General Dating Questions/Uncertainty

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QUESTION: Dr. Neder,

I am a 53 yo female and have been dating a 61 yo male for 3 years now.  When we very first started dating we talked about what each of us desired for our future lives.  I was honest enough with him to say that I did hope that someday I would get remarried.  I also shared with him that I dated the men in my previous relationships 5-6 years each and that I should have walked away from long before. But I finally did.  I also shared with him that one of the things that I took away from those experiences was that I would not put myself in the position again to stay longer than circumstances dictated that I should have.  From now on I would listen to what they say, not what I wanted them to be saying.

He shared that he did feel that he would also want to remarry some day.  Our relationship moved forward and now we are at 3 years into it.

Now, 3 years down the road many of our friends have started asking when we are getting married.   One day after that, I asked him what his thoughts were on marriage.  Was it something he would ever do again. (bearing in mind that in the beginning of our relationship he said he did believe he wanted to remarry someday.

His response was ... I am not sure if I ever want to get married again. I am not saying I don't, but I like where we are right now and am not sure what the future holds.  

Now here is my concerns.  One minute I have him saying he believes we have a future, but he isn't ready to get married now, and not sure when he will be ready;  one minute he says he doesn't know if he does or not.

However, he wants me to be with him every day, I spend every night with him (however, we don't officially live together) and on the weekend I am with him from the time we get home from work until we go to work on Monday.  I am completely ingrained in his life, family, kids work everything.  We eat all of our meals at home together, we cook together, clean together.  Basically we live as a married couple, living together, yet we are not married, or living together.

I am not ready to get married right now, but after 3 years (on the heels of many years in dead end relationships) I just would like to know that we are both on the same page, not that we both want two different things.

If I want to get married someday and he doesn't, I know that I will have to choose to walk away.  I won't choose to ignore what I want, if marriage is what I want.  And I understand if what he wants is not to ever get married.  That is his choice.  And you say when you want to know what they want.... ask.  I have, but like I said one minute it is "I don't know if I ever want to get married", and the next saying he thinks we have a future.

I have always been taught to believe both things he says because one minute he may feel one way,and the next he may feel the other.  He doesn't talk about the future unless I bring it up.  And when I do, I get the same reply every time.

To complicate the situation, I have just begun looking for another job.  The opportunities in my area are a bit smaller than I like.  Often time I consider extending the reach of my search to areas outside of where we live.  He makes it very clear that he doesn't want me to move.  He isn't happy about the idea of a long distance relationship. However, if I mention that he is asking me to only look in this area so we can be together, BUT he gives me nothing to go on in the way of believing we have a future, he gets upset.  I have shared with him that I feel he is asking me to make a commitment to staying here so we can be together, however, doesn't want to make a commitment to me to make me stay.  Seems pretty one sided to me.

I do love him, and I honestly believe he loves me.  And there is definitely no "convincing him" (which I wouldn't want it to happen that way anyway), however, I am not sure how to manage the situation.  I don't want to do as I have in the past and think that if I just hang in there eventually things, behaviors, intentions will change.  Only to give up a possible good job somewhere, maybe someone that wants the same thing I do... to wait more years thinking he will eventually want the same thing I do, only to find out he never does.   Nor do I want to walk away from something that could be in time.

How do you know what to do? When it is time to stop thinking about what you might want, and really pay attention to what he says about not being sure he wants to ever get married?   How long do you wait it out to see if he ever finally decides it is what he wants?

ANSWER: Hello Barbara!

I'm going to answer your specific questions, but before I do that, we need a little perspective.

Consider this: what is it about marriage that you get that you don't already have? It sounds to me like you have security, commitment, love, sex, closeness, connection and especially - a real, solid (maybe even happy!) relationship.

The point is; marriage isn't a "relationship". It's a format for a relationship. I fear you're missing the important parts here for what's (frankly) far less important. Other than a business deal, you have everything else I believe you want. It'd be quite a waste to throw that away only to realize you had exactly what you wanted and needed all along.

Another important consideration; marriage rarely makes a relationship better. Far more often, it makes the relationship worse. Do you know that only 15% of marriages are considered "happy" by those who are in them? Those aren't good odds. Many people spend years together - even living together - only to eventually marry and then divorce in the most heinous, unkind ways possible.

Further, marriage is a terrible, raw deal for men. What do men get out of it? How do men benefit? Whereas you view marriage as all sorts of good things: security, status, future, family, love, etc., men view it as mostly bad things: responsibility, stress, loss of sex, loss of intimacy, loss of status, loss of choice, being stuck in a situation, etc.

This is important as you consider what to do. When your boyfriend tells you he sees a future for you, he's being completely honest. The problem comes in that it's not the same future YOU see for you. Likewise when he talks about marriage: what he's saying is he's not sure he wants to take on all those negative things again. He doesn't view marriage as the positive things you do (today, few men do).

Therein lays your real problem: NOT how to convince him to see marriage the way you do but instead, to NOT view marriage with you as all the negative things - and then to ensure it won't be! Consider this: you seem like a nice woman. I'll bet that you and I could find someone to agree to marry you this next weekend. If marriage is the key, then, you'd finally be happy, right? It doesn't matter to whom. What's that? You wouldn't be happy?

You see, your "challenge" is a different one than you thought:

1) Is marriage really what you want/need? How will your relationship benefit via a marriage?
2) If you still have to be married to be happy/fulfilled/etc. then consider what you need to do in order to change his opinion of it.
3) Finally, if you can't, and you absolutely need to be married, throw away what you have and hope that you can find it elsewhere.

One more point and then I promise, I'll answer your questions:

How do you convince him (if that is still your goal) to marry you? The answer is simple: you spend the next 3-6 months really working to discover what he needs in order to be willing to take on all the negative things you now know marriage means to him. In other words, you have to figure out what the key factors he needs to have in his life are - the things he absolutely can't live without - and then figure out how to deliver those things. Finally, you simply have to become that woman to him.

If he gets everything he could ever possibly want from you, he'd be slapping a ring on your finger so fast, it'll make your head spin! He wouldn't risk losing you by NOT marrying you, right?

So, to your questions:

How do you know what to do?

Simple: first, you have to reevaluate what marriage really means to you. DO NOT brush this step off! Look at what you have and determine if it's really what you want or not. Don't be stubborn or dogmatic about it. Really consider it.

Next, if so, then, see my previous point about discovering what he needs to take on all those negative things marriage is to men today and begin working on your plan.

When is it time and how long do you wait?

It's never "time" unless you absolutely can't change or grow. That becomes far less about him than it does about you. If/when you realize you only want what you want, don't see the value of what you have and don't want to do the work to give him what he needs, it's absolutely time to move on - right now. Of course, you're going to have to settle for something with someone else too, so factor that into the decision as well. What are you willing to live with and without to get the marriage you need to have to be happy?

Regards...

Dr. Dennis W. Neder
CEO/Executive Producer
~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
BAM! Productions
Remington Publications
323.638.4145
http://beingaman.com
Producers: "BAM! TV" and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: "Being a Man in a Woman's World I, II & III”


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dr. Neder,

Thanks so much for your response.  It was very thoughtful and gave me much to think about.  I decided to think about it over night before replying so I could assess what this is about for me.

You are right, our relationship sans the issue of marriage is amazing.  He is a kind, gentle and generous man.  He tried for 6 years until he finally got me to date him more than a date here and there.  And I do know that he loves me.

So, what I realize this is about....  I get tired of living out of two houses.  I spend every night with him.  We get home from work, cook dinner together, spend the evening together, go to bed and repeat the process.  Every night.  However, he won't let me officially move in with him.  He is involved with the youth at our church and he is concerned that if the youth pastor found out that I was living with him, she wouldn't allow him to participate with the kids as that wouldn't be a good role model.

So, I live out of two houses.  I drag my stuff back and forth between the two houses.  And invariably when I am at his house, whatever I need is at my house and vice versa.  I literally repack each day after work before heading to his house. And it gets really old.  He makes it clear he wants me there every night, but moving in totally is off limits. So if I can't live with him, and he doesn't want to get married, I either have to accept that my time will be spent carrying stuff back and forth, or I have to just decide to stay home.   And since I too want to be with him, I end up just playing the role of the "bag lady".

You are right, it isn't about getting married.  It is about loving being with someone and having him want me to be with him every spare minute, but not wanting to live between two places forever.

So, perhaps some nights I should just stay at my house and take a break, or have him share the "baggage" and he can pack some days.

Answer
Hello again Barbara!

I hear you - being "multi-homed" is a pain in the ass. That doesn't mean however that it should be inconvenient. If you're already spending a majority of your time there, you shouldn't be schlepping things back and forth. You should have the things you need already there.

I don't know why living together is out of the question. It sounds like that's exactly what you're already doing expect for having the things you need with you. From what I can see he sounds like a reasonable man and I don't see why you can't make the case to either have what you need there or to actually move in - just like you already are.

I also think it's good to have a separate place to go and spend time. This is no longer a discussion about marriage and one of pure logistics and convenience.

Regards...

Dr. Dennis W. Neder
CEO/Executive Producer
~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
BAM! Productions
Remington Publications
323.638.4145
http://beingaman.com
Producers: "BAM! TV" and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: "Being a Man in a Woman's World I, II & III”

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Dr. Dennis W. Neder

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I'm able to answer any sort of question related to the approach, meeting people, dating, sex, relationships, break-ups, non-legal marriage and divorce questions, and anything in between. I've helped over 30,000 people with their individual issues. IMPORTANT: Please, PLEASE don't ask me, "what was he thinking..." or "why did he say..." types of questions! I DO NOT READ MINDS! There are 1,001 reasons why someone does what they do, says what they say or thinks what they think. If you *REALLY* want to know what they were thinking, saying or why they were acting that way - go ask them! Be sure to check out my FAQ's on my website at: http://beingaman.com. You can email me directly at: dwneder@beingaman.com.

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I am the author of the books "Being a Man in a Woman`s World I & II" and "1001 Places and Techniques to Meet Great Women" and 11 others. I`ve spent the last 20 years studying the art and science of every aspect of relationships, and have answered over 30,000 letters from readers all over the world. My main focus is men`s relationships with women, but I also have many female readers and answer questions for them regularly as well.

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Doctor of Philosophy

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