Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I have been dating my boyfriend for seven years. We bought a house together two years ago and met in high school. We are now in our early 30s and he has not proposed.
He is well aware that I would love marriage and a family but has been giving me reasons on and off for the last year as to why we can’t take things further. One minute he’s ready and the next, we have to work on things.
I am having a hard time processing the fact that maybe he doesn’t want to commit and is okay with the way things are.
Please share your thoughts.
Your relationship is one so many people will relate to: you’ve weathered the ups and downs of a long-term relationship with someone you see a forever future with, but having made it this far, and despite promising evidence of enduring commitment like co-buying a home, marriage still eludes you. Now, stalled at an emotional crossroads, the question is, what’s next?
Seven years is a long time, for anything, and certainly for a relationship. The first thing I’d ask myself is, what’s more important: him, or marriage and all it entails? Are you happier with him, unmarried and not progressing toward starting a family? Or is having children a priority that could override your emotions toward your partner? And if you feel the latter may be true, and that your desire to be a wife and mother is so strong that you may need to leave him behind, have you shared that urgency with him? These days, in the landscape of dating, people have so many options, and it’s well-documented that Americans are delaying both marriage and childbearing to later in life. He may not fully understand how deeply you want these things and how much a deal breaker his hesitancy could be.
That said, do not punish yourself for what you want, even as it may not align with his timeline. We’ve got one shot at this life, and we’re all entitled to go after what we want with gusto. It could be that while you found a fun and comforting partner for seven years’ worth of memories, experiences, and even buying your first home, he isn’t in the same emotional space to take those next steps with you. And that’s his prerogative too. The best thing you can do is treat each other respectfully, listen to what each other needs, and honestly assess whether you’ll be happier moving forward together, or on different paths.
This might be difficult for you to visualize because of the relationship blinders you’ve worn while being with this man forever and knowing him even longer. But I want to remind you that there is a big world out there that offers more variety and more men than the bubble that you two have built and reside in. And many of those men dream of the same future that you do: get married and start a family.
I’m not saying this to be smug, or to encourage you to break up with your longtime boyfriend, or to start scrolling around dating apps on the downlow. I said it because you’ve dedicated a lot of time (seven years!), energy and focus to this relationship, and you aren’t getting back what you’re putting in or building toward. You need to realize that this relationship is not your only option to get what you want out of life. And understand that relationships end every day, even long-term, high school sweetheart, home-owning relationships.
Would it be devastating to end things and move on? Of course. Probably for a very long time. Would single you find the man of your dreams overnight? Doubtful. Heck, you might never find him, or you may realize that you already left him. Sorry, it’s true. But at least you would be true to yourself and have pointed your life in the direction that hopefully fulfills your ultimate wants and needs.
After seven years, you both deserve all-in, not wishy-washy. Tell your boyfriend that it’s time to talk and to get 100 percent real about how you both see your future, and plan your lives, or life together, from there. Just don’t continue to tread water. If you’re frustrated now, you’ll really regret that you stuck around despite not getting what you want for another two, three or seven years.