Marriage guarantees very little in the commitment department, and feelings of love ("I am absolutely crazy for this guy") are no guarantee at all of long-term relationship compatibility. In fact, those emotions may be possibly the worst reason to get married. Stay engaged for a long time, like 5 years at least while you live together.
Eh. I wanted to be engaged before I moved in with my husband but I considered engaged nearly married. No moral objections. I just didn't want to uproot my existence and move my animals and pack and sell my house and.... and... and... before I knew I was making a life long (if not guaranteed hooo boy) commitment. But again I was thirty with baggage and not a lot of interest in up ending my life for someone else that I didn't feel represented a permanent part of my life. She's younger with less metaphorical and literal baggage.
This is really just semantics, but I don't consider "I'm not doing [thing you want me to do] unless [thing I want to happen] happens" as an ultimatum.

Why? Because there is no threat that if [thing I want to happen] does not happen that there will be repercussions. That is, she's not threatening to break up with him if they don't get engaged; she's simply saying she doesn't want to to move in with him until they get engaged, otherwise she's content with the status quo, relatively speaking.

On the other hand, if her boyfriend demanded that they move in together or he will break up with her, *that* would be what I consider an ultimatum.
She could also renew her lease and stop focussing on the bad aspects of living apart. From personal experience, I'd say it's mostly a good thing.
So, after some fairly spectacular failures, I've learned a few things about relationships in my 25-odd years of being an adult.

It's really important to establish early on that you both are pulling in the same direction.

First, what is important to you? Obviously commitment. Do you see marriage as something indissoluble or provisional? That is, do you fully expect the marriage to survive until natural death, even when things get tough, or when you both change and grow, or when one or the other of you finds someone new who reawakens the old hormones, or if one of you turns out to be an alcoholic, or someone gets cancer? Or can you foresee circumstances where divorce would make sense? What about him?

Second, like most other gay guys, my relationships don't revolve around kids. So I've had to do some thinking about what my relationship should be for. Because if it's all about getting my rocks off, we have bathhouses and weekends in Palm Springs for that.

I've come to the opinion that the right candidate for a relationship is someone who:
(a) is interested in his or her own personal growth in some direction
(b) sees me as someone who can help with that endeavor
(c) wants to help me grow into the man I aspire to be, and
(d) has growth aspirations that are congruent with mine.

In other words, what are you building your life around? Money? Family? Faith? Pleasure? Once you know the answer to that, then make sure he is on the same page and that you both can help each other towards your goals.

Finally, it's important to know just what each person is willing to sacrifice for the sake of the family you want to build. If the answer is that you both plan on leading your lives as if you were single but just splitting the bills and fucking every now and then, then the relationship is pretty much guaranteed to fail. You want someone who will be willing to put you and your future kids first and himself second, just as you should be putting him and the kids first and your own wants and needs second. If you're not on the same page there, then it's not going to work.

Which means that you need to sit down and do some thinking yourself first and foremost. Then, when you've answered these questions for yourself to your satisfaction, you need to have several long discussions with him (giving him ample time to work out just what it is he wants).

If, at the end of all that process, you're both on the same page, then someone popping the question and moving in together and all that should feel like the painfully obvious next step.
Or it may turn out one of them supported invading Iraq.
@6 Dude: they're in their twenties. That decision was taken 13 years ago in 2003. He was only 12 at the time.

Do you feel old now?
Straight people are weird.

I moved in with my boyfriend after we'd been dating about a month. Sort of. I kept my old place for appearance's sake for a while. But we were fully moved in together after a relatively short time. We had no commitment at all toward a long term relationship. At first we were basically roommates that fucked. We didn't get married till 25 years later (but of course we weren't allowed to, so it really wasn't part of the conversation).

I think moving in together is an important step in getting to know one another. I'd suggest doing so before committing. You may be in "love", but can you stand to live together? How will you know until you try it? How will you know if some of his little daily domestic habits won't drive you crazy? Or that some of your domestic habits won't drive him crazy?

Insisting that you get engaged before you find out if you are domestically compatible seems like putting the cart before the horse to me.
@ 8 "Insisting that you get engaged before you find out if you are domestically compatible seems like putting the cart before the horse to me"

It is. But to the LW's credit, they've been together for four and a half years, and they spend four nights a week together if not more. I think they have a pretty good idea of each other's domestic habits/level of cleanliness by now.
' God forbid we break up after moving in together.' Yeah right, living together never leads to break ups.
The guy in this story was twenty years old when this relationship started, she a few years older. Do we look forward to him writing a letter like yesterday's one in a couple of years time, after baby one comes along.
' oh, I got with my wife before I had a lot of sexual experience.'
LW, my gut reaction is don't move in with him. You guys have been together for a long time and he's still looking at a move as some in between state. Nah. If he hasn't decided by now that he wants to spend the rest of his life with you, I'm thinking no, don't move in with him.
This is just a disagreement on the proper order of relationship progression.

For a long time, the accepted order was date->commit->engage->marry->sex->move-in.

Obviously that's no longer the case for most people.

Girl thinks progression of "seriousness" in a relationship is date->sex->commit->engage->move in->marry.

Guy thinks its date->sex->commit->move in->engage->marry.

Both feel the other is trying to skip the next step. One of them will have to yield.
The woman is setting herself up for failure. That man doesn't necessarily reciprocate her love with same intensity or commitment. Or, he DOES love her, but recognizes the reality of commitments and relationships... and knows that "Love isn't enough"... their daily lives and logistics also have to SYNC and SYNERGIZE.
You know what else is basically an ultimatum? Proposing to someone.
You can tell just how far from equal this society still is by the fact that Dan and everyone else's first reaction wasn't why don't YOU to ask HIM.
I re-read this letter and realized that this couple are basically CHILDREN. Their brains are barely fully-formed! Making any life-altering decisions right now is a terrible idea.

And frankly my anecdotal understanding is that, everything else being equal, mens' brains mature a little later than womens' brains... so any marriage now is gonna end up dissolving in less than 7 years anyway, when both both these kids come to their senses.
My advice (assuming she can't afford both "last affordable apartment in their city" and to contribute to his mortgage) is to sublet her apartment and hold on to the lease so she could move back in a year if things don't work out with the guy.

On the engagement question, I would ask him if he could accept a private agreement to get engaged in a year, and give up the other lease at that same time. If he can't even agree, privately, to get engaged in a year, then I would take that as "no, he doesn't see you as the person he wants to marry." He just sees you as a convenient roommate to help pay his mortgage and provide sex until he meets the person he wants to marry.
As an old nun once told me, after five years maybe it's time to paint or get off the ladder. Moving in with no commitment is just kicking the can further down the road if marriage is what you desire. Doesn't sound like boyfriend is on the same page with you yet. Stay separate until you are.
@15 Yeah the economics are against her on this one : " He's house-hunting and splitting a mortgage payment would save both of us a lot of money.". So she's expected to make a monetary investment in a home without legal status to reflect her contribution. I sure as Hell wouldn't sign on for that. Love is one thing but money is something else entirely, your suggestion of subleasing her apartment is probably as good as the middle ground gets.
Ms Erica - Why assume he wants to marry some person, met or unmet? Not having met the person one wants to marry and not having met a person one wants to marry are rather different.


M? Chi - That was definitely my first response, and I am in a wise enough mood not to leave it there for now.


My cosmic vibrations are telling me to give LW a Gertrude Award - she wants the rock but also or only wants it to be her doing him a favour by "letting" him give it to her, hence all the elaborate hoo-ha. At least they're both still relatively young, and may be capable of an adult conversation on the subject at some future date.

About half a year ago, I may have inadvertently precipitated a proposal. I have a young Australian friend who'd decided he wanted to marry his boyfriend of several months. He was planning the "perfect proposal" for their holiday in about a month's time. Then I just had a stray thought and asked what would happen if his boyfriend happened to propose to him first? He realized just how Alpha he felt about being the proposer, and ended up jumping the gun and proposing that weekend.
@14 He's 25 and she's late 20s. How much longer do you want them to wait? Assuming children are part of the plan, her peak fertility is probably already behind her. If she waits too much longer (say mid 30s), she might have real problems conceiving.

Historically speaking, they are about at the sweet spot, or a little past it, for establishing a family and having kids.
@17 Yes, this is a bad economic situation. One that can set you back years. Getting engaged will not change that at all. Marriage, yes. But, if he is buying now then it will not be yours according to WA state law. So, get involved and pay his mortgage if you want, but know that you are not entitled to any of that property.
Mr. Venn, your rebuke to me @18 is exactly right.
@19 Agreed. And saying, like one poster did, that these 25-29 yos are like children with barely formed brains is like saying that most of human progress--if not human history--has been dominated by childish thought and babies having babies.

Everyone is always growing up as they're growing old. At one time, having children was thought of as another part of the maturing process, or at least a way to push you along the path. Now though, it's more of a cherry on top once you've triple-checked all of your ducks are in a row on the career, relationship, and self-actualization fronts. Not necessarily an improvement.
I think Corydon @5 and EricaP@15 have it. As far as the mortgage payment goes, can't they set up a legal agreement setting out their rights? This is normal in the UK if people aren't married. They need to be clear whether she would pay rent to him, or whether she would be purchasing a proportion of the property's value, that he would buy back if he kicked her out (in either case, she'd probably develop tenant's rights just by living there a while).

If he's willing to involve her in a property that he is buying, and has thought through the implications, that is a much bigger commitment than getting engaged. She may want to reflect on that.
he won't shut up about how the Dem primary being "rigged"

...or he won't shut up about the election his candidate won.
I haven't read the comments yet, but I call Bullshit on this sexist bullshit. The advice is that she sit down with her BF and require that he propose to her. What?

I thought an engagement proposal was when someone asked someone else if they wanted to get married [some time in the future]. In this case, she wants to see if he is willing to entertain the idea of getting married.

She should propose to him. He should accept or decline as is his prerogative, and Dan Savage should apologize for being a sexist, heteronormative troglodite.
Corydon @19: WTF! She never mentioned kids. Let me reiterate. She never mentioned kids.

EricaP @15: I like the way you think. Sounds like that would be the best compromise. He -- wisely, IMO -- does not want to commit to an engagement before he has a feel for how their relationship will be when they are cohabiting. So they move in, and in a year's time, if that's gone well they get engaged and set a wedding date.

MissPiggy @23: Buying a property together is a bigger commitment than marriage, let alone engagement. But it doesn't sound like that's what they're planning; she says her student debts would preclude her jointly buying a house.
+1 chi_type @13. You're feelin' it.

How did it not occur to you that the obvious solution here is that she should propose to this guy she loves so much?
Robotslave @28: She already has. She said she wants to get engaged. That is asking for (eventual) marriage.
Questions to ask yourself:

If it turns out that your boyfriend is NEVER ready for marriage, are you okay with that? Are you okay with living together indefinitely, never breaking up, never making long term decisions together, but just figuring out what to do day by day? (This is the most likely scenario if you move in with him.)

How do you envision marriage? Is it different from what you've got now? Does it involve children? Is it all about the big white dress and party? Is it the living together that appeals to you or something else? More considerations about the life you're envisioning: finances, illness, day to day responsibilities including housekeeping and car repair, sex, friendship, responsibilities towards family members like parents as they get older. There could be several subcategories for each of those. Under finances think about who pays for what and how those decisions are made.

Are you better off with him or without him? If you propose, and he says no, consider that "not yet" without an "exactly when" is the same as a no. If he says no, are you in a position to walk away and find someone who wants what you want?

Lots of big questions ahead of you. Good luck with this.
@17: Paying someone to live somewhere is called rent, and it doesn't get you any rights to the property. His name is on the mortgage and he's the one responsible for paying it. If she wants to own property, she should buy property, including paying half the down payment. Which she apparently can't, because her credit sucks.

She has no basis for any legal rights to that property at all, regardless of whether she contributes to the monthly expenses of living there while she's living there. Having a pussy the property owner might like does not get you on the mortgage or out of paying rent.
@13 Bingo.
@31: Wow.
Compare marriage for a moment with any other contract, say for example, an employment contract. It's not really enforceable in any perfect sense. The employer can still make the employee so miserable that he wants to quit. The employee can still screw up so many projects that he's not worth his pay. The job is likely to change over time, and lots of things can go wrong, but I'd never say that it wasn't worth it to sit down and spell out qualifications, responsibilities, benefits, hours and pay. It's simply helpful to think about these things even if you don't stick to them exactly.

I'd wonder about someone who was naive enough to take a job where the deal was "come on in and work and I'll see about paying you" or "pay me this salary and maybe I'll do something for your company." This would make a good comedy routine. Yet people enter into romantic/sexual relationships like this all the time. It's not just that there's no commitment, it's that no one has any clear idea of what the commitment would be if they had one.

Oh, and I just reread the letter. Add to my list of questions in @30 above-- What's your plan for paying off that crippling amount of debt? If you could save enough money by moving in with him, enough for you to pay off the debt, this could be a good move financially even if he were to kick you out after a few years. Spell out what your financial contribution would be-- as others have said, your rent, and put that into your calculations.
Clashfan @33: Care to elaborate? Biggie may be crude, but they're right. LW has too many diamonds in her eyes to have considered what happens in 10 years' time when she's been paying rent, he's been paying a mortgage, they break up, and she finds herself having to move out of HIS place with no equity to show for it.
Somebody should tell the LW about loan repayment options. Thanks to recent programs like Pay As You Earn, the debt should not be debilitating, and it certainly should not preclude buying a house with their combined incomes. If the LW works for a nonprofit, it the debt can be set up to be forgiven in ten years. As Dan said, talk to someone about your finances.
Depending on what the law is where they live, they may be considered de facto spouses after a certain period with rights and responsibilities β€” some of which might relate to property division in the event of a separation. They would be wise to look into that.

And yes, she’s already proposed. And he’s already said no.
More questions. (I'm usually better about thinking of everything at once and not spreading it over 3 posts.)

If you did walk away from this relationship because you're ready for marriage and he isn't, what are your chances of finding someone you like as well? Compare living with this guy indefinitely and without commitment to being in a committed marriage with someone who's alright but not quite as amazing as the guy you've got. Compare living with this guy indefinitely and without commitment to being alone with your crippling debt and current bargain based apartment.

The more I write, the more I'm talking myself into advising you to talk out these options with a neutral 3rd party.
35-- BiDan--- True, but remember the crippling debt. Right now she's paying rent. We don't know what, if anything, she's doing to pay down her debt. If she's able to save money by moving in with him and contributing to his mortgage payments, if by doing that she's able to have more money with which to pay off her debt, she's still coming out ahead even if she's on her own in 10 years time with no equity. The question is the short term. If she gives up her current apartment with the reasonable rent, and if he were to kick her out in only a year, then she ends up in a more expensive apartment than she had and no real gain.

If she moves in with him, she's setting herself up for a nasty power imbalance. It means she has to stay with him because she has nowhere to go.

Financial advice. She needs to sit down with pencil, paper, and a calculator and work out the implications of her choices in dollars and cents.
@13: word. My wife proposed to me. I said yes. Though really, she just beat me to the punch...
@37 Bam, straight talk express.
Keep your apartment, he can move to your place. Rent out his house. Don't pay mortgage on his house if it's only in his name.
I'd like to quibble with some posters' substitution of the words "no commitment" for "no marriage."

Moving in together is a pretty big commitment.
Buying a home together (not that this is what's being considered by this LW) is a MASSIVE commitment.
Commingling of finances, on any level, is a commitment. It might not be the kind of commitment you need a judge to get out of -- or it might, if you're talking joint property ownership -- but it's a big step up from the relationship they currently have. Dude isn't wrong to want to take commitment one step at a time.
@37 where is this place that doesn't set up common-law marriage-style-things as strictly opt-in? You have to be actively presenting as a married couple everywhere in the USA, for example. There is no "Surprise! You're now considered married!" place listed on wikipedia at least, they're pretty clear that, like standard marriage, you have to be freely consenting.
I've advised other straight women to go ahead and propose themselves....…
I love living with my husband. However, I also loved living by myself, and had no interest in changing that unless we were making our relationship permanent. Happily, we were and are on the same page. I don't have any issue with anyone else living together before/instead of marriage, and I have lived with a couple of boyfriends in the past. I am not picking up anyone else's socks again, never mind signing a mortgage with a romantic partner, unless commitment and jewelry are involved. If that's how the LW feels, s/he doesn't have to justify it to me or anyone else.
@26 No, she didn't explicitly say she wanted kids. Which is why I prefaced my remarks by saying "Assuming she wants kids...."

As a gay guy, I'm obviously no authority, but it's been my general observation that most straight married couples are at least open to procreation, if not actively looking to get pregnant. So it seemed like a reasonably safe assumption.

If she doesn't want kids, now or in the future, that's fine. But referring to my original remarks, that's definitely something that needs to be discussed fully with any potential spouse.
As for living together before marriage, don't I keep reading about studies saying that couples who cohabitate before marriage are more likely to divorce? Yeah, yeah, correlation/causation and all that, but still, if it's permanence that LW is after, maybe someone who has a more traditional frame of mind might be more likely to view marriage as a life-long commitment.
@ 44 - Not everyone commenting here is from the US, and I don't think the LW specifically states that she lives in the US.
tal @44,

You have to be freely consenting to be in the relationship, so kids living with and having sex with adults aren't married to them.

Jurisdictions where marriage-like relationships are recognized by the state even if the partners do not actively present themselves as formally married: Australia, Canada, Israel and possibly the english-speaking Caribbean, according to my reading of wikipedia.

That is not to say that this recognition necessarily means that de facto spouses have all the same rights and responsibilities as de jure spouses, just that it's good to inform oneself.
Huh, I thought this was a gay couple till I came to the comment section. Maybe that's progress.
@37 Great point. "Will you to ask me to marry you so I can say yes" is just a very round-a-bout way of saying "will you marry me?" She asked , he said no. She stayed in the relationship hoping that one day she'll ask, and he'll say yes (as in yes, I will ask you to marry me so you can say yes).

And what magically happens once he proposes that makes living together better? Being engaged offers no legal protections and from a commitment standpoint agreeing to a "very long engagement" is pretty much nothing at all. I'm guessing there are some social circle issues here. As in, she has family and / or friends who can't believe he hasn't proposed yet and she's using the moving in issue as a bargaining chip to leverage a proposal out of this guy.

If you have to bargain for a proposal, you're better off not getting one.
The letter writer's problem strikes me as kind of ironic.

She's ready for marriage, he's not. But he's ready to live like they are married (together, sharing bills and pets and such), and she's not.

Functionally, moving in with a person you've been with for nearly five years and who you intend to stay with isn't much different from actually being married. My advice to the LW would be to bite the bullet and move in together, then after you've lived together for about a year (and if everything is going fine), point out that getting married officially wouldn't be a big change from what you're already doing... which may make him more likely to agree to tying the knot.
@40: My husband (bf at the time) and I were talking about fmla after his grandmother died and realized we would really want each others support when our parents passed and needed to be able to take time off work. So one of us (honestly can't remember which there may have been beer involved) said well guess we should go ahead and get married then. And we did.
Take that jumbotron/dancing youtube proposal!! Haha
@45: Yes that was an awesome response!
Corydon @47: As a uterus haver, it seemed like a reasonably sexist assumption. Are you also going to assume her boyfriend wants an FMF threesome, since most straight men want that, and make it an issue that was never raised? Or are you going to let her speak for her own reproductive desires or lack thereof? If kids were an issue, I think she'd have mentioned it. (Kids, of course, being an even bigger commitment than marriage or mortgage.)

If the kind of sex people are having regularly might lead to pregnancy, and they've discussed the future of their relationship, they've discussed having kids. You can take that as a given. Enough condescending to the breeders, thank you.
Exactly Alison @37. He's said no and she's not hearing it. So why push it in any way.
We have de facto laws here, and I think it is after only a short time, but what is the point? He has said no. After so many years he's still not sure.
If a person doesn't freely say, yes you are the one, then manipulating that response is him giving lip service.
I like #34 Fichu's comparison of marriage (really, any relationship) to a job, though that analogy IMO makes some purists scream. I always think of the old airline (forgot which one) slogan of 'We have to earn our wings everyday.' Certainly, only good can come of sitting down and talking everything out as Fichu says, including if one partner wigs at the idea as 'being too controlling;' that's a good indicator of future things.
I've always thought that the correlation between moving in before marriage and increased chance of divorce had more to do with both living together while unmarried and divorce both becoming more frequent with time. Was a time, when a relatively small percentage did either, and both were somewhat scandalous. It's like correlating divorce with improved birth control, but I'm sure people have done that as well.
For a lot of people, getting engaged starts a train moving that's hard to stop, at least harder than deciding to stop living together. I don't find it crazy that he wants to see if he likes living with her before proposing, and I expect in his head proposing is a much more drastic step. Then again, I don't feel like two people in a committed relationship have to live under the same roof, and are often happier living down the block from each other.
LW, I think Erica's idea is very smart. Rent out your apartment for one year, and see how it goes. Insist on an engagement first if it will make you feel better, I don't know if it means marriage is on the cards.
Tell him or not that in a years time, if his feelings don't coincide with yours, then you are moving on.
A marriage has to be entered into with both/ all parties enthusiastically wanting it, why settle for anything less.
Hang on a second... Isn't peeing in the shower pretty normal?
Cat Brother @58: Agreed. Also, when people are looking with their rose-coloured glasses at the longevity of marriages, they forget about the people who stay in bad marriages. Yes, it's the old-fashioned people who are waiting until marriage to move in together, and who are also staying together even when any sane person would DTMFA. Is that preferable to divorce? I'd rather be the person who lived together first and felt empowered to walk away if it came down to it, than the person who waited until marriage, discovered we weren't compatible, but had religion pressuring me to stick around for 50 years of misery.
Lawyer here. DAMN, does she have good practical reasons not to move in with him under the terms described - in the jurisdiction in which I practice, I'd say impeccable reasons. This isn't rationalization or magical thinking. Her instincts are spot on.

The best reason of all not to move in with him, though, is that she doesn't want to.

Dan, what the hell is this "he will have to propose" nonsense? She is the one proposing here. She is saying I want to marry you, do you feel the same--That is a proposal! Good grief.
@13 Guilty as charged, although she did basically already propose to him and got a no ("I'm not ready for marriage"=NO) in response, so I'm not sure that her busting out a ring and dropping to one knee would change anything.

And that brings me to my real point: I don't say this with any certainly at all, but I think LW should just break up with him. My gut says they want different things and/or he's just not that in to her. She wants to be part of a loving family for the rest of her life. He wants someone in his house that he can have sex with who also helps pay his mortgage until he finds someone better.

My gut could be wrong, but if she tells him that she's breaking up with him because the whole moving-in talk really drove home the fact that he doesn't want to marry her and she wants to find someone who does, he'll get a chance to try to convince her that I'm wrong, that he loves her deeply and that he only wants to wait, say, two more years before a public engagement , has a place picked out for the ceremony, etc. But I don't think any of that will happen. That's not the sense I get from her letter at all. He'll just be bummed and start looking for another roommate who puts out. That's not unusual for men his age.

@60 Normal and politically correct during a drought.
I think it is perfectly reasonable for you to want to get engaged and then married, letter writer. And, I think naming the date is part of being engaged. That is, just saying your "engaged", with no timeline, isn't getting a real commitment.

So, you need to lovingly, enthusiastically propose! Not have some unpleasant "why won't you propose", conversation, but propose: "I love you madly and I want to spend my life with you! Will you marry me?" And, be prepared to hear the answer and understand it. That is, to understand that anything other than yes, and a reasonable timeline for when, is no. "I feel pressured"= no, "Maybe someday"= no, "I love you but I am just not ready"= no.
Even, "Yes, definitely, someday in the future, but I can't say when" is really, no.

After 4.5 years, you each know enough to know what you want. If he doesn't know now, another year won't make any difference. He won't love you more in a year, or be less adverse to commitment. But, you will be another year into a relationship that isn't going where you want. There are wonderful partners out there who are capable of committing at the level you desire-- you have fallen deeply in love and are able to commit to one partner, you will be fully able to do so with other partners as well.

Alternatively, you can accept that your guy doesn't want to marry you and accept whatever limited partnership he offers. But, if you go that route, you need to be sure that you are really accepting it, not pretending that he will someday feel differently.
All the details aside, their relationship has maybe three years of life left in it (too young, too romantically inexperienced, financially naive). LR should save herself the drama of the inevitable divorce fallout drama - just enjoy this relationship until it peters out, which it definitely will. Keep you own pad so you can go there when this puppy love show self-extinguishes.
dcp123@64. Having several sons, I can agree with you there. Young men around 25 yrs old seem to shift a lot.
Yet successful marriages where the couple got together young happen.
My 29 yr old son doesn't mention marriage ever. Is that because he hasn't met the woman, he's had several partners, he wants to spend the rest of his life with or it just never occurs to him.
@65 a 'real commitment' is no more guarantee that your relationship will last than whatever a not-real-enough commitment is.

I avoided marriage for years cohabitating all the while, and the main reason in retrospect was that people attached way too much stifling baggage to the concept. Once I realized marriage could be whatever the two of us wanted it to be it was much easier to relax and enjoy it. In the end it is purely a legal arrangement, all the layers of cultural stuff around it are optional. Don't let anyone browbeat you about what a real commitment is or push you into a box LW.

Be brave, take a chance. If it works out you win, if it doesn't you learn and are wiser next time. Either way, you will be dead some day so live while you can.
@67 Not ALL guys that age are looking for a sex-providing roommate. Some are ready to settle down into lifelong loving marriages. But I'm pretty sure the LW's guy is in the sex-giving roommate camp. Personally, I think I was on the fence when I was 25-30. I can't say about your son. Most of my experience with young Australian men has been with drunken louts traveling the world while trying to kill off their livers, so my perception of Aussie men is somewhat jaded, but my wife's cousin has a hopelessly sincere young Aussie boyfriend who was probably ready to marry her on their first date. Different men want different things at different ages.

@65 I agree completely, but I think we both know what the answer to he question will be. She's already asked and he's already delivered his thinly disguised "no." His answer won't likely change if she asks again today or in two years' time.

She needs to DTPNGA (Dump The Perfectly Nice Guy Already), or DTMFA if that's what he is. Their relationship is probably doomed because he will almost certainly never give her what she wants, so she should probably move on to find a more compatible guy.
@62 is right. It's part of the million reasons I didn't move in until we were actually marrying, although with the pragmatic (cleaning up his socks) definitely factored in. We ended up eloping three days before buying property together. Wouldn't have done it without that.
Depending on where these two live, moving in together might be almost equivalent to being married. In BC, Canada, a couple that has lived together two years has all the same rights and responsibilities that a married couple does. It's basically marriage by default.
This is a really good article that explores this idea and might be useful as you frame this discussion.…
@69. No, no drunken lout sons.
But if he wants to keep you, he'll have to propose to you. (Under duress, CAC, so don't expect a flashmob.) If he doesn't want to propose to you, he loses you.

Dan Savage @45, I know you've advocated that women can be the proposer. That is why I cannot fathom why you gave the advice you did. She can propose an engagement. He can accept or decline. She can then decide if that is a deal-breaker.

But to advise that she insist on a situation wherein he proposes "under duress" is ludicrous and sexist. Unless you meant that he should propose, she should accept, and he should secretly void the engagement in his head to placate her...which is just bad advice.
I suggest (to avoid the P-word) that she has proposed but wants him to Propose. (I wonder if Mr Maguire should get royalties - recall the difference in the Wicked series between animals and Animals.)

Seconding Mr Ophian, at least enough to wonder why Mr Savage varied this time. Was there some detail in this letter missing from the earlier one that tipped Mr S into the He Should Propose column?

And I still wonder about the prior response. Was, "I hope he says yes," just the sort of previous-Prudie-worthy banality one utters just out of politeness? Or was Mr Savage just grading that LW on a curve?
I suggest that Dan has proposed that Mr CAC should do the proposing because it's important to CAC that he do the proposing. In other words, a formal Proposal is her price of admission. This does not preclude the general principle of women proposing; it's just recognising that in this particular LW's case, her proposing won't satisfy her need to feel valued in the way that she wants.

(Yes, I'm choking back vomit. It's not easy trying to respect such an old-fashioned perspective; well done Dan, is all I can say.)
The LW and her boyfriend both sound like nice people.
Nice, but incompatible.
They both seem to have clear visions of their futures, but those futures just don't match up.
I'd love to hear the bf's prespective on the marriage issue. Maybe he doesn't want to get married until he is older, or he may have issues with the institution of marriage itself.
Money, children and sex. These are the things you should be talking about before making any decisions. And I mean specifics. How will money be handled? How will money be separated? What will the budgets look like? What is the protocol for when one partner is having trouble finding work? Will you have children? (this is a deal breaker question, if one party disagrees about any aspect of this then it is time to move on regardless of other factors). How many children (also a deal breaker question, if he wants two and you want one things will be difficult when he insists on two and you oblige despite not wanting a second)? Once you have a child/ren who is going to make all/most of the money? Who will take care of the child? How will childcare work out? What is the expectation once the child no longer needs all day care (i.e. once they reach school age)? How will each of you pursue individual goals and how much time are you ok with the other devoting to those pursuits?How will you parent (if one is attachment and the other has no interest in that, what will you do)? Are you guys sexually compatible? Are there unspoken sexual desires/fantasies that will crop up later? Are each of you ok with how much sex the other person needs/doesnt need? Are you ok with porn (because he is definitely already looking at it)? Etc.

Hashing these things out will almost certainly get you closer to understanding what decision you should be making now. It sounds like you are at the point where you need to know the answers to these questions. These are the number one things I see that crop up as resentments with couples who are in counseling. Insert something that one partner wanted from the get go, didnt communicate, and then resented when it did/didnt happen. This repeats itself and you end up with a marriage/relationship that is destined for failure unless the both of you grab the stick and make some sacrifices to pull the plane out of the nose dive.
@78 That's what I think.

I'm not sure how much it matters whether he wants to get married significantly later (that probably still mean their plans are too different) or if he has problems with the institution of marriage itself (even if that's not just an ego-sparing excuse, it would probably still mean that they're not compatible). This letter just screams incompatibility to me, but doesn't actually say it or leave me with much to point to in explanation of the depth of my belief.

I get the feeling that the LW is trying to convince herself that their desires can match, even though that requires overlooking details like the fact that she proposed that he Propose to her (borrowing nomenclature from Venom @76) and he basically said no.

@74 Glad to hear it. Lout may be too harsh a word for the guys I have in mind, but I'm sure you wouldn't want your sons to be like them. They were very young, having a grand once-in-a-lifetime adventure and were basically fairly charming as they drank and bartended their ways around the world, but I wouldn't want to be their mother (or probably to have my daughter date one of them). Sorry for an anti-ozzy prejudice.
Ms Fan - So that's what leaking out of the corner of your mouth...

I'm suspecting our old friend the Edit Bug has put in an appearance here. Assuming consensus on its being a Truth Universally Acknowledged that anyone who wants a Proposal Via Flashmob ought to die after a lifetime of never being engaged, I have serious doubts that LW ought to get what she wants. We also don't know what feedback Mr Savage received after the previous suggestion.
So much has been written about the pain of the heartbreak that comes with being dumped. It's a (nearly) universal experience. I wonder that so little has been said about the heartbreak that comes with the (nearly) universal experience of realizing that the person we have the good times with and the great sex with and all the fluttery exciting amazing deep connected fun with is not a person we have enough in common with to last with over the long term. It slowly dawns on us that we don't have even a basic ability to resolve conflicts with the object of our affection, or come to compromises, or talk when we're in a bad mood, or overlook housekeeping idiosyncrasies.
@ 82 - "anyone who wants a Proposal Via Flashmob ought to die after a lifetime of never being engaged"

Best line of the day. Thanks, Venn.

Hahah, I wonder if there's an inverse correlation between showy proposals and lifespan of marriage, sort of like the amount spent on the wedding itself. Shame there's only data for the latter.
@ 85 - Please link to the data, I'd be happy to have some statistics on this.
I wouldn't move in with him, not if you have an affordable apartment. I have had 2 relationships where I moved in with someone I had been in a intimate relationship with for 4+years. (There was 8 years between these relationships- enough time to have a sizable nest egg saved up) I gave up my affordable housing both times, helped make their mortgage payments and lost all my investments both times. It was a significant financial loss and it has impacted my long term financial stability. The reason to get a ring first is in the event that the relationship ends, you have something to sell to cover your first, last, and deposit. You will have been making his mortage payments. Will he be willing to buy you out if the relationship ends? Will he put that in a legal contract?
Venn @82: I have serious doubts that LW ought to get what she wants.

Well, I've said this before, and it may not have been popular, but my position is that anyone who idealises the institution of marriage more than they respect the wishes of the person they supposedly want to spend the rest of their lives with deserves to be DTMFA'd.
^ Which sounds a bit harsh, forgive me, I was not in the best of moods after my European citizenship had just been summarily revoked by a bunch of provincial twats. To rephrase, anyone who idealises the institution of marriage more than they respect the wishes of the person they supposedly want to spend the rest of their lives with has got their priorities wrong, and will probably end up divorced within half a decade, if their intended doesn't do the clever thing and RUN.

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