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Love, Life, Commitment & Children, But He Won't Marry Her - Relationship Advice

Updated on August 22, 2010

I received this comment from Zoe, and was so moved that I moved it to here to give her a Hub of her own:

Hi first of all great hub. I would really appreciate your advice on my situation.

My partner and I have been together 3 and a half years. We have two children together and I have children from a previous relationship.He has taken these children on as his own and is very good with them ,one of them being an autistic child who is very challenging. He works away during the week however and although im very greatful he is providing for us I do wish he would find a job closer to home. He says he wants this too but he never really makes a great effort to find one. When we first met he talked about how much marriage meant to him, that it was really a big deal and once he knew someone was the one for him he would ask, he would like to be engaged for a year to eighteen months then get married and try for a baby straight away.Im not sure he was talking about me in this conversation or just in general.After a little while I found out I was pregnant with an IUD in place. He was upset but supported me and as the pregnancy progressed our relationship blossomed. He became my best friend.

When our son was was 6 months old we took a holiday to rome. On our last night there we had a really romantic meal walked up and down the spanish steps and sat beside the trevi fountain together. I had been thinking for a while that he was the one for me and I wanted to spend my life with him. I PROPOSED. I was shaking so nervous he just stared at me blankly and said nothing. We went back to our hotel in silence, I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I felt hurt and rejected and I Guess I pushed him away a little it wasnt that he turned me down he wasnt even willing to discuss his reasons. Bit by bit I pulled myself together and our relationship was going well.

On christmas eve which was a couple of months after my proposal once the kids was in bed. I lit a fire filled the room with some candles put a rug on the floor and we ate a picnic I had prepared. We was cuddled up and I was falling asleep when he said he was sorry for not saying yes in rome that he had made a mistake and that he would love to marry me. I made a joke if it was a proposal and he said yes it is so will you ? I was so happy we kissed and cuddled and then went to bed. He went to bathroom and was in there a good 40 minutes or so. I asked if he was ok and he said yes he just needed some time to himself. which I gave him. obviously day after was christmas day however he seemed distant and cold towards me. We made the most of the day and didnt really talk much about it as we was busy cooking building toys etc for kids.The day after we was travelling down south to visit his parents to have second christmas ( our son is their first grandchild and it was his first christmas so they wanted to do something special)I thought he would tell them our good news however he didnt.The day after the shops were back open and with his mum watching the children we went out for some time together he took me looking at rings. At the point I looked at him and could see he wanted to be anywhere else but were we where. So I made an excuse said I was thristy and could we go get a coffee. Sat him down and asked him straight out if he regretted asking me and he said yes. I was heart broken but I respected his decision and said we would work it out somehow. He said he loved me and that he just needed a little more time.

thats now 2 years ago. Every time I try to discuss it he changes the subject. On a couple of occassions I have felt so frustrated I have cried. In this time we have had another child ( yes unplanned again ) and we have worked our way through some very difficult problems and enjoyed some wonderful times together.

I try to keep my thoughts to myself. Im now on anti depressants and seeing a therapist. I keep thinking I am not good enough for him, that he cant love me if he isnt willing to give me the same name I gave our children - I didnt have to I did it to make him happy and so that we wouldnt have to change them once we got married his words not mine. Im self destructing. I feel angry with myself. When im down I Think it has to be me as he always thought so much of marriage.

Since we have been together I havent stopped him having his own life. He has been abroad with his friends several times and enjoys nights out with them, I support him 100 percent. I pretty much looked after our son single handed until he was one whilst my partner finished his degree (from home) He says he cant imagine his life without me, nor can I. He has made some financial commitments. Its tearing me up inside. I should mention I had a very unstable up bringing being placed in care because my mother decided after a few months she no longer wanted me. Previous relationship was very abusive, but I was strong and got out of it and created a better life for me and my children. I have my own money and the house is mine so Im not finiancially dependant on my partner however of course he contributes.After all I have been through I would like some commitment and stability. Is this wrong as I feel selfish sometimes.

I know im making myself ill chasing something he does clearly not want. I do try to understand his view on things but I cant help but feel hurt. Its not about the wedding id marry him anywhere , I just want that special bond so much - Id like to always be there for each other, I want to share his good times and shoulder the bad.

Im sure you will have realised that I keep using "I" a lot but thats because Im not sure how he truly feels despite trying to talk to him. That part of him confuses me.

I have even tried to comprimise - long engagment or a blessing/commitment ceremony which is no legally binding yet he does not want to do either. He makes me smile and my life is better for having him in it but I cant seem to be able to let it go.It means so much to me.

Does he need more time, or am I just miss right now and no miss right? please help x


Dear Zoe,

Well you've left me a little speechless. All of the things I would normally look for or suggest have already been tried. The compromise with the commitment ceremony, the patience, the looking at his actions, the proposing yourself, the romantic discussions... it looks like you've really been smart about this. Smart, patient, loving, supportive. You've listened, you've been a partner and a person, you've considered his needs and his words, you've embraced the relationship you're having, you've been exemplary.

I've been thinking about your situation for a couple of days. There's one classic point I will make, and I know it's not going to be news to you.

People have no reason to change their behavior if you continue to grant them permission to behave in a certain way. I don't mean to make this sound like a punishment, and I also do not mean this as a trick. But the truth is, people will continue doing something until you actually show them that they can't. Your partner knows how you feel, and what you want, and he even seems to be on the same future page. However, he has no reason to step up and make the change. He's not missing out on anything he wants in life by not marrying you. He has you, and his home, and his children and his family, he has his freedom to be with his mates, and to travel. Nothing will change for him if he finally clarifies his feelings about marrying you and does it.

By being there, and being patient, and waiting all this time, you've silently given him permission not to deal with his marriage issue. You've reinforced that he doesn't have to think it through and make decisions and implement them. You've reinforced that you will be there, and he will have the life he wants, no matter what he does or doesn't do.

I'm not saying the patience you demonstrated was a mistake. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. Every situation with that involved has it's own nuances. In yours, you said you two specifically spoke about marrying and the future. You entered into the life you're having with him with a certain amount of commitment and an honest belief that you are in agreement with him about the future. I have the feeling all your patience have most likely been very vital for him in his trust and commitment issues. However, I think you need to see that it's a different time now. Enough is enough.

Your boyfriend either doesn't communicate very well, or he doesn't know what he's feeling regarding his commitment issues. In any case, you've exhausted all the ways to push through, except for one.

Since your boyfriend has had a long experience of having his cake and eating it too with you, it's going to take some serious un-doing on your part to break that mindspace. Being financially bound makes it very difficult. It's not like you can just move out with all the children. I'm sure you know better than to give an ultimatum: nothing good ever comes from them. But you may need to decide to assert yourself and your life plan. Since you can't move out quickly you'll have to make sure he sees that your serious by the ways you plan and the steps you take. Don't wait for permission. You have to do it.

Now here's the very hard part about that. When you tell someone that you want something different out of life, you run the risk of them agreeing with you and seeing to it that you get something different instead of what you have now.

Zoe, the fact that you're right and that what you want in life is reasonable, and that you did everything correctly and that you're an awesome girlfriend - doesn't mean that the world will suddenly become just and you will get everything your heart desires. Being right just doesn't make it so. If you're going to implement change, you have to first really be sure that you're willing to take the chance that you will wind up with change, and not the one you're hoping for.

If you really are feeling you're making yourself ill, then there may be no way for you to go on the way things are. Change is hard, and often ugly, but sometimes there is no alternative. Sometimes you have to chose yourself.

If you think the relationship you're having isn't enough for you anymore, or that you really aren't his Ms. Right, then you need to start taking those steps toward separating.

There doesn't need to be harsh words or uncomfortableness. This can be very calm and dignified. You can begin to make changes right away. You can let him now gracefully that you've spent a lot of time waiting and doing things his way, and you wouldn't trade a moment of it because you love him and you've loved your life together so much. But that going forward, you want something different for yourself. That's it, that's really all that you have to say directly. It's not up to him anymore. It is not his decision. Just start showing him. Show him that he can't keep having the life he's having. Show him that you're bringing that chapter of your lives to an end.

If he wants to be in the next chapter with you, then he has to clarify his feelings and take action. 

This isn't a trick to make him want to do something he doesn't want to do. This won't make anyone do anything they are not wiling to do. But this will shine a light on what he's thinking. This will inspire him to step up and figure out what he's feeling. This won't create false feelings or force anything. But it will put the motion of this thing into gear. It ends the procrastination, for good or for bad. That's all.

As he's clarifying his feelings because now you're showing him that he needs to, it could go either way. He could help you to make this change. That would be a shame, but if he didn't do it now, he'd be doing it later when his real Ms Right shows up. I promise.

And if the light you're about to shine shows him the clarity he needed, and he sees what he wants you and the life you share, then he'll know that he has to act now. 

Start making physical tangible separations that he can see. Classified advertisements or articles that show you are seeking a new place to live. Bank statements where you separate out expenses. Go ahead and begin to take the steps needed for you to relocate. Move into a spare bedroom or start sleeping in one of the kid's rooms. You need to show with your actions that this part of your life is coming to a close. This part where you're giving everything you have but where you don't get to be his wife, is now over. He has to see the changes you're planning and making. 

Nothing fails harder or faster than an idle threat. You have to mean it. You have to do it. 

There doesn't need to be anger or confrontation. Just do it. I think you've had enough history with him that he knows who you are, he knows what life with you will be like. There's a real sadness that comes through your words.

He says he wants marriage but can't seem to bring himself to marry you no matter how you put it. I don't know what's going on with him. But I do know that by everything staying as it is, you're giving him permission not to figure it out. If he has figured it out, then you're giving him permission not to tell you.

If you begin implementing the future that you want for yourself, he will have to see in a tangible way that he has to figure out what he wants, or lose you. Or, he'll have to be honest with you about something he already knows. I'll be very sad for you if he chooses losing you. But if that is his choice, then you didn't have anything to lose in the first place. Do you understand what I mean? If that is his decision then he hasn't been yours for a long time, and all you're doing now is encouraging him to admit it. Finally. 

Namaste Zoe. I hope you'll keep us posted. Good luck.


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  • profile image

    lisa soram 6 years ago

    this is really breath taking

  • Lindsey79 profile image

    Lindsey79 6 years ago from CA

    Zoe -- Thank you so much for the update. I'd been wondering how you were doing. I'm contemplating a similar split from my now bf, feeling much as you did that I've really tried everything else. We're even in counseling to help clarify his feelings of ambivalence. I think I'm going to have to go down your path as well (though I wish it were different). It's nice to know that sometimes paths rejoin later on. Thank you once again for sharing your story with us and updating us on how things turned out.

  • profile image

    zoe 6 years ago

    Hi just wanted to update you all. We split up , I got on with my life made new friends and I did things to make me happy. I enrolled in a night course and concentrated on my children. We remained friends and slowly I stopped hurting. Once he saw I was independent and that I could live without him I think he felt less pressured. To cut a long story short he proposed and the wedding is in September. You don't realise what you have until its gone. thank you so much for all your advice :-)

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    Ellana317, thank you so very much for that lovely comment. It means a lot to me. xoxo

    Blessed Be.

  • Ellana317 profile image

    Ellana317 7 years ago from Indianapolis, IN

    Great hub... I think it is very courageous of Zoe to open up and share her story. I wish you the best Zoe and I hope that you get the happiness that you deserve.

    Veronica-I also love the advice that you gave her. None of it was sugar coated. It was transparent and very real. I truly enjoyed reading this.

    ~Be Blessed

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

    Zoe, I agree with Veronica 100%. One other thing to make it stick--if he has any keys get your locks changed completely. I am excited tohear that you are going to college. What are you going to get a degree in or certificate of? Keep you goals in front of you everyday and that will help you get through it all. Is there any Single's Dances in your area or places that you can meet others. Don't put off dating and shopping around. There is someone for everyone. There is a book that you might want to read and it will get you through so much that you will be going through and it is called: "When Your Relationship Ends?, by Bruce Fisher. It is a wonderful book and takes you through the grieving steps. I hope that you do have a chance to get it and look through it. Remember tomorrow is a brand new day.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY


    Thank you. And thanks so much for writing again. You really did exhaust all avenues, and can definitely move into this end stage knowing so. I'm glad the house is yours and that you've enrolled in college! These are wonderful pieces of news for me. This won't be easy, but these things make it easier.

    Regarding the wedding coming up - I think some people in your situation should bow out of the wedding festivities and I think some people shouldn't. You have to decide which camp you're in. As your boyfriend is part of the bridal party, it is really not an option for him at this point not to be present. So it is as you're wording this, all up to you what you do. Truly this is a special day for the happy couple and if you could celebrate with them, putting your own situation aside for the day, that would be wonderful. However, no one expects a person in mourning to attend a celebration the following week. Technically, your situation is a type of mourning. You're stepping into the loss of your relationship.

    If I were you I would leave it right until the very day of the wedding to decide. If you wake up that day feeling you can go celebrate their special day, then go. If you wake up that day feeling that you can't, you absolutely should take care of you first, and not go.

    If you go and it becomes too painful, you can always leave. You do not have to say good bye, or make a dramatic exit. You can always just excuse yourself from your table and go, without a word to anyone. If someone asks, you can make an excuse - you've left your lipstick in the car, or you need to step outside to get some air. Then take off.

    I think the important and most gracious thing you can do is not to call attention to yourself. By letting them know ahead of time that you aren't going, you have called attention to yourself. You have made them have to worry about you and think about you, and want to encourage you to come. If you show up and leave with a big announcement, again that's calling attention to yourself. And that's just not fair. All eyes on the bride. Period. Let all attentions be on the bride and groom, let all attentions be happy ones.

    If you decide not to go, you should send a card immediately after to the happy couple, which includes your gift (they paid for your meal even if you didn't eat it) and a sincere wish for a wonderful life. Then, just write that you apologize for having to miss their special day due to the recent separation but that you plan to see them soon where you can congratulate them in person.

    I know your interest in marriage was not recent, or inspired by someone else's upcoming marriage. Your words were clear about the depth of your feelings. Thank you for your intent to keep me posted. I wish you all the happiness life can offer.

  • profile image

    zoe 7 years ago

    Lady Guinevere- Hi I can see your point. However yes I have stayed many times at the place he stays at. All his friends are my friends Im in no way a secret woman.

    Your all right in that I knew what I had to do. Yet knowing and doing it are two different things Keep re reading veronicas advice and she is so spot on. The sadness part especially, because when I wrote to you I cried all the way through typing it.I have made him my everything for too long when all he ever did was make me an option. I need to be strong only problem is I dont feel it.It could go either way , but in my heart of hearts I know he wont marry me. He is never wrong and will never admit to being. If we split up even if he missed me lots he wouldnt call out of pride I know him well. I have put my heart and soul into making this work but I'm tired now. I have asked questions but I never get answers thats the whole point - I dont know where I stand. I have written him heart felt letters explaining how I feel, I thought a letter would be best as I could choose how to word it, he could read it at his own pace and over again if need be and there would be no confrontation. I have seen it un opened in the envelope. I do feel like I have exhausted every avenue that was open to me. Other than to leave him and move on with my life.

    I have wondered that maybe I am being selfish all for that piece of paper however its not that I want. Its to make promises to each other for him to stand up and tell the world I am the woman he loves and having enough respect for me to give me his last name and call me his wife.I have tried compromise. Is putting an engagement ring on my finger that much to ask? A gesture that our relationship does have a future.

    The house is my house so this weekend im going to be asking him to find somewhere else to live. I have enrolled in college as an adult learner and will be starting in october.I will no longer be cooking for him or washing his clothes or sharing a bed. I have half heartedly tried this approach before and was accussed of using sex as a tool to get what I wanted. That certainly wasnt the case I just felt used sometimes.

    I dont want to start again but it beats having the p taken out of you.

    One final question friends of ours are getting married next week and he is being their best man, I would really like to share their special day however I do feel that it could upset me a little. Do I be the bigger person go and help them celebrate their special day or do I put my feelings first.

    ...............and before anyone asks if this wedding is what inspired me to write to veronica the answer is no lol this whole scenerio was bothering me long before they decided to marry

    shall keep you posted x

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

    Cruiser, it is not my situation anymore. That was many, many ,many years ago. She needs to start asking questions else she will get no answers. She needs to be able to move on with a clear conscious.

  • Lala_Lisa profile image

    Lala_Lisa 7 years ago

    Veronica, Another great article. You are so right if she keeps giving him permission, he will keep doing this. She has to assert herself. It sounds like she is. I think she knew this but needed to hear it. She's done and tried everything. It's time. I agree with V and Cruiser and Zoe, (and the guy on the other hub, that's how I came looking for this one.) Lady G is way off and projecting her situation onto this one. This is why people write to you for advice, V. You listen instead of projecting.

  • profile image

    Cruiser 7 years ago

    This is great advice and I'm glad Zoe has checked in. She sounds empowered now. Good for you Zoe.

    LadyGuinevere, you aren't helping. Projecting your situation which sounds nothing like this one isn't helping.

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

    Zoe, one question. Have you been to the friend's places that he stays at and talked with them or do you just take his word for it?

  • profile image

    Elizabeth Simon 7 years ago

    It really hurts alot especially when one party stops caring... thats my situation but as for zoe, make sure that your happiness is first considered..... i'm inspired by the talk of veronica, it really sharpened my mind. Keep up the good will of sharing your thoughts it helps out alot.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY


    Thanks so much for checking in. Yeah, I did not get that feeling that he had someone else, nothing indicates it.

    Yes, you are right, and i hear from many of those women who are with someone that won't marry them, that go on to marry the next woman.

    I like your attitude - no more having his cake and eating it too. That's exactly what my entire hub pointed to for you. Take control. Best to you.

  • profile image

    zoe 7 years ago

    Hi guys thanks for all your input. He is not married and he is not seeing anyone else. He had this job before we met, in the current market there is not much work going. He stays at a family members house during the week to keep costs down. He has looked for worker closer to home but just has not put very much effort into it. I'm very close to his mother in fact she is very much the mum I never had. She does not understand his behaviour and is very much on my side. Like many of you have said she thinks he is having his cake and eating it. Both his parents are wonderful grandparents and have at the drop of a hat helped me out. When I found out I was pregnant with our second child my partner was not very happy and blamed me until I was around 24 weeks ,don't get me wrong he supported me but that's as far as it went. He picked arguments and told me on a daily basis he was far from happy.During a couple of arguments he said some awful things and his mother always sat him down talked to him and on one occasion said she would cut him out of her life as she was ashamed of his behaviour.

    He is very much a private person. Like you have said maybe he already knows I'm not the "one" and is keeping his options open. I certainly feel that way sometimes. I'm going to have a good hard think and put a plan of action into place. I have had friends in a similar situation they have left their partners due to the fact they wouldn't marry and every single one of the men has married the next girl they met within the year. All so complicated. Thanks for all your advice I will keep posting updates. No more having his cake and eating it! Xx

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    So sorry to hear the story, Lady! Eeesh that's horrible.

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

    This guy that I was involved with wanted to marry me too and start a family and he even went as far as offering to give me money for a wedding gown. I don't know what happened but I didn't buy that wedding gown and glad that I didn't. It wasn't a feeling but events just didn't come around. How I found out that he had another girlfriend was that after I came home from a visit with him and left a message on his answering machine--she called me right back and agreed to meet there where he lived with her. I met her and she told me that he was married and had a son. She showed me pictures and everything and when he came home--well he got it from both of us. I was devastated.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    Thanks Lady Gueinevere,

    I have gotten the feeling from some emails and comments that something was up exactly like your saying- that he's married to someone else. But I don't get that feeling here. I do however think that if he was going to marry her, he would have. I have a sad feeling about this one, but I'm not getting the marriage deceit feeling here. I'm sorry you went through that. It happens more often than people think.

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

    When reading the events and the reation of this man and then reading that he has a job far way and refused to get one closwer to her, the thought comes to mind that he is already married to another woman and has a family. I have been there myself. Through my experience though the man did and said the same things that was said to Zoe and I also came to find out that he had another girlfriend at the same time that he was dating me and married to his wife who they had a son together. This was going on behind my back for many years. I would start looking for clues and answers. Don't expect his mother to tell you anything, one if that is his real mother and two if it is she is loyal to her son.

    Yes it is really a good idea to start to separate things out.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    Hi LKelly725, Thanks so much for reading me, and for commenting. I appreciate it.

  • profile image

    LKelly725 7 years ago

    I started reading Veronica's articles a few days ago, and I can't stop :) I hope Zoe reads this as this may be an eye opener to her. She cannot continue living the way she is as things will not change. Zoe seems to be missing something from this relationship , and I hope things work out for her!

  • profile image

    Little Fox 7 years ago

    Zoe this is such a great article. I am a long time reader of Veronica's Hubs and she is amazing. I think she really gave you perfect and balanced advice. I hope you will read this article with an open heart. She's completely right if you keep living the way you are you are giving him permission to not change a thing. Good luck to you Zoe.

  • profile image

    Pam D. 7 years ago


    Is there any better way? Is there any way to get him to open up and TALK to her? There seems to be a ton of issues on his side, but his intense lack of communication / over-privacy on his thoughts are a barrier. What reason could he possibly have for not explaining?