. (We’ve been together a year and a half and live together.) Now, however, I’m confused about the state of my relationship.

See, ever since we started dating – even before we started dating and knew each other through friends – I knew this guy didn’t believe in marriage.

I know you’re going to say: “Why didn’t you pay attention to the negatives?” I can honestly say I didn’t realize at that point that it mattered to me. I’m fairly young (late 20s) and it is just beginning to dawn on me that I’d like to get married. Now I realize how much I do want to get married to the person I love. He still doesn’t believe in it. He believes in long-term commitment and family, but not marriage (his family history is pretty rocky). I said to him that I don’t want to wait, and if I weren’t engaged after a couple years together I would think of moving on.

This really hurts him – to him, BECAUSE I want to marry him and wouldn’t just want a relationship, it means I love him less. He’s offered the following compromise: in a few years, when we decide to have kids, then we can get married. I’m scared, though. Is it stupid to wait that long? And is it a bad idea to marry someone who is basically like “fine, fine, we can get married.” I know he loves me and is committed to me, but I wonder how healthy that is.

Now I feel that this big difference in values is constantly hanging over me, and is making me feel negatively about things.

For a point of reference: our relationship is pretty good. We rarely argue (I would say we’ve had about 3 large arguments in our relationship, and maybe a smaller disagreement every couple of weeks.) We both want kids. We both have our irritating habits but we accept them. -Katie

Dear Katie,

Thanks for your kind words. I’m thrilled that you found a serious, long-term relationship using my advice, and I’m candidly delighted that you even quoted the advice you ignored about “ignoring the positives and believing the negatives”.

It would be easy for me to tell you to run from him. But I’m not so positive that you would be closer to achieving your goal that way.

Except now the chickens are coming home to roost. Or something like that.

Listen, I can’t tell you anything about your relationship that you don’t already know.

I think it’s unfortunate that he has such a distorted view of marriage that he’s given up on it as an institution.

I think it’s great that you’re trying to understand where he’s coming from – how it hurts him that he feels that HE’S not enough without a ring on your finger.

I think it’s telling that he attempted to come up with a mutually agreeable compromise, especially since it’s one where, apparently, you get exactly what you’ve always wanted: a husband, a ring, and a baby

So you’re faced with the timeless dilemma that all women face – should I stay or should I go? This very question was the topic of an hour long FOCUS Coaching call so believe me, I’ve got a lot more to say about it than I can compress into a single blog post.

It would be easy for me to tell you to run from him. I’m sure some of the other readers will say just that. But I’m not so positive that you would be closer to achieving your goal that way. And what we’re always trying to figure out here is effective vs. ineffective – what’s the best way for Katie to achieve her dream of marriage and kids with a man she loves?

So here’s the reason I think you might want to stay and make things work:

As Dale Carnegie pointed out many years ago, people don’t want to be sold; people want to choose.

You meet a pushy car salesman who wants to give you a great deal and won’t let you off the lot until you buy…and you’re not gonna buy from him.

That same car salesman takes the time to ask you what you’re looking for in a car: speed, price, mileage, safety…and you WILL buy from him, because you’re getting to choose on your terms, without any pressure.

The way you have the greatest leverage over your man is if he can’t imagine his life without you.

This is what women routinely forget when they’re angling for marriage. The more you pressure him to know that he wants to spend every day of the rest of his life with you and give you half of his income if he’s wrong, the less he’s going to want to do it.

So your arbitrary timelines: six months, nine months, one year, a year and a half… they don’t mean anything to your boyfriend. They’re arbitrary ticking clocks that you’ve created to justify your insecurity about investing time in one man. If you push for marriage too soon, before he’s ready, you will not get married to him. The woman who does get married to him will be the one who is patient enough to let him choose her.

The way you have the greatest leverage over your man is if he can’t imagine his life without you. One and a half years into knowing my wife, I could easily imagine life without her. Three years in, and I would be a hopeless, lonely, drooling idiot without her.

Your age, Katie, is a considerable factor. If you invest two or three more happy years in your boyfriend and decide to have kids at age 32, then you will likely get everything you want.

If, for some reason, your live-in boyfriend of 4 1/2 years – a man who is virtually a common law husband – a man who says he loves you and wants to be a father someday – if, for some reason, he balks at marriage before kids, THEN you dump him.

However, unless your boyfriend is a liar, such behavior would be entirely illogical and inexplicable. And since he’s your boyfriend, I’m not counting on him being a liar.

I think he’s a good man who loves you, wants to be a dad, but wants to make sure he’s not making a huge mistake like so many others he knows.

Enjoy your relationship, become indispensable to him, and he will voluntarily want to lock you in for life when you’re both ready to have kids.

Remember, men act in their own self-interests and it’s in his self-interest to keep the woman he loves the most.

If I’m wrong, you would still be 32 and have your prime dating years ahead of you.

This woman and this woman gave their relationships 2-3 years to fully cement and ended up getting the marriage they always desired. It just took a little more patience.

If you think he’s “the one,” then I think it’s worth the risk. Good luck.