Should I give my boyfriend a marriage ultimatum?

by Kristina Tahnyak on February 27, 2012 · 23 comments

boyfriendI am (sadly) not married to my long time boyfriend, but after 12 years together it really doesn’t make a difference for our joint finances.  Or maybe that is just something that I tell myself to make myself feel better about planning my life and sharing my money with a man who cannot (or does not) want to committ to me. I would really like to have a ring on my finger not necessarily with a wedding to follow, but just as a sign of commitment.

Whenever I talk to my boyfriend about planning our future life together his answer is always the same:

“You know that I love you and we already share money, an apartment, and (formerly) a car so what more do you need?”

I am not sure if I absolutely want to be married, but I do know that I want our relationship to progress and move forward. After 12 years I am tired (and bored) or living the same life.  Our relationship is such a routine; we have the same monthly bills and expenses and we live on a fixed monthly budget.  There is definitely no spice in our financial lives. We aren’t saving for a wedding and we aren’t saving for a honeymoon or a trip of any kind for that matter because my boyfriend doesn’t share my passion for travelling.

I need to have something new to look forward to; I need to have some kind of change in our financial relationship. Maybe this is how a long term relationship is supposed to be, but I have to be honest, I don’t really like it. I am not a huge fan of too much change and I do like the comfort of a routine, but I also get bored very easily.

I am currently at a crossroads in my relationship.  I am 31 years old and I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 12 years.  He doesn’t want to get married and he doesn’t want to travel or to change cities.  I, on the other hand want to live in New York City, and I love to travel.  UP to now I have been travelling with family or friends, but I would love to travel with him. I am not sure if I should stay with him or if I should move on to pursue my own personal dreams alone.  I don’t really want to be by myself but at this point I kind of feel that my relationship is holding me back both personally and financially.

I think that I would like to get married someday and if I stay with my boyfriend that is not an option.  I am wondering if I should give him an ultimatum.  I have never been the type of girlfriend to make him chose between me and something else, and I don’t want to pressure him into doing something that he does not want to do. But I feel that if he really loved me he would make the change…for me.

For the past few months I have been making a pro and con list of the reasons why I should stay in my current relationship as well as a list of reasons why I should leave.  After many hours of contemplation this is what I have come up with:

Reasons to Stay

  • I Love Him
  • We Have Been Together a Long Time
  • I Love Him

Reasons to Leave

  • I want to live in a different city
  • I love to travel and I want to do it with my boyfriend
  • I will never be married

Have you been in a relationship like this before?

Photo by photologue usedfree

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daisy February 27, 2012 at 9:22 am

I relate to your pros and cons list. I wouldn’t stay with somebody who wouldn’t commit to me, but it’s just a principal thing for me. I’ve been with the boy for 5 years but I’ve told him I don’t want to get married until I’m out of school and have the time to plan a wedding, and he’s cool with that, it buys him time. Like you, though, I would love to do all of the things you listed on your pros and cons list, but can’t in my relationship.

2 Michelle February 27, 2012 at 9:29 am

I’m sorry, that’s a tough situation. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 6 years, but we like the same things (such as traveling). And I’m also not too worried about marriage right now. But eventually I will be.

3 Carrie - Careful Cents February 27, 2012 at 10:28 am

Sorry you’re facing this dilemma. I can truly say I understand where your at, as I too am giving/have given my boyfriend an ultimatum. Sadly we are not together at this point, but we are trying to change and work on it. I’m one of those girls that doesn’t like to settle (which is why I divorced my ex-husband), so in my opinion I think you should talk with your BF.

At least tell him everything you said here, how you feel and that you love him, but you’re just not happy. Ask him to change and comprise FOR YOU, if he loves you. If he still doesn’t understand (and if I was in your situation) I wouldn’t stay with someone who wouldn’t commit to me. It sucks to be alone, but it’s better than feeling bored with life.

Again, I’m sorry you’re facing this tough situation. I can only tell you from my experience and what I have/am doing.

4 J.Mill February 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I was in a tough relationship that I was very committed to but that was also very toxic to me. I wanted to stay because I felt I had so much invested in him and our relationship. I gave my aunt the same sort of list you gave yourself and she said to me “Haven’t you answered your own question?”

I got married shortly after realizing my guy (not the toxic one) was “the one” because we love each other, are a great match, have similar values and believe that that commitment means forever. We will never leave each other because that’s what marriage means to us. If you are going to change your mind on a guy because of his preference in travel/home location, then I’d say don’t get married. You need to both be willing to happily give it all up for the sake of a marriage and not, years later, hold it over the other’s head that you didn’t get to travel/move.

An ultimatum sounds harsh, but I think there’s a place for setting an expectation here. You need to first set your expectation. Do you want to get married because you’re bored? Really? Or are you looking for that forever-commitment?

Then make your expectation clear to him. “I want to be with you forever. I want the commitment that comes with a marriage. I love you but if you don’t feel you can commit to me in this way, I will need to move on.”

Give yourself time to think on what you desire and then give him time to think if he can align to that desire. It’s ok to set a time-frame in which you both must reconvene on the subject.

Don’t get married unless it’s forever. Don’t have a wedding just to throw a party. Don’t keep dating a man that doesn’t align with your desires. Re-read your post (and your profile byline!) and see if you answered your own questions about what you want.

5 Nicole February 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Ultimatums are no good. But, you answered your own question. You are bored and want things that he doesnt want. I broke up with many a man in my life who I loved or cared strongly about and who I got along with great, but if I wanted something out of life that they didn’t eventually want (usually babies was the case), I broke up with them. I never understood continuing to date if you know it’s not going to work out in the end (because my desire for children would cause me to leave) or continuing to date indefinitely and being left full of resentment for my dreams not realized.
Funny, too, that since that, I have had ex-boyfriends tell me what a mistake they made, and how now all they want is to settle down and have a family. I never gave an ultimatum though and I never rushed them into marriage or kids. What would cause me to break up would just be one of those heart to heart talks where you discuss dreams, etc. If they said anything along the lines of never wanting kids, I would say ‘really? never?’. If they insisted yes, then the break up happened pretty soon after that!

6 Nicole February 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm

by the way, what does your boyfriend think when you blog something like this? I often want to blog about marriage and my pregnancy, etc., but I feel as though I would have to edit myself because of the chance of my husband or his family seeing what i blog.

7 Earn Save Live February 27, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I’m sorry that you’re going through this! Twelve years is a long time, and it sounds like you love him. But, as you know, sometimes love just isn’t enough. You need to have compatible goals. To me, getting married and traveling the world and becoming a mother were just non-negotiable. At the end of the day, it’s our lives and we need to be accountable to ourselves.

Before calling it off – or staying out of a sense of duty – why not try couples counseling? It might help to have a neutral third party’s advice. And I also think that there’s a difference between giving an ultimatum (“You need to marry me or we’re done”) and stating your feelings and personal goals (“I want to get married in the next couple of years and travel the world. Do you want to join me?”)

8 Kristina February 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Thank you everyone for your support. It is a little bit comforting to know that other women are experiencing the same relationship struggles that I am currently experiencing. I guess that I have answered my own question but I feel that when the time comes to move on I will know it i.e. a job offer in NYC. At that point I will know that moving on is the right decision.

@Nicole – Congrats on your pregnancy! My boyfriend would probably be upset that I was sharing our personal business, but it wouldn’t be news to him. He is well aware of my thoughts and feelings.

9 Supadad33 February 28, 2012 at 9:42 am

Here’s a guy’s perspective. An ultimatum won’t get you anywhere, at least not in the long-term. And asking/demanding someone to change for you is not fair to him or you. You need to figure out what it is you want out of life, then find someone who shares those same desires. Determine what your major must-haves in a relationship are (e.g., marriage, kids, international travel), and communicate those up-front when you meet a new guy — well, maybe not on the first date, but once you can tell it might get serious, be sure he knows where you stand on the big issues, and be sure you know where he stands on the same. Guys need clear and direct communication. We aren’t women who can intuit these things! If, after you discuss the big ticket items, there are major differences, it’s time to move on and have confidence that you WILL find someone who truly shares what you want out of life. It will be amazing when you meet him. Don’t just stay with someone because you don’t want to be alone.

10 Hannah February 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I’m actually 11 years into my relationship and I’m 27 years old (yes, high school sweethearts). So I understand all the time invested in the relationship can cloud your mind a bit.

You have to be on the same page, there’s times when you won’t be but at the end of the day you have to have common goals about your future. Be open and honest about your feelings and hopefully he’ll understand, you guys have to make a move or reach an understanding that’ll both make you happy (and please no marriage ultimatum for him and at least some kind of commitment goal for you).

If he just doesn’t want to hear it then maybe it’s best to go your seperate ways.

11 Sarah February 28, 2012 at 10:27 pm

I’m sorry to hear you aren’t happy right at the moment. To me, it sounds like there are two separate issues. a.) You are having trouble being with a partner who doesnt share your interest to move or travel hobby. b.) You want to be married and your partner doesnt. It seems, that you should answer a before answering b. Can the both of you talk about your difference ideas in terms of where you want to live together long-term? Is there room for compromise? If there really isn’t, then it seems you need to be honest with yourself about whether you are ready to give up dreams of moving and traveling with your partner before deciding about marriage. Once you answer a and if you decide you want to marry him, then you try to have some reason discussions about what marriage means to you and why it is important and try to make him understand that or get to greater clarity about his uncomfortableness with marriage.

12 Dave@50plusfinance February 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Sorry to hear your struggling with this. I can tell how upset you are about making a wrong decision. You have to do what’s right for you so you don’t have regrets later. As for your boyfriend he is not being understanding about your needs. Caring about each others needs is what a healthy relationship is all about. But lots of men see no reason to get married or have children. I don’t think you mentioned children. These two things are blind spots for men. They need a kindly shove in that direction.
I would make one last fresh and forceful effort to convey to your boyfriend what could happen if he remains asleep at the wheel much longer. You love him to much to not try to knock some sense into Mr. Meathead. Your going to be happy with or without him. I hope he sees it your way because he is going to regret it if he doesn’t. Good luck!

13 Grif February 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Ask yourself this question: Am I better off with him? Or without him?

You’ve got to give him a reason to marry you, and right now, honey, he’s getting everything he wants without marrying you. You may have to give him a choice: keep you by marrying you, or lose you by refusing to marry you.

Right now everything is on his terms. Decide what your terms are, and tell him your terms. I used to think that ultimatums weren’t proper, and perhaps they’re not. What helped is I started looking at MY reasonable desires & wishes as valid, rather than looking at an ultimatum as “being unreasonable” – in other words, I was using the WRONG word, and switching from “ultimatum” to “my own desires” helpd tremendously. Given my own desires, where am I willing to draw the line? When and where am I willing to say, “This just isn’t good enough for me”?

Another way to look at this: in another ten or twenty years from now, what will you wish you had done back there in 2012?


14 Kristina February 29, 2012 at 7:40 pm

@Supadad – It’s always good to hear a guys opinion on the situation. It kind of gives me some insight on how my boyfriend sees the situation.

@Dave – Thank You. Good advice, as always :-)

@Grif – I can’t expect him to change overnight and I am also afraid that he will say no way and I will have to start packing my bags. Right now it’s like I don’t really have to deal with the problems since everything is on his terms. However, I am getting a little sick and tired of being neglected and feeling unappreciated. I definitely don’t want to be having his conversation in 10 years, although I did say that last year around the holidays.

15 TamTro March 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Also if you’re bored with your relationship (you need something new to look forward to), who’s to say you’re not going to be bored with your marriage 10 years from now. . .it seems like you’re basically married, so how is actually getting married going to improve the boredom aspect of things . . . After you get married, what will be the next thing you’ll want to do so that you have something to look forward to . . .

I’ve been thinking about some similar things . . . but these thoughts are actually pushing me away from marriage b/c I’m afraid I’ll just get bored . . . especially b/c I don’t plan on having any children . . .

16 Jeff March 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I wouldn’t give ultimatum. If he was to say OK I will marry you. Would it be because he wanted to or because he felt guilted into it. I do think you need to talk. Let him know exactly what your feeling and where you are coming from. It may come down to an uncomfortable decision, but this needs to be addressed or you will be miserable.

17 Emily @ evolvingPF March 10, 2012 at 10:33 am

I agree with previous commenters that love and a history are not enough of a reason to stay in a relationship (outside the commitment of marriage). You have to have similar goals for your life and see a way to enjoy them with your partner and help each other achieve them. Figure out what you need (what is it about marriage that is necessary? what aspects of international travel do you desire? why NYC?) and don’t force your boyfriend to comply with your demands. If you two ultimately do what very different things out of life, I think it’s time to move on and find someone more compatible. Please don’t let this drag out, though. What’s stopping you from making arrangements to leave starting today and culminating in a month or two?

18 B. (Below Her Means) March 16, 2012 at 1:10 am

This is a hard one. I’m old fashioned in the belief that if he really wants to make you happy and really does want to be with you forever, there’s no reason he shouldn’t marry you.

19 Abbie Dunam March 16, 2012 at 6:17 pm


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20 Ana March 26, 2012 at 10:49 am

“I guess that I have answered my own question but I feel that when the time comes to move on I will know it i.e. a job offer in NYC. At that point I will know that moving on is the right decision.”

I would recommend being a little more proactive in your decision. It sounds like you’re looking for a reason to leave, so why not just do it? He doesn’t want to get married. You do. That’s it. That’s your answer. Go find someone who wants to get married if that is important to you. There are plenty of decent, single guys out there who want the same things you do, but you’ll never find them if you’re stuck trying to change someone into what you want them to be. Put yourself in his shoes… how would you feel if the person you love most in the world tells you that you need to change in order for him to be with you. Neither of you needs to change. You just need to move on.

As painful and inconvenient as breakups are, I have never regretted one. You just have to get past the feeling that you’ve “wasted” 12 years of your life. I promise that you’ll see how the experience has prepared you to be a better individual, and eventually, a better partner.

21 Melanie July 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Yes, you should give him a marriage ultimatum and tell him 1 year! By the end of that year, if he hasnt proposed yet, leave him! Travel alone or with family and friends girl!

You are strong!

You can do this!

22 Luke January 18, 2013 at 4:11 am

I advise you tell your BF what absolutely unshirkable duties you will take on as his wife, and how you would absolutely protect him from consequences of possible divorce (that do NOT depend on you not one day deciding to divorce him, nor not sticking the knife in him as far as the courts would allow you at the time).

Oh, and if you both aren’t CERTAIN you want to have children together, there is not sufficient reason to get married. The divorce risk (likelihood + severity if happens) is just too bad for that.

I also advise you read these books/online articles:

“Created To Be His Helpmeet” by Debi Pearl (book)
“The Garbage Generation” by Daniel Amneus (book and as free online article)
“Home Economics” and “Sexual Utopia in Power”, both by F. Roger Devlin (free online articles)
“Taken Into Custody” by Stephen Baskerville

If you don’t understand that your fertility started plunging at age 27, and that bearing ANY children after early 30s is a gamble, even a crapshoot, I suggest you read this book:
“Creating A Life” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

I hope you lose some of the sense of entitlement that comes across, and view things from his POV a little more, for both your sakes.

Good luck to you both.

23 kelly May 16, 2015 at 6:46 am

I am where you are now. I have been with my boyfriend going on 13 years.. We have 3 beautify children together. In my case I have planned 3 weddings that I had to cancel because, he either didn’t want to go through with it or financial problems. So I kind of gave up but about 3 years have gone pass and I just gave him an ultimatum. If I am not married by tho year I am leaving him… I think that I have waited long enough.. He tells me that he doesn’t want me to leave because I am everything he wants in a wife!! So my question is why aren’t we married yet? I am still young 32 and i can find me a great guy that loves me and my children!! Good luck with everything!!!!

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