Columns Dec 18, 2013 at 4:00 am

Change Agent


@dirtclustit: why don't you learn us something about evolution seandr?

Ok, I'm imagining Evolution giving a corporate presentation to investors...

"So the male-female product line has admittedly been less successful than we'd hoped. Countless complaints, unsatisfied customers, cheating, spotty communication, political and economic upheaval, skyrocketing divorce rates, domestic violence, disappointing sex, and reproduction numbers that have failed to dazzle Wall Street.

Rest assured, we here at Evolution Inc have heard this feedback, and we have not been sitting idle. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to a new product line in our development pipeline - homosexuality! (That's an internal code name, by the way, our marketing people are working on something catchier.)

This builds on our earlier work with men and women, but now coupling happens within genders rather than across genders. It's a simple yet brilliant refinement that has done brilliantly in focus groups and beta testing. We still have some technical kinks to work out, most notably reproduction, but my engineers assure me we're only a few years away from solving that problem."

P.S. I think you spelled "dirt closet" wrong.
@308: Platypi or go home.
Glad to see you read all that, rosysunbeam. I scanned it, and it was exhausting. I wish the best for you!
@310 allisonM

:) if people I don't know are willing to go to the trouble to offer me advice, I'm willing to read it <3
I hope the LW and or Rosysunbeam knows the worst thing one could ever do is run with any of the advise here

POPDAQ needs to have several talks and do what she knows is will be right

yeah yeah, I know, I know seandr, I can spend my whole life doing anything --- wrong or right --- and no matter what I do or don't do, suck dick just once and for the rest of my life I always be a cock sucker

Homos are and every marginalized person or people who had the courage to be themselves are my heroes, they are everyone's hero, America's Hero, because Heaven would be hell if someone didn't have the courage to say "fuck you" I am given this gift and I am going to accept it, nobody --- not even death --- will prevent me from exercising my God Given Rights.

If Jesus asked me to, I'd suck dick, but until that day I will do my duty according to the freedoms and liberties I exercise, which means I don't shut up until the last hater recognizes his hatred and jealousy is not Love and it isn't welcome in my community, but every flaming walk of life that can distinguish hate from Love, Truth from lies, and Honesty from dishonesty is always welcome, even the arrogant-idiot-flawed-logic-monogamy-and-all-other-relationship-bashing-fuckwit-polyamorists and even the fundamentalists who we don't lose to the lake of fire wailing and gnashing their teeth, so long as they figure shit out, are all OK in my book...

God Bless US, Every One
(sometimes I just wish they'd shut the fuck up though)
I couldn't get the woody woodpecker laugh to show at the end…
POPDAQ: I am in an opposite-sex relationship, and I am not the penis-haver. I proposed. I am also not the only woman in my circle of friends to have done this.

Go ahead and propose. Then you can find out if the asking has been the barrier for him, or if there's something else going on. And if you can't make him be honest about his reasons, then that's an important signal you should heed.
POPDAQ, I am in an opposite-sex marriage, and I am not the penis-haver. I proposed. Now the penis-haver in my household who will not do anything I say is my 3-year-old son.

Go ahead and propose. If it isn't the act of asking that is making your BF balk, you'll find out quickly. If he isn't honest with you about his reservations so that you can come to a resolution, heed the signals.
Wait, my first post and I somehow double-posted? Noooooooooooo!
POPDAQ - I was in this position. In the end I proposed and he said no, because he "wasn't ready". He struggled to articulate exactly what it was, actually. We already had 1 child, and we were 30. His parents are still very happily married after many decades together, so it's not like he had had a bad experience with marriage before. And you know what, I wasn't devastated, because I knew it wasn't a reflection on how he felt about me, just how he felt about marriage. A year later, I asked him again and he said yes. I guess he had spent some more time properly thinking about it after the first proposal. We're very happy, and have been together 16 years now, married for 7, with 2 kids.

I think everyone here can be very ready to say DTMFA. Only you can decide what this really says about your relationship.

And 35 is for some women pretty late to be starting a family., especially if you want 2. I'm 40 now, and although some way from the menopause, have seen changes in my body in the last couple of years which I know mean that my fertility has plummeted. My rule of thumb was to have the first before 30, and the last before 35. I have seen so many friends leave it too late, and end up in sad situations. I'm a feminist in a successful career, but also a biologist and a realist.
POPDAQ - I was in this position. In the end I proposed and he said no, because he "wasn't ready". He struggled to articulate exactly what it was, actually. We already had 1 child, and we were 30. His parents are still very happily married after many decades together, so it's not like he had had a bad experience with marriage before. And you know what, I wasn't devastated, because I knew it wasn't a reflection on how he felt about me, just how he felt about marriage. A year later, I asked him again and he said yes. I guess he had spent some more time properly thinking about it after the first proposal. We're very happy, and have been together 16 years now, married for 7, with 2 kids.

I think everyone here can be very ready to say DTMFA. Only you can decide what this really says about your relationship.

And 35 is for some women pretty late to be starting a family., especially if you want 2. I'm 40 now, and although some way from the menopause, have seen changes in my body in the last couple of years which I know mean that my fertility has plummeted. My rule of thumb was to have the first before 30, and the last before 35. I have seen so many friends leave it too late, and end up in sad situations. I'm a feminist in a successful career, but also a biologist and a realist.
@ven and others who seem to doubt that it could possibly be important to men to do the proposing: there are some of guys with a sentimental streak who do want to do it the way they've seen in the movies. I'm pretty sure I'm dating one. Mine was a little sad that I told him I loved him first. Not upset, but he wished that he'd said it first because he thought it would've been more romantic or something.

As for why proposals have become such insanely choreographed affairs, my theory is that it has so much potential for traditional romance in a world in which sentimental, romantic people have few opportunities to do that kind of stuff without being ridiculed for being cheesy. Most of us don't have many other opportunities to act out the dramas of a 19th-century romance, for grand romantic gestures. And some people really WANT to make a grand romantic gesture, and if one's relationship is nearly devoid of conflict, the proposal is pretty much a man's only chance to make one.

If my boyfriend wasn't something of a hopeless romantic, I'd probably have proposed by now. I'm not in a hurry or anything (I'm awfully young), but I know I want to marry him. But this guy looks over my shoulder at fashion blogs and doesn't understand the point of wedding dresses that aren't poofy princess dresses. The man's favorite movies are all romantic comedies. Some men want to play prince just as much as some women want to play princess, and I don't intend to deprive him of that.

I think when many women say that "It's important to him that he makes the proposal," they're probably in the situation I'm in, in which I really don't care about the proposal part, but I'm pretty sure he does.
@Rosysunbeam As a fellow grad student who is adjusting to the few days of freedom for winter break before diving into a much-delayed lit review, I'm wondering how you balance your coursework, thesis, internship (if required), and learning just enough to function in a career once the safety net is taken away, along with family, a potential mother in law, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, and so much more. What you would do with the energy/anxiety about getting married/the state of your relationship if they were not priorities anymore?

Most of my grad peers married or were proposed to once their studies were over. A fellow mate got pregnant twice during her studies, turning what is normally a 2.5 year program into a much longer marathon. Depending on how long your program is, grad studies really brings out the worst and best in you. I don't know what side of myself will develop once I graduate and no longer have to formulate/incorporate theories into my practice. My boyfriend has only known me as a grad student.

I'm not saying anything for or against any actions/inactions. What I'm wondering is 1) how are you caring for yourself? & 2) is your boyfriend also a grad student? And is he taking care of himself, if he is?
@318 @320
As a fellow biologist, I thank you for validating me on the timeline. So many people condemn me for thinking about it like that, but I am probably too well-informed and do not want to end up in a sad fertility situation.

I really believe his reluctance has way more to do with him than it does about his feelings towards me. He also has some trouble really articulating what exactly the problem is besides he doesn't feel old enough and what would it really change.

It was only recently that the idea of proposing to him came to light. A friend suggested that and I was initially turned off by it, by reasons of social construction and gender roles, I'll admit. But- after reading all of these comments and Dan's post, it's something I am going to consider.

I'm not really sure if he cares about how the proposal happens or not. I know he is not into the hoopla of a wedding and all it's accoutrements and thinks it's a giant waste of money, which it really is.

Also- for mentioned that I am expecting the "gift" of a proposal for all I do. It's not like that at all. By that comment I meant more like all the pieces are in place. He knows what I'm capable of and not capable of as a partner and accepts me. If he knows me, loves me, thinks I'm a great partner than what is the problem, more what I meant.

My program is 2 years and I am insanely busy. I am also enjoying a few quiet days before I need to begin a lit review and begin putting together the design for my research project. I am caring for myself as best I can and my boyfriend helps a lot. I am usually the cook, but between take-out, the crock pot, and him cooking meals are being taken care of. My b/f has a job that he loves and he is very happy in it. He surfs a lot and I belong to a dance group that is a hugely time consuming hobby, but it's where my exercise comes from.

If I let go of the energy/anxiety I'm putting into this marriage stuff I would probably be a lot happier. I want to drop this for now, give him until July (like we discussed), focus on my project and coursework, perhaps propose to him if he hasn't by July and then go from there. I've been reflecting and noticed that I have really lost a lot of being in the moment and being in the present because I've been stressing over this.

I don't want to get pregs in grad school, and in fact went on the pill to make sure that would not happen. But I am going to be 30 when I graduate, so I would like to get engaged/married in the next year or so, so that after I graduate, settle into a career for about a year, then we can think about kids. I have expressed to him that this is my timeline and he agreed, believe it or not. But then nothing happens.

We got together during the last year of my bach degree and then had almost 2 years with me not as a student. I just completed my first semester of grad school and he is supportive and happy to help/pick up my slack while I study. I more mean that he knows what I'm like in and out of school.

You raise good points :) Thank you.
It seems like the comment software here will allow a lone opening bold tag, but will strip a lone closing bold tag. Too bad, now the bold is unstoppable (unless removed by an administrator I guess).
Sometimes I think about an unintended positive consequence of Facebook: the life-lessons it imparts to you, years later, about failed relationships you had when you were younger.

In my case, many a guy who said he couldn't see himself a dad who is now a clearly loving and devoted one (I remember more than one saying "I see myself more as a favorite uncle than a dad.") And then the ones who said that they just didn't see themselves marrying, like it was a state of being independent of the person they were with at the time. There's one guy in particular for whom I carried a torch during most of my 20s who gave speech after speech about not wanting children. He fell madly in love and was just as over-the-top anticipating his first child with his wife.

So, I'm going to go all pop culture to simplify this one. To quote Sex and the City, this guy's Light Isn't On Yet. Men, according to Miranda, are like cab drivers. One day their light goes on they are suddenly ready for all of the milestones of adult life with the next woman needing a ride. If you're with him when the light's off? Well, too bad for you.

Or, as someone else mentioned, When Harry Met Sally: "All this time, I've been saying that he didn't want to get married, but the truth is, he didn't want to marry me. He didn't love me." (How sad is it that I know that word for word? yeeeeeikes.)

And, ugh, He's Just Not that Into You: Mixed signals means no. Ambivalence means no. You need no more information than that.

Dan's suggestion to propose is spot-on because if his light's not on or he's just not that into you, at least you'll know for sure than continue to live in this limbo, or worse, continue to passive aggressively propose to him through continual pressure and badgering. To me, that route leads to both of you suffering years, if not decades, of resentment and loneliness made only that much worse by the arrival of children who will need more from you both than what you can give.

Fucking officially ask him already. And, for fuck's sake, leave his mother out of it.
POPDAQ, if your BF won't GTFU and marry you immediatel then it's time to DTMFA! You don't need an engagement period to prepare for marriage because you've already been living together for more than two years. If he won't grow up, don't make any idle threats or ultimatums - just move out and start looking for someone else with whom to share your life.

Since you are marriage minded, my advice to you is to never move in with anyone unless you are engaged. Note that I didn't tell you not to have sex - just don't live together without a commitment. I might also suggest that you put a two year limit on dating someone without a marriage commitment, I.e. an engagement!

Bottom line is you don't have time to waste. If your BF doesn't know you well enough to marry you after five years of being together, it's time to move on!
POPDAQ: so this is sounding really familiar to me now. I asked him recently, and he STILL can't articulate why he said no the first time, other than that "it was just a really big step". I think he was just giving it the thought that it really deserved. It IS a big step, and needs to be taken seriously. It was the rest of his life he was considering, and he wasn't going to just say Yes straight away, even if it meant upsetting me.

Here's the good news. Once he decided to commit, I knew he was in it 100%. 7 years later, he's still the guy to rant after a couple of drinks about how great marriage is (and I always jokingly remind him "and whose idea was it?"). We work together to keep our marriage strong, make sure we get time together apart from the kids.

I think that a guy who considers marriage as seriously as he did is in it for the long haul, and you want that, right?
@323 Maddy - I agree with what you said about men: One day their light is not on, then it is. All things being equal, I think men mature on lifetime commitment issues later than women (biological clock not ticking as loudly?). Usually men feel ready for marriage and kids about the time they star losing their hair :)

That being said, I am surprised that you and so many others (including Dan) think its a good idea to propose to him. Re-read the original letter - he has made it clear he doesn't feel ready.

Let's reverse the genders and back out the ages a bit. If a 28 year old man was writing in disappointed that his 24 year old girlfriend had indicated she would turn down a proposal because she didn't feel ready, would all y'all still feel it a good idea to propose anyway?

I still think it's best to let the reluctant guy know your plans include marriage and children sooner than later, with or without him. I don't see the need to blindside him with a proposal when you know the answer.
@323: I'm going to quibble with your third paragraph, because I think often (not always) the trigger for the light going on is a person. At which point those things they couldn't visualize with prior partners suddenly become desirable. In the annals of sad "why won't my partner of many years come around to marrying me?" letters, the person who is sticking it out patiently until the light comes on, at which point they intend to be ready to hand, is a familiar version. And when they eventually give up, and the very next person in the line-up gets the light? It's not a sign that they should have stuck out that extra six months and they'd now be engaged instead.

As for your fourth paragraph, it's not sad that you know that. That line perfectly sums up a truth about relationships, as now illustrated in your FB feed.
@326: Leaving aside the gender who proposes thing to ask if the 24 year old girlfriend "not feeling ready yet" is understandable, I think that depends heavily on how long they've been together. A year, sure, she might need more time. Four years? I'd want a clear idea of what other than mysterious internal shiftings needed to change for her to feel ready. (It's sort of a question of what she's been doing in those four years or so, out of her teens, that she feels unfinished. People don't get finished, we just keep changing. And the definition of mature here is not about 'willing to marry' but 'willing to own your decisions.' Just like there's a very short limit on how long 'my parents screwed me up' can work as an explanation.)

Presuming she isn't the sort of 24 year old who is asking her parents to bail her out of the consequences of her poor decisions--in which case she is too immature to get married, or do many other things, and that goes for 44 year olds too--but rather the sort who would never dream of telling her boss or friends or parents that they shouldn't give her any real power or responsibility because she was so young, her boyfriend deserves a straight answer. If they're both happy leaving things where they are for now, there's no problem. If he suspects that the reason her light hasn't gone off after four years together is that it isn't going off for him, he's entitled to consider moving on to someone who wants to get more serious sooner rather than possibly sometime a decade off in the future.
I'm weighing in late mostly because I think others have already hit the important points. Let me just add:

308, seandr-- Brilliant. For everyone who missed it, go back and read it. For those who missed the point, I'm going to spell it out in simple terms because this is too important to misunderstand. Evolution ONLY works on reproduction from one generation to the next. It doesn't have consciousness, but if it did, it wouldn't/can't concern itself with the broad sweep of history. It doesn't work like that. This fact often leads people to the conclusion that reproduction is the only thing people do or should think about. It doesn't work that way either. There are many individuals in every species that don't reproduce. That's normal. It's what natural selection works on. The real problem with comment 203 is the implied "what if everyone did that" argument. That's the one that says that if something isn't right for everyone, then it can't be right for a small subset. (I'm not suggesting that IPJ meant that. It's just that I feel a need to jump in whenever evolution is invoked, and that was the first mention of it this week.)

Since I'm here, I ought to say something to rosysunbeam. Out of all the commenters, I'd advise paying the most attention to Eudaemoniac. I'll add this. Consider the following outcomes to your dilemma:

1. You don't get a proposal from him. When you propose, you get another vague answer. He doesn't say yes and set a date. He doesn't say no. He tells you, again, not yet. You continue as you are in an excellent non-married relationship from here until the end of time. Are you okay with that?

2. You decide that you're never going to marry this guy so you extricate yourself from this relationship and look for the relationship/ marriage/ house/ kids that you do want. You don't find it. You never find a guy who you get along with half so well as the one you've got. You remain single the rest of your life. Are you okay with that?

Mind you, those aren't the only 2 possibilities. You could propose, get a yes, get those children, and live happily ever after. You could deliver an ultimatum and get your happily ever after that way. You could get married, have a kid, and have your boyfriend cheat on you or leave for some reason or another. You could leave him and find the perfect guy who wants to marry you within 6 months. One or the other of you could be stricken with a life-threatening disease. Life is full of possibilities, but like I said, just look at the above two. Really think about them. I think you'll discover what you want to do next when you've chosen which of those you prefer.
Another reason why I thinks it's best for the man to propose in general (and in this situation). Men will generally do whatever it takes to appease women in relationships. The last thing you want is an acceptance of a proposal because he was surprised by it and didn't want a negative emotional scene. This could drag out an engagement while he tries to figure a way out.…

As antiquated as the engagement ring is, it serves an important function. It makes the man take real steps to propose. Call it sober second thought, or as they used to say, putting your money where your mouth is.
@rosysunbeam/POPDAQ: I'm not sure what more I could offer. I already give him everything.

Yeah, that's what I was a little bit afraid of. With no carrots available, that means it's the stick or nothing. And we've seen what "nothing" gets, assuming he's not planning a holiday proposal (and if he is, please please pop back on here at some point to let us know, because that would be awesome).

Currently I'm his fake wife. I'm not sure what I could do different except take that away from him, but if that's the push it needs should I really be with him anyway?

Up to you; there's no "should" here. Lots of people have opinions on this that work for them--I do too, since I was almost in the same position as your boyfriend but for an unusual trigger event--but this one's really up to you. If the holidays come and go with no proposal, you'll need to decide if needing a push to get married is a dealbreaker. I don't think anyone can really help with that decision; it depends entirely on how much it matters to you, and we don't know that (and if you know that already, you're an exceptional person, because that's hard to figure out).

I want more than just his word that he is in this with me for better or worse and all those other vows. Before we do anything serious like having children I want an action proving that it's more than words to him. Words are easy- I need some actions.

Makes sense. If you've explained this to him and he doesn't get it, here's my guess as to why:

He's here everyday, loves me, takes care of me, treats me well.

Those probably look like actions to him. And they are actions. But if those aren't enough, you're well within your rights to say so--and to issue an ultimatum accordingly, or to leave; it doesn't have to be enough.

I also think he wants the things he tells me he wants, but to him it's much further away in his mind.

Yeah. You do have the power to make it less far-off in his mind, if you want to--by letting him know if not getting engaged soon is a dealbreaker. With actions. Right now, from his perspective, the significance of marriage is just words too, since you've mentioned it but haven't done anything about it. Your words are saying it's important, but your actions aren't, and the same is true for him--you're both talking the talk, and both doing nothing more.

It's true that marriage is also just words--being married doesn't guarantee it'll last forever--but that doesn't really matter; if it's important to you, it's important to you.

And for what it's worth? If he needs a push, and you supply one, he'll probably thank you for it eventually. Giving him the push he needs won't hurt him.
@329: My point at 203 was contra the derisive sentiment "It's so weird that there are people out there who actually, like, WANT (children/to feel part of a social group/to eat rich salty food)." Those are perfectly normal mundane things most people desire, evolutionary programming goes into all of them, and to treat wanting children like it's deserving of derision for being so far out of the box is beyond disingenuous. Kind of like someone who's a hermit laughing at people who are so unevolved they still get together with friends.
Empower Yourself POPDAQ,

Because in case you haven't noticed, there are a few people running around with ivy league debate team pamphlets, and if you are not careful, you might miss the fact that it's little more than the sales techniques taught to used car salesman.

Maybe that is where your communication problem happens?

If he is a controlling person, you might not be able to talk to him without a counselor, nobody should have to put up with that shit, it will drive you nuts

and Crinoline, that's NOT how evolution works, but it is how Dawkins thinks it does, and to his credit, so did Darwin, but the truth is the Darwin recognized it, he did not fully understand the truth of it nor did he have knowledge of the mechanics of it. Darwin in fact, was wrong about many aspects of evolution.

Just soes you know

be Strong Rosyssunbeam, don't get caught up in how anybody tells you it has to be

when it comes to chooses people you want to offer your love and life to share with them in an intimate relationship, you DO NOT NEED TO BE LOGICAL, you do not need any reason, it is perfectly OK to dump him today just because you feel like it

although it wouldn't be a very cool thing to do --- on a whim --- but you don't need to spell it out to a person who is not even making an effort to hear you, if he just likes to argue or just needs to be right, you don't have to marry him even if he does everything perfect and had the biggest Disney Princess wedding ever planned out, in fact, it is not unusual that in these situations the guy finally does snap out of his stupor,

but so does she, and sometimes once that happens there ain't nothing he can do about it, typically, though, that only happens when the SO is controlling in an unhealthy manner, and the partner finally recognizes it and says fuck that!
@329: Since I'm here, I ought to say something to rosysunbeam. Out of all the commenters, I'd advise paying the most attention to Eudaemoniac.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but rosysunbeam, it's probably better to ignore the parts where I'm just being obnoxious to the other obnoxious people. I'd also add that Crinoline doesn't mention: If you give him a push, the most likely outcome is that he proposes before (or on) the deadline, and you guys get married, and it works out as well as any other marriage.

The second most likely outcome is either that he realizes he doesn't want to get married to you--in which case he's already the wrong guy for you and the sooner you all figure that out the better--or you're faced with one of Crinoline's worst-case scenarios. I personally think that Crinoline very well illustrates that one of those failure modes is less failtastic than the other, but that's easy for me to say--since I'm not the one facing the reality of either.

The July deadline is a good idea, but you need to tell him about it after the holidays, if you haven't already. If he's thinking he has until next December, or until 2015, he needs to know he only has until July.

Put another way: Unless he takes a certain action, he's going to lose the woman he loves. Doesn't he deserve to know that?

You love him; if he were backing toward a cliff, you'd tell him. That's pretty much the situation he's in right now, so you should tell him.

@293: Different people have different priorities, and they're allowed to, but they're expected to communicate those clearly, rather than make vague promises they hope will get their partner to stop talking about the thing they don't want to do.

Here we go inventing evil motives for him again. He's said he feels too young for it. There's no reason to believe he's lying. None.

And, as I'm sure you're aware, humans are not born with infallible and conscious knowledge of their own priorities. Since I'm sure you're aware of this, it looks very strange for you to draw conclusions that would seem nonsensical to anyone who's aware of this.

@294: I am not going to go back and look over every comment made in this discussion, but off the top of my head, I can't think of a single DTMFA response to rosysunbeam's problem.

Do you understand that this is a choice you've made, and not an assessment of the thread? "I decline to read the posts that bash the boyfriend, and have decided to pretend they don't exist" is not proof that they don't exist.

But really, no one has bashed the boyfriend.

This is flatly untrue. It's hard to see how you can think this, since you mentioned my post at 275, which is replying to a post that does nothing but bash the boyfriend.

What is disturbing to me is how quickly, in the guise of channeling the typical 28-year-old man's presumed attitude, you, adz, and LateBloomer resort to using inflamatory language, accusing the women on this thread of displaying misandry.

Yes. It is indeed disturbing that most of the women on this thread are apparently unable to speculate about the motives of male humans without assuming malice. The fact that you think it's disturbing that we notice this is also disturbing. What, did you think we would think it was normal for all of you to assume the worst of us at every turn? That's messed up and creepy.

Now that we've all gotten nice and disturbed, note that you are now inventing accusations of misandry. Do a Ctrl+F for the word: the first time it appears is when you claim that other people have accused you of it. This is bizarre. I don't know why you're doing it.

Or is this like that thing people do in politics, when someone points out that their preferred policy would have disastrous consequences for people of color, and the first group shrieks "How dare you call me a racist!" as a red herring? It looks a lot like that, but usually you don't do that sort of crap.

Look at your comment @275.

I did. Did you? When you claimed, falsely, that nobody bashed the boyfriend, you seemed to be unaware of the existence of the post to which 275 replies. Or, worse, unaware that inflammatory language is still inflammatory when applied to men. I hope that's not what you've got going on, though I also don't understand what filter you're using that renders all of the boyfriend-bashing in this thread invisible to you.

It sounds like a cool filter to have, though; does it work the same way as the "Dirtclustit does not exist" filter that we're both happily using?

But if you think 275 is using inflammatory language toward women, you really, really need to stop using that filter. Marmer mentioned that he's a man, in his post in which he lies about possible motives.* It makes sense if your filter saw me being rude to Marmer, but kept you from reading Marmer's actual post, but it seems like that filter isn't really helping.

*I'm being generous and assuming he was lying, rather than assuming that he is so astonishingly stupid as to be unable to either imagine other possible motives or to read the posts in which people explained his other possible motives.

@297: I mention gay marriage because you seem to imply that the entire discussion is because silly women want marriage for all the wedding fluff and there's no other reason anyone would want to marry.

I implied none of those things. That thing you keep doing, where you read something, ignore it, and then make up some offensive implications and pretend those implications were what you read? Please stop doing that.

You started with the garbage flinging and the fake all-men-are-victims BS by the way. If you didn't imply that ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE ARE EVIL MONSTERS looking to subjugate poor men...

See that? Yes, that thing. Stop doing it. You can lie to me or you can lie about me, but doing both at once is is unpersuasive. Look, I'm sorry I damaged your internalized narrative and now your wounded sense of entitlement is freaking you out. I can't help you with it, though; you'll have to get over it on your own.
Eudaemonic: I'm only going to speak for myself, because I don't know whether other people mean to suggest the reluctant boyfriend is acting maliciously. I went back and looked at all my posts on this thread (a good third of them were attempts to stop the bolding), and in #79 I say:

@78 (IPJ): I think that there is a grey area between #s 1 and 2, and I don't think that people who feel #1 are being malicious whatsoever. I don't view #1s, in particular, as being assholes. I view #2s as being victims of a culture that tells men that they shouldn't want to be married until they're ready to give up on freedom and fun and life.

As far as #1s go, I am sympathetic. I mean, "I want to want what the other person wants but I just can't." "I love that person; but what if . . . and I want to be free to pursue it." "This is what love feels like, isn't it? Isn't it? Is it?" "What if I never meet someone better? What if I end up alone?" "Well, s/he really wants this, so I guess . . ." "How will I feel in 30 years?" "The sex is good, it's fine, and sex is overrated when it comes to what qualities make marriage work over the long haul, anyway." "I love him, but I'm not "in love" with him."

Two things to note in that comment: one is that I say I'm sympathetic to one of the possible interpretations we have been assigning to the bf: that he wants to keep his options open. I explicitly say I don't think this malicious. Later, LateBloomer said he considers it "shitty" behavior; I take a different view of it.

Which leads me to the second point I want you to note: If you'll look at my examples of what I think keeping one's options means, you'll see that I included a female "voice," because I think that both men and women feel this way, this sense of nagging unsurety, that once married, this is it, for life, and what if . . .
For what it's worth, celticknot,@89 (and a woman), understood that I meant reserving options non-maliciously.

~I address your point @135, siding with you.
~@201: I lament what I see as the depressing effects of both gender roles and gendered expectations/behaviors.

I made it very clear, repeatedly, that I welcome these kinds of discussions, that I am trying to learn more about male viewpoints, that I want to come to greater understanding, that I am grateful for the dialogue, for the male perspective. I start doing this explicitly @224, and continue it for several posts. I'll note that no men say they are grateful for hearing a female point of view.
~In post 258, I specifically refer to a point you made, about people not being reduced to their genders but should be taken as individuals, as "excellent."
~@269 I try as hard as I can to make it clear that I'm on a man-hating binge, that I want to try and bridge a gulf. You respond @272 by directing me to a site where your viewpoints are articulated.

In fact, the only comment I made which can be construed as male bashing, or rosysunbeam's boyfriend bashing is @231. I'll revisit it:

"@227: I don't disagree with anything you say in this post. My issue was with LB saying this @220: You're coming at it from the point of view that a guy who won't get married is reserving his options, which I'd never actually thought about and probably should. That would be shitty. But I'm coming at it from the point of view that such a guy may have all the commitment you'd need, but just doesn't want to be shoe-horned into a role ready-made for him, as if by becoming a husband you're joining those masses of disillusioned, balding, rumpled, sad old men you swore you would never become. Fighting the label is would be one small step toward doing things your own way, not society's way. Keeping a little bit of autonomy.

If I understand LateBloomer correctly (and I may not, especially if there's as much disconnect between the sexes as this thread suggests), he thinks that rosysunbeam's boyfriend's reluctance to get engaged stems from his refusal to conform to society's norms, but that he's making exactly the same de facto statement of commitment simply by living with her and saying that someday, sure, he'd like to be marred to her, when, you understand, he wakes up and decides that today is the day he really feels it. I think it is far more likely, given the very insight into the male mind that you have provided in your earlier posts, that he is trying to decide if he should settle for her, and gauging how hard he needs to grit his teeth.

Very different to my way of thinking.

And really? LateBloomer has never thought about the fact that a man who says, "I'm not ready to think about getting engaged," or "I don't want to get engaged/married" isn't trying to hedge his bets, to reserve his options? Yet he presumes to speak for the average unmarried het male? Has he seen no Judd Apatow movies? Has he listened to no hip hop music? Has he not taken even one shred of the cultural temperature?"

I was responding to comments made by Adz @225 and 227 and LateBloomer @101 and 220. And I while I can see how my comment could be construed to be an assault on men in general or rsb's bf in particular, that's not how it was meant. I was trying to point out that the male reluctance to be "tied down," articulated so nicely by both Tim Horton and Ricardo (please feel free to look up the numbers) earlier in the thread) are a very well-known cliché. They aren't my misandrist projection. They represent a common fear, one which I pointed out back @79, women share.

You started to get a pissy tone somewhere around post #260, and it escalates through #s 265, 274, and @279, you're getting pretty pissy tone-wise with a whole lot of people--not all of them women, to be sure.

You took issue with my post @294--that's what this long comment of mine is a response to.
#294 was my response to you @289, in which you say:
My point was that this doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your partner; it just means their priorities aren't exactly the same as yours. It doesn't mean he's immature, or selfish, or a motherfucker who needs to be dumped, or whatever other insults we've produced so far. It just means he's a different person from her; different people have different priorities, and they're allowed to.

I've gone back through the thread very carefully at this point, and the only time immaturity was brought up, it was to say that typically, men mature more slowly than women (so as an excuse, not an insult). Sometimes the notion of immaturity being invoked as an excuse was criticized, but it wasn't directed at rsb's bf specifically, and it wasn't ever used as a descriptor of him.
I can't be positive, but I don't remember the word "selfish" coming up (but I'm sure you'll find it, or berate me for not being willing to go through the thread word by word--and I don't know how to search a thread for a word). The concept has come up, in a roundabout way, and I suggested that obliquely that everybody is selfish to a degree and that I didn't think either partner of a couple has the right to make unilateral decisions about the couple which affect both people--but I agree with you that each person needs to look out for his or her own interests. If that is what you mean by being "selfish," then I'd say that the concept could far more frequently be applied to rsb throughout this thread, in a kind of self-empowering, do-what-you-have-to-to-get-control-over-your-own-life way. A few people have used the acronym DTMFA, but that's often Savage-shorthand for "you need to break up; you two are incompatible," and doesn't always or necessarily refer to someone deemed a true motherfucker. You know that by now. In short, I stand by the essence of what I said in 294: people are not piling on the bf; if anything, people are showing an unusual amount of even-handedness, given this commentariat.

To search a thread for a word: Ctrl-F.

Marmer @273 (boyfriend selfishly wants to keep options open); Eudaemonic @289 (boyfriend is not necessarily selfish); IPJ @ 293 (stringing people along to avoid confrontation is not unselfish).

Eudaemonic’s issue appears to be with Marmer, who posted exactly once and has a wife (which Eudaemonic interprets as meaning Marmer is a man).
Thank you, Alison Cummins.
Yes, I noticed that Eudaemonic had an issue with Marmer, and you're correct that Marmer hasn't identified him/herself as male or female.
But he really guns for me @334, and I've been trying to be conciliatory throughout.
Well, dang! I wrote this @336: "~@269 I try as hard as I can to make it clear that I'm on a man-hating binge, that I want to try and bridge a gulf."

I meant to write this: "~@269 I try as hard as I can to make it clear that I'm NOT on a man-hating binge . . ."

Please don't take the proofreading error as a Freudian slip.

Re: Stuck bold: If you look at the page source you can see that the original mistake was forgetting the slash in the second command. While trying to fix it, Nocutename did the on command several times and there weren't enough off commands afterwards to get out of the nesting... I think. If this isn't in bold, that was it. Lone bold-off commands are not removed by the comment software.

Well, damn. That doesn't work.

Did this?
Nope. But thanks for trying. I have tried, but can't get back to the original post to edit, which is where I guess the problem could be corrected. If you could tell me how to do that . . .
I keep waiting for an administrator to fix the problem, but perhaps it can't be fixed. I think we'll have to wait it out until next week's Savage Love.
Does this do anything?

How about this?
Still bold or not?

Does the style tag fix the bold problem? There are some more extreme things I could try, but I might break the whole page and get an administrator's boot up my butt.

How about div?

Testing for bold text.
Testing for strong text.
Apparently it depends on the browser. I saw the bold problem yesterday in IE8 but it disappeared after an hour or so. I didn’t see it yesterday on my iPad and I’m not seeing it now in IE8.
Well, damn. I guess I'm done.
Well, damn. I'm out of ideas. Be careful with your tags, people.
@ rosysunbeam/POPDAQ:

If you missed it, go back and read DCKathy's post @ 270. Regardless of whether or not you stay with him, it is time to begin untangling yourself. Then, if it becomes clear that it is time to go, you will be able to do so more easily. It's time to start looking out for your own best interests and if this doesn't go the way you want it to (which seems likely) then the last thing you want is to have to deal with the logistics of the breakup at the same time you are having to deal with the emotional fallout.

I'd also like to add that you're absolutely right to want to get married before you have kids. As Dan has said over and over, when marriage really matters is when the shit hits the fan. If remaining single-on-paper is more important to your boyfriend than taking simple legal step necessary to protect himself, to protect you, and to protect any children you may have together, he is not the sort of person you should start a family with anyway.

(Couldn't resist trying to play with the bold.)
(Unsuccessfully, as was expected.) x_x
@ nocute:

Eudaemonic: I'm only going to speak for myself, because I don't know whether other people mean to suggest the reluctant boyfriend is acting maliciously.

I know. In case it helps, when I say "many of the women in this thread," or "the people in this thread," or "people," or "we," I don't mean "you and only you." Similarly, when you said "no one has bashed the boyfriend," I did not take it to mean "I have not personally bashed the boyfriend," hence my confusion. Because lots of people have bashed the boyfriend. Marmer might have been the most egregious (I continue to be right there with you in pretending Dirtclustit doesn't exist), but it's been a popular pastime in these last few days.

If you'd said "I have not personally bashed the boyfriend," I'd have responded very differently than I did to the assertion that no one has. I assume you understand why.

But that part about malice? It isn't very important to me whether the other commenters "meant" to be describing the boyfriend as malicious-by-default; choices matter, in case you're wondering, I'm familiar with the phrase "intent isn't magic."

A few people have used the acronym DTMFA, but that's often Savage-shorthand for "you need to break up; you two are incompatible," and doesn't always or necessarily refer to someone deemed a true motherfucker.

I also notice that when they use DTMFA as a shorthand for "you're not incompatible, but nobody's a motherfucker," people tend to follow the acronym with a phrase like "But he's not a motherfucker, you're just incompatible." In this thread, by contrast, people decided not to add the line that says even though they're calling him a motherfucker, they don't mean to call him a motherfucker.

@ Alison Cummings Eudaemonic’s issue appears to be with Marmer, who posted exactly once and has a wife (which Eudaemonic interprets as meaning Marmer is a man).

Oops, good catch. I'm using filters too, and one of mine is to assume the best possible motive for people. If Marmer's a man, he's following very common cultural conditioning, in exactly the manner men commonly follow it (if you don't know what I mean, I'll fill you in on it). While if Marmer's a woman, she's demonstrating a belief that men are subhuman monsters who are incapable of the full human range of motives. Therefore, I assumed Marmer's a man; the possibility of instead assuming that she could be a psychotic bigot didn't even consciously occur to me. But I'll grant you that it's not impossible, I guess?

But my issue isn't with marmer, specifically. I voiced my frustration with two cultural dynamics that acts to silence any honest conversation about gender; immediately, marmer and puddles decided to demonstrate exactly what I was talking about, without even a hint of self awareness. It's frustrating.

If you've written a post about slut-shaming and the problems with it, and immediately two posters--in a space that's usually more sensible--responded with "what a slut! I hate sluts! All women are sluts!" then you probably know just what I'm talking about.

@Nocute, 337-8: But he really guns for me @334, and I've been trying to be conciliatory throughout.

I didn't mean to be gunning for you personally--it occurs to me that you might have taken more of 334 to be directed at you than was; as such, I've started using names instead of just post numbers in my replies--I was acting out of frustration that you seemed to be repeatedly saying "Nobody said [X]!" while replying to a post in which I quoted somebody saying [X].

But intent isn't the only thing that matters, so... I'm sorry it came off that way.

I meant to write this: "~@269 I try as hard as I can to make it clear that I'm NOT on a man-hating binge . . ."

Please don't take the proofreading error as a Freudian slip.

Lol. No worries, I took that to mean you felt you were on a man-hating binge, and were attempting to get off of it via increased understanding. Been there.

I couldn't read all the comments (geez!!) but I disagree with almost everyone here.
I have some guy friends that were with their girlfriends for years throughout their 20s and got engaged around 30/31. I actually think MANY men feel that way nowadays - 28 is young!!
My advice? You've been together for 3.5 years. Keep talking about getting married, send him links of rings you like, etc. Dump him if he hasn't proposed by your 5th anniversary.

Guess what - being a mom at 32 is way better than being one at 29. And maybe you never should have moved in with him... I told my guy I don't co-habitate without engagement, and that ring came within 6 months.

Side note: Dan, wow, you are off this week.
Although there's nothing wrong with a woman proposing marriage to a man, they've already discussed it and it seems clear he's not interested. Maybe for her own sanity, she should propose so that she can finally hear a clear "no" and feel better about dumping him and moving on. But I wouldn't get her hopes up for anything else.
Propose! I was in the exact same situation (same age, but we'd been dating for 5 years). I popped the question, and he was thrilled. He said he would have done it eventually. But it was more important to me than to him to get married. You can't expect your partner to have the exact same desire as you do, and you shouldn't badger him into acting on those desires (that he barely has). It doesn't mean that he doesn't reallllly love you-- it simply means what he's already told you: marriage is just not that big of a concern for him. It is to you (and it was to me), for seemingly good reasons. So just do it. (Bonus: you get to feel morally superior to people who badger their boyfriend into proposing, i.e. 97% of contemporary proposals).
@86, men really shouldn't whine about how wives expect husbands to give up other women because husbands also expect their wives to give up other men. You don't think husbands can be possessive and jealous? I am so sick of men assuming that they are the only ones giving something up in a monogamous relationship. You don't think wives like to look at other men? Really? In this day and age, are men really this naive? The rate of cheating is now about the same for men and women, you know.
@350 Being a mom at 32 is way better than being one at 29.
Did you have kids at 29 and 32 to compare?

I had kids at 27 and 33, and it was different--spouse on grad school salary vs spouse with professional salary, city vs suburb, apartment with weird neighbor vs suburban house with buffer space and yard, two to juggle vs one, space for a playroom, dog--but the second wasn't "better." The obvious difference I can point to in "better" is that it took one try to get pregnant with the older and 2.5 years with the younger. And a third pregnancy took another 2 years and medical help and ended in a miscarriage, and another year of trying, still with medical intervention, didn't work. At which point I couldn't take it any more, concluded that waiting on adoption had the same emotional up-down as infertility and I had two great kids, and I stopped.

That doesn't happen to everyone, and if anyone's not yet ready--not having a great co-parent, for example--I'll go with "likely you can get pregnant through your 30s, most people can, the odds are probably in your favor. But if you want to be a parent and are a grown-up and have a committed co-parent and can afford a kid, don't sit around waiting for the magical time of perfection to descend upon you.
A few disconnected thoughts:

By saying he felt like he raped himself by having sex with her, MSB's boyfriend probably meant it was unpleasant for him and he forced himself to do it in order to conform to cultural expectations. He's severely sexually repressed and, as Dan said, he desperately needs sex therapy.

I've long felt that a better alternative to marriage is for the couple to stay together exactly as long as they both want to. Men fear the bait-and-switch. You make a legal commitment and then she puts on 200 pounds and decides she doesn't like sex anymore. Most guys have a pretty strong sense that if they suggest a weight-gain clause in the marriage contract, it won't go over very well, so they delay and avoid talk of marriage.

Just because the law favors married couples, that's no reason to conform, give-in, and submit to the will of those who write the laws (who, by the way, most people believe are corrupt scumbags). It isn't immature to refuse to capitulate to social pressure; it's quite the opposite.

A reason someone may be reluctant to get married not yet mentioned here is the religious character of it.
@355 (Allen Gilliam): Just because the law favors married couples, that's no reason to conform, give-in, and submit to the will of those who write the laws (who, by the way, most people believe are corrupt scumbags). It isn't immature to refuse to capitulate to social pressure; it's quite the opposite.
A reason someone may be reluctant to get married not yet mentioned here is the religious character of it.

Yes, these are possible reasons to resist marriage (I could quibble with you about why, whether you take issue with the "corrupt scumbags" who wrote the laws or not, it is still in your interest for more than mere "social pressure" to be legally married, but I'm too tired to get into another prolonged argument here) that rsb's bf might have. But if that were the case, don't you think, given how much he knows she wants to be married and how hard she's pushing for it, he would give them to her by way of explanation? Obviously, if he's worried that she's going to become less attractive to him that would be harder to say, though he could address the issue of the fear of her losing interest in sex. That doesn't come with the issuance of a marriage license, though, so if that is always the case, then he would likely want to back out of the relationship altogether once the sex falls off, and then have a series of relationship, each lasting between 3 and 7 years.

The fact is, neither these, nor any other reasons were given; instead a kind of equivocation was offered.

To all those saying "Propose!" I'm not sure what rosysunbeam would have to do for you to consider it a proposal. Should she go down on one knee? Whip out a box with a gift? Enlist a lot of her friends to form a flashmob, hold up flash card-style signs, videotape the whole thing and then post it to YouTube? Rent out a baseball stadium and propose over the Jumbotron? Do you think that any of that would make his response any different?
She has proposed, by telling him she wants to be married to him. That's a proposal of marriage. He has turned her down with a "not yet; I don't know when I'll say yes" answer. Are you just suggesting that she say "will you marry me?" Given what she said in her original letter and in every followup post, what makes you think that will get a different response or that it will made her feelings more definitively known?

Many "proposals" don't include the man kneeling before the woman, holding out a ring in a velvet jewelry box and uttering the phrase, will you marry me? Do you not count the plans couples make to get married as legitimate if that scenario didn't happen?
This the first time since my last post I've been able to get through here.

Ms Cute, I'm glad for the clarification. I thought your post "hoping" BF was planning a holiday proposal with sparkler and bent knee was a little too cheerleader-like, but I was posting as much as I could in a hurry before my connection fizzled out, and the bold seemed to make it seem more sincere, somehow. Maybe it was the stone. I actually started a long post yesterday that was not finished in time for my connection.

I accept LW's testimony that she is not holding out for a Proposal (I suggest we use both capitalized and uncapitalized to distinguish the Fairy Tale sort), but I don't think she herself quite regards her conduct as the proposal you mention in 356. Where you seem to underrate Mr Savage's response to this letter is that he does a good deal to blow apart the, "But he won't proPOSE!!!" whine, which I hold to be a sort of cousin to the sort of Princess behaviour that implies only a Youtube-worthy Proposal will be acceptable. I accept that LW did not represent herself to best advantage, and that she would be MUCH better off coming around to your way of thinking.

I did not have sufficient opportunity to make a point of disagreeing with Ms Erica's statement that a defining characteristic of a proposal is that acceptance is a foregone conclusion. I hold it as exactly the opposite (you seem to be on the same page), that the real proposal occurs when there is an element of doubt. The foregone-conclusion proposals are just LMB-inducing exercises in excess. But I am glad to know from Ms Erica that sapphires are acceptable stones [nothing from anyone about conflict free diamonds, please; I shan't engage it]; it would be hard on anyone well-read in detection stories in youth to give up jewels entirely.
@355: Staying together exactly as long as they both want to, then ditching each other easily, is an option people have right now. In the early days of dating, it's wise to abide by it. People who want that as an indefinite model are free to seek each other out.

But before moving, merging finances, altering one's career, agreeing to be tied down to raising a child for the next two decades, etc, some people do want more guarantee than "after we move, if my new assistant is hotter than you I expect you and the kid to move out." A willingness to agree to legal strictures that make that more difficult (not impossible) suggests that a partner has weighed the future and decided you are worth it.

Plus many people like the stability of for better or for worse partnership. Stable long-term family units, including childfree ones, is something Dan often cites as a reason conservatives should embrace same-sex marriage.
Ms Rubia - I accept your account of your situation because you provide supporting evidence. I entirely accept that there are such men, however enormous the LMB in response to his being so upset that you made the first declaration.

I shall pay you the compliment of assuming that he has numerous redeeming qualities. I pay you this compliment because you have reached a state of understanding of your partner's view of gender roles that far exceeds that of most people when they marry, which merits kudos. Most opposite-sexers are not entirely quick to challenge common assumptions that benefit them.

I don't believe any of the other women, however, who claimed that they deliberately refrained from proposing "as an indulgence to him" provided the same supporting evidence. While I do not think it impossible or even highly implausible that they should have been speaking the truth, one would be a pretty poor cross-examiner to accept unsubstantiated testimony that a woman given one of the biggest Princess Rewards in the calendar really didn't care a toss for the Proposal or would have been every bit as happy to marry if she had been the one to buy the stone that cost him more than a new car, but only accepted the Princess Reward for the sake of indulging His Inner Prince. Given that honest acknowledgment of one's Princess tendencies is no longer coddled, such unsubstantiated posturing causes a raised eyebrow.

As for how common it is, I perhaps might choose not to risk direct cross-examination on the point. I'd probably let such testimony go unchallenged and then make pointed comments about how convenient it was in Closing Arguments.
Two things.

1. I hope we're livin' the bold life forever. Hat tip @208

2. Canada just legalized prostitution. That is all. Just here to gloat.
I was about to write in my own story of how I proposed at age 31 after more than 5 years of dating.

But then I read @360, point #2. Final straw, I am moving back to Canada. Preferably on the next WestJet flight.
I experienced the reverse of the proposal issue. We'd been living together happily for several years, and I was wholly committed to the relationship for life. My significant other kept proposing and I kept saying things like "What for?" "Why pay a lot of money for one day when it won't change anything about how I feel?"

Eventually, I realized that while the institution of marriage didn't mean much to me, as I felt my internal commitment was strong, having that external commitment was very important to my partner. So I caved in and we got engaged and then married.

Being married DID feel different as having that commitment out there in public instead of held privately in my heart was a whole new, wonderful feeling.

Then twelve years of happy marriage and two kids later, my spouse cheats on me, and when I figure this out, tells me that pressuring me for marriage was actually done out of fear that I could do better than them while they would never do better than me, has been unhappy for years and never said anything, but now they've unexpectedly found someone better than me, so tough luck!

So what I'm saying is, marriage is not something magical that will cement a happy relationship into perfection.

And what it sounds like you have there is a guy who is resisting growing up with all he's got. To him, marriage means taking that final step into boring adulthood, and he doesn't want that. If you don't want to wait around for him to finish maturing, then move on and look for someone who's already there. Otherwise, you're just going to have to be patient until he has that epiphany that adulthood is not an on-off switch.

You could maybe help that along by talking about post-marriage plans that do not involve jumping into parenthood immediately. If you're saying things like "I'm not going to have children till we're married" it may be the children part he's resisting, not so much the marriage part.
@Tim Horton: Ha!
re: proposal.
My 30ish niece proposed to her boyfriend of 15 years last year. The wedding was a month ago.
So far all I have to say is; eloping and prenups exist for a reason. If you don't want a pageant, you don't need one. If your partner needs one, then obviously you need to hash things out, but that's no reason to let things turn into a bridezilla episode. As for me, I'd rather marry a man I loved in a McDonalds with a mood ring than an "anyone" in some Disney like production.

As for a push; she already stated that this was important to her moving forward in her life. Incentive is great for taking out the trash or mowing the lawn, not so much big life decisions. If he needs "incentive" to take her emotions and their future together seriously then that just isn't very fucking attractive in a long term partner. It makes me feel like my partner is pushing me into the role of his mother, which I have zero interest in. If he needs time to revaluate his life, their shared goals, their relationship and etc then that's absolutely understandable. Or even time to just prepare himself emotionally for that level of responsibility.

And actually, today I totally envy the same sexers.
Mr. Ven @357, I was just saying @22 that generally, het men don't go out and buy expensive rings and put themselves at risk of humiliation without a pretty good idea that their proposal is going to be welcomed and they won't be humiliated.

The proposal ritual is a way to make both people feel they chose to enter the marriage. As Tim said @330, "The last thing you want is [a man accepting] a proposal because he was surprised by it and didn't want a negative emotional scene."

That's why it's socially useful to have the impatient-to-get-married woman wait until the guy decides he does want to ask her. (Assuming she's willing to wait that long.)

And, yes, all of that assumes traditional gender roles. One other benefit of the man proposing is that it's a signal that he's willing to play by traditional gender roles. And that's probably part of what's going on with the women who say "Oh, I didn't propose because I knew he would be upset if I took that away from him."

If she's going to want him to be understanding of her limited earning potential while she's raising their children (for instance), and if she's going to expect him to lift more than his share of heavy boxes, then the proposal is a first place for them to see if they have compatible views of gender roles.
LW 1: You are not a match, at least in the sense that you are ready to start a family. You've been dating 3.5 years. How long do you see your engagement lasting? I don't see a quick wedding, probably 6-12 months. How long after that do you think he'll be "ready to start a family?" It's gonna be a while. He's ambivalent now just to get married. If you go at him like you're going on in this letter I'd have run by now! You sound like you want him for his sperm, not for him. I don't see a problem with you proposing but remember, the engagement is only the first step. You are coming across as one of those brides that is so worried about the wedding that you forget about the marriage. Good luck!
Given the strength of socio-cultural conditioning, I think it's hard to know to what degree wanting, or not wanting, things like marriage, a house and kids (in that order) is intrinsic to oneself, and to what degree it's the product of cultural conditioning. The SL comment community tends to privilege the intrinsic, and scoff at s-c conditioning, for obvious reasons.

Also, life does not always turn out the way you want or expect it to. And that is not always a Bad Thing. Someone who makes a proposal and participates in a wedding may be more likely to be in the relationship for the long haul, but who's to say how long that haul will be? On the other hand, I can totally understand the desire to have upfront legal protections for children, and depending on jurisdiction, clearer/fairer rules for property division, etc., that come with legal marriage.

On the topic of gender roles, one thing I very much enjoyed about my same-sex relationships was the freedom from those roles from Day One. No need to deconstruct anything. That enjoyment was counter-balanced, however, by having to deal with heterosexism.

On the topic of having children, well, I am now the approaching-50-year-old single mother by choice of an adopted child. It's not the way I would originally have chosen to have and raise children. And I would certainly appreciate having a partner in this particular crime. But although I'm parenting a high-needs child under difficult circumstances, it's also one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life - and I've been fortunate to be able to do a lot of rewarding things. So don't nobody be feeling too sorry for me, thanks.
Ms Erica - My model for the Foregone Conclusion Proposal was quite specific. I was acquainted with a woman who on one occasion in October was telling a friend about her daughter's plans for her wedding the following year, and some of what was planned for the marriage. The daughter seemed quite a respectable planner. But then it all went badly sour with the telling that in November the pair would be going to Hawaii for the Proposal. That was my LMB of the Decade for the 1990's.

I can accept the overlap between your "reasonable" inner certainty and my element of risk. One reason why I objected to your model for same-sexers is that, as Ms Cute outlined earlier, giving a clear indication that a Proposal would be accepted constitutes a de facto proposal of the wormiest and mealiest-mouthed kind. Framing it in kink terms, it strikes me as the equivalent of someone who gets off on being spanked stating the official terms of the relationship as, "I'll let you spank me," instead of, "Paddle me NOW!"

I am very curious to know why you restrict the Proposal framing to the Kinsey Zeros. What difference do you assert in the opposite-sex relationships of bi men?

That question is actually why I won't claim to have no stake in this issue whatsoever. While I won't go so far as Mr Savage once did, I will say that gender roles are at the heart of many gay-originated breakups of B-G (Gibb?) relationships. In fact, Mr Savage himself, in his recent revelation of being the one to "kill things, pay for things and move heavy furniture" in his marriage, could be argued to have "caught" traditional gender roles during his brief stint of passing for bi.

But, back to the point, I'll agree that there is some merit (though I'd call it psychological rather than social) to the impatient partner's waiting, and I have no trouble with agreeing that opposite-sexer women are more inclined to impatience than opposite-sexer men.

As for the rest, you seem to be defending traditional gender roles, whereas I only defend one's right to them. I'd have people honestly present their preferences and requirements. I might give some the old FTWL... or think certain coupling models more generally beneficial to society than others, but it takes all kinds. Now, were your hypothetical women to admit that they only would only marry a man who would kill/pay/lift, I'd at least acknowledge them for owning their inner Princesses and not trying to take credit by framing it as indulging their men's inner Princes. But I'd give the same support to an opposite-sexer man who decided he'd only marry a woman who gave him a ring as valuable as a new car, and I'd give him the same grief if he framed as "letting her propose as a sign that he was willing to accept and support her feminist principles" or something along those lines.

I note also that the traditional gender roles you mention are only those that appear to benefit the woman, which I take as strengthening my point. Now, were a woman to say, "I let him propose, even though accepting the ring meant that I was agreeing to do 80% of the housework," I'd be much more inclined to give her the credit that the framework of "letting" him propose implicitly requests.
@368: I completely agree on life throwing you curve balls, and that it's often a good thing. There are more possible futures than we new envision for ourselves, just like most of us are not doing the precise career we envisioned at age 7, or even 18 or 21. Maybe even 40.*

I do think there's a huge difference between people (both genders) who later in life say "well I'm ballpark 40, no co-parent on the horizon, financially I could be a single parent, I'm going to consider whether I truly think I can swing that on other levels" vs young people who don't really have a plan for how they're going to support a kid, but know babies are cute. I believe science bears that difference out. "Marriage" in this sense is often shorthand for "stability." (In many senses, including financial, the number of long-term dependable people for the child to bond with and rely on, and that statistically most abuse is doled out by people unrelated to the child, e.g. mom's latest boyfriend.) The question becomes whether the parents are doing a good job with stability for all the things that are under their control, which can include not marrying the person with whom they share an accidental pregnancy.

I think practical concerns can mirror social conditioning, and just channel where some of the social conditioning came from. (e.g. Being cautious about pregnancy with someone who doesn't seem likely to be a good parent.) I did house after kid. Waiting had to do with not wanting to be tied to a mortgage until we had a higher income and no likely move on the horizon; signing had to do with wanting "play outside" not to involve a stroller, bag with dry clothes and snacks and books and toys, and hike to a playground, once the financial stability side was set.

*One of the best NPR driveway moments was a series of interviews with 55 year olds, asking if they were different in any significant way from when they were 35. Without exception, they were, something several were a bit surprised to discover. New things were important now, things that seemed permanent and vital then had receded or completely altered. It's one reason I shake my head at the attitude "I'm waiting until I wake up with my adult self locked unchangingly into place, at which point I'll marry and have kids and stuff."

There’s more to gender roles than princes and princesses. This time of year, think Joseph and Mary. Pregnant teenager/ young mother with no income of her own relies on a tradesman to look after her during some very vulnerable years. She seemed to manage on her own once the baby grew up and the tradesman died, but in those early years she was very dependent.

The years in a marriage that are the hardest are apparently the ones during which there are preschoolers in the home. Spouses enact heavily-gendered roles that they didn’t before there were babies and that they abandon as the babies grow up.
I guess my problem is with the traditional marriage contract, which sets producing and providing for children far above anybody's happiness. It seems to enforce sex-devaluing religious beliefs.

I get the impression that many people marry because they think it's normal and what's expected of them. Blinded by the promise of marital bliss, and thinking "this is the normal thing that everybody does," they don't consider the dark paths their marriage may go down, the misery they're risking if something goes wrong. How many people actually research the divorce law they will be subject to before getting married?
There's something about gender roles that plays into a very deep part of us, and which I think a lot of us are trying to suppress or transcend. Most likely much of this is cultural or socio-cultural (men don't show weakness; women want to be princesses), but I don't know if all of it is.

I know that I want to be treated as an equal, except when I don't. I remember being a child and hearing the old "women and children first" rule (I think in reference to the Titanic--long, long before the James Cameron movie), and realizing with relief that as a female child, I'd be put in the lifeboat both now and when I grew up. And I was relieved.

Much later it dawned on me that society can't have it both ways: you can't say men and women are exactly the same and then demand your preferential treatment based on your sex or gender. Though I was ashamed to admit it even to myself (and would never have dared to voice the attitude), I didn't want to renounce the "lifeboat privileges" I had as a woman, even while I wanted men to renounce their privileges. There are privileges that come with both genders, and as others here have pointed out, we see some segment of American culture every day having a difficult time adjusting to the notion that it is losing its privilege. What I think of as the "Tolerate My Intolerance" movement showcases this perfectly.

I believe many women, even though many may deny it or be embarrassed or ashamed to admit it, maybe even to themselves, have a secret (or not-so-secret) desire to be the princess. I think the Princess Bride (not the William Goldman book or the film adaptation of it) or better still, the Princess Fiancé phenomenon has been rising as women expect to be full egalitarian members of society and fully equal partners in marriage. I find this interesting. I have some theories as to why this is, but they don't need to elaborated on here.

Still, this preference for gender roles is present to a greater or lesser degree in many of us, and I think it plays out often without discussion in straight relationships, whereas it may need to be more explicitly addressed in same sex ones (hence Dan's point about the fact that just because he and his husband are both men doesn't mean they live in filth, or the fact that within his marriage, as Mr. Ven reminded us, Dan is the one who kills things, pays for things, and lifts things.)

I am not defending traditional gender roles, just acknowledging what I have experienced and observed: that for many of us they lurk somewhere deep inside and we are deeply ambivalent about how much of them we want to renounce, how much of them we accept, and how much of them we want to embrace.
Ms Cute - Given my previous persnickety posts about masseurs, I feel obliged to ask for a second E at the end of fiancee, lest I be accused of showing you preferential treatment.

Ms Cummins - Gee, you make it sound so desirable for Joseph. But you are misreading me slightly; I don't tie Prince or Princess to gender the way most posters on this thread seem to be willing at least to appear to do. I probably object more to Prince Privilege than to Princess Privilege in general, but we are dealing with a letter centred around the, "But my partner won't proPOSE!" line, which is pure Princess. Note my objections earlier to the way this was translated into a same-sex relationship in a novel upthread.

Back to Ms Cute - You picked a privilege you can hardly be faulted for not wanting to renounce. I am starting to get depressed, though, as it seems as if Julius King might prove to be right after all, and that any two people can be parted from the outside by someone who knows the right vulnerabilities to exploit.

There are certainly a good many side lines one can take from this question and answer.
I'm younger than the woman here (26 next month), but I, too, am ready to get married. I think not living together before getting engaged can force the issue.

I was engaged off and on for three years. It sucked.
To whomever suggested I just want him for his sperm and not the person is ridiculous. I just want to start doing the things we've been talking about the past 2 years and babies happen to be one of them, and I happen to be getting older, so it has become more of a focus for me.

I don't want to be a princess. I want a husband and a happy family. The rest are just details.
Mr. Ven: Here you go: é
@377, 374: or e, depending on where you're placing it.

I guess in light of my defense(?) of people's attachment to defined gender roles and expectations, and the privileges correspondingly bestowed, I should most definitely have used the double e spelling.

So Princess Fianceé it is.

@rosysunbeam (375): I want to make sure you know that when I refer to Princess Brides or Princess Fianceés, or any old kind of princess, I wasn't thinking of you; I have moved on from the specifics of your situation to talk about gender expectations more generally. No offense was intended.
Mr. Ven @369, I'm not restricting my analysis to Kinsey Zeros, I'm restricting it to "het men," which is my shorthand for men-monogamous-with-a-woman.

Obviously the gender-role analysis is different for same-sex couples.

"You seem to be defending traditional gender roles, whereas I only defend one's right to them."

I'm not for or against traditional gender roles. I'm against them being mandatory or virtually mandatory. Which seems to be your position as well. What phrasing did I use that made you think I believe everyone should follow traditional gender roles (as opposed to finding a partner who feels the same way that one does)?
Alright, work got a little busy there for a couple of days, but I'm back. Did I miss anything? Ha. Ha. I'm not sure whether I'm more amazed or delighted that Slog has achieved almost 400 posts of debate with a minimum of mudslinging. Yay Slog!

In no particular order: IPJ, thanks for pointing out the logic fail in "Marriage is unimportant, therefore I refuse to get married." I'd never actually thought that one through. It's along the same lines as "Sex is unimportant to me, but this marriage is over if you cheat." I will be more sceptical in future of the claim.

(See, nocutename? There are others who learn stuff here too. By the way, I did note your forbearance in the presence of snark, and have appreciated it in other threads as well. Personally I wouldn't have the patience, but that may be changing--I've learned from reading these debates that indulging exasperation, while satisfying, rarely accomplishes much more than escalation. Two things I've learned! Two!)

Also, nocutename, I think we may have misunderstood each other. What I find shitty is deliberately stringing someone along while keeping an eye out for something better, ie being manipulative and two-faced. The key phrase for that was from IPJ way back @190: "...while keeping options open in case someone better appears." I thought that's what you and IPJ were talking about--and accusing men of being prone to--but it seems you meant something else that has more to do with weakness and avoidance rather than malice.

@362--That's a sad story. My condolences. It doesn't just illustrate that a piece of paper is no great guarantee of commitment, it also shows the risk inherent in putting all your eggs in one partner's basket, male or female. Not something to be undertaken lightly.

IPJ again: While I agree with most of your views, we have different takes on LW's bf and his motives. I'm inclined to be more compassionate of his reluctance (up to a point); you are simply impatient with it. Also, you are sceptical that he is game for commitment, and family, and a life together, as per the original letter. I don't know how vaguely he has communicated his willingness to the LW, but your assumption seems to be that it has been so vaguely as to be worthless. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But! I just want to point out that impatience is not going to help the LW. If she thinks he is life partner material she has to take him as he is, not how she wishes he would be. I don't believe he wishes to make LW unhappy, but he'd be crazy to ignore his misgivings just to make her happy. What kind of dynamic does that set up? Probably exactly the kind he fears.

And where does my interpretation leave the LW? Same place, basically, but with less anger at her bf, which strikes me as more productive.

Also, a confession. While I get irritated with people assuming the worst of male motives, I went ahead and did the same with the LW. I got the impression initially, reinforced by her earliest posts, that she was too enamoured of marriage and proposals and commitment to spare a thought on why her bf might be underwhelmed by the whole idea. Someone upthread called it thinking too much about the wedding and not enough about the marriage. Thus my first post. But it seems, according to her later posts, that they've had that conversation and she's made a good faith effort to understand his reluctance. I only hope he's done as much for her and her desires. I understand that's what committed couples do. So the burden's on him now to figure his shit out or get out of the way. (Is he concerned about giving up power and control over life decisions? He might fix that fear with Dan's/nocute's view of marriage as an adventure together.)

And finally, rosysunbeam, I'm sorry you now know far, far more than you ever needed to about your situation. Good on you for sticking with the comments this far! Despite what you might think, marriage has been good to me, but I'm not your bf and you're not Mrs. Bloomer, so there's no lessons to be learned there. Just wanted to offer some encouragement. And by "good", I don't mean "easy". I hope things work out well for the both of you.

Merry Christmas everyone!
@LateBloomer: Congratulations on learning two things over the course of one comment thread. I think that's mighty impressive (said in total sincerity, no snark, I swear)!

It has, indeed been a remarkably civil thread, all the more impressive when you consider that much of the discussion centered around gender differences, which is when I've noticed we here tend to fall apart pretty quickly.

Of course, the thread is not nearly as long as it appears to be at first because at least 35 posts are efforts to undo the bold, but still . . .

>> And by "good", I don't mean easy. >>
Well said.
@ IPJ 370 - I'm not sure what to think about your second paragraph - particularly this:
I believe science bears that difference out. "Marriage" in this sense is often shorthand for "stability."
and this:
most abuse is doled out by people unrelated to the child, e.g. mom's latest boyfriend.

What do you mean by science bearing out the difference between single 40-somethings considering parenting, vs. coupled 20-somethings considering parenting?

There is certainly plenty of abuse perpetrated by "trusted" adults who are biologically unrelated to the children they abuse. However, involvement with the foster care system has familiarized me with the astounding range of neglect and abuse some adults perpetrate, in some cases repeatedly, upon children quite closely related to them.

I can testify from my own experience as a child and teen that the existence of "long term dependable people" outside the family for the child to bond with does not necessarily protect the child from abuse within the family.

In the end, I think people can do the most intricate calculus conceivable over major life decisions, but ultimately, each one is a leap of faith. Do you deal with the possibility that your main 'chute is a streamer by considering it highly unlikely due to your painstaking preparation, or by packing an emergency 'chute?
"Internalized narrative"? "Wounded sense of entitlement"? What the flying fuck are you talking about? You were talking about women craving for Disney proposals which is offensive to me as a woman and is factually irrelevant to the LW's situation.

In any case, you seem far more invested in this than me. Must protect helpless "male humans" from evil female entitlement. But frankly I don't care anymore, I'm on vacation. Buh-bye.
@383: "I believe science bears me out" refers to having read studies of single parents which break out the groups into "older, financially stable, became a single parent by clear-eyed choice" from the larger group of "single parents" who often got pregnant younger, with vaguer plans*, and started off on much shakier financial footing. The former group tend to align with married parents of whatever age. (And this is all statistics: you can be an accidentally-pregnant unpartnered 20 year old who does a great job at providing a safe, stable life for your child, and a married 35 year old who does a crap job. I imagine most of us have encountered examples of both over time.)

Lots of biological parents do an atrocious job. But statistically, kids are more likely to be abused by people not related to them. Something that isn't talked about too much because step-parents already have such a Cinderella-raw-deal of perception, which I sympathize with--and again, it's all statistics, with nothing about how this particular adult will treat children. The rational approach would be not to reject ever having a boyfriend, but to say that there certainly won't be a rotating cast of them moving in and out of your kid's life and living space. If being economically on the edge means you do the rotating cast of live-ins providing child care while you work anyhow...

I can testify from my own experience as a child and teen that the existence of "long term dependable people" outside the family for the child to bond with does not necessarily protect the child from abuse within the family.

They do not protect from abuse, but they provide greater emotional stability. (That's well-established, yes? That kids raised in hellish circumstances who nonetheless turn out fine had a stable adult in their life, be it relative or coach or teacher, who provided emotional support and a model of a life different from the hellhole their parents created.)

*What tends to cause teenagers to wait on having sex is the ability to visualize a way out of their fifteen-year-old circumstances: that way out will be far harder with a baby in tow, and so they are inclined to wait a couple of years and not take the risk. Some kids don't see that way out until they have a baby to provide for, and it is far harder then.
383 and 386-- When we talk about abuse, are we talking about sexual abuse, or are we including physical abuse and neglect? It makes a difference. Of the three, neglect is by far the most harmful to the developing human, but it would be absurd to say that I'm abusing my neighbors kids just because I don't know them and never pay any attention to them.
Gee, Hunter78, I'm sorry if you have an irony deficiency. The joke wasn't meant for you, but you were free to not get it all you like.

I've apologized for the inadvertent bolding repeatedly (I guess the repetition was what you don't like, as it contributes to the bloat of the thread), but I didn't realize that having to read darker, thicker text was so difficult for you. I'm confident that the column will return to its unbolded state next week.

Finally, I try to use this column and comment thread to learn something and to engage in dialogue; I know that you prefer to make pronouncements. You also are likely, generally by the weekend, when the waterfall has slowed down to a trickle, to toss in a sometimes inflammatory non sequitur just to try to kick something back up, which is how I'm regarding your very sweet, and I'm sure, kindly meant, suggestion to me that I STFU.

But, I prefer not to. Happy Holidays!
For POPDAQ, I suggest she and the bf individually write or update life plans (be specific and include dates/years) and then review them together. If they can resolve differences and have a good life together, by comparing plans on paper, great. Review annually is recommended practice. She describes him as driven. He very likely has a life plan and he's trying to stick to it. Maybe that part of his plan would say "marry rosysunbeam, the love of my life, at the right time so it lasts a lifetime, after we're both out of school and employed". (See @180) It sounds like they've done some of that but need to get back to it (see @321)

@168 I like reading of happy endings/beginnings/milestones too.

@172 I beg to differ. It depends on the details, individuals, and life plans. At 26 I was married, after first finishing a Master's degree, getting a job, meeting my future wife, buying a home, and switching jobs. She was 31 at the wedding, and 34 with a newborn. Some are married at 19 or 18 out of high school. Others put it off until after grad school, med school, or law school.

@280, Absolutely, never insult someone by stating the truth of what you feel about your reality, that conflicts with what she thinks is or ought to be your reality because it either is her reality or she believes it to be her reality instead. Frontal attacks on strongly held preconceptions provoke vigorous defenses of the preconceptions. What I've found to work better (that is, at all) is to ask questions about reality A and reality B and whether the advantage to each person of one aspect of one is possible within the other. Sometimes only within that nonthreatening dialog can the other party hear the concerns and their reasonableness.

@294 Really, not one DTMFA? I didn't count along the way, but my impression was the count would be in the dozens. Yes, they run the spectrum from straight unqualified DTMFA (@3, 11, 12, ...) to implied-DTMFA (@9, and @10 can also be interpreted as that) to female-proposal/ultimatum-leading-to-DTMFA-either-or to female-proposal-decide-on-a-time-limit-before-DTMFA (@1).
"But really, no one has bashed the boyfriend." Too funny; I'm not searching for it, but I'm sure there was something along the lines of "he's too immature, DTMFA" and other negative responses. It seems to me recommending an unqualified DTMFA after a multiyear relationship is a good candidate for being the ultimate bashing; it translates to he's not worth the trouble or treating like a person with worth, he's disposable, dispose of him quickly. After all, he hasn't the sense to give her the last thing she thinks she's lacking, and never mind what he wants or when. Granted, she says she's been patient.

@297 3rd paragraph YES. It can truly suck to realize a love for someone and the ability to have them in your life will not coincide. Sometimes the best loving action is to get out of their way and for them be out of your own way. That transition can be done graciously or awfully.

@300 I believe you have understated the level of misandry by far. It permeates the ocean in which we all swim, so often goes unnoticed due to its ever-presence. Even a mother that spent years in mental hospitals, was violent toward her husband, and threatened the lives of her own children could get sole custody, child support, and alimony-for-life. A daughter she raised could adamantly claim a life of being discriminated against and excluded from opportunity by gender, while living in a city with a female mayor, in a county with a female county executive and many females on the county board, in a state with a female lieutenant governor and numerous female legislators and a department of social services overwhelmingly employing females deciding on policies placing fathers (including her father and her brother) at a disadvantage in custody matters, and in a nation with female governors, supreme court justices, legislators, CEOS, etc. and which sometimes publishes articles titled "Do fathers matter?". (This is apparently an area of dispute and active current research! Imagine the outcry if someone suggested mothers might not matter.) The pervasive subtext of our culture is: If a man wants to move faster and a woman slower, she's right. If a man wants to move slower and a woman faster, she's right. If a man wants A and a woman wants B, B is right. How this often shows up is slower on sex and faster on engagement, marriage, house, kids, and moving to a bigger house, then expensive vacations and other preventions of investing for a comfortable retirement. Only a little of that's explained by gender biology. The sister's complaints about differential treatment would be socially acceptable to voice, and greeted with "Right on sister!" by her peers. The brother's complaints if voiced would be largely viewed as unacceptable and mark him as a whipped wimp or undatable. See also…; this researcher and his male and female coauthors faced ostracism and death threats, for reporting the existence of domestic violence committed by females on males. I read Gelles' Intimate Violence and noted even that work gave short shrift to the data that adult males were targeted more frequently than adult females or children and the only group for whom rates of being subjected to abuse went up in the space of a decade was the adult males. I copied its appendix and showed it to the most intelligent woman I know, that sister, and she could not read it correctly; the social preconditioning was too strong that women are victims and men are perps, despite the black and white data on the page showing the numbers and the trend were moderately in the opposite direction of the prevailing preconception. I worked as a volunteer assistant in divorced/separated support groups and classes for several years and heard many such stories of men discriminated against by the system. I was invited to begin this volunteering by a female course teacher contacting me saying she had 15 students in a class, 12 female, and the women were angry and the outnumbered men were scared, so would I come and be the 4th guy.
Holy crap.
(Part two; see post 389 for part one)

POPDAQ's boyfriend may have some very legitimate reasons for doubts. There are some women out there who superficially present well, but turn out to be alcoholics, mentally ill, physically abusive of their own children or stepchildren or significant other, dishonest, philanderers, bigamists, felons, addicts, or etc. We've only heard one side of the story: POPDAQ's. It might even be a case of HSDTMFA (He Should ...) POPDAQ's posts don't seem to indicate that at all, but I've been wrong before, and paid the price, after 2 years preengagement with 5 years largely hellish marriage and longugly costly divorce. It turned out that if someone married with the expectation that her husband will make her become happy, and it didn't work, no one living there was allowed to be happy or even relaxed in that house. Another SO was a narcissist whose insistence on being exclusive only applied to me, not her. Some experiences teach caution. It might be that there's something in the boyfriend's experience or family of origin that creates a concern for him so a need for more time to either find a resolution, or to put his finger on it and name it and determine if it contains the seeds of destruction of the relationship. If not his parents, look further.

@301 Not fake wife, assuming you're not faking it; off-the-books or unofficial life partner perhaps. Been there twice myself, in twenties and thirties, but only lived together starting after engagements that progressed to marriages already scheduled before the cohabitation.

@308 Cute. But neither the investors nor the customers are the walking talking instances; the bodies are the product, a means to an end. Cheating is a design function aimed at making more quantity of viable vehicles for copying DNA and is a form of bet-hedging. The product line has actually been too successful, jeopardizing its long-term prospects and others too in favor of short-term growth. Rest assured, the design has some built-in failsafes. One is same-gender sex; another is inventiveness (birth control means); another is irrationality provoked by stressors leading to paring back the numbers to more sustainable levels (suicide, mass murders, wars, totalitarian systems committing genocides, etc.). Another failsafe is the rapid adaptation of competing product lines such as cellular and subcellular life, outstripping even the inventive development of chemical countermeasures (plagues; MRSA).

@331 Here's a somewhat unconventional possibility. Point out to the BF that he's already in most of what a marriage is. Ask carefully about concerns. Suggest a trial marriage; a prenup with a no-fault exit clause at (pick your number or range) years.

@334 THANK YOU for writing many points I thought ought to be made.

@347, 355 Talking about views about marriage is a discussion; a question phrased for a yes or no reply is a marriage proposal. Discussions are often fuzzy, vague, wandering, inconclusive. Proposals are clear and definite. Here's a draft with a short preamble. "We've been together for a long time. We've talked about marriage from time to time. We both seem to want to be married. We get along well. We love each other. Will you marry me, within 2 years from today?"

@368 Absolutely, understand the basis for your own motives as much as possible. And the haul can be longer than first imagined. A church wedding with "till death do us part" may mean single parenthood of a flock of kids or a disabled child after a spouse dies, helping a disabled adult child, and setting up a trust fund etc for the care of the child for after the surviving spouse dies, or caring for a disabled spouse. Been there, done and doing some of that.

@373 Very thoughtful. To that last sentence I would add, "how much we want to admit to ourselves, " before the renounce part.

If anyone's read this far and the whole thing posted, thanks for indulging my couldn't-sleep and there's a blizzard length.
Ms Erica - Apologies for my connection going out in the middle of a reply to you. I have had at home only a connection too weak to be able to load columns here and post replies ever since.

Defending TCGs as neutral would have been enough to put me in opposition, and I think your using the adjective "socially" useful led me into reading the rest of the post mistakenly with an inference of at least non-disapproval. I rank them basically with traditional weddings (as in, full of patriarchy with explicit gender roles, however much credit they give themselves for excising the word "obey" from her vows) - more harmful than good overall, though certainly the sort of thing people who wish to choose are well within their rights to do so.

Ms Cute, thank you for the second E. Please by no means stop posting on this thread.

LW, if you were to adjust your viewpoint to Ms Cute's suggestion that you have made a de facto proposal.

Back to Ms Erica, I thought of a fitting example for my objection to the, "I let him propose," crowd in general. Let us suppose that you and Mr Erica are spending a quiet evening at home, although not in the same room. He is reading or doing non-essential paperwork, and you are in your workroom constructing a piece of bondage equipment. (I got a very convincing image of you in just such a situation.) Your neighbour phones to say that one of the party has been taken ill, and could either of you come over to make up a four for bridge. After some discussion, Mr Erica goes to play bridge. The next day, you tell us why you "let" him do so. You could say, "I let him go because, while we both thought it would be fun, I'd played last week and he hadn't had a game in a month." That I would count as rather high-calibre letting. Or you could say, "I let him go because I had a bit of a headache and I can't stand having to be Marjorie's partner because she's a terrible overbidder." That would be rather lower calibre.

Of course, when convincing evidence is provided to support what you must admit at least can be a self-serving contention, I am quite content to accept it, as we saw with Ms Rubia. I was just focused on Church Lady saying, "How conVEEEEENient."
Hunter, if you feel the need to spew, please don't make it sound like you're speaking for anyone but yourself. Thanks.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah...Merry Christmas!
@388: I was referencing physical abuse.

And the comparison single parent to married parent referenced not abuse but childhood outcomes (finish high school, in trouble with law, teen pregnancy, etc) such as are used to demonstrate that kids of same-sex couples are indistinguishable from kids of opposite sex couples, or that Head Start makes a difference.
Mr. Ven @393, if my husband does me a favor, I don't claim that I have done him one.

But I did say, when we had been dating for a year: "You know that I would like to be married to you. I assume that you don't want me to do the asking. You should understand this is very frustrating for me."

He could have answered: "Oh, honey, go right ahead and ask if you'd like to." But he didn't. Of course, he was constrained by the weight of our society's gendered expectations. Just as he was when we discussed who should have a big career and who should stay home with the kids. He insisted he wanted the big career, just as he insisted that he wanted the decision about proposing to be left to him. And I think he's largely content with having made those choices, even though there are days when he wishes he could walk away from his job and his responsibilities. There are days I feel the same way.

I do think that times are changing, thanks largely to same-sex marriage, and I hope that couples today do talk frankly about their hopes & plans for life, and be willing to express unconventional hopes & plans as well as conventional ones.
edit @397: and are willing to express
Rosysunbeam said: "Before we do anything serious like having children I want an action proving that it's more than words to him. Words are easy- I need some actions."

I believe you are 100% correct to want this. I get that people might criticize the basically heteronormative, traditional gender-role cast this view seems to have, but it's not about that. It's about responsibility and commitment. Having a kid is a HUGE deal for the kid, regardless of how the parents feel about it, and every bit of research on this subject shows that it is generally better for kids to have two married parents (whether same-sex or not). Obviously, people can divorce, and obviously, single parents can do a terrific job of parenting. However, it's much harder for single parents economically, emotionally, and time-wise. So if you have kids knowing from the start that the dad isn't willing to form a legal union requiring a serious future commitment, you have to be very sure that you're happy with that situation. I think you have excellent reason to be dissatisfied with it.

I still have hope your boyfriend is planning a holiday / birthday / Valentine's / surprise proposal at some future date, but you can't wait forever. If July is the time when you're done, then before July you need to show signs that you're starting to separate from him - you're looking for an apartment with a new lease starting August 1, you're separating all your finances and possessions, and so forth. And then if he wants to act, he will, and if he doesn't, then frankly you dodged a bullet.

Ms Erica - I assume you don't. Given your supporting evidence, I've no quarrel with your model for "letting him propose" at least in so far as you were not taking credit for something self-serving.

I shall, though, agree with what I take to be Ms Cute's line that it would be better for everyone, be they those involved directly ir the rest of the world, if your declaration to Mr E (this is not to draw any comparison between the Ericas and the Eltons) were considered to be the actual proposal, and the rest be regarded as all a matter of taste. My own taste would be to do away with Proposals entirely, but that's why FTWL... exists.

Had you framed your declaration to Mr Erica as, "I want to be married to you, but I'm not going to ask you because I want to receive a romantic Proposal and a big rock," I'd have called you (perhaps openly) a Princess, defended your right to take such a position, not let you get away with saying you "let" him propose (which you wouldn't be claiming anyway in such a case), and given you moderately higher marks had you preferred a sapphire to a diamond. This is also something for which my model would be on a scale rather than a coin flip. "I'd ask him, but I wasn't socialized to do the asking and I'm not good enough at it for something so important," would be far away from the Princess end of the scale.

Now I can see a sort of sideways justice in a Prince to whom it's important that he be the Proposer being on the hook for a stone that will provide his spouse (it took some consideration to extend this to same-sexers as well as opposite-sexers) with a year's board and lodging minimum and after the divorce. I suppose part of my crankiness is that the Prince is more or less similar to someone with a kink that requires only indirect participation (does Mr Savage's hypothetical foot fetishist fit here?) while he performs X, whereas the Princess is requiring somebody else to do the performing, which is slightly less innocuous.

I won't seriously disagree with what you state to be your general direction, although I'd frame mine as trying to move towards a society where gender would be removed from the Prince/Princess scale. Having an Inner Prince(ss) is neither good nor bad inherently; it just is what is, much as an emotion isn't "right" or "wrong" in and of itself. Remove gender from the equation and the matter of indulging or suppressing an inner Prince(ss) would become much more innocuous.
I sent a polite mail to and to please fix their comment software to automatically close unclosed tags and I encourage others to do the same.
Thanks, Registered European!
Looks like an admin fixed the bold after I reported comment 392 for intentionally locking underline on. Thanks, admin.

Perhaps the comment system could be fixed by automatically adding off tags for each style at the end of each comment. I'm not sure stripping all HTML from the comments is preferable to the occasional stuck bold. Even better would be to switch to a system that allows message threading.
Columns like this weeks make me glad I'm single.

Most of the issues these women bring up are about control: "I want him to marry me, help me figure out how to make him do that" or "I'm not getting enough sex, help me 'fix' my boyfriend".

Sure am glad I can keep these needy, whiny, manipulative creatures at bay. Thanks but no thanks. I'm with Moe of the 3 Stooges, while playing a census taker, he asked a citizen "Are you married or are you happy?". That's me, I'm happy.
@401 FTW. The whole social aspect of the marriage system we have right now is just so ridiculous and tacky. It's whole focus is on forcing people to spend money. And I really don't think it's as much a gender issue as a another symptom of the out of control consumerism that marks all the other things in our lives. In fact one of the things I enjoy about older movies is how low key some of the weddings are (I Was A Male War Bride, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, Rebecca). Not that I don't think capitalism, celebrations and gift giving is bad, but it's just reach the point where it takes away from the very thing it's suppose to be about.

But then again, I also don't understand the whole three ring system (engagement + matching wedding bands) either. Perhaps it started as a way of ensuring the male party had some skin in the game since any commitment from a women was suppose to signal "taken" to other male suitors, thus seemingly robbing a women of time if the male party happened to string the engagement along. But considering how much courtship has changed you'd think they'd have done away with it by now.
@405 Wow, and after reading that I can say I'm pretty damn happy you're single as well.

It's funny to see a misogynist dick agree with on the fringe feminists; If you want more sex than you're getting than you're whiny and manipulative!

*Not that there was anything wrong with last week's LW's BF except for the fact that he was emotionally harming his GF. Being low libido isn't a crime, but you save everyone a lot of trouble by openly admitting that you are such. However dating someone you're not sexually attracted to is so mind-bogglingly stupid it doesn't even need to be discussed.
@405 I apologize for going off on you like that. But you're missing the point just as you're touching it; it is about control. The men in both situations you mention are basically snatching control of the relationship by not addressing their partners needs/concerns and communicating "this is the standard until I say otherwise, deal with it". If either of the men in those situations instead of going silent or getting vague, brought out their own needs and concerns then some kind of compromise or agreed course of action could be reached and the LWs wouldn't feel helpless because they'd be involved in an alternative or solution that would improve their situation, if not in the present then in the future. This LW can't be proactive because her BF is waiting to just wake up one morning and feel ready for the future. Not exactly something a woman can feel confident enough to place her future in.

And yes, that paragraph was extremely mouthy. But more or less, communication for fucks sake.
I like the following portion of #400's comment:
So if you have kids knowing from the start that the dad isn't willing to form a legal union requiring a serious future commitment, you have to be very sure that you're happy with that situation. I think you have excellent reason to be dissatisfied with it.
We already know how perceptive and sensitive kids can be about such things as divorce (it was their fault, etc.). So I wonder how any children might react, seeing that their mom wants to be married but dad's still being "someday ... whenever".

The other point I'd like the LW to be aware of is that, depending on the jurisdiction, she and her bf may already be considered to be married common-law (or will be with the passage of more time together). Just how would her bf react when he learns he's her husband despite never having made a deliberate and conscious decision? And having deprived her of a stepping stone she considers as a valuable part of her adult life?

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