I've been dating my boyfriend for 5 years and living together for 2 1/2 years. Every time I talk about marriage with him he blows me off. I have a 7 year old daughter and she realizes that we are living together and we are not married. I want to be a good example and role model for my daughter, and lately I've haven't been feeling like one. Should I give my boyfriend an ultimatum. Either man up and marry me or I'm moving out. ~ Fed-Up Phoebe
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Dear Fed-Up Phoebe --
I'm really sorry your boyfriend blows you off when you attempt to discuss marriage. Something in that feels really disrespectful and unkind. The first thing I'd recommend is a real heart-to-heart, during which he knows in no uncertain terms that you love him, remain committed to him, and expect to be married to him by [pick a date]. Tell him he has six more months to decide whether he needs more time or is ready to be your husband. That will make a grand total of 8 years together, so I'm feeling alright suggesting some kind of time limit for these deliberations.
Suggest he make two lists for himself, one that includes the reasons why you two should get married and one that includes the reasons why not. Come to think of it, Phoebe, I'd sure like it if you made those lists, too. Now, you need to get yourself prepared for a scenario that might not be altogether rosy. By the spunk in your note, I'm thinking you can swing it. Start setting money aside now. Get organized. If you he needs more time come 6 months, I'd suggest one of you move out. Discuss whether or not you'll date. The point here is that you both need to shift the dynamic and the comfort level, and to create a situation that encourages new priorities, new consequence, and new decision-making.
I don't know if this qualifies as an ultimatum or not. But if your partner won't discuss his fears, reservations or concerns about marriage with you -- and if he won't be available for your needs and concerns -- then it's important to act for yourself and act in alignment with your values, your needs, and your expectations. But think about this very clearly and carefully, Phoebe. It will lead to a crossroads. Good luck, and know that we'll be wishing you the best.
Ladies . . . Anyone been through this? Know someone who has? Think there's a better way to negotiate this, when someone won't negotiate? Please share.