Savage Love

Change Agent

Comments

1
Popdaq: Propose. You're an adult, this is your future, don't put yourself into a helpless mindset. And if he isn't comfortable with either being engaged or setting a wedding date, think about how much of your life you want to put into waiting for him to get on that page. (It's perfectly okay to be on different pages, and you might decide you are okay with a year, or two, or whatever timeframe. But don't be one of those people who looks at the sunk costs (3.5 years! 6 years! 11 years!) and keeps hoping their partner will want a more serious commitment, i.e. a future together that isn't all safely theoretical, if they just give it another few years.)

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be married: lots of people want to find a for-better-for-worse, grow-old-together, make-solid-plans-for-five-years-from-now partner. If one of you was a teenager, I'd say wait. If you'd been together less than a year, I'd say wait. He's a grown-up: he can give you a straight answer.

Obligatory When Harry Met Sally reference: There's a reason that scene where Sally discovers that when her ex said he didn't want that stuff, it turned out he just didn't want them with her, is a classic.
2
I disagree with Dan POPDAQ. Not because proposal's are something only men should do, but because this guy is showing you that when the rubber meets the road he's going to react by shutting his eyes, covering his ears, and humming loudly until the problem goes away.

I get the feeling that if you have kids you're going to be raising them by yourself because he's just going to shut down when problems pop up.
3
if u ask me the girl from the first letter needs to dtmfa....
4
Good advice to POPDAQ. Women who are so hung up on being asked, or asked in some magical perfect way, to get married are annoying as fuck. In relationships, as in sex, there's fantasy and then there's reality.
5
I don't think POPDAQ proposing to her bf is any solution. At this point she basically has. After talking about this for almost a year, they both know she wants to get married, and they both know he is ambivalent. Asking him would be equivalent to forcing a decision to commit or break up NOW, which she might or might not be ready for.
6
@ 5 - She might not be ready for it, but considering that she wants kids etc., it would be the best solution.
7
If he were such an amazing man, he would want you to be happy. And if you are really at such divergent places in your lives, then an honorable man would tell you "I'm sorry - you're a wonderful person, but I have career goals (or whatever the situation is) that I need to achieve before I can get married. I'd hate to be responsible for you not finding a husband in time to have children that are biologically related to you, so if marriage and kids now is extremely important to you, then you need to find someone else."

I've been there - and it turned out the guy who was stringing me along should have been dtmfa. It all turned out well in the end, since I found my husband 6 months later.

8
Optimistically, POPDAQ's boyfriend might be planning a surprise and is using a bit of misdirection.

Less than optimistically? He's delaying the proposal because he doesn't intend to marry her.

So POPDAQ should wait until after the holidays, then- if a proposal hasn't been made- make one herself. She will have her answer and solve her problem either way.
9
I suggested to my boyfriend that we get married. We picked out rings together and arranged the whole thing together. Then I spent the next 18 years raising the kids basically all by myself. I'm counting down the years till the youngest leaves the nest.
10
It's not a question of who does the proposing, and I don't think that POPDAQ is hung up on gender roles--or if she is, that isn't the primary problem here. As Dr. M said @5, there's been a de facto proposal on the table for well over a year now, essentially made by POPDAQ.
There's an old expression that I have always hated: "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" It used to relate to the idea that men who got what they wanted (sex) without having to "pay" for it (via marriage), were never going to want to pony up the money to buy what they were already getting. Boy, did I find that offensive.

It took away all sense that women might want to have sex for its own sake; it suggested that all women all want nothing more than marriage; it essentially advocated using sex or the withholding of it as a bargaining tool. It was predicated on an outdated, outmoded, patriarchal paradigm. We were above that kind of thinking; we were better than that.

But that's what popped into my mind when I read POPDAQ's letter. Or a variation of that is what I thought. POPDAQ and her boyfriend have different agendas or desires. He has no incentive to change, because even when he refuses to consider what she wants, the things he wants remain in place for him, unchanged. So he can say no and still have everything he wants (life with POPDAQ, exactly as fulfilling as it's been for the past 3.5 years).

I'm not suggesting that POPDAQ has made a tactical error, but I am saying that if she identifies what is important to her and is willing to end this relationship if it isn't giving her what she wants, if she issues an ultimatum and is prepared to abide by it, she may either find that she has some leverage, or she is in a position to free herself up to meet someone who wants what she wants and when she wants it.

Back in the 1950s, my parents were dating. They were "going steady," and had a standing date for Friday and Saturday nights. My future-father proposed to my someday-down-the-road mother. She accepted. Then he got cold feet. He knew he still loved her; he thought he probably wanted to get married someday; but he was freaked out by the thought of tying himself down for life. So he broke the engagement. He didn't want to break up--just break of the engagement and remain a committed couple with no real commitment. My not-yet mother calmly let him dial the relationship back down. A week later, he called on Friday to discuss what they were going to do that night, when she informed him she had another date. She was a free agent, after all, and if he wanted to see her, he needed to book her in advance. He couldn't assume she was available. No, she was already busy on Saturday night, too, and the following Saturday, but next Friday night was still free, if he wanted to ask her out for then. He had to consider giving her up; she'd shifted the terms of their relationship; he could no longer have his cake and eat it, too (and they weren't even having sex: my mother was the ultimate '50s "good girl.")

So he re-proposed; he wanted her. They celebrate their 53rd anniversary later this month. When I was young, I heard that story as an example of my mother's manipulation; now I think of it as an example of a woman who was unwilling to put up with something she didn't want, and a man who came to realize that if he wanted her, he was going to have to have her on her terms.
11
Who sends their mom in to put pressure on their bf to get him to propose??? Yuck. He's essentially said no. Leave him. You know where your priorities are. He knows where his are. Things seem pretty clear.
12
@11 Sorry, it was his mom. In which case, yeah, he's said no. No to her, no to you. It's been a year. Go.
14
I, a female, was the first to propose to my husband. His own proposal later followed. When we both got done proposing, we let the family and friends know and were married less than three months later!
16
"I don't feel old enough [to get married] yet," POPDAQ's boyfriend says.

Reminds me of Mike Birbiglia in Sleepwalk with Me when he said, "I decided I’m not going to get married until I’m sure that nothing else good can happen in my life."
17
Ah! Dan! It's not about the proposal, as in the event of the question being asked. It's about the proposal, as in the agreement to take the next step and get married. This guy says he wants it, but then says he's not ready. And apparently they've been talking about it forever. I don't know what his deal is--but it's not an inability to form interrogative sentences.
18
MSB's possibly asexual or deeply messed-up boyfriend said: "he wishes we never had sex because he feels like he raped himself by doing it."

You can't rape yourself.

So what he's really saying is twofold:
1) He deeply regrets having entered into a sexual relationship with his girlfriend.
2) he holds her at least somewhat responsible for his predicament, i.e. she's the true rapist.

This is DTMFYesterday territory: he doesn't just not want to be in a sexual relationship with her, he's always going to blame her and her horrid, horrid need to have sex for his "self rape." That she's thinking more of his needs in light of that statement and the attitude it reveals makes me sad for her. Her Sad Boyfriend? Indeed. More like her Sorry Ass Manipulative Piece of Shit Boyfriend.
19
28 is almost old enough for a typical straight guy to make up his mind about something important.
20
@10: "He has no incentive to change, because even when he refuses to consider what she wants, the things he wants remain in place for him, unchanged. So he can say no and still have everything he wants (life with POPDAQ, exactly as fulfilling as it's been for the past 3.5 years)."

When I was in a similar situation many years ago, and declined to propose when my girlfriend basically gave me an ultimatum, it wasn't because I was getting everything I wanted. If I had been, I would've married her!

I loved her very much, and I didn't want to break up with her. But we were young (younger than the LW) and there were problems with our relationship that made me feel I wasn't ready.

One of those problems, to be brutally honest, was that I wasn't quite physically attracted to her enough to feel OK with giving up the possibility of ever falling in love or having sex with someone again. And I thought, probably correctly, that I'd feel trapped and resent her for all the imaginary sex I wasn't having with imaginary women. So naturally, I tormented myself with guilt over it -- but I also didn't believe I was attractive enough, or compelling enough, to attract those imaginary women.

(More likely, I acted confident and detached with women I wasn't really attracted to, and acted self-conscious and overly earnest around women who got my pulse racing, with predictable results on both counts. Anyone who denies that most women under 25 are preferentially turned on by distant, emotionally uninvolved men is, in my experience, full of it: a closed heart is the best aphrodisiac I've ever found.)

I'm not defending my behavior, just explaining how a person -- a shitty, immature, self-absorbed person perhaps, but a person nonetheless -- can simultaneously say "I want to be with you / but I don't want to marry you anytime soon". None of us is ever 100% sure how happy we can realistically expect to be, or what the line is between settling and accepting that people are imperfect. It gets a little easier as we age, but not much.
21
I think nocutename @10 is right.

POPDAQ should consider what she wants out of life. If she would stay with him regardless, kids or no kids, marriage or no marriage, then she should acknowledge that to herself and let him be who he wants to be.

But if she wants marriage & kids in the near future, and he's not ready, then she should be going out to the kinds of places where she can meet other guys. That doesn't mean sleeping with all of them, it means getting to know new people.

If that makes him nervous that she might find someone she likes better, well, yes, he should feel nervous. Just as she feels nervous that he's not committing because he's waiting for someone better to come along.
22
Also, on the issue of gender & proposals, I have a different take from Dan.

In traditional "breeder" culture, the guy proposed, but generally he didn't ask unless he knew he would get a yes. It was the woman's job to send the right signals (traditionally by saying subtle things like, 'hey, I'm pregnant!') so he didn't have to worry about rejection.

I assume the gays follow suit, with one of them suggests it's time to get married, at which point the other one proposes.

In fact, that might still happen to POPDAQ. He blew off his mom -- maybe that's because he has already bought the ring. He may be following POPDAQ's lead, and about to propose. Write back with an update after New Year's, POPDAQ!
23
@10 nocute,

When I first asked my GF to marry me, she just looked @ me. She didn't say a word about my request, so 6 months later I asked why she hadn't answered, and she responded she just thought I was drunk (which I was). I reiterated (sober) that I wanted to get married, and she again just blew it off. It wasn't till I felt the death of her parent was imminent, and that it was time for a "shit or get off the pot" moment, that I tried again. But before I tried that, I knew that I had to be ready to leave the relationship. That old saw about cows and milk goes both ways; she was getting everything she wanted, without having to wear a ring.

POPDAQ, in your case, maybe you should lead with what is truly important to you: you want to have children. Perhaps you should consider backing off on the ring, and focusing on the why you want to be married. If, in my suggestion, you can't come up with a number of reasons to NOT get married, then it's time to back off and truly examine what is happening in your (as in you both) life. In my estimation a 70 pro: 30 con ratio seemed livable, and it has been. As I've stated before, one very valuable lesson taught to me by an ex (when she dumped me) was that boundaries matter in a long term relationship. They matter like life and death. And that, in a nutshell means you can't assume, you have to know to the best of your knowledge where the hold up is. I'm not you, I couldn't wait, but you are talking about a lifetime gig that has to work for the both of you (and with others entering your care, all of you). IF you were going to be together anyway, the marriage doesn't need to wait for the party. That's all the wedding is, a nice party to represent the formalization of what should already be going on with the two of you. In your case, if you have sisters that have children, you might have a clue as to how easy getting pregnant might be (and other female relatives as well), so you can try to make an informed estimate of "how long can I wait?". Bottom line: the less guessing and the more knowing (especially of problems you can learn to live with) the less likely you are liable to wishful thinking.

Remember, people change. Constantly. Aim for generalities like conditions that are absolutely intolerable (to avoid them) and required (children,...) and allow yourself to be in the present, dealing with things as they come. And HAVE FUN. Tattoo that inside your eyelids! Have yourself the best life you can, and be grateful for it!

Peace
24
@18 nocute,

"You can't rape yourself"

That may be true, but you sure as hell can have sex when you aren't ready for it, to the extent of regret. As a former not-fully-formed-when-I-started-sexual-relations male, I can relate to being strung up between the physical "FUCK" imperative and the emotionally abused imperative for flight. Being there really, really sucked.

Not everyone is ready for emotionally intensive and sexual relationships when they're teenagers. I liked Dan's take; let the fucked up partner go.

Peace
25
I have never understood people who want to marry people who don't want to marry them back.

Dan's rant about gender roles was amusing, but it isn't the point here. If you ask him to marry you, do you think he'll say yes? I don't. He just doesn't want to be married.

You're burning daylight. Quit worrying about age and time invested and get the hell out while you're still in your twenties. Go find the RIGHT guy... and then ask HIM to marry you.
26
@25 I gotta agree. I'm not sure why gender roles were even brought up. The problem isn't the proposal, the problem is that the boyfriend is completely ambivalent about the relationship.

If nothing else asking will at least let her know where she stands, though I think DTMFA would be a better choice.
27
I asked my boyfriend to marry me after a similar amount of back and forth. He said yes only because it was a deal breaker for me. Right up until the wedding day, he couldn't see why we should risk what we had for something he didn't understand. And then he did see, because our experience of being together got better and better from being married.

Some people can only see the risks when they visualise a change. At least I already knew this about him. I also knew that he genuinely wanted to be with me. Nobody should be proposing to anybody until they're clear on that. If you don't have that clarity, work on the communication before planning the family.
28
Really nice advice, thank you! I feel conflicted. I really don't doubt his love or wanting to be with me. He is not at all ambivalent about our relationship, I really think this is about him not being able to visualize himself as a married man quite yet, but where does that leave me? He's always been a little bit of a late bloomer and done things slower than his peers...his mom asked me to be patient with him, and we share such a strong love, but if he doesn't propose in a reasonable amount of time....should i have to re-evaluate my need to be married and do life-goal things with him with no marriage or lose the love of my life?

I can't come up with reasons NOT to get married: we're already financially intertwined and work well in that way, we are excellent roommates, have fantastic and hot sex, we make decisions well together, have a lot of the same hobbies and respect each other's space to do our own thing sometimes,...really we are very compatible. Our one serious issue is this marriage thing. And it's getting super frustrating.
29
It seems like she already proposed, and he said no.

But I wonder what marriage would change, in this case, that's so important.
30
Whether or not POPDAQ should be proposing, whether she's already essentially proposed, anything like that... she does need to step up and tell him she needs to know where this bus is going so she can decide whether or not to get off.

Although I do think she should wait until after the holidays, in case his "Let's not shop for a ring" comment was more in the sense of "I've already got one ready" than "I don't want to."

I disagree with Dan that this is a 'gender roles' thing, but I do think she needs to definitively pull the trigger. Best way to do that would be a proposal of her own rather than an ultimatum -- with the knowledge that they are one and the same at this point and only the presentation matters.
31
MSB, your boyfriend saying he feels raped makes me wonder if he was actually raped or sexually abused as a child. It's such an unusual and strong statement to make! Also, it is not unusual for sexual abuse victims to become asexual as a protection against ever being 'abused' again. (Some sexual abuse victims go the other way and become hypersexual, but that's another story). And it may be that the traumatic memories have been repressed, or it happened when he was very young, and only the symptoms remain. This is not unusual either. So it may be that what's happening with him is the result of sexual trauma and he really needs as much kindness as you can find for him. Perhaps a good therapist too who specialises in trauma recovery. Good luck to you both.
32
Ooh, I have a connection this morning!

I see the LW herself appears to have commented, and is still in, "But he won't proPOSE!!!" mode. Please, LW, please, STOP BEING THAT PERSON.

That was one of the most annoying parts of the gay-friends subplot in The Abstinence Teacher (in fact, I am going to guess that the author's wife or female companion had a gay friend or two whom he resented badly, because he came up with clever ways to be subtly anti-gay over the course of the novel) - in which the gay couple breaks up over this issue before the Magic Proposal occurs and The Day Is Saved. But it was nice to see Mr Savage in Optimism Mode.

I don't know why Ms Erica expects same-sexers to fall into a rut, but shall assume good will.

I advise LW to frame the discussion of marriage without any proposal in question, and indeed to marry without there ever having been a Proposal in the generally understood sense. If anything, The Proposal is a hurdle or distraction, the utility of which comes in the form of it being one way to show up people who aren't suited to marriage. It doesn't help or strengthen a couple or an attachment in any serious and long-lasting way (I'll say as a rule just for coverage; exceptions, please spare me your vitriol).

Fictionally, I'd suggest that the proposal spectrum runs from Diane Chambers to Hilda Rumpole. Can anyone expand in either direction?
33
@29: Go look at a list of reasons to legalize gay marriage, for why entering into a relationship with the legal privileges and responsibilities of marriage might make someone feel more secure regarding "I will quit my job and move across the country and cosign a 30 year mortgage with you; I will have children with you; I will plan my life like you can be relied on to be here 2 and 10 and 30 years from now." It's not a guarantee--nothing is--but a deliberately-long-term partner is a perfectly reasonable desire to have. I'm fine if a couple doesn't want to marry, but if one does, it's hardly a wackadoodle never-heard-of desire the other can pooh-pooh. (If they are both adults and together a minimum of a year, two more typical.) To those who ask "why get married" I will offer the "why NOT get married?" If the reason is that you just wouldn't want to be inconveniently tied down in the future, well, your partner is entitled to find that inadequate.

@28: A couple of people have mentioned ultimatums, avoiding of same, and I think it helps to view it not as a deadline you give him, but as a deadline you give yourself. Can you be happy waiting out another year? Two? That calm resolution inside, that this is where things are and there is a point at which you will act to move on with your life, really helps.
34
As for the gender roles thing, I hope nobody would deny that LW is attempting to push BF into a particular gender role for which it's certainly possible that he might have no taste. It does not necessarily sound as if this is the case for this particular LW, but there are straight male Princesses of a sufficiently deep dye to withstand every attempt to be socialized into Princes.

Just for giggles, how would people respond to a letter from an opposite-sexer man who would accept a proposal from his female partner but who himself absolutely wouldn't propose? (In fact, we could almost make this a link to one possible line coming out of the second letter. Unfortunately, I don't think we can link L2 with L3, or there could be a full progression.)
35
@10: Wonderful story. I particularly like that your mother was so calm, which I think is the key. She didn't scream or cry, she didn't issue the dreaded ultimatum*, she simply and coolly conveyed that she was moving on with her life within the new confines of their relationship.

*(I'm actually okay with ultimatums, just not as an empty threat. You issue them after you've tried patiently talking and you really do have one foot on the threshold of the relationship and will leave if whatever the ongoing problem is doesn't change. Whether that's telling your grown child or sibling to move out within 2 months, or your spouse that if they come home drunk and angry again you're gone, or your bf/gf that if they don't want to get married after four years together you accept that and want to be free to find someone who will be interested in a future with you.)
36
LW @ 28:

but if he doesn't propose in a reasonable amount of time....should i have to re-evaluate my need to be married and do life-goal things with him with no marriage or lose the love of my life?

Yeah, those are the options. The things you need to decide are what constitutes "a reasonable time" (six months? Another year?) and stick to it; if he doesn't propose within that time, you'll need to decide which is more important--being with him without getting married, or finding someone else to marry.

It's a good idea to decide exactly how long you're willing to wait, and tell him. You're well within your rights to set a date for the wedding, and ask him if he's okay with that date; some guys just need the push. And you're well within your rights to tell him that that's also the date when, if you're still legally single, you're going to become actually single.
37
When I was 31, I told my 27 year old boyfriend were getting married within a year, with a goal of quick reproduction, or I was moving to another town to live with my sister and finding some sperm somewhere. He freaked, and felt he wasn't old enough, and I started looking at houses in the other town, but he came around pretty quickly. We got married eight months later, and started trying to reproduce eight months after that.

So, ultimatums are great! Assuming you are okay with either outcome.
38
I had a coworker whose girlfriend told him she was leaving if he had not proposed by a certain date.

She refused to tell him the date.

Two weeks later they were engaged.

So yes, sometimes it takes an ultimatum.
39
@37: Exactly. You don't have to be enthralled with either outcome, but you give yourself some control over the future by rejecting the status quo ad inifinitum as not an acceptable choice.

To take the example of a spouse's drinking issue (I think it helps to break ultimatums out from the proposal ghetto), your options would be a) Continue on with spouse you love who seriously addresses their alcohol problem rather than lose you; b) Start a life without the person who decided their alcohol-fueled bouts of rage were more important than keeping you. (b) is not fun, but it is better than (c) continue on with horrible present situation.
40
Please forgive me for posting a lot, but my connection probably won't last much longer. I just saw that Mrs King (I do feel for poor Ilana Kloss, though, if it rankles having her partner eternally tied to her former husband's surname) will be in the US Olympic delegation to Sochi. What a perfect selection.
41
A Note to POPDAQ: In addition to proposing you could also woman-up and buy your own ring. You could also accept what appears to be the obvious: He doesn't want to marry you or he might have accepted his gender role and proposed to you and then blown a wad on a ring.
42
I am with vennomminon, ditch the idea of a proposal. Two adults in a relationship with each other should be able to have a discussion if and when they want to get married without one having to propose.

My ex is now my because we couldn't agree on a future together. I wanted children, he said "maybe in a few years". While his vagueness was one of the things that had attracted me to him, I needed a definite "yes" or "no" to this question.

In situations like this, where one partner wants something and the other one just cannot decide, the indecisiveness is much more of a problem than a "No" would be.
43
MSB, transition your boyfriend to your friend, if you think that's reasonable, and encourage him to get counseling, because he is screwed up way above your pay grade.

And to your question, I have heard from asexuals here who want romance and companionship and will happily trade sex to get it--the same way someone who doesn't get much out of long walks in the woods will nonetheless provide those to a partner who finds them important for bonding. It is not true of all asexuals, and it absolutely sounds like your boyfriend should not be having sex with anyone.
44
I sometimes wonder how much stereotypical straight male marriage reluctance might be better characterized as "wedding reluctance".

Maybe you should ask your boyfriend if any of his ambivalence about proposing and getting married comes from a lack of desire to engage in extended and expensive Gender Role Performance Theatre.

Maybe if you suggested an elopement (city hall wedding! no guests, no fuss! celebration at a later time if at all!) you would get a different response. Maybe not, of course, but it's probably worth a shot.
45
I don't think Dan's answer to POPDAQ is helpful, because it seems to me the boyfriend is clearly uninterested in making a marriage commitment anytime soon, and the last thing he needs is to be pressured into it by her, which is likely to be his reaction when she proposes. In other words, he'll either say "no" or "I'm not ready yet", and she's right back where she started.
46
Dammit Dan, I am the sort of person where the minute you tell me to not to do something I do it. Thus my google image search on genital bisection. I should have listened...I reeeeally should've listened.
48
*shrugs* I proposed to my (now) husband. It's not an intimidating process or a big risk when it's the right person. At the point where you propose, you should already know what answer you're going to get. I think POPDAQ knows what answer she *wants* and also knows that she's not going to get it. Time to pull the plug, sister.

FWIW, I *never* felt 'old enough' to have kids until I was with someone who was mature, responsible, and stable - and who would make a good co-parent. It's very likely POPDAQ's bf thinks he'll feel 'old enough' some day, where age isn't relevant, it's because he's with the wrong person.
49
Oof...for POPDAQ: well, this will be long. The TL;DR is: cut him loose he doesn't want to marry you.

--

I don't disagree with Dan much, but I think @2 and @11&12 are correct: he is effectively saying no. It's not that you haven't said you want to get married, and it's not like he doesn't know your feelings. You have effectively proposed, and it's not even a non-response that he's giving you: he's actively saying, "I feel too young to do this". Whether or not it's a rejection of you personally, it's a rejection of getting married to you. Here's another nostrum: when a person tells you who they are, believe them.

I have not always listened to my own advice. I have pushed and pushed and pushed relationships that clearly weren't going anywhere on their own. And if I worked hard enough and contorted myself hard enough, I could maybe cajole the other person into going along. This got me into one bad and one horrible (long term) relationship, neither of which worked out.

The last time I encountered this, I ran into someone who seemed...how shall I say...ambivalent...about marriage. We talked about wanting all the same things; we talked about a future. We got together on the premise of shared goals and a future. And yet, whenever actually getting married came up, she got..squirrelly. Having finally learned my lesson, I stopped pushing, and the relationship fell apart (and that hurt, a bunch).

Flash forward a few short years - she's having a kid with the guy who preceded me (who lurked in the background as a "friend" the whole time), and I'm married to someone who said yes with zero ambivalence or hesistation...'cause all that pre-proposal chat revealed that it was clearly what I wanted and she had plenty of time to decide. I don't know about the ex or her "friend" - but I can tell you I'm a hell of a lot happier, despite the heartbreak.

You can propose as Dan advises - you can take charge - I'd advocate it take the form of, "I want to get married, preferably to you; either we get engaged, set a date and move forward, or I'm moving on". As a guy who has always taken the traditional role of being the proposer, I can assure you that after it is declined, the relationship ends and you move on, unless you are a doormat. But I wouldn't push any harder than that - find the person who you don't have to push. You want to marry someone who is as excited about getting married as you are.

PS - next time, do not consult your mother or especially his mother - inviting parental meddling is creepy and scary.
50
@40 vennominion,

Thanks for providing the reason to wiki Ms. King. I had no idea she'd been hetero-married.

Well, at THIS point in time, her surname is more a professional brand label than an anachronistic holdover of paternalistic dominion.

Peace
51
@10 - I too really really hate that line about "getting the milk for free" but yes, you're right, it does apply - not so much in the crass "sex and domenstic housekeeping" sense of "milk" but the "I'm getting everything I want out of this relationship" (which ideally includes more than just sex and housekeeping).
52
As for the second letter, in a cross between a Best Guess and If This Were My Novel, I'm going to suspect that, if LW chooses, "If you decide to take Dan Savage's advice and seek a non-sexual F/M domination session, turn to page 47," he will find the experience sufficiently enthralling that he re-evaluates his identity, discusses it with his partner, and gets acquiescence to sexual F/M domination sessions, but that they break up because what BF would like is a dealbreaker. Just a faint vibration, though, and I hope I'm wrong.

The question itself (assuming the read that a request for approval for an exploratory session would be denied) seems to boil down to playing the result. The situation doesn't strike me as all that far from something that happens. I've known a few exclusive same-sexers with fetishes who have at least wondered about indulging with the opposite sex - although quite often in an oppositional spirit of preferring to fail.
54
Monica -- don't worry. Chandler is just pretending to not want to marry you because he has a big surprise proposal planned!!
55
@23 - when it's the woman saying it, it's "why buy the pig when all you want is some sausage."
56
@28 the LW
Does he not like the idea of marriage or does he not like the idea of a wedding? My now hubby was very anti marriage, despite being engaged 6 years previously (or because of it). I did not want kids and agreed to a committed relationship w/o the marriage. After a couple years, there were some tax implications for are domestic partnership. Our only way out was going the common law route. So, we signed some papers and went common law for a few years. I did not mind the common law thing because our state recognizes it as a legal marriage, the same as a ceremonial marriage. Then, when we got a house together and marriage laws were changing, we "eloped" with a 30 second ceremony in the parking lot of out favorite restaurant. My sister was there and a close friend of his. The 4 of us went out to dinner afterwards. No reception, no party, no presents, no other family or friends. He did not mind the commitment; he just hated the wedding spectacle & expense. So, we got married but it was very private & quick. We only told a few people the 2nd time around. My hubby would not have done a big wedding, or even a small one. If I wanted to be married to him, I had to forgo white dresses and pretty speeches. He was worth it. :-) Do you know if your guy is wedding shy or marriage shy? There is a difference. If it is wedding shy, elope next weekend!
57
@49 and @53

I really don't know what to think, but I am pretty sure he has NOT bought a ring and I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the works as far as him planning. He told me he thinks he will just wake up one morning and feel ready and decide that's the day.

I do regret talking to his mom. We have a good relationship and she's the nicest lady ever, but I feel like that was a mistake.

My grandmother has offered us a ring (a few months ago), which he is still contemplating using.

Thanks everyone for your advice :) It's given me a lot to think about!
58
If Popdaq and her boyfriend’s mother are both bugging him to propose to her, I’d bet he’s pissed off and digging in his heels. Even if he might want to marry her there’s no way he’s going to propose.

Popdaq should move on right now. If Popdaq’s boyfriend then decides he should propose in order to get her back, that will be his decison which is what you want. No coaching by Popdaq or by Popdaq’s boyfriends mother! If he doesn’t want to then he doesn’t want to. Respect that.

If he doesn’t, then Popdaq hasn’t wasted any more time on someone who is never going to marry her.

Popdaq sweetie, you’re only 28. I met the love of my life when I was twelve. He dumped me when I was 22. Then I met the other love of my life when I was 37. We got married. It’s possible there’s even a third love of my life out there.

Don’t wait. Get busy. You don’t need another two years to figure this out. After 3½ years he knows you (and himself) well enough to know whether or not he wants to marry you.
59
POPDAQ, I really relate to what you're going through (except for the desire to reproduce), and unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you. My BF and I have been together for over five years, living together virtually the entire time, and we've had variations on the marriage discussion several times. I laid out my feelings that I wanted to marry him, though not in any specific hurry, and told him I would leave it in his court (that way I wouldn't feel like I had pressured or coerced him into anything, but that he had made up his own mind on the subject). He's happy with things the way they are and doesn't see the point in changing anything.

We recently spent time with another couple at a holiday party, and they had been together for three years and were getting the familial pressure about marriage. The male half of the couple confessed to us that though he thought he might like to marry his GF, he "just wasn't sure," in the "but what if something better comes along" sense. That's what nags at the back of my mind the most: the idea that you can live with someone for years, love them, want to be with them, but still be unwilling to commit so that you can feel free to leave on the off chance that you meet someone better.
60
That's what nags at the back of my mind the most: the idea that you can live with someone for years, love them, want to be with them, but still be unwilling to commit so that you can feel free to leave on the off chance that you meet someone better.

Look at it from his perspective, though: right now, he lives with someone he loves and wants to be with and is still legally free to leave on the off chance he meets someone better. That "freedom" is still a benefit, even if he has no intention of using it; why give it up if he doesn't have to?

So you make him have to. Some guys need the push.
61
Dear rosysunbeam (@28 &57) aka POPDAQ:

You need to get clear on what it is you want and why you want it. We here at Savage Love don't know, but that's not important, unless you want us to know. But it is important that you, yourself (and then perhaps, your boyfriend), know what you want and why you want it, whether you can live without it or not. Is it a question of cultural conditioning or something else (for the record, I'm not knocking cultural conditioning; it's a powerful force. I'm just advocating awareness of its existence.)?

Do you want marriage, or do you want a wedding? Do you want a proposal or an agreement to marry? Wanting any or some combination of these things is fine and your right, but sometimes some women get caught up in the proposal-wedding aspect of the business and aren't seeing the forest for the trees (I decided if I already used one cliche in this thread, I'd just go for broke and haul them all out).

The ring, the romantic proposal, the dress that makes you look like a princess, the showers, the parties, the wedding with its attendant decisions about flowers and decorations and table settings and music and the CAKE, the photographs the bouquet, the honeymoon, the presents, the attention of being a BRIDE: these are Big Cultural Memes. You may really, really want them. You may be feeling cheated by not seeing them being willingly and happily offered.

What if the boyfriend suggested going down to city hall and getting married? Would that be okay with you?

You talk about goals and kids--are you okay with those being achieved without being married? Be aware that marriage itself is no guarantee that your husband and you will end up being on the same page--and timetable--when it comes to having children.

Do you feel not loved enough, not validated enough by his refusal to propose? After all that's a pretty big public statement of his feelings, and in many ways the ultimate gesture that lets you know he really loves you the most someone can love someone else.

Because sharing your life, sharing all of yourself with someone who is not making a gesture can feel like you're sharing your life and yourself with someone who thinks that perhaps you're not all he wants, that he "can do better," as Hunter put it, who isn't fundamentally, deep-down sure about you. And that is painful. That should be addressed, not glossed over with a coerced proposal. Coerced or forced proposals generally do not make for happy marriages.

What do you really want? Why do you really want it?
Once you know, you need to decide what to do.

62
@ 28/rosysunbeam/POPDAQ,

What I'm about to say is said better and in more depth by Kamy Wickoff in the book I Do, But I Don't, but she's not here and I am, so:

The reason that I agree 100% with Dan's advice about gender roles is that any time a person approaches a major life change, they're likely to feel conflicted about it. Part of you will want to change/explore/adventure, part of you will want to keep things the same/stability/comfort. What traditional gender roles do is split up that conflict, so rather than both people feeling both sides, the woman is to feel all the wanting to get married, and the guy is to feel all the ambivalence/wanting to put it off.

That model isn't really how it works for anyone, because even for people who are incredibly sure they want to get married, there's a tiny shred of doubt somewhere-- and for most of us, it's more than a tiny shred. But it's a simple way to look at it, and often, the guy has enough ambivalence, and the woman has enough enthusiasm, for the model to work. And then both sides get aired enough for both people to feel comfortable, like their own reservations have been addressed.

So if you do the proposing, it'll mean you taking on the other side of the ambivalence. It'll mean you thinking hard about what he might like as a gift, it'll mean you taking the risk, putting yourself out there, telling him to his face how much you love him and want to be with him, and risking his saying he doesn't feel the same way about you. It takes away from you the crutch of being able to tell yourself that he doesn't want marriage because that's "just how guys are." It means you have to do something hard and scary, which might be so hard and scary that he's not able to bring himself to do it (even though he might want you).

You're not gonna know until you ask. Go. Be brave. You might feel comfier being a princess, but there are some wonderful things you can feel when you try being a prince.

Good luck!
63
After I had been dating my future-husband a year, I knew I wanted to marry him. So, while on a trip together to a favorite spot, I told him so. I also told him I thought we should both think about what being married would mean for the next eight months (and by we, I meant he). I basically gave him a hard date to propose. Or not. About a month before the deadline, he did propose and we've been married 10 years now. He still teases me about the ultimatum, but I never thought of it that way. I was being practical. Sure, it would have been awful to break up with him, but I knew I would hate myself if I sacrificed what I wanted, eventually hating him too.
64
I need some bleach. Mr. Savage,you owe me a therapy session for those google images.

Why would anyone do that?! Do they use a hair band to tie it together before insertion? So. many. Questions.
65
POPDAQ, my husband and I knew we wanted to get married eventually and had discussed it. We were engaged, but hadn't set a date. He just never felt "ready". We talked about it fairly seriously after he was offered a job across the country, and he said he still wasn't ready. I thought about it for a few days and said I wouldn't (leave a job & health insurance to) follow him unless we made it legal. He talked to his parents who supported the idea. We got married 2 days later, moved to the west coast, and have been happily married for 4 years.

A person can be completely committed to a relationship and just be spooked of Commitment. In these situations, taking the reins or setting a deadline can be exactly what is needed. It sounds like you have his family's support -- that will be useful.
66
I wish I could quote my source, but I seem to recall that most Americans get married within two years of either side of the age at which they believe people should get married.

It might be useful to ask him at what age he thinks people should be ready to marry, rosysunbeam, as that may be a pretty good indication of how close he may be all on his own.

It's also worth mentioning that you indicated marriage isn't your end game, you're actually simply viewing it as a prerequisite to having children and owning a home, both things you want to do relatively soon. You might consider the possibility of changing the order or to what extent you might do the latter two on your own. I believe it would be a mistake to issue a marriage ultimatum that doesn't include a basic schedule for kids and a home, or you may find yourself more tied down but further from your desired path.

Follow the advice about talking to him and best of luck.
67
Hi @57 -

I met the love of my life when I was twelve. He dumped me when I was 22. Then I met the other love of my life when I was 37. We got married. It’s possible there’s even a third love of my life out there.

THIS! x1000!

There is no "one". There can be many or there can be none, and you have some control over that.

Also: there is pretty good statistical evidence that couples who are together longer than 3 years without getting married - this is most often looked at in the context of cohabitation, but I don't think that's the relevant issue - ultimately have higher divorce rates and lower marital satisfaction if they do marry. The likely cause is that the >3 years indicates that at least one partner really isn't all that into it. If you are going to just "wake up one day and know" then it happens within a year or two at most.

I really wish you the best of luck, but please believe that there is more than one "love of your life" out there - don't let the fear of 'not finding another' drive you into something poor. Even if you love this guy that much and it's going to tear you up a bit to let him go.
68
@57 rosysunbeam: He told me he thinks he will just wake up one morning and feel ready and decide that's the day.

That is no way to live for something important to you. Imagine having that standard applied to when you start trying to have children, as the years slip by. Nothing else quite matches the marriage/children dynamic, but: Imagine it applied by a boss as to when you could start handling projects on your own. And for months he told you he thought he'd feel ready in the future, but just not today. He was waiting for an internal shift from the universe. How long would it be before you started looking for a new job that might offer all the opportunities this one kept promising were out there in the future, just not here today?

(Note 'important for you.' My brother- and sister-in-law got engaged but then she wanted to wait a bit on getting married. He was fine with that. One day she woke up and was like "okay, now is good" and they were married that weekend. He cared that they were on the same page about a future together but was fine with giving her some time.)

And this from 58: Don’t wait. Get busy. You don’t need another two years to figure this out. After 3½ years he knows you (and himself) well enough to know whether or not he wants to marry you.

NoCute has some good questions. Sugar has a warning for herself and you, where "I don't want to be married just yet" (in a years' old relationship between two adults, where marriage is important to one of you) usually means "I don't want to be married to you."
69
For POPDAQ--you may be relieved to learn that the "Women's ovaries shrivel and their fertility declines sharply after 30" is a myth. Evidence suggests that while it's slightly harder to conceive after 30, it's about 5% less--not experiencing a sharp decline until 40. So, no need to panic for another ten years.
70
Re 67: One reason Carolyn Hax cautions about moving in together is that she hears so often from people (both genders) who aren't truly sure they want to be with this person long-term, but breaking up would be incredibly inconvenient, and... they don't know, maybe they should get married? It's what their partner wants, they've been waffling the past two years... Maybe there really isn't anyone better out there?

You don't want to be the option that was easier than figuring out who got the blender.
71
Re 69: There's a difference between the attitude "I don't have a good co-parent nailed down, that's important to me, I have time" and the attitude "I'm at the age when fertility starts to decline and my current partner of several years claims he will be ready for marriage and then children on some mysterious future schedule that is in the hands of the universe and which I cannot affect."

As a married parent, I definitely get wanting a co-parent: sometimes you're at the end of your rope, and another person living in the house and permanently in your children's lives who can step in is invaluable. As someone who got pregnant in one easy try at 27, and after literal years of trying the next two times, I take that fertility dip seriously: you have no idea where you are on the hard/easy curve until you start trying. The reason to wait is that you don't have enough ducks in a row (e.g. partner, finances, emotional stability), not that your partner is waiting for the universe to craft a special sign in the heavens that the time is now.
72
@70 - AMEN. Nice to see another 'nut here too.
73
After thinking about this a lot and reading everyone's comments, it seems to me that when someone says "I don't want to be married just yet," it can have one of two meanings.

1) I don't want to be married to you.

2) I am scared of the idea of marriage; it feels like I'm being trapped in something with no way out.

Those meanings have different treatments ("treatments" isn't the right word, but I'm too busy to think of the correct word, so it will have to do. "Responses" may also work imperfectly):

For #1: Move on. It's unfair to keep the one who wants to be married tethered to someone who is thinking that s/he can "do better." If you are the one who wants to be married, it is an ego-shredding experience to be with someone who wants to be with you only so far and no further. Both of you should see the need to split up, even though such a split will doubtless be an unhappy event.

For #2: This is where the "push" or the ultimatum (delivered not as a manipulative device, but truly meant for the wants-to-be married's own sake) might be helpful. I'm going to make a gender-reductive statement here, so all the usual disclaimers apply, but a lot of men freak out at the idea of marriage before they are married (cultural conditioning, perhaps, again) but turn out to be quite happy in the marriage once they are actually married. They need that push.

However, you don't know what his "I don't want to be married just yet" means, so you can't respond appropriately. He's not being honest with you; perhaps he's not being honest with himself. I concede that if he's feeling #1, it's going to be an incredibly uncomfortable conversation to have and he knows that the outcome of it will be the breakup of a relationship that is really pretty good, and will hurt a woman that he loves (just not enough).

So after you ascertain what you want and why you want it, you need to find out what he DOESN'T want and why he doesn't wants it.

And then you'll know what to do.
74
To Rosysunbeam/POPDAQ - From the male perspective, I agree with everything @10 wrote.

FWIW, I also agree with those who think you should be clear with your need for marriage and children happening soon. You can decide how to phrase it/present an ultimatum, but it should be clear.

I was much like your bf. If left to me, I don't know if/when I would have proposed. There really was no incentive to do so - I had neither the marriage itch or a biological clock that was ticking. Plus, there is always the thought in the back of one's mind that options remain open until one says "I do."

Mrs. Horton was very clear to me that she wanted marriage and kids and to have them while relatively young and fertile. So it was put very directly that if I wasn't down with that plan, that was understandable, but she would leave me to find someone who was. I didn't view that as an ultimatum, but rather a clear choice: Propose and agree to children on an earlier time frame than I would have chosen, or let her go and risk whether I would find someone equal/better.
75
@69 - at the risk of being neutered:

While PODPAQ can probably (but not certainly) wait till late 30s to get pregnant, it's a massive mistake to think she can find quality available men in her late 30s. The dating market is still equal or in her favor now, but will become dramatically tilted over the next 5 years. If her goal is to find a high quality man around her age to marry and have kids with, she doesn't have a decade to wait.
76
My husband wasn't ready for marriage (though for very different reasons) when we first started to discuss it. When he realized, however how important this was to me, and the legal difference it would make in our lives he got on board very quickly. I made a few good solid, well researched and thought out points and also told him how important this was to me and that changed his mind. Not because he thought I'd get upset if he didn't comply or because he felt pressured, but because he loves me and realized that this was the next logical step, the way forward for us. We both agreed to this step. I wouldn't have thought to propose to him since it would've just been cornering him and possibly making the situation even worse. He had to realize this is what he wanted too. In his own way and with his own timelines.
77
@73: I agree on most points, but you're missing one option:

Option 3) Marriage seems like something grownups do, and I don't feel grown up yet.

This happens. It happened to me. It happens particularly often in the 20s.

The solution is the same, though: Give him a push.
78
@73: I think people can be genuinely confused about where they are between 1 and 2, though.

If you're living out the meme "It's not you, it's me, I just don't see myself ever getting married.... (partner leaves, year passes) .... Hi, it's me! Yeah, just wanted to let you know Chris and I are getting married/having a kid, and I'm thrilled... Thanks, yeah. Glad you're doing well." It isn't necessarily that your partner maliciously strung you along. They didn't want to get married (or have a kid, or be in a committed relationship, or whatever it was) and didn't connect it to just not wanting to do that with you.

Bruce Willis and Demi Moore screwed this up a bit as an example by eventually divorcing, but when they first met he had just broken up with someone on the grounds that it wasn't her, it was him, he just wasn't at a point in his life where he wanted to be in a committed relationship. A couple of weeks later he met Demi and discovered he wanted to be in a committed relationship. She was busy next weekend because she was going home to see her folks? He could come with!
79
@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."

I think these are some of the things that go through the mind of the person who's more in the #1 camp than #2, although there is obviously an overlap.

My point @10 was that by continuing to maintain this relationship on the reluctant partner's terms, there is no incentive for the reluctant partner to evaluate and respond to his own feelings. He has all the power, and she is frustrated and resentful.
80
Re 77: Gah.

The ONLY time people over the age of 18 seem to want to invoke immaturity as a defense is when it comes to how they treat their sexual or romantic partners. Should they be able to drive a car, have a job (a real job with real responsibility and real consequences for their actions), be self-supporting, make their own decisions, be legally responsible for any minors left in their care, purchase and consume any legal intoxicants they like, purchase legal firearms, have whatever kind of sex they like with consenting persons over 18 and film it if they like, sign binding contracts, and generally be treated as a responsible adult? Hell yeah, that's what they are. Should they treat their lovers respectfully and considerately? Well, see, they're just a wee young kid still and can't really be expected...

No one should get married if they don't feel ready, but waiting for the universe to send signs (as opposed to signs they themselves make happen) is frustratingly passive.
81
nocute @79, yes, and that's the beauty of your mom's approach. She didn't issue an ultimatum, she just exercised her right as an unmarried woman to consider other men as possible life partners.

Rosysunbeam (LW), I think you should do the same. Go meet other people. Don't consider yourself life-partners with your bf yet. Though I note that you haven't answered tau's question @44 about whether you would elope if he said he'd like to be married to you, but wants to skip the wedding.

And, yes, stop talking to his mother about your personal life.
82
@77: I regard your #3 as being a subset of #2.

@80: No, I find that those people who do it only want to clutch the immaturity/not-really-a-grownup card pretty tightly in every instance where "grown up" equals responsibility. When being a "grown up" only means having more privileges, they're fine with it.

@ The general conversation: You know those straight couples that marry after living together for 15-20 years? Excluding legitimate reasons for not be able to marry before then (like one is already married, or there's some huge income source that being married deprives them of, etc. And I'm not addressing same-sex marriage, which has only recently become an option), what do you think when you hear that they get married after cohabitating for so long? I always think that one of them finally came to the conclusion that s/he wasn't going to be able to do better, after all.

Now, for some people, that can be couched in romantic terms. I would feel like a consolation prize.
83
@ POPDAQ, with reference to 77 - That's what I see. He doesn't feel grown up yet (his mother basically told you so).

Let's face it, most guys remain adolescents as long as they can. They want to have fun without consequences. That's what your BF has with you right now.

But you want more, which is legitimate. Unfortunately, the way you present things to us, I can just hear what all my straight, married-with-kids male friends who constantly tell me things like: "It was such a great relationship until we got married, then it became all about the house, the kids, the responsibilities."

To you, marriage seems like the start of something in which you can build a future. That future includes a house, kids, etc. To him, because of all those things that you associate with marriage, it might just appear to be "the end of fun". Like, forever. Who would want that?

I think framing the marriage issue as something that's about the two of you, and only the two of you (not the house, not the kids) might be a better way to win him over. Most men want to reproduce, so the desire for kids (and the house to raise them in) will come spontaneously soon afterwards, once he realizes that marriage didn't mean "the end of fun".

Then again, it might be too late - with the meddling mothers and all, he may already be terrified and looking for a way out. But if it isn't, and he does agree to get married, be a reasonable girl and agree to a pre-nup. That'll go a long way toward making him feel that you see him as a person and not as a breeder/provider.

84
About 83

I meant "I can just hear all my straight, married-with-kids male friends who constantly tell me things like:". Sorry about that.
85
@ 82 - Funny, I always think that they're silly to waste money getting married when it's been working so well for so long. Or that maybe they just want to change all their appliances.
86
@79: "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."

Well, isn't there some truth to that? Something along those lines is basically the lived experience of many, many men, so it's not just a chimera of cultural indoctrination. And similarly, women's traditional cultural role is to say "no", to demand that a man give up his dreams and interests (including his desires for other women) in favor of providing for her and their offspring.

Of course a lot of this is socially constructed, but I'm not convinced all of it is. I'm reminded of a great quotation from the essay "Melodramas of Beset Manhood: How Theories of American Fiction Exclude Women Authors" by Nina Baym:

"It seems to be a fact of life that we all women and men alike experience social conventions and responsibilities and obligations first in the persons of women, since women are entrusted by society with the task of rearing young children. Not until he reaches mid-adolescence does the male connect up with other males whose primary task is socialization; but at about this time if he is heterosexual his lovers and spouses become the agents of a permanent socialization and domestication. Thus, although women are not the source of social power, they are experienced as such. And although not all women are engaged in socializing the young, the young do not encounter women who are not. So from the point of view of the young man, the only kind of women who exist are entrappers and domesticators."

87
@ 80: The ONLY time people over the age of 18 seem to want to invoke immaturity as a defense is when it comes to how they treat their sexual or romantic partners.

This isn't actually true, though, as we learn when our friends reach the age where some of them start to buy houses and the rest of us don't.

But even if it was, what of it? How to treat your partner is more complicated than all of those things, and there is less guidance available.

...and I'm going to guess that being badgered by his mother about his life choices is not something that's going to make him feel more ready to make permanent life choices. Think about it: would that fill you with a sense of confidence and an eagerness to make irrevocable decisions?

@82: Oh. Fair enough.

what do you think when you hear that they get married after cohabitating for so long? I always think that one of them finally came to the conclusion that s/he wasn't going to be able to do better, after all.

Yeah. Sometimes I'm less generous, though, and assume that one of them finally figured out that their secret other partner wasn't ever going to leave his/her spouse...

But all that's beside the point. Aside from POPDAQ needing to decide what exactly she really wants, and how badly she wants it, a lot of this boils down to: what's in it for him? He has no reason to want to get married; by all accounts, his relationship is fine right now, and he has no reason to think his life would get better if he proposed. So give him a reason.
88
Oh god, that lady should not propose. She needs to have an open and honest talk about what exactly her boyfriend's concerns are, and whether he feels like he just needs more time with *her* or whether he feels like he just needs more time in general.

If it's just time in general, I would dtmfa. If he's still debating her as a life partner and trying to decide if she's the right choice, OK. Give him a bit more time to figure that out. If he's just still basically a kid who doesn't see marriage as an option right now - marriage will be a long time coming. Dtmfa.
89
@10: Love it!

Regarding #1 and #2, I agree that most people do not maliciously mean #1 as a reason to not get married. In my last relationship I felt I was not ready to be married and was afraid of feeling trapped and having an end to "fun" (essentially reason #2). However, after we broke up I realized it wasn't that I didn't want to get married, it was just that I didn't want to get married to HER (ps I'm a woman so its not just men that are afraid of "losing freedom"). I decided that the loss of freedom I was feeling was because I couldn't picture her and I being happy together in the long term.

@82: I kinda like the idea of getting married after 15-20 years. I've told my current partner that I feel I will be ready for marriage when I've been in a relationship long enough that it seems like we are already married. If there is no legal reason to marry, then there might be no push to do so until 15-20 years out. Example is my mom and step-dad, who have now been together 24 years. They got engaged after about 10 years but, to this day, still have never bothered to tie the knot.

90
@83,

I can't be the only guy that had more fun after marrying (in the first marriage). The only thing that changed after we got married, W/R/T my "freedom" to hang out with "The Boys" was that my wife was slightly more likely to go out with me. The only thing that dramatically changed was having an easier time traveling together since we weren't "living in sin", which when you stay with far flung relatives to save money is important. For those few of my friends that ended up in a second marriage, it was very similar: "Go forth and have fun". Not that most of my friends that are also still together didn't have a similar experience.

Not marrying early, and trying before you buy, seems like a minimal requirement. Being an established professional, fiscally responsible, and a lover of fine tequila didn't hurt either.

Peace
91
My husband and I started out long-distance. He knew well before I did that he wanted to get married. This may seem reckless, but I accepted his proposal even though I was still slightly uncertain at the time. But I knew that the wedding planning would mostly fall to me, so I delayed setting the date. He was happy to be engaged and moving along the path, and I was happy to wait until my uncertainties resolved themselves.
92
@88: If he's still debating her as a life partner and trying to decide if she's the right choice, OK. Give him a bit more time to figure that out.

No. They've been together 3.5 years, living together for 2.5 How much "more time" do you advise, while she sits and stews, getting so frustrated she's enlisting both their moms and writing to advice columnists (who ramble on and on about how being gay means that their house is always clean--were you drinking a lot of Robutussin when you wrote this, Dan?).

Is time the only ingredient necessary for someone to go from thinking "she's probably the one. I'm almost convinced she's the one" to "yes, certainly! I want to marry her, to spend the rest of my life with her, to forsake all others (unless we have an open marriage),to make that commitment publicly!"
What will change with "a bit more time?"
How much time constitutes "a bit?"
How long should she wait for him to decide that yeah, he's willing to settle for her? And then she is supposed to celebrate that he finally came to that conclusion/decision?

I was married to a man I had to talk into every big decision/life change we made. I proposed; he laughed nervously and turned me down. Then three days later, he proposed, but didn't want to plan an actual wedding. I had to talk him into that. I had to talk him into home ownership (and he was 32 when we bought the house, not a child); I had to talk him into having children. When I finally realized I didn't want to be married to him anymore (not because of those tendencies), I had to talk him into divorce! It's an exhausting way to live. It means you're never sure whether he would have proposed/married you/had kids with you anyway or whether he was just more scared of the alternative. It gives you no room to ever express your own doubts or concerns(because you have been cast/cast yourself in the role of eternal relationship cheerleader).

Yes, they should have a Big Talk. But IMO, "if he's still debating her as a life partner and trying to decide if she's the right choice," the response should again be DTMFA.
93
@81 and @44
I would elope if he really wanted to skip the wedding. He's a shyer guy and doesn't like being the center of attention. Although, I will admit that yes, I've always dreamed of having a beautiful wedding, I would rather have the man more- so sacrificing a wedding to have the commitment is something I would do.

@69
As someone who works in science with a strong background in genetics, Im not as concerned with not being able to become pregnant as I am with chromosomal abnormalities which begin to sharply rise after the age of 26 for some of the common ones. This is not a sexy thing to discuss with my boyfriend so I usually leave that out. My knowledge of genetics is probably not doing me any favors because I feel like I'm racing against the clock. I have a wonderful man whom I love, we talk about wanting kids together...so I'm like okay! Let's do this! And he says, no, let's wait. Gag.
94
@10: Possibly hair-splitting, but I don't think your mother insisted that your father take her on her terms. Rather, she insisted that if it was going to be his terms, then it was going to be all of them. That's what a dialed-back relationship looks like, buster. You want that, you got it, but that's what it looks like.
95
Terrible advice from Dan on the marriage proposal.

Simple solution that isn't the ultimatum of her proposing to him. She needs to move out and get her own place. They can still date.

They are already living together as if they are married. What incentive on his side is there for him to propose?
96
@26: " I'm not sure why gender roles were even brought up."

Because she is doing the classic gender crap thing of waiting for him to propose.

What she needs to do is propose to him, affirmatively and forcefully. When he turns that down, she will have a lot stronger answer on which to base contemplating her future than "what is taking so long?"
97
@10: I will concede that point. I like that he wanted to dial back the relationship (to going steady), and she decided if it was dialed back, then it was dialed further back (to casually and non-exclusively dating).

98
@avast2006: How do you make boldface type? I'm using a mac.
Thanks in advance!
99
@ 90 - Glad for you, but sincerely, you're part of a select group that doesn't include any of my straight married-with-kids friends or acquaintances. Maybe I should look for new friends.
100
@ 98: (b)words to go in boldface(/b)

Replace ( with < and ) with >
101
Add my voice to the chorus of "What's in it for him?" To start things off: the proposal. Rosysunbeam sounds like the type who has a very specific idea of how a proper proposal should be done, so the pressure is on to get that right. And don't forget to re-mortgage the condo so you can afford the engagement ring that, needless to say, had better be perfect as well.

From there you move to the wedding--and weddings, from the point of view of the harassed groom, are a nightmare. The bride gets to have the world swirl around her for a day. And what does the groom get? The groom gets weeks of debates, decisions, pressure, stress, unstated expectations and increased foreboding in exchange for seeing his fiancee walk down an aisle doing her best imitation of a meringue (does she know she looks better in a nice pair of jeans?).

This is all window dressing, though, when you consider that, to the average 28-year-old hetero male, marriage from the outside looks like a horror show of slow but inevitable domestication and monotony and routine, decreasing sex and a steadily increasing load of responsibility and obligation.

Hope that helps.
102
97: Agreed.

What would be manipulative is for someone to quietly start dating others in order to lever a proposal out of someone in the first place. If I were on the receiving end of that I would take it as evidence that she wanted out, at which point the last thing I would want to do is propose. I want to propose to someone whose interest in me is increasing, not wandering off!
103
@Ricardo et al: Yes, responsibilities tend to accrue as we get older. A house is a big one. Children are a far bigger one. Neither of those is necessary for a marriage, though in the case of POPDAQ, that's also what she wants. But more responsibility doesn't always and only equal less fun. It's different fun, to be sure.

Yes, to a lot of men, marriage is more the end than a beginning. A lot women want it more. (Again, ymmv; usual disclaimers apply.) I think #86 took issue with my comment about cultural conditioning. But unless we change some of that conditioning, straight people will frequently be in the position of two partners in a couple wanting opposing things. This means that one partner will "win" and the other will have to "settle." This is very far from ideal.

Although I don't like Dan's answer to this letter, I think one of the most valuable things he's done for the straight community is to point out that marriage is generally framed as the end of sexual adventure and fun, and suggested that we start thinking of it is as the formalizing of the beginning of a bunch of shared adventures, that we stop viewing our spouse as the impediment to all sexual fun, and starting viewing him/her as our partner in crime. The principle can be applied more generally, and I think it would be beneficial, as so many straight men do in fact to go on to marry and have children, for the culture to try to work toward that goal.
105
@102: Carrots and sticks, right? That's an example of using the stick--harshly but expertly--where right now it looks like the LW's boyfriend has no carrots and no sticks. Unsurprisingly, this produces no action.

If you can't bring yourself to use the stick (meaning, can't bear to dump him if an ultimatum fails), is there some way you can use the carrot--offer something he wants, to sweeten the pot? Right now he's not proposing, and it doesn't sound like he has a reason to want to.
Right now there's nothing in it for him, and you have two ways to change that. Time to pick one...