Dear Prudence: My boyfriend won’t marry me, despite our having a child.

Help! My Boyfriend’s "Not Ready" for Marriage, Even Though We Have a Kid.

Help! My Boyfriend’s "Not Ready" for Marriage, Even Though We Have a Kid.

Advice on manners and morals.
March 18 2013 2:39 PM

Then Comes Marriage

In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose boyfriend says he’s "not ready" to marry, even though they have a child together.

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A: Your problem is that you're so tied into needing your parents' approval. This tells me that you aren't ready, at age 21, to move in with a much older man. Sure, your parents are being rude and unfair, but they disapprove of their baby's choice. I'm rather conservative about people moving in together. Not because I think unmarried partners shouldn't have lots of sex, but because it prematurely puts pressure on a relationship that may not be ready for this kind of de facto commitment. You met this guy when you were still in college, and now you're planning to sign a lease with him even as you struggle with getting your mother and father to embrace your relationship. Of course it's painful at any age to have your parents dislike your partner. But when you are more mature, you have a different perspective on your parents' role in your life. I suggest you and your boyfriend continue to keep separate domiciles for a whole lot of reasons, only one of which is your relationship with your overprotective parents.

Q. Re: Due Date: I just booked a wedding date, and you have no idea how easy or hard it was for your sister-in-law, especially considering she had less than nine months. Most vendors are booked solid a year out and she might have only had the date you were due or to wait several months—and who knows what those dates conflict with (other weddings, other due dates, work schedules). We have five babies due the week of our wedding who are invited—it is far from ideal, but there were only three weekends in an 18 month period that were open when we booked.

A: Exactly. Instead of taking it as a personal affront, just accept that the conflicting dates are one of those things.


Q. Sister Trouble: Recently my younger sister got married, and it was a miserable experience for the whole family. Calling her a bridezilla would be an understatement. I made a reception toast at her request. My speech emphasized her true personality—how she walks to the beat of her own drum, and despite facing pushback from conservative parents, was able to make herself successful, independent, and find true love. I earnestly concluded with how happy the family is for her. However, she took this as an affront. She ceased all communications with me, but she emailed my husband telling him that she is extremely insulted. She claimed that her in-laws and friends' parents are offering their condolences for the mean-spirited speech by her wicked sister, and that she goes to bed every night hoping to wake up with no memory of the horrible wedding. Prudie, I'm at a loss. She isolated and demonized so many family members, and now she's turned my admiration into an insult. I want to reach out to her, but I didn't do anything wrong. How can I convince her that her perception of the speech is wrong?

A: Since you say your sister has a history of isolating and demonizing family members your sister may be a head case. Or it could be that in order to live her own life, she had to break away from her repressive family. But I do pause when I read about a toast that celebrated someone's "true" personality. Much better to be dully conventional in your praise than to enumerate the personality traits of the guest of honor that apparently have caused much conflict with the other family members present. Presumably your conservative parents and other relatives had to listen to how your sister pushed back against their most deeply held beliefs, and that may have been terribly embarrassing for everyone. But instead of talking to you about how your toast caused her discomfort, she's turned this into a family-wide spectacle. Email your sister and offer your apologies. Even if you think you did nothing wrong, your toast went over badly, and that deserves a mea culpa. Say you only meant to celebrate what you find most admirable in her, but you see now that you took the wrong tack. Say that you know from what you heard from the other guests that everyone had a great time at the wedding and were very happy for her. Write that you hope she can forgive some unintentionally ill-considered remarks, because you want to share in the beginning of this joyous phase of her life.

Q. Re: "Not Ready for Marriage": I admit, I don't understand how someone could have a kid and not be ready for marriage. Marriage is FAR less of a commitment than a kid. If the marriage doesn't work out, people divorce and never have to see each other ever again. If you have a kid (and both are presumably caring parents) that's a permanent connection. You're going to have to see your kid's other parent in most circumstances. But you hear this over and over again. Why?

A: Sadly, marriage and child-bearing have become decoupled. Of course there are rotten parents who are married (just read this column) and marvelous parents who are doing it solo. But as a society, we are losing the sense that one first finds a suitable life partner, commits, then has children. This trend toward thinking marriage is a scarier commitment than child-bearing is one of the reasons for the increasing inequality in our society. People with college degrees are far more likely to follow the old-fashioned sequence, to the benefit of their offspring.

Q. Hoarders: My daughter's house looks like an episode of TLC's "Hoarders—Buried Alive." There are clothes, toys, and junk everywhere, with only small areas in each room to live in. There is no clean space to eat at the kitchen counter or on their two dining room tables, so they eat in the living room. The grandkids have spilled food and drinks on the carpeting, which has just gotten ground into the fabric. It's disgusting. She continually shops thrift stores, garage sales, and online continually. I shudder to think what could happen if CPS walked into the house! I've tried cleaning, but never know where to begin or where to put things. I know she is very unhappy in her life; her husband is mean and controlling and extremely selfish. He shows no love or affection for her or their beautiful children. He has never lifted a finger to help clean. She is now going to school, working full-time, and taking care of three children. She needs to stop trying to fill the void with stuff. She probably needs counseling to change, but I doubt she can afford it. What can I do?

A: Of course you want to help your daughter, but hoarding is a very difficult condition to treat and it doesn't even sound as if your daughter recognizes she has a problem. Your focus should be on the kids. You must do as much as you can to be an oasis of calm and cleanliness for your grandchildren. I hope you can regularly have them to your house for weekends and holidays. Maybe you can say to your daughter that given the pressure she's under, you understand she doesn't have time for cleaning, and you'd like to hire a service to help her out. It's likely she'll say no, because hoarders don't want to throw anything away. You fear what CPS would do if they saw the home—but maybe they should. These children have a mean, neglectful father, and an overwhelmed mother. The house may be or will likely become a danger. You must keep on top of this, and your priority has to be making sure your grandchildren are safe and cared for.

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.