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.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at prudence@slate.com.)

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. I look forward to your questions.

Q. Relationship: My boyfriend and I have been together for six years and have a beautiful child. We're both done with college, have great jobs and are great parents. We also have a fantastic sex life. We talk about marriage and more children. Recently, a recurring argument landed us in couples therapy. One session was great and helped offer a mutually agreed upon solution. We went to another session to talk through some things in a "pre-marital counseling" fashion even though we are not engaged. There he informed me he's "not ready for marriage yet" but that this "doesn't mean I don't love you or want to marry you in the future." That was news to me and we have decided to go into it at our next counseling session. However, I want to pack myself and my son up, go to my mother's, and end this relationship. I am willing to go to the counseling session still, but I'm unwilling to put any more time into a relationship that clearly is just spinning its wheels. When I told him he got upset and said, "I don't want to lose you." And I said that I wanted to be married. He asked if I was giving him an ultimatum. That wasn't my intention, but I realize in retrospect that I was. Is that fair of me?

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A: Although it makes me sound as if I miss the days when I had a pet Triceratops, to me the "not ready for marriage" discussion is trumped by the arrival of one's child. I agree with the researchers who have published a recent study called Knot Yet from the National Marriage Project about how the normal life script of marriage followed by children has been thrown out by a growing segment of our population. So here you both are raising a child. But now you're finding out your boyfriend is iffy about the marriage thing, and you're considering taking your kid and walking. Whether or not you two abandon your relationship, don't abandon your therapist just yet. It's good you're addressing these issues, and in the therapist's office you can find out what marriage means to each of you and why your boyfriend is so frightened of it. It may be the "lifetime commitment" aspect terrifies him. If so, he really needs to think about what being a father means. Blowing things up out of hurt or pique will do no good for any of the three of you. It's fair that you're angry, but try to deal as calmly and openly as possible with these issues. You list all the ways you two have a strong foundation, so your goal should be to not undermine what you've already built.

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Q. Wedding and Due Date: My sister-in-law recently announced her wedding date and it is three days before my due date for our first child. She knew that was my due date, as we discussed it as a family not too long ago. We would have to travel about three hours to get to the venue she selected and this makes me nervous. My MIL suggested that I "play it by ear" and that if I feel fine I can go, if not my husband can attend solo. I am really upset, because I feel that is too close to my due date for me to travel three hours away from my doctor. I also am afraid of going into labor and my husband missing the birth altogether. The elephant in the room is why she would schedule her wedding right on top of my due date. What should I do about this situation?

A: By the time the wedding rolls around you may look like the elephant in the room, but please stop dwelling on why your sister-in-law has chosen such an infelicitous date to get married. Life happens—in your case a new life will be happening just as she says, "I do." It's very possible neither you nor your husband will be able to attend the ceremony because you'll be in labor or have just delivered. So, first of all, discuss this with your obstetrician. She or he will give you a general reading about the date and the distance and advisability of your attending. Then respond to the invitation accordingly. If you two end up declining, so be it. If your sister-in-law then becomes an elephant on a rampage, she will be making the choice to ruin her own special day.

Q. Can't Get Away From My Ex: I work in the IT department of an insurance company. When I first started here, there was a temp employee in the HR dept about a year older than me (we're both in our mid-20s). We hit it off really well and dated for about a year. At the start of the relationship, we agreed that if anything ever happened to us she would leave since she was just a temp, and this was my dream job. Well, fast forward about a year after that conversation and she broke up with me because she found interest in someone else. Now she's still working here and they offered her a full-time job! She told me she's thinking of taking the job because she can't find work anywhere else. Not only that, but it didn't work out with the guy she left me for and she wants to try and work things out. I want nothing to do with her. I've told her several times I want her to just leave me alone, but she keeps calling and emailing me! I can't ignore her, because I'm the main helpdesk support person, so if she actually has a computer problem I have to help her. What can I do to get out of this mess?

A: If you're being sexually harassed by a fellow employee, obviously you should take this complaint to Human Resources. Oh, sorry, your harasser is in the HR department. Well, at least she'll have firsthand experience with the kinds of incidents she'll be expected to help mediate. You need to send her an email that's curt and pointed. Say that you are happy she has found full-time employment at your company, but that your personal relationship is over. Say there is no chance it will be revived, and for the sake of your both being comfortable at work, she needs to stop calling and emailing you about getting back together. If she keeps at it, and you feel you can't just ignore her, then print out your email chain and take it to her supervisor. Say you've got a real dilemma: What do you do when someone in HR won't leave you alone?

Q. Parents Dislike Boyfriend: My boyfriend of a year-and-a-half is amazing. He is intelligent, caring, thoughtful, creative, and does everything he can to support me and help me succeed. We have a fantastic relationship, except for one thing: My parents hate him because he is 37 and I am 21. I understand that this is a large age gap and may be difficult to process for my overprotective parents. I knew it would be difficult for them, so I told them about it immediately and introduced him to them once we decided to start dating. Since that meeting, they exploded at me about it once, and now barely mention him except to make disparaging remarks. We both work at the same place while we are both working toward bachelor's degrees. He will be graduating in May, and plans to continue with graduate school as soon as I graduate next year. We have discussed it at length and have decided we are ready to move in together over the summer. Now my problem is how to tell my parents that I'm moving in with someone they hate. Prudie, I hate confrontation and it took so long to get over the last blow-up I had with my parents. I don't even know where to begin to prepare myself for this. I am completely in love with my boyfriend and if they would just give him a chance I know they would love him too. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this situation?

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