Columns Dec 18, 2013 at 4:00 am

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@98: Basic html tags for formatting.

To get bold type you type <b>bold type</b>
To get italic type you type <i>italic type</i>
There are a few others that work, but I forget which ones

To get < and > to show up in your text, like in the examples above, you type '& lt ;' and '& gt ;' without the spaces or quote marks.
@avast: Got it. Thanks!
I learned the italics trick a few months ago, and I probably over-use them, but I love knowing how.
@92 - I think you are describing the kind of marriage relationship I was trying to counsel rosysunbeam to avoid. Mine didn't look exactly like that (mule/tooth-pulling), but yah, constant reluctance is a red flag.

I on the gay == clean house. I didn't take Dan's comments that way; I took them to mean that they both had to pitch in as there were no easy gender stereotypes to fall into.

Speaking of stereotypes: that gay men are fastidious in all respects while straight men are slobs. I have an employee - a very nice young man, recently liberated from Christianist parents. He has come out, which is great, but has a serious case of grunge/funk - to the point that I'm trying to figure out how to let him know a greater degree of personal hygiene is in order in the workplace. So, I dunno, but there is one queer dood I will not be taking grooming/clothing advice from.
oops. Sorry. Wait, is this still bold? I can't turn it off!
Attempting to fix the bolding.
oh no the bolding can't be stopped we've created a monster
Sorry. You may now return to unbolded type.
Well, nocutename, you need to
turn them back off when you are done with them please.
I had it-- now it's back
@93: My college roommate went on to do post-doctoral work in health science statistics, which informed her decision to start trying for a kid in her late 20s. I very much hear you on that front. (She had married at 22 to someone who wanted kids, so it was a question of determining that they had enough ducks in a row to go for it.)

Based on your posts I'm going to alter my advice toward Nocute and Finch's position: Decide what you want, then talk to him about whether he's the person you can plan this with. New Year, new start, either with him or looking at how to disentangle your lives and find someone who can figure out how he feels about you after a reasonable (say one-to-two year) courting period. And take Carolyn Hax's advice about not moving in--it makes it that much harder to break up, so frustrated people like you stick around hoping one more year will do it, and reluctant people like your boyfriend stick around thinking maybe one more year will do it.
I'm trying but people keep posting before I can and then it undoes what I've done!
Lol! Always close your tags!

Hey, Tech-Savvy At-Risk Youth, other comment boards know how to clean up unclosed tag pairs. Just sayin'.
okay, I keep doing the /b in pointy brackets and when I preview, it looks un-bolded. Then I tell it to post the comment and when it shows up a few seconds later, it's still in bold. I don't know why.
Also, though, someone else has also posted in between. Maybe they've undid the bolding and my undo is redoing it?
This is the day for bold declarations.

Bold, I say!
I give up. Sorry for making everything sound so dramatic.

@101: "What's in it for him?"

A life partner, someone to plan a joint future with, someone to raise children with? If those are negatives, okay, he shouldn't get married. But don't ask your partner to hang around waiting for years on vague 'one day the universe will change me into someone who WANTS those things, if you're just patient enough for long enough' promises.
Still trying
Re the moms having an opinion: not ideal, but if you're thinking "well I can't propose because my mom thinks I SHOULD propose, so I won't" you shouldn't be getting married and your partner should be looking for a grown-up. That's one step away from "Every time you ask about the future, I move the possible proposal back six months."
still trying
still trying
@ 103 - I agree with you about the cultural conditioning, which I think is the big culprit here. But changing that isn't going to help the LW get her boyfriend to marry her. They'll both be grandparents by the time it's changed (whether together or with other people).

And part of the cultural conditioning about marriage is that it's a whole package, which is frightening to many. I think that's what her BF is going through: "Why can't I be with the girl I love without agreeing to this whole deal?" Even if it's what he wants, the fact that it all seems to come together at once may be just too much to take.

If, as you say Dan advocates, we start presenting and viewing marriage as an adventure between two people, an adventure that's also, when the time comes, a good way to bring children into this world and to slowly gain the stability that most people eventually come to the desire, then things will change. But in Western culture, that's not the case just yet.
Nocute, it worked. Unless it has unworked by the time this posts.

It's kind of fascinating that one person's tag can affect all future posts, like the butterfly effect. We are all connected...
Ok, I tried typing (/b) before the text, and (/b) after the text. I tried (b/) in case I had the order wrong.
In all cases I used < and > not ( and ).
I don't know why I can't turn off the bold.
Any other suggestions?
@122: He already has those things, since LW hasn't issued an ultimatum. He already has a partner he can plan a future with and raise children with, if or when he feels like it.

Right now, he's happy where he is, and has all the time in the world to decide if he wants to move forward, since she's so far indicated that she'll happily wait around indefinitely.

Right now, there's no cost to not moving forward, and moving forward carries some costs and no apparent benefit. So, why would he do it?
POPDAQ: My advice comes from experience.

I am 26 in NYC and have been with my partner for 3.5 years. He is 36.
Moved in together after year 1. (Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free? I can guarantee this would have been easier if we hadn't lived together, but also think living together is very important to get to know someone before you get engaged/married)

In the beginning of our relationship we had a discussion about how long it takes to know if the person you're with is "forever" material. His answer - one year, no longer than 2.

I see too many women in their late 20s/early 30s living with their boyfriends for 3-4-5-6etc. years, watching those baby making opportunities go down the drain as they wait for a ring that isn't coming. 3 years to me is enough time to really get to know someone - especially if you live together. So when anniversary 2 came and went, I asked him if he was comfortable with a cut-off and he said yes. I asked if 6 months was enough time for him to figure out if he wanted to get married - to me - or not, and he said that that was okay.

It wasn't about giving him an "ultimatum". It was about saying "This is what I want, this is what I'm going after in my life" and giving him the time to really figure out if he was going to jump on board. For me, proposing wasn't an option. I knew he wouldn't like it, and he would feel robbed of getting to propose, and I would feel robbed of getting proposed to.

He took the full 6 months but he did propose on our 3rd Anniversary. I have to say, now that he really made the decision our relationship is so much stronger. Now he's pushing for babies ASAP and I'm the one going - slow down bronco!

My decision was based on a number of things. I believed, from very early on, that he was my soulmate (or one of them because I hope more than one exists in the world). My partner had set a timeline early on (1-2 years to know) that I was calling him on. I was also so anxious about how things were going to turn out that I really needed the decision to be made, it wasn't a healthy level of anxiety to live with. Any lastly, at 26 I felt that if it didn't work out I'd have a year or two to get over it and would still be young enough to try to start over with someone else. I really didn't want to be one of those (AMAZING) NY women who have it all - looks, intelligence, career, personality - and still no ring.
@11 " now I think of it as an example of a woman who was unwilling to put up with something she didn't want, and a man who came to realize that if he wanted her, he was going to have to have her on her terms."

I need to tattoo this somewhere on my body. Brilliant.
This is just an observation. I don't mean I am yearning for a return to a culture of shame and coercion.

Until quite recently, there was a cultural/social taboo against women having sex before marriage. Of course, some women did have sex before/outside marriage, some because they were seduced or coerced, and some because they didn't care about the taboo all that much. But the cultural script said it didn't happen, that a girl you loved wouldn't let it happen. There was also a taboo against having a child and not being married. As with the other this affected women more strongly and harshly than it did men. So if a couple was having sex and wasn't married, and the woman got pregnant, the couple often married.

Now, thanks primarily to accessible, reliable birth control (especially when it is the woman's responsibility), and to changing cultural attitudes towards sex and women's sexuality, thanks to a shift in what is perceived as immorality (which I view as a good thing), all those conditions which sort of "forced" what would otherwise be a reluctant man into marriage are gone.

People didn't stay single for as long because the majority of them wanted the things that traditionally went with marriage: intimacy, proximity, a shared life, independence from their parents or a roommate, and sex, and those things were only possible (or only publicly acknowledged to be possible) within marriage.

This resulted in men being eager to "grow up." Now that they can have everything they want without being married, many men view marriage as all negative and no positive. There is a strong sense of renunciation and almost no sense of gaining something valuable or desirable from it.

Indeed, in this culture, what is in it for them? Why should a man want to marry?
Sorry, I think Dan is wrong about the proposal here. Not in general, but in this case. Had she been silently stewing, without saying anything to her boyfriend, then I'd have agreed: go ahead and propose yourself. But in effect, that's what she HAS done by asking him repeatedly if he's ready to get married. And he's answered: no, I'm not.

Now, it's possible that she's wrong about a holiday proposal and he told his mom "no shopping" because wants it to be a surprise. But if not, this guy's not ready and we know what the answer will be. All that's left is for her to decide if she can live with that for the time being.
I'm still trying to stop the boldness.
Stop it! Stop the boldness, I tell you!
POPDAQ's boyfriend has pretty clearly communicated that he does not want to get married. To her and others. So what is her proposing going to accomplish? He's just gonna say no. I don't think the issue is him being gun-shy or wishy washy, it appears he simply doesn't want to get married. If she wants that and he doesn't, the relationship should end.
Maybe someone at Savage Love is trying to send a message to POPDAQ about being bold in going for what you want. This is nice of you, Savage Love, but the message has been received.
@28, who I believe is the original LW:

You make reference to the fear of losing "the love of your life." If you honestly believe that this man is the one, the only sentient being on this earth with whom you will ever find a loving connection with, then keep him with you forever (on his terms, of course).

But if, like those of us who have loved, lost, loved again (and lost again, and loved again . . .) you realize that there is no such thing as a one and only true love, you might consider your quandary a bit differently. If this man can not provide you with what you want and need, it's okay to walk away. It will hurt. It will suck. You'll question it later. You'll beat yourself up. You'll consider going back. Then a friend will convince you to go for a night out with the girls. You'll have fun, and you'll do it again. Then one day you'll bump into someone new. You'll connect, you'll laugh, you'll fall in love. And he might be your new "love of your life." You are allowed to have more than one of those, oddly enough.
In may I issued a sort of ultimatum. I told him I can't see not being engaged by our 4th anniversary and he asked me if that was an ultimatum and I said, no it's more of a deadline, whatever I meant by that. He asked me if I would leave him and I said maybe, and that if he doesn't propose I'm going to become extremely unhappy.
Shoot! I almost had it!
RE: PODAQ...Maybe 2 years is too fast for this guy. But, not fast enough for her. Will asking emasculate him? No. But, it will put the control and pace of their relationship in her court. If she has to drag him kicking and screaming into the next phase that she wants, is he really a match? How many more times will she have to drag him into her reality versus their life. I say ask him. Determine if you both really do want the same things in life. Does your mental picture match his mental pic of happily ever after? Make a decision for yourself to stay or go POPDAQ.

should i have to re-evaluate my need to be married and do life-goal things with him with no marriage or lose the love of my life?

Um, maybe. Where is that need coming from? religious principles? need for cultural affirmation? because you want to have a ring and wedding? a true need for marriage's legal protections? an insecurity about whether you're both in it for life?

It's hard when you're in a really great relationship to resist the pull to want to get married. You have been conditioned to feel like it's what people like you do. You probably have friends and family wondering when it's going to happen. And there's always the "When Harry Met Sally" fear that him not wanting to get married really means that he just doesn't want to get married to you.

But hey, for the sake of your relationship, maybe you should try to resist it. Maybe there's really no need for you to be married to "do life-goal things." Or at least the life-goal things, like pregnancy, may cause the pieces to fall into place for him. If you are "already financially intertwined and work well in that way," then you can work out the details of buying a house together.

I just attended the wedding of a couple who had been together 41 years, but just got married in October, because as the bride said "we got old." Marriage didn't change the quality of their relationship, but merely affirmed the life they had shared. If this is someone you want to share your life with, start truly sharing it and stop waiting for some artificial stamp of approval that you think marriage will confer. If you're truly "all in," and you think he is too, then going through the ritual of a wedding won't change it. And if he's not all in yet, then forcing the issue runs the risk of damaging what you currently have while he still figures out what is necessary for him to feel that marriage is imperative.
This isn't good for my anxiety, btw.
does this work?
trying to end bold
I can't use HTML in an anonymous comment. Has a registered user already tried < / strong > without the spaces?
All right; I've tried everything, including taking two HTML tutorials, logging out of the Stranger and back in, turning my computer off and on again, and placing the command everywhere. None of it works. I don't know what is going on, but I apologize.
How about now?
I give up. It looks like it works when I preview the comment. Then I post it and all the bold is still there. I hope someone else can fix this.
boy! what a piece of shit Stephen Marche is, and idiots like himself are exactly why "the scientific community" only puts stock in "reputable, academic, research journals"

it's not persuasive writing doesn't have it's place, or that the shit that Dawkins writes isn't interesting, talk to any economist and they will tell you that their studies aren't about business, but the psychology on how and why people make decisions.

By far the best thing you can do is read that shit for what it is, erudite fuckwit grammarian nonsense that is intended to have an affect on you, if for nothing else than to buy some piece of shit paper.

Psychology is a powerful thing, and that is why it is important to know yourself, and to only invest time in those who know themselves and share your outlook on the importance of honesty. All this bullshit about having to know the right people and have the right connections --- fuck all that noise --- because they won't be back and it will all belong to better people in the long run.

Pop the question needs to sit down with BF, and have a heart to heart, because if they are honest, they can each figure out why it is so important to her (if it is) and why something that is so important to her isn't something he is willing to do (if it isn't)

As Americans we really tend to got caught up in some seriously out of whack priorities, and only when tragedy strikes do we realize what is really important, and that is what's really sad.

You two will figure it out, and although it feels like the end of the world if you do end up splitting up, that feeling is very normal.


To Jim SLD, yes it's cheating anytime you do something that your SO doesn't know of, esp when the only reason he doesn't know of it is because he wouldn't approve.

if you have to cheat, you would be doing yourself a favor if you figured out the reason you are lying to him, is it:

1) What you are doing isn't the problem, the problem is you need to stand up for yourself and tell the asshole you are lying to that the information he is requesting is private and he isn't close enough of a friend to know such details


2) You shouldn't be doing what you are doing, and whether or not it's the lying or seeing a prodome is for you to figure out

Don't feel bad though Jim, because 95% of all spousal relationships aren't the healthy and the saddest part is because people don't really understand what real intimacy is all about. If you have found someone that you can truly share your life with, and you lie to them, you are a fucking idiot.

Many of the things we have been taught are bad or wrong, are only wrong because we cannot be honest about it. Hopefully one day you can be honest about who you are and if your BF can't handle it, the quicker you move on to someone else the better.


I don't what to say to the last LW, but if you believe that idiot's view on what constitutes rape, I hope you snap out of it.

Because of the society we live in, most if not all of man's attempts to shame a woman about sex or her desires for it are wrong, and it is a shame he doesn't see that.

Rape is not defined by sex, rape is not respecting a person's autonomy over space that belongs to them and only them, in the case of sexual rape, that space is their body.

Rape is about power and control and using that power and control to invade that space against the owner's wishes.

Few males understand the concept of fear of not being able to stop a person from having sex with you, and unfortunately many (a significant percentage) of women have that fear because they are worried about it happening again.

If he blames you for the sex he had with you, he is a fucking jackass who is only worth saying with if he apologizes and gets help for whatever fucked up thing happened to him or for whatever reason he is such an idiot

I don't care if it pisses people off, a man is raped unless he is penetrated, otherwise is isn't rape, it is molestation, which can be just as devastating and sometimes even more damaging than being raped, but it isn't a pissing contest, it just the way crimes are defined

If that doesn't work for you all I highly suggest you ALL go fuck yourselves
this is for contestant #2 in Hong Kong; why not suggest that your boyfriend dress in drag and engage in domination play?
Dirtclustit, why are you so angry about everything?
Rosysunbeam, 142 has good advice.

Giving him the timeframe (4 years or you'll feel you have your answer) was the right move. The debate isn't all in your head, you're telling him what's going on. The universe doesn't create one ideal mate and then set you two on a collision course: it's busy with other things. There are many people out there with whom you could build a strong partnership, if you were both available to find each other.

@146: If you're truly "all in," and you think he is too, then going through the ritual of a wedding won't change it.
Which is why I always opt for the "get married already" default, if that is legally available to you and important to one or both. If one partner refuses what they claim is a small unimportant bureaucratic blip that would make no difference, just 'cause, then it does look a lot like the ButwhatifImeetsomeonebetter? blurt.

If something is truly of no importance to me, but it is important to my mate, then we do it. Duh. That's supposed to be an easy aspect of having a relationship with another person, of any form.

@158: It's going to be 3 posts before someone suggests, in jest or all seriousness, that they check their meds. Just roll on.
This isn't good for my anxiety, btw.

Anxiety? You're saying not bold enough? You need to be even more bold? Wow. I would've thought this was enough boldness for anybody.


(trying to help with turning off the bold)

@93 - if this is the guy you want to marry and have children with, talk to him about your concerns about genetic problems. Don't worry about keeping everything fun and sexy, they'll be his kids too. If he can't handle a serious discussion then he is not the person you want to be having kids with.
@161: Yes! More boldness all around.

@159 (IPJ): @146: If you're truly "all in," and you think he is too, then going through the ritual of a wedding won't change it.
Which is why I always opt for the "get married already" default, if that is legally available to you and important to one or both. If one partner refuses what they claim is a small unimportant bureaucratic blip that would make no difference, just 'cause, then it does look a lot like the ButwhatifImeetsomeonebetter? blurt.

If something is truly of no importance to me, but it is important to my mate, then we do it. Duh. That's supposed to be an easy aspect of having a relationship with another person, of any form.

Truer Words. Never Spoken.

@28 Hey rosysunbeam! Congratulations on inspiring me to actually register and post for the first time. :)

You really could be describing my husband in your original post and your elaboration in #28. He's a late bloomer, a man of epic patience, and generally slow to commit to or do, well, anything. He's also a complete gem who adores me and I adore him.

Our proposal process was…painful. I decided not to propose to him because I knew that it was important to him to do it himself. And that meant that it took for-freakin'-ever (to my less patient mind). I finally told him to get on with it before I totally lost my cool. Sort of took the charm out of it for both of us.

But it was also a really good (in retrospect) opportunity for us to look closely at patterns in our relationship--and our respective expectations around communication, timing of follow-through, etc. It's not the only instance where I've been waiting for him to do something and gradually building up a serious fume--and all the while he has every intention of following through, may even be working on it, but doesn't communicate that process with me or understand my different perception of time and urgency.

So, I did essentially demand that he get on with it, and while it's not the way I would have chosen to have the proposal happen, it's turned out okay. But it's turned out okay after we've worked really hard on recognizing the patterns of communication in our relationship.

My best advice for you: Sit down with him and talk very frankly about the pressures that are making this urgent for you. And (if you're anything like me) talk about the intense frustration for you in feeling powerless--that this crucial decision in your relationship is out of your control and that he's not collaborating on it with you as a partner. And ask him what he thinks of when he thinks of marriage--a discussion of what marriage means to each of you might help to establish that you really are (or aren't) on the same page.

Best of luck with your good slow-moving man! I hope that his slowness also manifests like my sweetie's does: in meticulous and thorough excellence in everything he does (including me).
@162: Also a good point. Rosysunbeam seems awfully concerned with not pushing him away. @143 she suggests that she is equivocating a lot. If you don't trust him to stick around if your conversation isn't "sexy," if you dodge and hedge and worry that you'll push him away with your desire for closer closeness (and to many people "that piece of paper" that marriage confers does make them feel closer and the relationship more solidified), then it sounds like it's because you fear that he doesn't really want to be married to you>, not if you make any demands at all, that is.

Well, then, there's your answer.
uh... isn't it possible that first letters' guy either just doesn't think engagement ring shopping is something a responsible adult about to propose should need his mommy with him for... OR that he doesn't want to go ring shopping because he already did?

@164: That this crucial decision in your relationship is out of your control and that he's not collaborating on it with you as a partner.
So true. I think that's where the various forms of ultimatums, mostly given to oneself, come in: feeling that you are going to give yourself some options beyond endlessly waiting on something out of your control helps immeasurably. For example, you stop coming across as desperate and start projecting at peace and determined.

@165: To many people "that piece of paper" that marriage confers does make them feel closer and the relationship more solidified.
Very true for us, and something we talked about with surprise on our wedding night, how it really did feel different--more solid, stronger--when we'd expected what we have now is what we have going forward.
@166: Yup, both those things are possible, and if that is the case, I hope that rosysunbeam aka PODAQ tells us all about it when he whips that sparkler out and gets down on one knee.
my very first disagreement with mr savage whom i adore:
he tells the girl to propose--to the guy that simply won't, DESPITE yearlong discussions on the matter--because he says he is not old enough. at 28. WRONG. i say this with all the conviction in my heart unnecessary to muster...IF THIS DUDE WANTED TO GET MARRIED HE WOULD PROPOSE TO YOU POPDAQ after 4 year relationship and a 2.5 year cohabitation. its super simple: tell him what you NEED/WANT and if he doesn't "come around" move on. no ultimatums necessary. either get comfortable with the goldie kurt long-term (notice i did not say lifetime) awesome companion thing or get out IF you need the a marriage license to validate your being, having a kid, family, a home. the female gender can be so pathetic...
Eudaemonic@130 re: 122. Thank you, that's exactly what I was trying to convey. Doesn't change the advice or what she needs to do, but if she can see things from his point of view a bit more (assuming it is his point of view, at least partly--I was taking on the hyperbolic Average Male role), it may make discussions a little more productive.

@146--"Stop waiting for some artificial stamp of approval you think marriage will confer." Yes. I used to think this too. Why is a ring so important? It's a ring. It's not a decision, day to day, year to year, to consider Life as something you both do together. It's just a symbol for that. And if you're already doing that but obsessing about an absent ring, you're sacrificing the substance of what you want in order to obtain its symbol.

And yet, being married (at least for me) was somehow different than just living together. So I don't know.

@nocutename--I agree that if we as a culture viewed marriage as an adventure that two people embarked on together, it would be a much easier sell, especially to men. And there is some truth to that view, or at least to the ones worth undertaking. But that cultural shift runs smack into the reality that frequency of sex often goes off a cliff after a few years of marriage. You'd have to fix that first, otherwise thinking happy thoughts about marriage is just papering over.
@LateBloomer, Actually, I think the frequency of sex often goes off a cliff after a couple has been together 3-5 years. That that happens to coincide with marriage (if the wedding takes place approximately 2.5 after the couple gets together) is an unfortunate coincidence. I believe it to be a case of correlation rather than causality, but I don't know if there is any hard data to support this. Of course, it doesn't do those in favor of marriages to reluctant partners any favor! And if a couple has been living together for enough time for the early-stage frequent sex to have leveled off then again, that can be seen as a sign that they aren't sexually compatible enough for marriage. Or one or both may assume that once married, the sex will resume at its earlier levels and will blame the failure of that to happen on the fact of the marriage or on some sort of bait-and-switch.

No, the only help for it is for couples to marry within six weeks of meeting each other. That way they get a few years of good married sex in, and the institution as a whole benefits from the good publicity.
Rosysunbeam, your BF is too young to get married. You need to move on and find an older man. For a guy, 28 is barely out of boyhood, and he's telling you he's not ready.

I dated a man his age who wasn't ready to be a father, though I was ready to be a mother. We broke up. He did not get married and have a child for another 15 years.

You've got plenty of time to meet a more available man. Stop freaking yourself out with statistics. Many women can get pregnant well into their 40s. Even if you don't want to wait that long, you still easily have 10 years.

I also have to agree with other posters who think it's ridiculous for women to wait for men to propose. As Dan said, people in same-sex relationships are freed of such utter nonsense. Do you really want to cling to such disempowering gender stereotypes? You are an adult and this is the 21st century.

Dan! I could have written PODAQ's letter 10 years ago, but guess what? I *did* propose. Want to know what happened? He shot me down. Twice. Can't describe how much it hurt. If he wasn't so great I would have dumped him in a heartbeat for yanking me around like that. Doesn't matter if it is a girl or guy doing it, that's not a nice thing to do. That said, we didn't get married until I was 31 and he was 37. Then I lost two pregnancies and we became dreadful "old" parents a month after my 35th birthday. Fact was we were both terrifed of getting married. We had very negative examples of and experiences with grown up relationships--and neither of us (even I who was anxious about becoming an "old parent") were prepared to get married or be parents. So what did I do? I waited but also made it clear I was going to call it off if we didn't get engaged by our fifth year together. He was worth it and I am damn proud and happy to be an "old parent." I am 500 times more together and patient than I was at 28, and it shows in our daughter who is happy, funny, smart and confident. Furthermore, my relationship with my hubby has become better and better over the years. I can't imagine falling deeper in love with someone over time, but here we are--14 years into our relationship and 9 years into our marriage, and we fill each other up with joy. So my advice is if he is awesome set limits, but be patient. Meanwhile, take good care of yourself (quit smoking, eat healthy, exercise, have an awesome social life) so you don't get "old" too fast. It can be totally worth it.
avast@102, the point is not to lever a proposal out of someone who doesn't want to propose. The point is to explore our compatibility, and our mutual interest in building a life together.

>> If I were on the receiving end of that I would take it as evidence that she wanted out >>

Just goes to show, yet again, that you and I are not compatible. Color me stunned.
I'm a 31 year old woman who recently proposed to my long-term formerly "meh" on marriage boyfriend. Wanted to get engaged, knew it wasn't important to him, asked for what I wanted... kaboom, engaged. Turns out he wasn't opposed to marriage, just the shitty expensive trappings of it ;)
I'm blown away by the good advice here. You all have made some really good points, raised some serious questions for me, and I'm really happy that I wrote in.

Thank you for taking the time to give me advice! <3
@173: I can't tell what you're trying to say. I mean, I'm glad that things worked out so well for you and your husband, but how patient should rosysunbeam be? How much rejection are you advocating her to put up with?
POPDAQ: girl, I feel you so much. I'm in a 9 year long proposal-less relationship (I'm 27, my boyfriend is 28). Well, we've only wanted to get married for the last 4 years of it, but still. I can tell you this much from my saga: the source of the proposal is not the problem. Dan has this all wrong. The problem, as Jack Sparrow says so eloquently, is not the problem, but your attitude about the problem.

For example, in my case it turned out that *I* am the source of my boyfriend's reservations. I'm in a transitional period in my life right now, and he's waiting to see me take some steps towards permanency (which I'm working on). I did once try to propose to him after he explained his reservations about getting married to me, but he said that instead of making him want to get married more, it made him feel trapped and helpless, like he wasn't being heard, and made him think of escaping. No good, no good.

In short, look inwards. If you can't find the solution there, ask him. This distress about not being married will only get worse, trust me. It has gotten to the point where I can't look at my friends' engagement photos or wedding pictures, or play with their babies without feeling an enormous sense of grief and heartache. But look: we have great lives, we have great boyfriends who obviously love us. If we're not married right away, it's not the end of the world. You said you wanted to have babies by the age of 35: YOU HAVE SEVEN YEARS. Enjoy your time with your boyfriend. Relish what you have. It can be hard to do when it seems like everyone is getting married but you, but just focus on the good stuff, and you'll realize that a proposal is not the crowning glory in your life.

He keeps asking me to be patient and tells me he does want what I want, but actions speak louder than words. I've been patient for a year already, and if I can manage to keep my shit together about it until July, that's a year and a half of patience. More than enough, in my opinion. But, I would prefer this relationship to work out rather than not, so I am semi-okay with being patient until July, but I'm already feeling resentful.

The powerlessness is part of what kills me. It feels like I have no control over this situation, which I am 50% of. I can either leave or be patient. I'm not a doormat, so I know I can't stay like this forever. I've laid my cards on the table- so I guess that is my 50% opinion, and now I'm just waiting.

I don't like thinking that he needs an incentive, like "what's in it for him." A partner who loves him, takes care of him, wants to build a family with him,.. Is that not enough for a man?

@melilia thank you!! <3

that's part of my plan moving forward in the next couple of months. i'm going to try to focus on myself and look inward. i'm a full time graduate student as well, so i really should be focused more on myself and my program i'm trying to get through.

i hope you get what you want out of your relationship and marriage if that's still what you want <3
Rosysunbeam: My advice to you would be to stop wondering what he wants and start doing things for yourself that you want.
Move out. You can still date him, but put yourself in a position where you can get a little distance. Focus on your grad program. Hang out with girlfriends. Don't wait for a proposal; get on with your life. Either he'll decide that he's ready (and you may not be) and propose, or he won't, but I agree that the powerlessness is the most disturbing part of the situation. You're handing all the power over your future life over to someone else, and I think you should reclaim it.

Good luck. I hope you get what you want.
Given how many American marriages end in divorce, it's surprising that society or at least the SLOG community hasn't gotten over moralizing about it and started to celebrate it as one of the best (potential) features of any marriage.

It is not the sign of a failed relationship that it doesn't end in (especially early or otherwise untimely) death.

Knowing that the state will assist in the dissolution of your partnership and the proper disposition of assets and responsibilities is a truly wonderful thing, especially if there is a good chance you'll want out.
I meant to add: You shouldn't want to feel that a proposal only comes--if it does--because you nagged someone into it. You should feel that the proposal happens because your partner wants to be married to you. Period.

I don't agree with the "what's in it for him?" mindset; I'm just pointing out that in the situation as it currently exists, that's where he is.
Rosysunbeam: Wording Nocute @181, and you @180, on the powerless part. That just destroys you, slowly, and you need to do what you can to right it. (Besides the better-for-your-psyche aspect, people who feel confident and at peace with themselves are a lot more attractive than those who feel powerless and frustrated and unwanted. And the sense of determination and control will spill over into other parts of your life.)

Don't worry anymore about THE BOLD nocutename, it's nice when someone shakes things up :)

Great posts (and feedback from rosysunbeam...

and the same applies - do SOMETHING shake things UP, but he needs to hear "No decision is NOT a decision. You have x time to make a decision. And I have a duty to me to move on if you can't/won't make a decision."

For your reluctant guy, as so many have said, what ever grown up is most of us have arrived -from left field or Toledo or anywhere - there whether that is really what we thought we wanted or not.

Upon realizing this, we have decided it doesn't suck and we're glad we got here with the right person.
I 'wasted' 7 years on someone who strung me along about marriage and children, and we broke up because he finally admitted he wanted neither. Sure enough 4 years later he's got a kid (though I think he and the mother are still not married so maybe he was honest about that part). I vowed never to waste my pretty and fertile years on someone like that again. I'm almost 2 years into the next relationship and I hope I'm not repeating history. I can see why this young lady feels stuck. I wouldn't really want to propose either, maybe I'm just old fashioned that way...probably to my detriment. :)
@rosysunbeam @179--you are viewing marriage through some serious rose-colored glasses. Your boyfriend may not. He may view it quite cynically. I'm not saying he's right. I'm saying you may want to take that into consideration. He may feel he's being steamrolled because he has this notion that marriage/weddings have to be a certain way, and he's not ready for that (again, not endorsing--just trying to be practical). If you can get at the heart of his reluctance, that's where you can start connecting, and maybe providing some reassurance, and allowing him some control over what form your marriage is going to take, if that's the issue. (That sort of conversation made a world of difference for me when it came time to talk about having kids.) For example, I don't have much patience with the expensive, bullshit trappings of weddings myself either, as per 175, and if that's his only problem, then that's easy to solve with a bit of flexibility on your part.

To quote you back at yourself: "A partner who loves her, takes care of her, wants to build a family with that not enough for a woman? Why does she need a ring and a proposal too?"

(Yes IPJ and NoCute, I'm listening. Just putting myself back into the head of a 28-year-old with a fear of commitment, and looking around for non-ultimatum solutions.)
Damn you, Dan! You told us not to look, but you knew I had to! Ewww!
@LateBloomer and those who advocate waiting it out or trying-to-hear-him-out-and-gently-convince-him that his fears about marriage are unfounded (not that I'm against hearing your partner's side of things):

The problem with these actions is that (again) they give all the power over two people's future lives to one person. When I suggested that rosysunbeam issue an ultimatum, back at #10, I didn't mean she should do so as a way to force his hand; I did so thinking that after she is clear to herself about what she wants and why she wants it, if she isn't getting it, she not keep putting herself in a position to be just passively waiting for someone else to decide her fate.

I said, in part: "if she identifies what is important to her and is willing to end this relationship if it isn't giving her what she wants, if she issues an ultimatum and is prepared to abide by it, she may either find that she has some leverage, or she is in a position to free herself up to meet someone who wants what she wants and when she wants it."

Your "non-ultimatum solutions" give all the control over that relationship and over two people's lives to one person.

I don't think a coerced proposal is any better; it's still one person essentially deciding for the both.
@187: If the children are off also on the "I feel one day I will wake up and want them, and then we can go ahead and do it" timescale, which it seems they are, then that's rather different from being ready to build a family with her. (Plus wanting the safeguards for your children given by a state-recognized marriage, which Dan has often listed regarding Terry and DJ if something were to happen to him, is a pretty rational baseline to have when evaluating your partner's commitment to caring for and protecting those future progeny. "It's less safe for the child, but I want it to be easy to leave if I want to" is not reassuring.)

And to take seriously "Why does she need a ring and a proposal too?": Because of what they symbolize, which is that you are in this for better or for worse, that the good times you've had together will be a rock to fall back on during the inevitable bad, that you aren't happy to keep him or her around as a convenient bf/gf while keeping options open in case someone better appears. "You aren't temporary to me" is something people reasonably want to be assured of before they agree to procreate with you. Or to quit their job and move across the country for you, as someone gave the example of upthread. There are no guarantees, but marriage is harder to undo and thus a symbol that you are serious about sticking around.

Damn you, Dan! By telling us not to look, you knew I had to. Ewww!
I am super lucky to have my hubby, so it is easy for me to say. But why would you want to settle for a guy who needs a push to get married? He'll also need one to help out with the kids, move for your job opportunity, take your side against his Mom's, ect. He's not that into you. Dtmfa and find one who dosn't need a "push" yuck, what a term.
@LateBloomer: I assume you're not married.
@193: Up at 170 he says he is and that it is substantially different from living together, even if all that changed was a vow and a ring and a piece of paper. He's trying to channel the doubtful lad of 28 afraid of commitment.
@AllisonM: He won't just need a "push" to "help out with the kids," he'll need one to have the kids.

LateBloomer: the attitudes you espouse in comments @101, 170 (with one exception), and 187, are the kinds of things that make me wonder if women who want to get married have to re-embrace the old, yucky "don't give him the milk for free if you want him ever to want to buy the cow" attitude. Which makes me despair, because I'd like to think we have moved past that. You take me back to my comment @135, about women withholding sex as a way to ensure that men have an incentive to marry. I don't see this as a step forward.

But then, this, from the same person who asked why the relationship as it stands isn't enough for rosysunbeam, why she has to have "a ring and a proposal too" @170: And yet, being married (at least for me) was somehow different than just living together. So I don't know. So you do know that marriage is different.

Are you just playing Devil's Advocate?
My Sad Boyfriend: You're over your head with this guy. You're also too young to be tied down to someone with baggage the size of New Jersey. He needs a therapist, not a girlfriend.
@194: Looks like our posts crossed! But for someone just trying to channel the typical 28-year-old straight male, LateBloomer seems to have a pretty cynical, negative view of women, brides, weddings, marriage, and parenthood, to judge by his comment @101.
@171 - the "sex dies with marriage" theme that worries men isn't just about mutual frequency dying around the time people get married. Consider most marriages result in children during the early years which will zap a woman's sex drive for years (YMMV disclaimer).

There are a lot of great reasons to get married and a lot of benefits to marriage, especially for men. But sex, which is such a huge part (sole focus?) of a man's pre-married life is a sacrafice.

Like Ricardo @83, I don't know a married man that would decribe marriage as the beginning of sexy fun times.
I am always horrified that there people making dramatic decisions about perfectly good relationships based solely on their burning need to produce more people.
@198: All those who weren't able to have sex with the woman until marriage would! All this is making a strong case for a return to earlier cultural norms and value systems.
If you couldn't have sex with a woman you loved until you two were married, and then had at least 9 months of sex any time you wanted it, you can bet your ass that men thought of marriage in its incipient form as the sexy fun times.
As long as men continue to act like getting married is tantamount to getting a bad case of the flu or being put in jail, women who want to be married will continue to think of marriage as something men need to be pushed into, coerced into, nagged into, manipulated into.

How incredibly fucking depressing.
@rosysunbeam...Please trust me when I tell you that you will lead a happier life if you marry a man who is excited by the thought of marrying you. If you must push and nudge him now, you will need to push and nudge him through most major decisions of your life. It really doesn't matter WHY, if he wanted to marry you, you would be engaged by now. Put the baby on the shelf for now. You should have that baby with a man that is excited about being your husband and the father of your children. Go and have a happy life!
@199: Why? Producing more people--aka having children--is a perfectly normal life goal. If everyone thought it was too much of a pain to bother the species would promptly die out, so excellent planning from evolution to instead make having children an appealing concept to most people.

It may not be to you, but the "omg there are people who want kids and make decisions actually based on that, how is that even a thing?" is just dumb.
Also, I can't believe how many people don't know enough not to google if you don't want to know.

I'm still scarred from a column years back that put together an adjective and a noun I NEVER imagined or wanted to know could go together. But I at least had the sense not to google it and find out exactly what it was.
To continue with my thought @201, Tim Horton, LateBloomer, Ricardo, rosysunbeam's boyfriend, and others: If women continue to approach marriage as something that they have to push or coerce or manipulate or trap their men into, then naturally the male response will be to refuse to be pushed, manipulated, coerced, trapped.

It's a vicious cycle.

I know there are men out there who don't think of marriage this way--hello, Married in MA--but this all feels so "battle of the sexes." It furthermore seems to give ammunition to all those who would really like to see society take a step backwards. Which is depressing as hell.

And suddenly I find myself--me--in the position of being a woman who is arguing that the sexual "revolution" didn't help women, but actually harmed them because it took away women's only leverage for getting what they want, which as everyone knows, is marriage, a house in the suburbs, and kids.


I need a drink now. Or to lie down in a dark room with a cool compress on my forehead.
@201 - It's not the flu or jail, but it's a tradeoff - sexual variety and/or satisfaction in exchange for a family and emotional security.

Its neither depressing nor irrational for a man who is 28 to want to delay that sacrafice as long as possible. His biological clock isn't ticking as fast. His timeframe is completely rational.

The fact that men and women place different values on sex and emotional security is not surprising. See e.g the amounts of sex and length of relationships gay, straight and lesbian couples have.

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