My boyfriend doesn’t want to get married anymore. We’re 28 and have been together for 11 years now.
It was love at first sight, but we lived four hours apart and that distance took a toll on our relationship. A few years in, I left my small town and went to live with him in the big city, but within a few months of being together, we were on-again / off-again for about a year. He proposed but took the ring back 11 days later.
We are together again, and we recently moved a thousand miles away from everyone/everything we know, so he could pursue his career. Now he tells me he never wants to get married or have kids. I am fine with it, I guess. Is it normal for a guy to change his mind like that? He says he wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I am confused.
Yolanda S. — New York, NY
I know that being 28 means you’ve been an adult for a decade, but biologically and neurologically speaking, one’s brain doesn’t reach full maturity until 25. In light of this, it’s not surprising that you two are still figuring out what’s right for the rest of your lives, and if pinning down a lifetime promise is proving tricky for him, it’s understandable.
Since he actually said, “I never want to be married or have children,” you should believe him. Don’t think that he feels this way now, but when he loves you more or over time, things will change. I know plenty of good women who have burned through years and decades waiting for that tide to turn.
Some people opt out of marriage because they believe the institution is flawed (if not broken), but that belief has to do with the institution of marriage; it has nothing to do with their capacity and willingness to commit and be dedicated in a partnership.
And having children…boy, I sure wish everyone took the time to consider if they wanted children or not or if they’d be good at taking on that multi-decade commitment (or not) instead of blindly following the old societal narrative: You grow up, get married, have children, get a dog and buy a house with a white picket fence, etc. Making a discerning, conscious choice before taking such a monumental and irrevocable step can be life-saving. And hey, that narrative is a lovely option, if you both choose it.
You say that you two have moved away from everything you know and love. You also say, as we’ve talked about above, that he doesn’t want to be married or have children, and that you’re fine with that, you guess…Really? Hey, guess what? I don’t want you to guess. I want you to know. I mean really know. In your heart of hearts, know. So, if you can, take some time (away from your partner if possible) and think about this: If you had it all your way, what would your life look like?
Pretend for just a moment that you never met him—take him out of the equation just for the sake of this exercise. Would you enjoy the adventure of a life in your new town, or is your happy place in your hometown with your loved ones? Would you enjoy a lifestyle that doesn’t involve marriage or children? (There’s no wrong answer here.)
Next, imagine you are in a happy, fulfilling lifetime partnership where you are empowered and you feel safe. What does that look like? Does it look like the partnership you’re in now? If not, what do you need from your partner to make that dream come true? Where is your bottom line for “yes, this is enough”? Once you’ve established what that looks like, look below that bottom line to see what might make you feel resentful, hurt, or regretful in the future.
Now, does what you’re signing up for with him give you all you hope for? If it falls short, does it at least fall above the line of enough?