Marianne wants to be married but her boyfriend isn't cooperating. She says:
"We have been together for 5 years, have a 3 year old and are living together. He said that we are getting married but I don't know when. Other people say that it's wrong to ‘shack up’ this way and that’s why he's not in a hurry to get married. Should I follow their advice and move out?"
The short answer to Marianne’s first question is simple. You observe his behavior. If he asks you to set a date and discuss what kind of wedding you want to have, then he is ready. If he promises that you’ll get married eventually, he isn’t.
The answer to his second question is more complicated. There are many factors involved and it isn’t unusual for couples to delay marriage even though they have children. In fact a New York Times article reported that in the US in 2010, for the first time, over half of babies were born to unmarried women.
The real question for Marianne is “What does ‘shacking up’ mean to you? Are you both acting like grown-ups, living together and sharing financial responsibility and parenting duties? Or is one of you acting like a kid and expecting the other to be the grown-up? What do you think would change it you did get married?
One of the main things women reported when they were asked what they wished they had known before they married was that their husbands did not change for the better after marriage. In fact, negative behavior seemed to get worse. So if you are imagining that he will ‘settle down’ if you get married, you are probably going to be disappointed.
Your friends seem to be telling you that your boyfriend has no reason to want to marry you because he is getting all the benefits of being married without any of the responsibilities. Do you think that is the case? If you do then withdrawing the benefits (at least sex, companionship, spending time with his daughter) might give him a reason to marry you. Or it might give him a good reason to look for someone else to provide the benefits you won’t give him. You’ll take your chances.
Reading all the secrets women shared in 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before®… Saying “I Do” will help you decide if getting married to him is a good idea. If it is, I suggest you have a conversation with him that asks him what he will do if you refuse to continue your present arrangement without getting married. He just might tell you. Only have the conversation if you really want to know his answer.