Q: From California: My boyfriend and I are both divorced. Both of us have been divorced for many years. He is 51 and I am 43. We have been living together blissfully for almost 3 years and we are very committed to each other. When we started dating he had already been separated.

A huge problem for me is that he says he never wants to get married ever again. His reason is that he doesn’t want the state dictating his life, and that I need to take the subject of marriage off the table or he will leave me. When we met I was not looking for a boyfriend, and certainly not a husband. Yet I fell so deeply in love with him and feel it is the natural thing to do to enhance our committment to each other.

I feel betrayed because I was told by him 6 months ago that in another year he will commit to an engagement and then marriage after that. Now he has retracted those words. I feel lied to. Yet, we both agree that life without each other would be horrible.

I feel so sad all the time now, and I feel the barrier wall creeping back up to where it was after my first divorce and my self-esteem isn’t where it should be. I don’t want to start falling out of love with him over this because he is more important to me than marriage, but I feel so hurt that the feelings aren’t reciprocated and I’m growing older every day.

He swears he is more committed to me than any husband ever could be and why should I insist on the state confirming our relationship. I have also relocated over 200 miles away from my home and friends last year because of his job transfer, and am now really stuck because I have no new friends to turn to. Am I just a victim of “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” What should I do?

A: When people who love each other reach this kind of impasse, it generally means that they aren’t talking about what they really need to be talking about. You are arguing about the meaning of marriage when my guess is that there are other issues going on. It sounds to me like he was really burned in his divorce and doesn’t want to risk it again. From what you wrote, it looks like you are scared and lonesome. The argument about marriage is driving a wedge between you. If, instead, you want to draw closer together, it would be more helpful to address those underlying hurts and fears. Neither one of you is ready for marriage until you do.

There are other ways to commit to each other besides traditional marriage. Please consider the article that has been on the PsychCentral homepage for the last couple of weeks, “Legal Issues for Cohabiting Couples.”

You may find that working through the issues in that article will help you both feel better.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 May 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/05/26/why-buy-the-cow-when-you-can-get-the-milk-for-free/