#1172: “My boyfriend asked me to relocate to a new city with him, and I asked him to commit to getting engaged to be married. Guess which of these two things actually happened? What do I do now?”

Hi Captain,

My boyfriend of 2 years and I recently moved across the country from my hometown (and all of my friends and family). He moved there for a job after grad school. For me, this move was leaving everything I knew behind, for him, it was just another move to a place he really wanted to be.

I was on board with moving, but knew it would be hard for me, as I’m really close to family. I was clear with him, before anything with the move was in motion, that I would feel better having a more concrete commitment (aka at least being engaged) before we made such a big move and that I knew it was probably silly, but something I cared about. We discussed it, talked a lot about our mutual vision of a future together, etc. He said he understood where I was coming from, but he was struggling with timing (we were/are simultaneously dealing with his mother’s estate on the opposite end of the country, which includes clearing out and selling a house she spent 30 years in). I understood, but was also frustrated.

The move happened faster than expected. We’ve been here for almost 3 months. I’m feeling lonely, missing friends and family, and in a job I’m not thrilled about. This is all compounding with the fact that there’s still no ring. I tried ignoring the feelings, but things came to a head and I explained how I was feeling (through tears, unfortunately). He assured me he’s ready to be engaged, wants to marry me, blah blah, but listed reasons for not moving forward, like not knowing where to start with ring shopping (he offered to shop together and has apparently forgotten about the discussion, as it hasn’t been brought up again and was ignored when I mentioned going). It makes me feel like an idiot for uprooting my entire life for someone who seems like they won’t commit. On the other hand, we bought a house together, talk about getting married/having kids/etc., so I’m aware that there are commitments already in play.

Part of me knows I should be content with that and the fact that it will happen, but a bigger part of me can’t take this “someday” timeline. I also don’t want to keep bringing it up and feel like I’m forcing an engagement. I know I’m probably leaning toward the unreasonable end of the spectrum, but I’m really struggling here (and the constant barrage of holiday engagement announcements and takeover of engagement ring ads on every social platform I use isn’t helping). Any advice on either getting over myself and my timelines or helping him understand how much this is really tearing me up inside? I love him, and I’m not ready to leave if I don’t get a ring tomorrow, but I’m starting to feel resentful and I know that’s not fair to anyone.

Thanks for your time!

Ring Ads in my Nightmares

Dear Ring Ads In My Nightmares,

You’re in a similar place to this Letter Writer and I have some similar advice for you, though I want to post your letter in addition to hers because I think people could benefit from hearing this:

If someone is asking you to make a giant commitment (like moving away from your family and !!!!!!!!!!!!!!buying real estate with them!!!!!!/setting up a household together) but they are ‘not ready’ to do the commitment-y that thing YOU would like or need in order to feel safe & 100% confident about taking that step with them, it’s okay to say “nope!”

I know that’s scary, like, you’re saying “no” to all of it, no to everything with them, but you are allowed to say “I understand if you’re not ready to take that step yet, and there is a lot going on right now, so, why don’t you go ahead and get set up in the new town with the new job and sort out your mom’s estate and then let me know when you are ready, and that’s when I’ll move, in the meantime, I guess we’ll make it work long-distance for a while, since I’m not ready uproot from where I live right now without making a formal commitment! I love you, let’s do this when you’re ready and you’re completely sure.” 

And if that breaks the whole relationship, it wasn’t you who broke it by asking for Too Much. The other person wasn’t ready to give you what you needed.

I know that sounds old-fashioned, I know that marriage/rings/outward forms of commitment aren’t the end-all and be-all (especially in that people get engaged or married all the time and then get un-those things later), I know a million relationships where the ring/ceremony, etc. are “just a formality” and not the Real Stuff of the relationship, I also know that not everyone always could or can do “the formalities” depending on where they live and who they love and there’s no “just” about it. I don’t want to go back to the days where marriage or the promise of that is the only way other relationship “steps” can happen or tell anyone what they should do in what order about romantic commitments.

But symbols and symbolic gestures have meaning, and Letter Writer, if that’s what you needed/need in order to make moving feel like the right decision, it was and is okay for you to need that.

It’s also okay to trust people you love and take risks and try things and hope they work out. We don’t have a time machine to go back and undo that decision or the move, you have made a giant gesture to trust in this person and your future with him that was clearly based on something hopeful & loving that you share between you, you were sensitive to the fact that he’s grieving for his mom and making other big changes, and it’s okay to make gambles and to trust in love! I hope very much that it all works out the way you want it to and there is a happy life with this person ahead of you and this is a temporary bump.

I just want you to keep in mind that “shopping for symbolic jewelry items” may not come “naturally” to your chosen spouse, but he had and continues to have choices open to him. Some of these choices are: 1) Goobingle it 2) There are many step-by-step guides! 3) You can make the decision/ask the question about becoming engaged and save the whole darn jewelry bit for later, 4) Or use a silly/fun/cheap stand-in prop if the ritual is important 5) You can ask for help, like“Can we take an afternoon and sort this out together?” 6) You can ask for specific suggestions, like: “Here is my approximate budget, can you show me some examples of rings you might like, or would you like to pick something out together?” 7) You can set/manage expectations: “I haven’t mentioned it before because I saving up so I can get you something really nice and I wanted it to be a surprise, but it doesn’t have to be a surprise if waiting is stressing you out so much!”  IF PEOPLE WANT TO MARRY YOU, THEY HAVE MANY WAYS TO LET YOU KNOW. You told him this particular step/symbol was important to you more than once, so it shouldn’t be a mystery that it’s important to you.

Unfortunately, he told you he wasn’t quite ready more than once, so it’s not a mystery where he stands, either. Since you both moved forward with other plans without having everything quite in place, what do you do now?

Because the conflict isn’t about “I want a shiny!” at this point. What’s at stake is trust, in the future you’re planning together. Why is he okay postponing this even knowing how upset and on edge you are? What does “unready” mean (unready to be with you vs. unready for logistics of proposal/wedding which are two different things)? If he’s unready, what would “ready” look like? Are you gonna have to bug him/remind him/strategize about asking him/worry that you’re being “too pushy” for every thing that’s important to you but not quite as urgent/important/obvious to him? If he’s so unready, why did he ask you to move & throw down on a mortgage? Of course you’re anxious. Something about all of this is making you feel like you’re on an audition, making you afraid to bring up problems in case it all unravels.

Another giant issue: You moved where he wanted to go, you did what he wanted you to do, you signed a telephone book size packet of mortgage documents (I am gonna keep mentioning this b/c buying a house with someone vs. buying a piece of jewelry for someone are two very different orders of effort & magnitude and risk) and it turns out that you’re unhappy there.

LET’S REPEAT THAT: You’re living with your favorite person ever, in the town he picked out for his career, in the house you bought together, in the new life you planned to start together, one which you’ve committed to as far as you possibly can, and…you’re crushingly unhappy. So is it “the ring” and the questions about commitment thereof, or is the anxiety about the ring and proposal/engagement a stand-in for learning that maybe this life he’s offering isn’t really for you even if it does come with the right set of symbolic gestures and words?

Because this is where I can (maybe) help you. You’re unhappy. And a little voice inside you is telling you that maybe you made the wrong decision, wholesale. You’ve already used your words with your dude and he’s gonna do what he’s gonna do about that, so, what are some things you could do that aren’t about a ring or a tearful conversation or an ultimatum that would make you feel more secure and happy in your life? What else do you need?


Theme #1: Look homeward, angel!

Is what you’re feeling more about desire for a formal commitment or more regret that you moved at all? Unpick that thread a bit. Is it possible that what is upsetting you right now is less about a failure to come through with a proposal and more about getting information from the overall situation that this new life is not working the way you’d hoped? (What if your boyfriend gave you a ring tomorrow and we got to Friday or a month from now and you were still this unhappy?)

Do you need to move back home? What would that look like, financially, logistically, emotionally? Make a contingency plan and a budget for that. Maybe you’ll never need it or use it, but I think it would be good to know that you could go home if you wanted to. “I followed someone I loved to a new town, but it wasn’t making me happy, so I came back” isn’t a failure.

Do you need to visit home more? What would it take to put a series of visits on the calendar for 2019 and follow through with them (whether he accompanies you or not)? What would it take to get someone from your family or hometown out to see you for a few days, maybe every other month?

Do you have a good Skype/call routine with faraway loved ones? Time to put one in place.

Are there some people in your life you can be honest with about how you’re feeling? s your boyfriend one of those people?  “I love ____ but I still feel unsettled b/c of the lack of formal commitment, and to be honest, I hate it here so far and really miss home.” Or do you feel like you have to paint a rosy picture all the time? Because that’s so stressful. Keep the trusted people in your life close, think about looping in a counselor if you need more emotional support, because you deserve to be able to talk about these things and not have to put a brave face on all the time.

Are you holding onto your own money and enough of your own money? You’re not married, it’s not automatically joint funds, so please make sure there is a savings account that is yours and yours alone. Make sure you’re splitting expenses fairly between you (not necessarily 50/50 but fairly, proportionate given who makes more money, with transparent accounting for who bought what and who owns what), make sure you’re building an emergency fund for yourself, make sure you’re not sinking everything you have into joint stuff like the house or decorating or furnishing it with the idea that it’s an investment that will “pay off” later when you’re married “someday.” What do you need more right now, a “nice” dining room set for the house or the guarantee of a few plane tickets to see your family? If it’s #2, go with the thrift store version you can sit on and save the “investment” for when you’re married. Also, as for that house you bought together, please make damn sure some signed, written documents exist, either listing you as a joint owner of the property or spelling out a fair rental agreement. “Putting things in writing” is the loving thing to do when it comes to money, please don’t listen to anyone who tells you that it ruins romance.

Theme #2: Bloom where you’re planted. 

Do you need to look for a new job where you are, since this one isn’t working out? It’s okay to apply and put feelers out, people have “bad fits” all the time and if your company thought you were one they would not hesitate.

What are you doing to meet new people and look for friends where you are? What’s one thing you could do every week to look for community and involvement in the place you live that isn’t about your boyfriend or your romantic relationship?

Are there other needs you have that you could let your boyfriend know about? Is he absolutely rocking it with sharing household duties, planning quality time together, and reinforcing your pair bond (however you like to do that, i.e. are you compatible around sexystuff or whatnot)? What happens when you ask for small things you need? What happens when there’s conflict about lower-stakes issues? Does everybody fight fair?

Are there self-care things you could put in place for yourself in the new town? Got a doctor, dentist, hair stylist, favorite hangout when you have a few hours to yourself, a church or community gathering, a place you’d go if you needed your favorite shoes fixed? (Asking advice about this when you do meet new people is a great way to get oriented).

Theme #3: Your heart’s desires (the comfortable and uncomfortable).

What are your daydreams, big and small? For places you want to live, or visit, careers you want to do, or try, hobbies, creative stuff, educational aspirations? These can be very specific (a certain job title, salary, education level) or poetic (an image of dog poking its goofy head out of a rolled-down window on a car that is vaguely yellow under a sky that is a certain shade of blue that isn’t yours yet but you know in your bones will be yours someday). Is this move getting you closer to any of those daydreams? Is this relationship getting you closer to any of them? Are these daydreams you feel like you can tell your boyfriend about, and know that he won’t laugh? Are these daydreams you can start working on now, right where you are?

Are there some Sheelzebub Principle dates on your emotional calendar? (All hail Sheelzebub, who asks the question: If you knew things in your relationship would stay exactly as they are now, how long would you stay? Another year? Another 5? Another 10?). You’re casting around for a date about a ring and a proposal right now, but I suggest an additional/alternative one: If you tried as hard as you could to be happy and make things work in new city in your current situation, and you were still unhappy after x amount of time, would your boyfriend be open to moving “back home” or looking for a job in a place that you chose? Solve for x and his willingness to go where there are good things FOR YOU.

Where I hope these journal prompts/quests will lead you, Lovely Letter Writer:

  • There are many ways for you to have a happy life. This romance with this guy is only one aspect of them. It’s okay to love him, to want it to work out, to trust him, to try! It’s okay to decide, hey, even if things aren’t perfect, this is where I want to be, and this is who I want to be with, and give it some more time. But he’s not the only person in the world and this is not the only place in the world. Your desires/daydreams/hopes/comfort/needs matter. 
  • There are actions you can take to protect yourself, give yourself options, allow yourself to recover and go home if necessary if things don’t work out.
  • There are things you can do to try to root where you’re planted that aren’t about your boyfriend or the relationship. The more you try them, maybe the less pressure you’ll put on the relationship. The more you try them, the more information you’ll have about whether this place and this person is really working for you.

What I want most is for you to be happy, in the place where you can be happiest, doing the things you can be happiest doing, surrounded by the love and friendships that make you the happiest, where the care and trust you put in others is reflected back at you and you feel calm and sure and safe.

Moderator/Discussion Note:

This should be obvious at this point but since it comes up every single time I’m going to start saying it every time: If you think engagement rings/marriage/marriage proposals/weddings/traditions/wanting any of that stuff from your life is just completely trivial and silly, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with you, okay! I do not think that everyone should want those things or be pressured to want or have them. However, there is no need to waste your precious time or words pointing that out to someone who knows they do want them, so if you feel tempted to do that, kindly find a discussion that you do care about here or on another website. Many thanks!



294 thoughts on “#1172: “My boyfriend asked me to relocate to a new city with him, and I asked him to commit to getting engaged to be married. Guess which of these two things actually happened? What do I do now?”

  1. I’m sorry – He’s just not that into you…

    We all have stuff going on all the time and part of life is learning to deal with it all. When I finally decided I was ready to get engaged/married I could not WAIT to propose. Like nothing else mattered more and it had to be done NOW. The fact that he’s taken zero action towards this should tell you where his priorities are. To be honest it should have been honest how he felt when he did not propose. I don’t know how/why he let you move with him (and buy a house!) knowing he didn’t want to/wasn’t going to donthe thing you needed/wanted from him.

    I always suggest proposing to the guy in situations like this (women can propose too!) but acknowledge that some people want to be proposed to and not to have to do the proposing. But if you proposed and he said no you’d really know where you stood.

    I suppose you could try sitting him down, again, and telling him how you feel but it doesn’t sound like that’s worked before so I’m not optimistic it would work this time.

    I think you should start working on untangling yourself from this mess (house/partner/relationship) and heading back home where you were happy.

    I’m sorry. Many hugs to you.

    1. I think there’s a big difference between “not ready to get get engaged” and “just not that into you”. My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years and there have been times in the relationship when one of us has been further along the sure about us/ready for commitment continuum. It’s just in the last month that I’ve become 100% absolutely sure. It’s ridiculous to think that his timing would perfectly align with mine, and he has very valid reasons why he’s likely going to take a little while to catch up (I am already a parent, us getting married would make his a dad. That’s not a small thing.)

      If, in the next x amount of time, it becomes untenable for me to wait, that’s valid. If, in the last 3 years, it had become untenable for him to go any further with me given that I was disillusioned with the entire premise of long term partnership (which was A Thing, for a long time), that would have been completely valid. But to say that one of us not being ready for the same thing at the same time was “just not that into” the other one would be untrue.

      1. I agree in general that people don’t always walk in step, and often that is just fine. But in this case it is not fine because LW’s partner has asked for MEGA BIG commitments from her. He asked her to uproot her life in favour of his, and buy a house with him. To leave her job, family, and friend for him. If he wasn’t ready to commit himself, then he had no business asking for commitments of this scale from LW, and it was 100% reasonable for her to ask for a sign of equal commitment in return.

      2. “Engagement rings, how to even?!?!” is not a valid or even believable reason for putting the LW off. This is not him simply not being ready; this is his asking the LW for commitments while not being straightforward about committing to her.

        1. Seriously it is 2019 and Google/Bing/Ask Freakin’ Yahoo is very much a thing. And if he were really, truly overwhelmed and not at all interested in the nitty gritty of ring shopping (some people just really really hate shopping!), then again: it is 2019 and women pick out their own engagement rings/pop the question themselves A LOT. Like, people will not clutch their pearls at the concept and if they do, they were probably going to give crappy wedding gifts anyway.

          1. Seriously. My now husband hates shopping, doesn’t wear any sort of jewelry, and would happily wear the same outfit every day if left to his own devices. He STILL figured out how to buy an engagement ring (I sent him links to styles I liked; he bought one of the first ones I sent him and held onto it for a year and a half until he was ready to propose). This is not an impossible mystery!

            Also, LW- we bought our house while engaged. Buying a house is 100% a bigger and harder to un-entangle commitment than a marriage without dependents. It is 200% reasonable for you to want to see an equal commitment from your partner, after the serious, enormous commitments you’ve made to him.

    2. He’s into her enough to sign mortgage papers together, which is about as entangling as you’re going to get outside of a marriage. In fact, it’s worse because it’s easier and cheaper in many cases to divorce than to get yourself out of a mortgage.

      The “Theme #1” idea is good but understates the extreme financial and legal entanglements if she chooses to nope out of there. Which should not prevent her from doing so if she decides that’s what she needs to do, but severing that tie will take effort.

      1. I agree with this comment and the one above from @mariagoinglocal, proposing marriage is far less entangling than mortgage, and a big move. You need money to service the mortgage, you need money to pay for a wedding, how many people go nuts trying to organise a wedding on its own and theyer not already in a new job, new city, (albeit his preferences) new house, sorting out an estate (lucky him it sounds like a sad and stressful thing but an asset none the less) probably redecorate at some point, add wedding to the mix uh-oh. what about setting up a 5 year plan, and have annual goals?

        One little niggle, and I think this one depends on your upbringing and preferences, my mum was in your position and wanted an engagement and wedding, my dad would never marry her, he ended up cheating and marrying the other woman (she’s a nice lady but that was a stink situation). I would go see a lawyer in your own and have a chat abuot how the mortgage is set up and what you can do to protect yourself (not saying your partnering is destined to be this way but safeguard, setting up house with someone you like just to get in the market is a thing (there are no houses where I am and they are 8x the price they should be). If your other half is otherwise loving and thoughtful then I’d keep him. Trust me no marriage is up in cloud nine daily or weekly, add kids to the mix later in and you know, it’s work. Contentment is a good thing. Make him understand that the ring means a publicly visible act of him choosing you (de facto partnerships are a big thing where I am and the law got changed even) but maybe not we’re you are.

        Best of luck, do what cap said, go look for hobbies and other jobs, you have a good start compared to some 🙂

      2. They have to live somewhere. It might be cheaper to own than rent. I don’t think it necessarily means he’s ready to stay forever.

        It might be more of a convenience move.

        1. “They have to live somewhere. It might be cheaper to own than rent. I don’t think it necessarily means he’s ready to stay forever.

          It might be more of a convenience move.”

          Um. I mean, yes, they do have to live somewhere. And owning property can certainly be cheaper than renting a place – but *buying* a property isn’t cheap. And getting a mortgage is a pretty serious thing – you can’t just go “oh, well, I don’t like this location actually, I’m moving” and skip off once you’ve got a mortgage. Even if you sell the property, you’ve still got the mortgage to deal with.

          And getting a mortgage and buying a house isn’t quick. Doing either takes weeks, even if everything goes smoothly – months, if there’s any hiccups or issues with anything.

          You don’t go “oh, this isn’t my forever home, but let me just tie myself to it legally as tightly as possible”. You don’t go “oh, I’m not sure if I want to live here forever, but let me just BUY A HOUSE” unless you’ve got the kind of money where you can do visits to Disneyland on a whim.

          1. Sure, but lots of people buy houses they don’t plan to live in forever. I can easily see dude thinking “let’s buy this house together and be here for a while and see how it goes” kind of figuring that five years on, when they’re ready to sell, he will have decided whether he wants to marry her. It sounds like he’s more than happy to keep her around for all the practical convenience and validation that provides him, while it’s useful to him.

      3. I’m giving LW’s dude lots of side-eye. He asked her to move with him and buy a house with him, yet he’s not ready to marry her. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraid he wants LW’s support (financial and otherwise) without being willing to give it to her in return.

        1. I’m in a lot of the same situation as LW, just with more time and minus the mortgage. The house is all his but most things in the house are mine. I also have an end date where I am considering ending the relationship if he hasn’t proposed. It’s graduation + 1 year. He doesn’t know about the end date but he does know that I am not willing to just be ‘girlfriend’ forever. We will have been together for over 9 years at that point.

      4. A mortgage is, for real, very entangling. But as a first time homebuyer do you necessarily know that? This could all be about PERCEIVED level of commitment for him. A proposal and a wedding is, socially, viewed as a MUCH bigger step than buying a house together. So he could still be down for splitting the price of an extremely expensive purchase and not down for a “larger” commitment.

        And also, is LW’s name on the mortgage, or was it just LW throwing in half the down payment? Either way could be termed “buying a house together”, but one’s a lot more committed than the other.

        1. For me, buying an apartment and signing a mortgage with my then-girlfriend/now-wife definitely felt like a Serious Permanent Adult Commitment that was at least as binding as marriage – and we’d already been living together in rented apartments for several years, so the home-buying was a separate process from moving in together.

          In retrospect, we might actually have gotten married a couple of years earlier without the mortgage, because having that big, official legal and financial commitment tying us together made getting an additional commitment in the form of a marriage license feel less urgent. If both of their names are on the purchase agreement/mortgage papers (as opposed to, say, her putting up half the money but the house being entirely in his name, which would be a big ol’ red flag) it’s possible that the LW’s boyfriend might similarly feel like a mortgage means wedding plans are less urgent rather than more urgent. “But we already have a major long-term commitment to each other, babe! The symbol of it is all those bazillion stamped and notarized contracts we just signed!”

          (That said, I recognize that engagement and marriage and relationship commitment can be very different for hetero couples. One of the reasons both my wife and myself could be so chill about marriage as just one more legal/financial decision among many was because we’d both grown up pre-Oberfell v. Hodges viewing weddings as something we might not ever get to have and anticipating that when we finally found The One, we would have to affirm our commitment in different ways. And I won’t lie and say I didn’t cry some about that fact as a young woman, when my straight college classmates were flashing their engagement rings to universal oohs and ahhs and I realized I’d never get to have that big, fancy ritual and white dress and so on that I’d been encouraged to dream about since I was five).

    3. I think this is absolutely awful advice. I knew my girlfriend (now-wife) wanted to get married for quite a while before we finally got engaged – I just wasn’t ready to make that type of commitment, especially since I wasn’t sure how I felt about marriage at all. That didn’t mean I didn’t love her, or care about her needs, or that I ‘wasn’t that into her’ – I just wasn’t that into the idea of being married, to anyone, no matter how much I loved them.

      Let me just say it as concisely as possible: not wanting to get married, whether at all or just at the moment, does not mean you don’t love your SO.

      1. Yeah, but people are allowed to be different levels of chill about this, including “zero percent chill.” Love doesn’t mean that two people are compatible or will make each other happy. It’s nice that your wife was willing to live with the uncertainty about marriage because *she* was just that into *you*. I was willing to wait out a lot of uncertainty in my relationship because I was just that into my now-wife! But the LW is describing *being miserable* about this – and sort of hates herself for caring, which to me is as bad as being miserable about it. It’s important to her. Which means that either:

        1) She hasn’t communicated how important it is to her partner in a way that he can hear
        2) Her partner has an equally important wish not to do this right now
        3) Her partner is not invested in how important this is to her enough to make his stance clear – to himself or to her.

        If your wife had said, in tears, “I need to know whether we’re getting married”, I hope you would have loved her enough to be clear about what was going on, at least! So that she could make her own decision. Instead of just sort of agreeing that it would definitely happen and then… ignoring what she was asking about.

        There are a lot of things that I feel incredibly whatever about, where whatever stance my partner wound up with would be fine with me. I also married someone who was 1000% on the same page as me about kids, because it’s a dealbreaker and I’m not interested in committing to someone who still needs to process some indecision. Some people who don’t share that page have loved me! I have loved them. We are not together anymore, though.

          1. It’s fair. If you really love someone, and you know you can’t or won’t give them what they need, stringing them along isn’t love, it’s selfish. Maybe not nastily premeditated but still selfish.

          2. But there’s a difference between “stringing someone along” and “working out your own feelings.” Even knowing something is hugely important to your partner doesn’t automatically make you ready to do that thing—and you are doing NO ONE a favor by getting married/having kids/moving/etc. when you aren’t ready, just because your partner wants you to.

            In this case, LW’s boyfriend really needs to get his act together, figure out what he wants, and either propose or come clean. But that doesn’t make everyone who isn’t ready to marry their partner somehow villainous. (And isn’t persistently rushing commitment one of the big signs of an abuser? Healthy relationships allow for some time to think.)

          3. Replying to Zara Thustra below bc thread terminated… I’m not saying that ‘stringing someone along’ equals ‘not ready’ or ‘working things out.’ I’m not saying just because your partner is ready to do that thing, you should be ready or else end the relationship. But it’s pretty clear to me that LW’s partner and she have had discussions and he’s not being very honest about ‘working things out’. He’s giving excuses like ‘I know how to move across the country and i can obtain a mortgage and gainful employment but honey we can’t get married bc i don’t know how to buy a ring.’ Is there anyone on the planet who believes that nonsense? He’s lying to LW. His dishonesty has absolutely nothing to do with whether he wants to get married or move to Mars, or buy a ring. He’s stringing her along, and I think this because he’s had plenty of opportunity to have an honest conversation and he’s instead been dishonest. Getting what he wants, while withholding. So yeah, stringing along.

      2. I don’t want to get married either. I don’t like marriage as an arrangement, or even particularly as an idea. And if my partner really wanted to get married, it would involve many months of soul-searching for me. But I guess the difference between me and the LW’s boyfriend is that I would also want to have a lot of discussions about it, and be desperately wanting to assuage my partner that I loved them and were committed to them in myriad ways.

      3. Yes, but LW’s boyfriend isn’t telling her at this point that he’s not ready to get engaged. He’s insisting that he is and then just….not following through. And he’s giving her weird excuses about not knowing how to shop for engagement rings, which…I feel like a motivated person would open up the googles and find out how to do that. And even it truly is just a case of him not being ready to be married, 1) he should say that, clearly, and explore other ways to help LW feel secure, and 2) LW is still very much allowed to decide that that just doesn’t work for her. Sometimes people love each other, but not in ways that are compatible.

      4. But did you ask her to uproot her entire life, knowing she had reservations about it, and make vague hand-wavy gestures toward “yeah sure we’ll get engaged as soon as I get around to it”? Because that’s what’s going on with the LW. It’s one thing to say, “I’m not ready for this commitment, let’s figure out how that will work for our relationship” It’s entirely another to say, “I’m not ready for the commitment, but I’m fine asking YOU to completely bend your life to fit mine, and I’ll totally say I’m thinking about the commitment you want if it makes you more likely to do what I’m asking.” At best, the LW’s boyfriend is being obliviously selfish.

        1. This is the romance version of doing work for someone without a contract, with them insisting they’ll “pay you as soon as they can”. You don’t have to freelance very long before you learn that taking such jobs should be approached as volunteer work, because in all likelihood you will NEVER see any money.

          LW sounds like they’ve made their expectations/wishes re:marriage clear, and boyfriend is pretending not to notice the same way clients pretend that they “lost” an invoice.

      5. I also moved away from friends & family with my boyfriend, when he got into a masters programme in another country. I was miserable at first. I obsessed about the marriage thing, but he never wanted to. We’ve been together for 30 years now, have 2 children and have seen each other through some truly testing times, including some very intense caregiving. It’s only now that I truly understand his reasons for not wanting to get married. It’s completely to do with his f…ed-up family. It really doesn’t bother me any more, even though it was frustrating as hell at the time. Who knows, maybe we’ll do it one day when his family’s gone!

        1. I’m guessing your situation is rather unusual, Kereru. You made extraordinary sacrifices for your boyfriend, which is commendable. However, LW shouldn’t have to do the same unless she wants to.

          1. It’s really not that unusual to move across the country with a non-married, non-engaged romantic partner, though? Six people (five couples) in my remaining friend group from high school, out of sixteen people, have done this, and they’ve all been together between four and six years now. So far, they’re all still together – one couple married two years ago, one is marrying this year, one just got engaged (not sure if wedding date is set yet), and the other two are still “just” bf/gf (I know one of these couple has been discussing having kids – they are doing long-term/serious-commitment planning, just not marriage specifically).

            I bring this up as a general point; how common it is really only informs whether we can infer a lack of commitment generally from a desire to not make a specific symbolic – with plans for another legal – commitment, which I don’t think we can. I still see a red flag in LW’s situation, because engagement is important TO ZIR* and is a less involved (and not legally enforceable, mostly, though I know there have been lawsuits over rings for broken engagements) commitment than shared real estate, so it indicates that BF expects consideration that he’s not willing to extend to LW (indeed, he’s not even willing to extend a LOWER degree of consideration).

            *As many are, I assume LW is a woman, but we have no direct indication, only statistical likelihood.

      6. Asking your SO to make HUGE FUCKING SACRIFICES on your behalf, such as moving across the country and away from their family, friends, and job and going in on a mortgage together while dragging your feet on getting married is a shitty fucking thing to do.

        If you’re not ready for marriage but your SO is, fair enough. But then don’t ask your SO to move across the country for you. Don’t ask your SO to give up their job for your sake. Don’t ask your SO to buy a home with you. Don’t ask your SO to make such huge commitments and sacrifices on your behalf if you’re not willing to do the one thing they want–which is to get married.

        1. He probably thought that once she got there, she’d be content with living together and drop the marriage thing, all the while giving him her emotional and financial support.

        2. I don’t think the basic issue here is marriage, it’s respect. It’s possible for a couple to work through having different feelings about marriage and marriage timelines, but the boyfriend here is not discussing, he’s just BSing and hoping the LW gives up. All this after asking her to make a huge sacrifice for him. These are not the actions of someone who respects his partner’s needs.

    4. Honestly, I feel like saying “he’s just not that into you” is pretty dismissive- specifically that particular phrasing. It comes off as really flippant and trivialities the LW’s problems. Judging by the rest of your comment, I definitely don’t think that was your intention. I’ve never like that saying at all, especially in situations like this. I mean, if it’s something like two people have only been dating a couple months is one thing but devastating to someone that uprooted their life because they trust their significant other.

    5. I kind of agree with Cranky older dude, here. There’s a lot of micro-analyzing going on of “But what does he mean by ‘ready’?”, like maybe if we dissect the idea of “ready” down to a tiny enough fragment, there will be something the LW can learn to be ok with, thus making the whole situation fine.

      I think if the boyfriend wanted to get engaged, they’d be engaged by now. They aren’t engaged and he is vague and weird about committing to marriage which tells me he isn’t interested in this right now.

      That being said, maybe there are some expectations that have not been made clear by either of you?

      LW, I think this is definitely worth another conversation or two with your boyfriend about what your expectations are vs what his expectations are. If he told you “Ok, let’s go to the courthouse tomorrow and get married”, would you be happy? Is he balking at the idea of planing A Wedding(tm) or is he balking at the idea of marriage? I’ve definitely met guys that would happily go to the courthouse and get hitched but loathe the idea of A Wedding(tm). Is he dragging his feet because you have a lot of expectations about The Perfect Proposal with The Perfect Ring and The Perfect Wedding with The Perfect Dress, and he’s not sure if he can ever meet those expectations?

      I’d have a chat with him about that, about whether it’s marriage or weddings that he’s feeling wishy washy about.

  2. Oh, dear Letter Writer, you sound so unhappy. Jedi hugs if you want them.

    The Captain has given you loads of practical advice but the most important part, I think, is to channel Sheelzebub. If nothing changes about your situation, can you find a way to cultivate happiness in the long term? If not, what needs to change? Are these changes that are likely to happen?

    I think you have had the “I want this someday” conversation and maybe it’s time for the “Hey, I moved away from everyone and everything else I loved to be with you and I’m not even asking to set a date, but I’d like this one ritual thing from you to demonstrate that you recognize my sacrifice and reciprocate my commitment. This Is Very Important To Me.” Have you said, “Boyfriend, I love you and I want to spend my life with you, but right now I am not happy”? I suspect Boyfriend is very happy — he’s in a job he likes, in a place he wants to live, with a new house and a loving girlfriend, and perhaps that’s blinding him a bit (or more than a bit) to your unhappiness. It’s human, he’s not a monster, but maybe it’s time to call the question and tell him, “This right here isn’t working. I know in my brain that you’re committed to this relationship, but I need to know it in my heart, too.”

    If that seems like a big ask right now, I’d advise another of the Captain’s suggestions: is it time for a trip back home? Maybe a long weekend – or a couple of weeks – away from Boyfriend will give you the emotional distance to figure out what it is you want and the space to figure out how to ask for it.

    You deserve to be happy. Best of luck to you.

    1. I agree with you that it’s time for this conversation, but I don’t think it’s so much of an “I’d like this one ritual thing” as it is an “I want the reassurance that this is a long-term commitment — because I will be making long-term plans based on said long-term commitment — and you’ve done nothing to reassure me of that.” I don’t believe him when he says that the lack of a proposal is all about selling his mom’s house, not wanting to plan a wedding, or not knowing where to start with a ring. I don’t the the LW would be this upset and unmoored if it were just about the trivial administrative details of the engagement or wedding. I believe that she has serious concerns about whether he actually wants to be with her long-term. These concerns are valid and he can’t keep kicking them down the road. When one person is making sacrifices and moving long distances for the relationship, there’s no “almost engaged” or “unofficially long-term committed.”

      It’s not just a ritual, a meaningless ceremony, or a piece of jewelry — it’s a quasi-contract that says, essentially, that you’re free to begin making plans based on this person. This holds true regardless of whether you want to recognize it officially, whether it involves a ring or a ceremony, or any other extraneous detail outside of the whole “you are my partner for the long haul” thing.

      1. Agh, typos. Just for clarity, “thing” after “ritual” should be outside the quotes and there should be a “thing” after “…reassure me of that.”

        Also, just wanted to add that I don’t think you’re necessarily saying the opposite of what I’m saying — we’re mostly in agreement — just that the “I’d “I know in my brain that you’re committed” and “I just want this one ritual” comments stood out to me. Like, does she actually know that? It wasn’t clear from the letter, and the tone leans toward “no.”

        1. All fair comments, and yes, I think we’re in agreement that LW isn’t getting what she wants right now.

      2. Building on this: in a lot of historical fiction, you’re going to see a scene where a stodgy older woman offers her opinion to a romantic younger woman about a man’s willingness to buy the cow if he can get the milk for free. I think we can all agree that this is an ugly attitude about sex based on a lot of other ugly attitudes about sex, and also very unromantic. However, I think there’s a core of good advice at the center of this particular turd: to think very carefully about giving your partner everything they want out of your relationship, at a serious cost to your current and future happiness, while they make no effort to give you anything you want in return. You have the right to prioritize your own happiness, especially since he seems to be making no effort to do so.

        1. Well said! The “milk” in this case isn’t sex, but sacrificing for him over and over without any assurance that they’re working toward the same larger goal.

        2. holy shit this is really important

          I wish I had internalized this so long ago

        3. Very well said. As I get older I realize that a lot of the advice I thought was old fashioned had kernels of truth in them. This is definitely one of them.

      3. I agree–I think the “I want this one ritual” conversation could just get him to go through the motions of the ritual, without acknowledging the important messages of commitment that the ritual is supposed to signify.

        She actually already had that conversation, and he blew it off, and has blown it off since as well.

        (One thing he could do, if he didn’t know how to buy a ring, is to ask any of his new coworkers or friends–and he hasn’t.)

        1. His excuse is ridiculous. Buying a ring is easy compared to a house. He’s lying. I’m starting to wonder if he couldn’t afford the house on his own.

          1. I’m still not over the ring excuse. 2019 and the guy hasn’t heard of Reddit? Does he not wipe his butt because he “doesn’t know where to start”? Does he pay his taxes? Does he think everyone was born knowing exactly how to do adult stuff and no one has to Google anything?

          2. The only time I’ll give leeway on the ‘buying rings is hard’ excuse is when the proposee wants (or the proposer thinks they want) everything to be a complete surprise but also completely perfect. (If you ask for my ring size or what styles I like or what I think a fair budget would be, it would ruin the magic, but also woe betide if you get any of these things wrong.)

            However, he offered for them to shop together. LW agreed (presumably enthusiastically, and has brought it up since). Him flailing around ‘I don’t know how’ is nonsense when LW is begging him to let HER worry about the ‘how’ of it.

        2. My prediction is that eventually, the boyfriend is going to derail the conversation by making it about LW being unreasonable: “why is a ring so important to you? Isn’t ~our love~ enough? We own a house together! I’ve done so much for you! It’s so shallow and petty, trying to force me to buy you an expensive ring just to prove myself.”

          And then LW is on the defensive, feeling like she’s over-reacting and being unfair and superficial.

          1. Or he’ll but a ring and then drag his feet for years on actually setting a date and/or actually planning a wedding, so the either gesture will become meaningless.

      4. Agreed. I’m getting “trying to weasel out of commitment while still getting my girlfriend to hang around and support me” vibes from this guy.

        He’s having a rough time at the moment, and I feel sympathy for him on that front…but he’s treating the idea of engagement as if it means that a little clock attached to a time-bomb will pop up and start counting down as soon as there’s a ring on her finger! They could easily be engaged for a good few years if they want before they start making any active plans for a ceremony, so there’s no need for the “I totally want that just as much as you but it’s all about the timing!” excuses he’s using. It just feels disingenuous.

        There’s got to be something else going on with him. Either he’s genuinely feeling emotionally unbalanced enough that he doesn’t trust himself to make big decisions at the moment (but why not say that?) or he doesn’t want to get married but he’s reluctant to let go of LW.

        1. This. I was engaged for six years before we finally had A Wedding™ (a small wedding, but a wedding all the same).

          They need to have an open and honest conversation about who wants what.

      5. I don’t think it’s so much of an “I’d like this one ritual thing” as it is an “I want the reassurance that this is a long-term commitment — because I will be making long-term plans based on said long-term commitment — and you’ve done nothing to reassure me of that.”

        YES THIS.
        LW wanted some major commitments before she moved away from her family, didn’t get them, still wants them.
        Making a mortgage together is a pretty big commitment, but not quite the one she was looking for.

      6. This. There is an entire branch of law dedicated to getting people out of the bond that happens when they no longer want to be part of the unit created by that “ritual”. Marriage is not a bone the LW’a boyfriend can toss her, like going to a see movie he hates but she loves.

    2. “Hey, I moved away from everyone and everything else I loved to be with you and I’m not even asking to set a date, but I’d like this one ritual thing from you to demonstrate that you recognize my sacrifice and reciprocate my commitment. This Is Very Important To Me.”

      I feel like this is too passive and concession-y at this point. This sounds like the making for a mediocre ring and half hearted proposal, with a guy who, for whatever reason, isn’t All In. Because there is something holding him back. Making it as easy as possible for him to keep getting what he wants on his terms (the LW), because the LW is minimizing this deep, very valid need (that is, in all reality, a Very Big Deal emotionally, financially, logistically) just because she doesn’t want to lose/spook him, isn’t setting either of them up for success.

      The time for giving him the benefit of the doubt that he just doesn’t know how important this is or how unhappy the LW is, I think has long passed. Especially after multiple talks and the LW crying over this.

      LW – I think this is time for honest refection on what you feel and what you need and OWNING that 100%. Don’t concede. Don’t make it as easy possible for your partner to remain tepid, yet attached. Do not have ANY shame about wanting a ring or a marriage or wedding or anything else that fills your heart. Do what is right for you.

      I think you can thrive in this in new place if you follow the captains advice, but absolutely do not do that in order to make staying with your dude bearable. Do that only if you want the challenge and experience of a building a whole new life. If you don’t have any desire to have that particular life experience, then don’t! Own what makes you happy and pursue that – including if that means a life surrounded by close friends and family.

      And yes, absolutely go back home for a visit if you can. Get as much support as you can during this process.

      1. I like your phrasing of going all in and I think about this type of scenario in these terms sometimes. It is more than feelings where one person may develop stronger feelings sooner than another; it is about actions. Basically if I’m going to go all in on a relationship the other party should also be going all in.

  3. LW, take with a grain of salt (or a pound if you want, I fail at relationships), but my general impression from what I’ve read of situations like this is that he got what he wanted, so he probably thinks everything is fine. And given you’ve discussed the ring aspect on several occasions, words for some reason aren’t cutting it in conveying that you are unhappy.

    I think the Captain’s got great advice above, and I second taking financial steps to make sure you can move out if you feel that’s the best solution. That’s actually being kinder to both of you in the long run – so long as you have the resources to leave if you want, you don’t feel trapped, and you have a better chance to work things out if this is just a temporary problem.

    Note: I’m giving this advice having watched some of my siblings’ relationships. So I have a small sample size, but the behavior I’ve seen is the guy will keep coasting as long as he gets what he wants, and only if severe unexpected consequences show up – i.e., oops! Girlfriend is pregnant! – do they actually, maybe, consider changing their behavior or even going to the extremes of – gasp! – talking to their significant other.

      1. Definitely not a good idea. My siblings are not the worst human beings I’ve met. That said, they are capable of breathtaking amounts of carelessness, cruelty, grudge-holding and general self-centered behavior. I would have mangled that particular brother… only I didn’t find out about the situation, even from my mother who did know, until the girlfriend in question was a few months from delivery.

        Assume my family life is full of bees. You’re not wrong.

      1. Really, at that point, the logistics of handling the pregnancy in whatever way LW sees fit seems like they would be *way* more important than ‘reputation’ (assuming that her friends and family had *any* reason to believe him over her, which seems frankly unlikely, even setting aside the level of commitment she has demonstrated thus far).

  4. Why is having a life goal ‘probably silly’? If marriage is important to you, you need to say ‘It is important to me, it isn’t silly, there IS a deadline (even if I haven’t figured out exactly when patience will desert me), I want it publicly declared and celebrated; and we both know it is literally the only reason I moved and why I am here. I need you to give me your timeline and while that (short) timeline is playing out, I need you to look like you are on.it.”

    When he says: “Oh I’m not ready” it is impossible to deduce whether he means ‘commitment’ or ‘You said a ring is silly so it is five thousandth on my to do list after a bunch of other life admin stuff we both admit is important. Thats OK right?”

    If you are crystal clear and he is still shrugging , or foot dragging, or ‘gives in’ then that’s a crystal clear answer about how he will behave towards your concerns. But being direct and keeping it on the front burner is not ‘forcing an engagement’ it is just avoiding a coyness trap, where you say it is silly, he believes you and forgets the whole thing. If he gets the message, and enthusiastically brainstorms solutions he would be happy to do on a faster timscale (simple wedding, buying a ring on honeymoon, elopement, starting a savings account or ebay alerts for rings matching your preferences). Tell him plainly you dont want him hiding his plans in the name of a surprise either if you’d rather have joint planning and reassurance.

    1. “Hiding his plans in the name of a surprise” My husband did this to me, and I was NOT into it. At the same time, we were also in the process of shopping for a house! And I was willing to live there with him, unengaged, but I was not willing to buy it with him if we were not, and I was very strict about this. He kept saying “oh, no, the relationship is going somewhere, etc.” but I was seriously thinking of breaking the entire relationship off.

      On a weird note, I was telling this exact thought to a common friend of ours, while my husband was telling her all about how he was shopping for the ring, what he was going to do to propose, etc. She told me later that it was really funny, but somewhat awkward at the time (I bet! Kudos to her forever for having to deal with that!)

      Anyhow, we bought the house, got engaged, got married, got a cat, and here we are.

      1. Yeah the conventions work sometimes but there’s huge potential for mischief when society tells the straight female “Make him put a ring on it guuuuurl; but without being unfeminine and forward”. Then says to the straight guy: “Buy a ring x times your salary! Hire Paris for the proposal! Keep these plans top secret!” Exhausting.

  5. LW,

    I absolutely do not think you are being unreasonable about this.

    Let’s step back and look at what an engagement actually is. It’s essentially a commitment to making a more serious commitment at some nebulous point in the future. That’s not to minimise its importance, mind – if it is emotionally significant to you then it’s emotionally significant, and if your boyfriend doesn’t take that seriously that’s a serious fault on his part.

    But at the same time, an engagement does not have the same weight as the marriage itself. The marriage is a legal bond you have to go through this whole painful dance to sever; an engagement can end pretty much whenever. And in particular, an engagement does not set any sort of timeline for the marriage itself. The traditional question is “Will you marry me?”, not “Will you marry me within the next X calendar months?”

    So when you talk about your boyfriend evading the question and getting all slippery about it – and I kind of think “Oh, er, I don’t know how to buy a ring” is a blatant evasion, and not even a very good one – that’s telling me that not only is your boyfriend refusing to set a timeline for marriage, he’s refusing to openly commit to marriage in the first place. Sure, you’ve had these conversations about what you want in the future and so on, but it sounds like there’s a split between his intentions and his actions here.

    If it is his genuine intention to marry you at some point, but he doesn’t feel like it’s going to happen in the short-term future, what’s stopping him entering into a long engagement with you, with an eye to marrying once things finally line up properly? If he has actually decided that he does, at some point in time, want to marry you, what’s stopping him making that intention publicly known? Arguably, moving in together is just as public a declaration of together-ness as wearing a ring, and as the good Captain points out a ring isn’t even an essential aspect of the engagement; an engaged couple are still engaged even if they never wear a single accessory to signify it, so long as they’ve promised to each other that they intend to marry.

    If he’s ready to be engaged, you can be engaged now. He just has to ask you the question (or you can ask him if you want to bring the matter to a head). If he won’t ask the question – or won’t give a clear answer if you ask – then no matter how much he claims to be ready, he ain’t ready. You can be claim to be ready to go for a swim all you like, but sooner or later you have to stop loitering on the edge and actually get in the dang pool.

    1. He doesn’t want to be engaged but he doesn’t want to break up. It’s an impasse and both parties are trying to pretend it’s not happening. The danger is not just that this situation will continue indefinitely. There is an equal danger that he will finally “break down” and agree to get married because he doesn’t know what else to do. That’s how you can really get into the decades of misery stuff.

      She needs to be clear and set some kind of firm boundary, whether it’s moving back home or giving him a deadline.

      1. I’d like to echo this risk. If the boyfriend here isn’t wildly enthused about getting married, but chooses–eventually–to do so, then the LW will be marrying someone who is not really enthused about being married, either to her in particular or in general.

        Boundaries in this case look like, “I will not marry someone who is not obviously enthused about marrying me,” along with, “I will not continue in a non-committal limbo for any longer than X amount of time.”

        The near-misses are the hardest ones. He might like the LW quite a bit, and she is obviously very fond of him. But if they want different future lives, then there’s going to be a conflict eventually. This is the leading edge of such a thing. Getting married isn’t going to change him; it just moves his lack of enthusiasm into a different context. The LW will need to figure out if she can live with that.

    2. “what an engagement actually is. It’s essentially a commitment to making a more serious commitment at some nebulous point in the future.”

      And what a ring is, is a tangible piece of evidence that’s intended to add weight and gravity to that somewhat nebulous commitment.
      It is, literally, putting your money where your mouth is.

      That’s WHY it is so important to so many of us.
      And I think it’s important that he’s NOT willing to get one.

      1. I don’t disagree! But at the same time if boyfriend here had been willing to at least pop the question and then do the ring logistics later I’d believe more in his commitment than in the present situation, where he’s using a delay in getting the ring as an excuse not to pop the question in the first place.

        It’d be concerning if he wasn’t willing to put his money where his mouth is, but as it stands he isn’t even putting his mouth where his mouth is – based on the letter it sounds like he’s willing to say that he wants to marry LW and claims to be ready, but he won’t actually say “LW, will you marry me?”

  6. I agree that it sounds like you need to spend some time really drilling down to what is making you unhappy – the lack of a formal proposal/engagement or the move to an area/lifestyle that makes you miserable.

    If it’s the former, I”m of the belief that when someone is really, truly ready for marriage they don’t dilly-dally and daydream. They ask. They start looking into things like halls and caterers and rings and legal paperwork. They go from “yeah, yeah someday” to “let’s start planning!” If he’s not doing that, I think you have your answer. There’s a world of difference between “I can see myself getting married in theory someday” and “I am ready for marriage and I”ve found the one so let’s do it”. So, you might need to spend some time really thinking about the extent to which “he is not ready” is a deal breaker for you.

    If it’s the latter, what I might do is give myself an internal deadline – six months, maybe. Try for a job switch, join some organizations or volunteer so I can try and meet people, explore my new town’s sights/foods/recreation. Maybe time will change my mind and I’ll realize I love it. But, if after my deadline comes and I”m still 100% miserable…well, CAptain is right. There is no shame in saying “This isn’t for me. I”m moving home and I’ll love you long distance.”

    1. I would add to this, though, that there is a third option related to the specifics of this situation. In addition to “I can see myself getting married in theory someday” and “I am ready for marriage and I’ve found the one so let’s do it,” this situation has “I am ready for marriage and I’ve found the one, but I’m grieving the recent loss of my mother and it’s difficult to imagine moving on to such a new phase of my life with that weight on me.” I agree with all commenters that more communication is needed, and that the letter writer’s partner hasn’t been clear or transparent about his concerns, but I also think it’s entirely possible that more open communication could reveal that these other major life changes are adding a lot of psychic weight to the scenario.

      1. The loss of his mother is the thing that gives me pause in this case. When I lost my brother, it was nearly a year before I was able to socialize with other people like a normal person and not want to hide in my house crying all the time. I can’t imagine planning a wedding, especially if I also just moved, bought a house, and started a new job while grieving. Just typing that sounds exhausting even with out grieving. I’m usually the first person to say dump him, he’s unconcerned with your needs, but in this case…I don’t know…

        1. The grief thing probably is one of the stumbling blocks, but there are choices about how to talk about that. One possible conversation would be:

          1) Yes, I do want to marry you and I see this as a permanent relationship. I am excited to be with you and glad you moved here with me.
          2) However, I need more time to grieve before I can get excited about planning a wedding, picking out a ring, etc. which is one reason I have been holding back on asking you. Every time I start to think about that, I just think about my mom and it’s too much.
          3) What do you need from me to feel secure/happy? And can I have some more time (a specific amount of more time) for the celebration/external symbols part?

          I think the above has been expressed as “not ready” but all the logistical stuff (like house buying) has fallen under “ready” so it’s understandably confusing.

        2. For me it would depend on if the, “I love you but now is not a good time.” has been a recurring theme with the mother’s passing the latest reason he is delaying. This is not to minimize the impact that grief may be playing into his decisions. But if I was the LW I would be looking out for a pattern in all of this.

          I could be projecting. I was with a guy for 5 years who I wanted to marry. We would have discussion after discussion about the topic and there were always reasons why now wasn’t a good time. Some were big (like diagnoses of a chronic illness), some were smaller. Each time I kept giving him time to work through everything. Until I realized there was never going to be a good time for him and I left (thanks in part to finding the Captain Awkward blog). It was a very difficult decision but I can say it was the best one I ever made. In the words of Samantha from Sex and the City, “I love you but I love myself more.” Loving myself and my needs more allowed me to create and build the life I wanted for me. Dating now, I don’t compromise on what I want from life. I am clear on what I am looking for (marriage, two kids, white picket fence, etc.) and my rough expectations of timelines should the relationship get that far. If the other person doesn’t want those things that’s fine and I move on. I have never regretted breaking up, only the time I spent wishing the other person would change.

        3. Or to look at it another way: while he was grieving the loss of his mother, he managed to handle her estate, graduate, get a new job, move states, and buy a house. He didn’t manage to buy a ring and ask the LW to marry him. It still speaks strongly as to his priorities.

          1. Exactly. LW isn’t asking for a lavish ceremony with a solid gold cake and a celebrity DJ next week. All she wants is a sincere verbal commitment and a ring to symbolise it.

          2. But grief isn’t always that simple. I recently lost my mom, in the middle of wedding planning. And while I still managed to study for and pass my exams, and help set up for her funeral and a lot of other stuff, the moment my partner brought up wedding planning the grief just rushed in. He’d mention how maybe we should start looking at designing invitations and my mind would just start spinning with how I didn’t know what to write and how I had expected to have my mothers help and what if we commit a horrible faux paux now that she couldn’t look at them before they were sent out. And so he would only get the answer of “hmm, maybe later” and then I would avoid the matter for days, because the grief was just too heavy in that moment for me to feel like I could explain what the problem was.

            And maybe this isn’t the case here, maybe the boyfriend is unreliable, but maybe his mom loved to talk about how she was looking forward to them getting married and so that topic in particular is really hard? And while he then of course should talk to LW about why that is, sometimes intense grief is really hard to discuss even with our most loved ones.

            It might not have anything to do with the situation, but being there in the middle of grief right now, I wish people had less expectations of what grieving looks like and what you can manage or not while grieving because it’s so personal, and might not seem logical from the outside because grief isn’t logical.

            I hope I was somewhat understandable, and apologize for the long answer, it’s just quite close to heart right now.

          3. Yeah, it shows his priorities but… I can see how handling his dead mother’s estate, graduating, getting a job and buying a house can seem more pressing to him than getting married. He probably didn’t have all the time in the world to handle the estate, graduating tends to be pretty time-sensitive, getting a job, well… you need to make a living and buying a house… you need to live somewhere. I think a lot of commenters seem to downplay how overwhelming all this must be to him, esp. when you add grieving his mother to the mix. That’s A LOT to deal with, so I’m a bit saddened that so many people seem so keen on blaming him. Sure, he could be better at communicating, but he probably feels completely overwhelmed now.

            On the other hand, LW is still grappling with moving to a new place, trying to make new friends and probably overfocusing on the relationship. That’s perfectly understandable in itself, but I think CA’s advice is spot on: LW should probably try to look at their situation as a whole and see what they can improve in general instead of zeroing in on the ring/marriage.
            Also, what @Grieving said.

        4. This is all true, but getting engaged doesn’t mean you have to be married within a certain number of months/years. And buying a house with someone you’re not even married to, when they’ve moved thousands of miles from everything and everyone else that made them happy, is a little bit foolish. He should understand why the LW would want the formality of an engagement.

          1. “This is all true, but getting engaged doesn’t mean you have to be married within a certain number of months/years. ”

            That’s true; it could be the case that for LW “engaged” DOES mean setting a date – ze never says it doesn’t – and starting planning, BF knows this (while we do not because it’s one of the things not specified in the letter, see also the passive voice and vague language around the ring-shopping discussion that makes it unclear how reasonable or unreasonable BF’s response is), and so not being engaged/buying a ring actually is a reasonable avoidance of additional logistical complications while understandably overwhelmed in order to focus on things that are time-dependent due to external constraints.

            If LW is as unclear/inspecific in these conversations as in the letter, that could be contributing to the disconnect.

        5. And all this wedding stuff, including ring shopping and planning a proposal, might be something he thought he’d get his mom’s help with.

          1. True! And it can still be something the LW needs/wants more clarity on, esp. if combining households and finances are in progress, and that can also be something that the boyfriend explains with words.

      2. You can also have a long engagement – eg two years with no wedding planning until the first year is up.

  7. You don’t set boundaries with other people, you set them with yourself.

    So you shouldn’t have moved with him…no engagement, no move.

    But given that he has shown he does not want to even get engaged….

    You either need to bloom where planted or get out now.

    Is the house in both of your names? If so, talk to a lawyer about what needs to be done to get out of it (e.g., he has to sell)
    Stop putting any money into the house. Don’t buy expensive furniture.

    If not, stop putting any money into the house and don’t pay half the mortgage but pay him a nominal rent. He will get equity, you will not.

    1. As a person in a similar situation, I’m baffled by the suggestion that my unhappiness entitles me to trash both my and my partner’s finances. Should I move out? Yes. Will my partner and I need to behave like adults and figure out a way to handle shared financial obligations? Yes. Should I leave my partner suddenly needing to come up with hundreds or thousands of extra dollars a month? No, that is irresponsible.

      1. This seems like a suggestion to minimize the effect on her finances as much as possible.
        And I’m 100% behind that.
        Of course to me it sort of sounds like he might have lied in order to get his girlfriends financial and emotional support on the next phase of his life without giving her anything on the same level in return.
        Basically she should make sure she is not investing 100% into a future which he hasn’t fully committed to yet.

      2. I don’t think Bopper is suggesting that the LW suddenly refuse to pay half the mortgage right before it’s due. They can have a conversation about how much and the timing of when her contribution will go down but it’s not out of line that she not pay equally into a house she doesn’t have an equal stake in. She’s also going to have to save up to move out.

        Also: that he went and bought a house with someone who wasn’t feeling secure in the relationship was a risk he was apparently willing to take so this isn’t all on the LW if she decides to leave.

  8. I have two sisters. My older sister doesn’t care about or want marriage. She’s been with her boyfriend for almost ten years, and I’ve heard her say “I intend to spend the rest of my life with this man,” but she just doesn’t care about the symbol, the ceremony, the word. And I think she doesn’t want to be anybody’s wife.

    My younger sister cares very much about marriage. She has dated casually, but for her more serious relationships, the question has always been “Would I marry this man?” The symbol, the law, and the joining of the two families matters a great deal to her. She’s given her current boyfriend a deadline to propose – more than a year away, but everybody’s on the same page. Marriage, in a reasonable time frame, or goodbye.

    Both of these are good ways to be and good values to have. LW, you want to get married. That’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s not a problem with you and it’s not something you need to “get over.” It’s a VALUE and it’s something you know about the way you want your life to be! That’s a good thing, because it’s true. It’s also potentially a very painful thing, because it’s true. For you. But maybe not for him.

    And you know what? “Someday, someday,” from him isn’t going to be good enough forever. Because you’re not happy. Why doesn’t he feel a sense of urgency around that? Does he think you’re just going to forget about it? (What if that IS what he thinks?)

    I love all of CA’s advice. Center yourself and your own needs for a while. Figure out what those needs actually are. Take action for yourself. But if you do all of that, you might still find that he’s not “ready” to meet you. Don’t let it be “someday, someday” from him forever.

  9. Maya Angelou: “”When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

    You wrote: “He assured me he’s ready to be engaged, wants to marry me… BUT…” excuses and no engagement.

    Letter writer, unfortunately the reality is he doesn’t want to get married. At least, not now. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. But if he wanted to be engaged, he would be engaged. Timing has nothing to do with it. Being engaged is saying “Will you marry me? Yes? Great, we are engaged.” And then you can take whatever time you need to plan a wedding. Right now, he doesn’t want to get married. How do we know? Because we must believe his ACTIONS, not his words.

    I think your dilemma hinges on the discrepancy between his words and his actions and you are not sure what to believe. Believe his actions. Its not clear why he is not being honest. If he is dishonest, that’s a problem. But he may actually believe he wants to get married… someday. And does not have the insight to be totally honest to tell you “As of right now, I dont want to get married.”

    Knowing the truth – that he doesn’t want to get married right now – is freeing because now you can plan on what YOU want to do. Is this enough? Is it worth waiting to see if he changes his mind? You get to decide.

    Good luck!

    1. >> Timing has nothing to do with it.

      This was not my experience of getting engayged [sic]! We’d been together for two years. I knew my girlfriend wanted to. I wasn’t ready—until I was. We were both finishing PhDs and we’d moved countries twice. Getting engayged was yet another thing on top of all the things that I wasn’t ready for. Then one day, I was ready, and I asked and that was twelve years ago. My brother was the same: he was bumbling along having a great twenties lifestyle with his girlfriend, knowing he wanted to marry her at some point in the future but eh, plenty of time. In his case it was my mum becoming terminally ill that kicked him from, “loads of time” to, “fuck me, what am I waiting for?”

      LW, your feelings are real and important, and it if you need a level of / symbol of commitment that your boyfriend isn’t providing right now, you aren’t being silly, it’s not meaningless, and what you want matters. What I can’t help seeing, though, is that you and your boyfriend have drastically different levels of Outside Life going on at the moment, though. He has GRADUATE SCHOOL and all the self-absorption and mindblowingness that implies. He also, if I’m reading you right, has grief, which is another type of self-absorption and mindblowingness. You have a job you hate, in a city you’ve moved to purely to be with him. Your relationship is your #1 priority right now. For him it’s probably joint-first-with-at-least-two-other-things,which-honestly-are-kind-of-demanding-right-now.

      I don’t know how much of being engaged is about being engaged specifically and how much is (completely reasonable!) sadness at feeling like your relationship is your number one priority and not feeling like you’re being prioritised in the same way. If you decide you can give your boyfriend a bit longer to get his head out of his ass and prioritise you, then I definitely recommend doing all the usual Captain Awkward things to build Team You in the new town. You can also feel entirely justified in reading him the riot act, and telling him that you need this absolutely clear commitment if you’re going to hold on through this rough patch, and an end-date for how long it’s allowed to last.

      It is ABSOLUTELY LEGIT to find that hard, and it’s ABSOLUTELY LEGIT to break up over that. It’s an incredibly tough situation. But it’s also possible that it is a temporary rough spot in your relationship that you can ride out. I don’t think it’s nearly as simple as “his actions are clear, he doesn’t want to”. You’re the only one who can decide how much time you’re willing to give him, though, and whether his lack-of-priority is a temporary phase you can live with or whether it’s who he really is.

  10. LW, what does being engaged mean to you? And what does it mean to your boyfriend? There’s a lot of talk in your letter about “the ring”, which acts as a metaphor for engagement (or the lack of it) but also appears to be a literal stumbling block in that you suspect your boyfriend is avoiding ring shopping. It’s fine to want a ring, but would you be equally happy with an agreement to marry (complete with a specific target date) and no ring? If your boyfriend gave you a ring tomorrow, but nothing else changed, would you feel better about the situation?

    I ask because as someone for whom the literal rings are not important (my husband and I didn’t even bother with wedding rings), my belief is that if you and your partner have agreed to marry each other—even if it’s “someday” as opposed to a specific date that you’ve put down money for—you are engaged. Obviously you don’t feel this way (which is fine; I recognize my views are not shared by the majority), but is it possible that your boyfriend does? Or that there’s some other mismatch in expectations of what it means to be engaged that it might be prodictive to discuss with him?

    1. Yes, these two questions!

      I was engaged once to someone for whom engagement basically seemed to mean, “You have promised to spend your life with me so it would be Morally Wrong for you to break up with me! But I’m not actually anywhere near ready to get married, the symbolism doesn’t mean much, so someday whenever we’ll probably just head down to the courthouse.” This is one of MANY, MANY things that make this man my Darth Ex.

      Two years after I got free of Darth, Mister Cheshire and I met. We basically approached our entire relationship from the weekend we met as, “I’m not particularly looking to date around anymore, I’d like to settle down and I think you could be the person I would like to settle down with, so let’s get as much stuff OUT THERE as we can around potential dealbreakers as early as we can to see if this will work or if we are somehow incompatible and need to part as friends who had some good sex.” Part of what that looked like, about a month after he moved in with me, was a discussion about, “This seems to be headed in a marriage-like direction, what do you think of that?”

      I told him, straight up, based on my experiences with Darth Ex, that we can talk about getting married someday but we are NOT engaged until I have two things:

      1) An actual set wedding date no more than two years into the future. (The date we picked was about 18 months away from when we had this conversation.)
      2) A ring. Doesn’t have to be expensive, but has to be nicer than the hematite bands from the local new age shop that Darth Ex thought were good “spiritual wedding bands”.

      He said he knew it seemed a little odd but he’d really like a ring too? So we got a pair of matching amber and silver rings in a relatively androgynous design, and since our ring size was the same at the time we had a cute little mini-ritual of trading them back and forth as a way of saying “still want to marry you!” He also wanted to add talking to my family, not in an asking permission way (my dad would be SUPER offended if someone did that!) but to let them know that we were planning this and serious about it (which was a thing he was aware Darth Ex never did, so I think he wanted to do this both for its own sake and as an extra show that he meant it about marrying me).

      I guess after my disaster of a first engagement, in the future for me it needed to mean not just “we’ve agreed we’re getting married someday” but “we’ve agreed we are getting married in the near future, and are taking specific steps towards doing that!” While I did not need or even want an expensive ring and getting one would have proved that the giver was not compatible with me, I could definitely understand why someone WOULD want that as a gesture of “I am sufficiently committed to this that I am willing to invest a meaningful amount of money (and time and research sometimes too) in a symbolic declaration of my intent!”

      1. I super love the trading of rings back and forth. That visual makes me so happy!
        Now I am picturing Jean-Luc Picard “Re-Engage!”

    2. i think there’s a big difference between vaguely intending to get married someday, and *telling other people* you’re engaged. If you’re telling people you’re engaged, you’re engaged, with or without a ring. If your family and friends don’t know you’re engaged, and you’re not eloping or something, you’re not engaged.

      1. You don’t get to tell other people what their relationship status is. Only the couple gets to decide that for themselves. Plenty of people get engaged in secret, without a timeline, and without rings. Often because they don’t want (usually toxic) people butting in, or just because they don’t want to deal with well-meaning but nosy questions while they work out their own plans for the future. Or any other reason. But THEY get to define whether or not they’re engaged, not you.

      2. There are lots of ways the LW and the boyfriend could use to decide what “engaged” means and what would make her feel comfortable. A ring? A changed Facebook status? A conversation? I don’t think she was unclear with the boyfriend in asking for some rituals to be observed and she’d probably agree that telling friends & family this is happening for sure is part of the whole deal.

        Mr. Awkward and I decided to get married about a year before we did anything with rings or telling family & friends. It wasn’t vague at all – it was a strong enough commitment to make everything from putting my books be on the same shelves as his books and empowering each other to make medical and financial decisions fall into place, as well as to qualify me for domestic partner benefits through his then-employer. If we’d been in a financial position to buy real estate, I would have signed many papers with him no problem, it was not ambiguous between the two of us but we didn’t want to invite the pressure or enthusiasm of the family into it yet.

    3. As evident in my replies upthread, this is my exact perspective as well, and it’s what’s bothering me about some of the hostility toward BF in the comments. He might be a jerk, but we really don’t have many specifics from LW, either about what “engagement” means to zir or what has specifically been said/done in the conversations about it. If ze’s that vague IN THOSE DISCUSSIONS, BF may be legitimately confused about expectations and desires. I think CA’s advice is great in such a context, because it’s focused on LW making things clear for zirself – they may be unclear in the expression because they’re also unclear (or not explicit and simply assumed) in LW’s head.

      1. I think it’s good to remember that we are not always (ha!) as clear about our wants and desires as we can be, and I agree with you completely about CA’s advice. On the other hand, I think the negative-leaning feelings I have about the BF come from the fact that I recognise this as a well-used (and often male) excuse: how could I possibly intuit what goes on in the mind of this mysterious person (who just moved across a country for me)? If only there was a socially acceptable way of… asking LW what the engagement looks like for them?
        To put it more bluntly: if my significant other, with whom we shared more than 2 coffees, looks unhappy, says they are unhappy and that an”engagement” could make them happy, I would ask them what this “engagement” looks like. And not make up excuses like I have no clue how to shop for rings.
        It’s perfectly ok not to be ready for marriage. But it seems there could be something different at play here too.

  11. LW, you’ve done everything right here, communication-wise. You told him exactly what you needed, multiple times, and he just…did nothing. Meanwhile, he asked something huge from you (moving across the country FOR HIM, taking a job you don’t like…), and you held up your end of the bargain.

    Don’t let the sunk cost fallacy hold you back. You’ve invested yourself in this relationship, invested time and money in this move…but that doesn’t mean you have to stay! “If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it” should be the song you play as you pack up and move back home.

    I’m coming from a bit of the same side as you–except I didn’t know whether to stay or move thousands of miles away across the world! Below is my story, if it’s helpful to you:

    I wasn’t sure whether I would leave the country or not to continue travelling and working on another year long contract in another country across the globe–hinged on getting married to my then-boyfriend for a lot of reasons. We had talked about marriage for around 2 months–finances, kids, life goals, what we wanted out of marriage…and then…crickets. For a few weeks I was waiting and waiting, and I was freaking out because I had some deadlines looming for visa decisions, applications, etc. I finally just burst out crying one Saturday morning when he mentioned plans together for the autumn, and I said, “But I won’t be here, will I? I’ll be gone because we’re not married!” He had no idea that it was stressing me out so much, as he thought his intentions were clear, but he was very concerned, made me a lovely breakfast in bed by way of an apology, then told me to relax while he went out grocery shopping. In less than one hour, he bought a proposal picnic lunch, a silly cheap ring because he totally did not trust himself to choose something I’d like, and a new book to take to the park so that we could read it together. We went out to the park, ate the lunch, and he proposed.

    To be clear, for many years I felt silly about this because I felt like I made him propose. A couple of years ago, I asked him about it, and he was shocked and said, “No! I just realized how much stress I’d caused you because you were worried about when I would propose. Why wouldn’t I make sure you knew exactly how I felt about you as soon as humanly possible?” He had been trying to come up with the “right” way to propose to me, and he suddenly realized that the only perfect way is to just pop the question, to hell with the circumstances.

    1. Perfectionist, I LOVE ALL OF THIS! This is so heartwarming, so kind, so reciprocal, mutual, responsible, so… adult. This is the way it needs to happen. Love, love, love.

      That said, I’m 50, widowed and divorced, married for 25 years total, now on my own and rather liking it. My second marriage was extremely happy overall (physically tough, but that’s caregiving for you), and no matter the hard work physically, it was good and happy because of the reciprocity, the clarity, the constant communication.

      I wouldn’t mind a third major relationship, but I’ve fulfilled that early vocation to have a happy marriage. No living together, no marriage, just a choice to be together would work for me. I also know now, based on a first “starter” marriage much like the LW’s, that I was settling, then, and of course it ended in divorce. I wonder if the LW is invested in “how things should be” and in results. It is so, so hard to divorce yourself first of all from what you *think* should happen, how you think things should be, even how you think people should respond and be. Not everyone has your heart. She needs to choose Team Her and recruit others for Team Her, stat.

      1. Aw, thanks! He’s definitely a keeper, 🙂 It was actually the third proposal I’d received in my life, but it was the only one I ever accepted. (The other two were from guys I liked but had only been dating for a short time–think weeks–and totally shocked me.)

        I think it’s great that you’ve figured out what you want for the next stage in your life, Katie–clarity is empowering. Being together with the right person is everything, and it so often doesn’t fit the format we grew up with. I love how you put it: “Not everyone has your heart.” I’m sorry for your loss, and I hope that you find a great, worthy companion for whatever’s next 🙂

    2. This reminds me of me! I really wanted to propose to my now-wife, because we met when I wasn’t long out of my first marriage and she was very patient with me and my situation; proposing was my way of making a definitive statement about my commitment to her and the life we were building. However, I had myself in knots that it had to be perfect and no idea I came up with was good enough. Then one day I get a text from her saying that she really wanted to quit her super toxic job (while on a quick break from said job), and was I okay with it because really this was a household decision. I text back something along the lines of ‘I’ve got your back’ and then ran out to get everything I needed to make a half-decent proposal before she got home. This was suddenly the perfect moment. Honestly – I am not a romantic person. But even I know that gestures, that clear-cut whole-hearted commitment is important, and being on the same page about what that looks like is even more so.

  12. All good advice from the captain. Just wanted to add a bit of my experience. I moved cities with my boyfriend, on a way smaller scale. The move was for MY new job – he was following me. My family was only an hour away.

    Yet I still cried every time a visit ‘home’ ended. It was a long time before the new city became home, and I continually doubted my decision, doubted my relationship.

    You’ve done a big thing LW, give yourself room to think.


    1. I’m seconding this comment. I’ve made several cross-country moves as an adult. It’s always taken me almost a year to feel comfortable in a place and like I have a minimal set of social connections. It’s always been especially hard when the move was my partner’s idea primarily.

      If it weren’t for the other stuff, I’d say, 3 months is just enough time to realize how much moving sucks and not nearly enough time to put together a life in a new place.

      1. Thirded. I moved eight hours and three states away from the town I’d lived in my whole life and all my family to live with my fiance, because he was finishing grad school and he also did not want to leave his recently-widowed mother without a support. I loved him and was happy to be with him, and at the same time was miserable and prone to crying fits for months. I was miserable because I missed them, and my new job was crap, and I was achingly lonely. But I had him, and knew I would have him (still have him 12 years later).

        I was willing to work at putting down roots of various kinds–jobhunting for a better job, making friends, etc.–because I knew I/we were going to be there for a while, so I had reasonable expectations of permanency. You don’t have the sign of permanency that would mean the most to you, so you’ve got all the anxieties that come with moving and new places, plus no real guarantee that any work you put into being happy will result in long-term benefits. You’re not being unreasonable.

        Echoing the many other commenters–sit down with him and make it CLEAR how much an engagement means to you. Use the Chair Leg of Truth if you have to. “I did this huge thing for you, telling you what I wanted in return and believing you would come through. Either you want to be engaged to me, or you don’t. If you want to be engaged to me, let’s get engaged. If you don’t, then why did I move away from a place and people I loved to live with someone not even willing to make that much of a commitment to me?” (He may argue that you brought a house together! Still not the same thing as an engagement!)

        You’re living in limbo, and your boyfriend isn’t. No one should be required to live in limbo.

        1. Joining this choir. I’ve moved A LOT in my adult life. Like, 17 states and 5 countries lot (hence my handle). Moving is hard, and it only gets harder the older I get, largely because people are more settled in their lives and families and it gets harder to make new friends and build community. As others have said, it takes at least 6 months (bare minimum in a “perfect” situation) to more like a year (typical) or even longer to make new friends, build community, and really feel at home in a new place.

          And you know when the worst time is after you’ve moved? About 3-4 months in, right where you are now. At 3-4 months, the novelty and excitement of being in a new place have worn off, but you haven’t made many friends yet – and very likely not the kind of friends who really know and understand you. Personally I’m prone to depression, and my response to it is to hide, so this time period is really difficult for me – I have to force myself to go out and keep working on meeting new people, and it’s H.A.R.D. when all I want to do is cuddle at home with a cat or two.

          So you’ve got all the difficulty of the move, plus the fact that you’re really not sure you want to be there and your partner isn’t following through. Ugh, I’m sending all the sympathy your way LW! Know that it’s totally normal for you to not be happy now, and please do whatever self-care and processing and actions (following the great advice here!) to take care of yourself. All the best!

        2. make it CLEAR how much an engagement means to you

          I may misunderstand what you mean by that.

          You see, I think what she may want to convey is not that marriage is important, but that lack of planning for marriage is a deal breaker.

  13. In general, I think we would all agree that honest and open communication is key, but I also wanted to point out that there are a lot of different ways to get married, and it’s possible that some problems are caused by your expectations not being the same.

    For example, a close friend of mine recently got married in a traditional ceremony, but she and her husband had been legally married for almost 2 years before that day. Circumstances surrounding his health and problems with her family had made them not want to do a “traditional” celebration when they actually got legally married, but they still wanted to make the commitment.

    I guess my point is, if you can have the conversation, it can be useful to make sure you both know exactly what you mean/want when it comes to engagement and marriage. Maybe a giant expensive party isn’t on the cards right now, but maybe a legal commitment is.

  14. This is some excellent advice from the captain.

    This situation is full of red flag (that I hope can be resolved!) and I think that the LW is correct in trying to figure this out sooner rather than later.

    The main issue for me is that the LW has taken significant risks for her bf and he’s not reciprocating. She’s left her family, friends, and job and here he is, claiming that an easily Google-able ring shopping guide is a major hurdle. This is not a relationship that is on equal footing at the moment.

    I agree with the other comments that say that the LW’s boyfriend has gotten everything that he wants and now has no motivation to make any changes… because the LW being unhappy apparently isn’t motivation enough.

    1. Yes, I’m really wondering how much this moving/proposing issue is a reflection of the entirety of their relationship. LW, you’ve put lots of effort into and sacrificed something big for him, and he’s not reciprocating that. Is that something he does for you in other aspects of your relationship – does he participate enthusiastically in things with you that you’re more interested in than he is? Does he make the effort to do things, big and small, that he knows you’d like, that make you happy? Does he put thought and energy into figuring out how to do those things if he doesn’t know how to do them? Does he make sacrifices, small and big, to make your life better, whether it’s spending some of his own time on that one household task that he doesn’t think is important but you do, enthusiastically showing up to cheer you on at your activities, making sure your needs timewise, financial or emotional get plenty of play in your joint time/financial/emotional budgets, or things as big as quitting your job, leaving your family and moving somewhere new was for you?

      Or does he value his time more highly than yours and let you take on more tasks that neither of you enjoy but need to be done, is he suddenly helpless about things that are more for your benefit than his, even though he’s a functional and resourceful human being in other parts of his life, is he dismissive of your preferences and priorities that don’t match his own? Basically, is this a pattern where your relationship involves you sacrificing and risking and making effort for his wants and needs and goals and dreams, and him making the right noises and then somehow kind of not getting around to the things that are about your wants and needs and goals and dreams, or finding reasons that they don’t make sense and the sacrifices wouldn’t be worth it and trying to convince you that your wants and needs and goals and dreams should actually be more like his?

      Maybe it’s just this one big thing, and I hope it is and you can find a resolution that makes you happier here, but if it isn’t, ask yourself if you can really be happy in a relationship with someone who is okay with you being unhappy if it gets him what he wants. Does that feel like love? It doesn’t sound like love to me.

    2. When you’ve just lost a close relative and done a fuckton of emotional work (house clearing) ‘easy’ isn’t always easy. And given how much value the LW places on the ring, I can understand that he might feel that he’ll fuck it up, whatever he does, so I can totally understand that it looks like a major hurdle.
      I can’t actually tell how good the communication between LW and BF is; I don’t have enough information. I just want to point out that someone who just lost their mother does not have ‘everything he wants’.

      I think there are several things going on here.

      – LW made a leap of faith and is now having second thoughts. There’s a lot of things LW can do that are independent of their BF, and which don’t depend on a) them getting engaged and b) him getting _enthusiastically_ engaged (not just as lip service to keep the show running and half his mortgage paid). The Captain has listed a lot of these – and I think that knowing how you’ll gracefully extract yourself from the mortgage (and what you’ll do if this relationship fails) will help you whatever happens.
      – Three months is a very short time. For everything: dealing with grief, getting settled in a new place, making new friends, working out whether the current arrangement works for you and what it needs to work in the long-term.
      – grief may be a reason not to notice how unhappy someone else is; but if you’re having a frank conversation of ‘I hate it here’ and BF does not listen, that’s a data point. And not a good one.

  15. While you are journaling and Sheelzebub-ing and etc. – look into a cohabitation agreement if you do not have one. The law is not great at protections for unmarrieds who own property together, so having a legal document that outlines who contributed what to a property purchase and who owns what (usually, I keep what I had before this joint property venture, along with an updating addendum of joint property purchases) is really essential even if the property is deeded jointly (and especially if it is not). It’s always best to write it down while everyone is their best self. You can get a basic one online from legal zoom or similar for not much money.
    Best of luck to you while you work this out.

  16. I really want to give this letter writer a hug and tell her: What you want is reasonable. It’s okay to be upset and disappointed that you’re not getting what you want, and that your partner isn’t communicating clearly about what he’s available for. Your letter is full of self-deprecation, and a steady voice undermining yourself. Things like, “I knew it was probably silly” and “I explained how I was feeling (through tears, unfortunately)” and “I know I’m probably leaning toward the unreasonable end of the spectrum”. These tell me that important people in your life — maybe your partner, maybe family members, maybe all of the above — have consistently given you the message that your feelings don’t matter or don’t count, and that having emotions makes your requests LESS valid.

    Let me be a voice saying: Your emotions are what make your requests valid. If it matters to you, it matters. It’s not silly to want what you want. It’s not unreasonable to have desires for commitment, stability, parity, or whatever else you want in your relationship. Wanting it doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get it, but it’s okay to be disappointed and upset about it when that happens. It’s okay that your feelings are big enough that you cry about this stuff.

    Let yourself have the feelings you have. They matter.

    1. I just want to highlight these:

      “Your emotions are what make your requests valid.”

      “If it matters to you, it matters.”

      “It’s okay that your feelings are big enough that you cry about this stuff.”

      And to rephrase in this way: The fact that you DID cry about these things means they ARE important. Very important.
      Your tears and strong emotions don’t invalidate what you want–the opposite, in fact. They are an indicator that these things you want are IMPORTANT.

  17. FWIW, I pinned my hopes and dreams to a guy five (FIVE) years ago in the midst of his divorce and custody battle over his kids. As each step in that process got “settled,” I kept thinking now would be the time we’d get engaged. We moved in together, didn’t happen. We bought a house together (well, I did since he was still technically married — but as CA advises, we did put in a rental agreement to protect us both), didn’t happen. He said he wanted all the ring / marriage trappings with me as much as I wanted them with him, but it wasn’t happening. 2018 was a hard, hard year of basically telling him, “It’s now or never, man.” I thought I had made my desires clear this whole time, but I think once I realized (and was actually willing to follow through, and you may not be there yet so YMMV) that I wasn’t going to be with someone who didn’t want to be committed to me in that way, I was going to have to end this. I started (painfully) envisioning what it would be like to separate ourselves from the co-ownership of the house, how much it would hurt his kids, etc. It was something I did NOT want to do, but I also couldn’t live in this limbo anymore. I made all of this very clear to him on a couple occasions. FINALLY, finally, he got it. And by year’s end, all his loose ends were tied up and we are now engaged.

    I say this only to counter the general advice in most of these situations (and even my inclination looking at anyone from the outside) to say “he’s just not that into you” and “you should cut your losses and move on, there are other people out there.” The rest of our relationship was rock solid, so this was the ~one thing~ still in our way that made it difficult. I did end up asking myself the Sheelzebub question and I never had a timetable on it until last year. Again, the conditions of your relationship outside this issue may be different, but I wanted to give you another shot in the arm of hope that it CAN work out; that you CAN maybe say something slightly differently or more emphatically (even if you think you have already) to communicate to him how important this is and what, exactly, you want next steps to be and communicate what you’re willing to change to do that.

    I hope however it shakes out, LW, that you get the happiness you so deserve.

  18. My therapist told me a story her mentor therapist told her about couples therapy/marriage/gender norms etc. Now YMMV but he said he would work with married Hetero couples going through tough times and the wife would be very engaged and very sad and the husband would be kind of not really getting it.

    At one point, a few sessions in, he would find the husband alone in the hallway when the wife was doing something else and literally pin him against the wall for a second and say “You are going to lose her! If you don’t take this seriously and engage with this, she IS going to leave, and take the kids!” and the guy would kinda freak out, get this scared shocked look on his face, and afterwards suddenly really looked at his wife and started paying attention. There was no guarantee one way or another it would get better but I found it was an interesting trend.

    It may be something you’re facing right now. You made a request, he sort of answered it and because it hasn’t been brought back up in sharp relief he sort of considers it “managed” for now so he isn’t really thinking about it and doesn’t understand the import or dire underlying possibilities.

    CA has given great advice. Best of luck! Only you can see your way forward through this. You deserve happiness!

      1. I hear the other side of this all the time in the workplace, where the demographics make me a woman surrounded by men. Sad, sad tales of sad, sad pandas whose wives/partners just up and left “for no reason”. But it was exactly the situation described, when I listen to the panda’s own tale — he was just not choosing to engage when she told him the problems were bad. She tried as many times as she could stomach, he kept blowing it off, she left. Now he tells everyone, at length, how he is a tragic victim of having loved too well.

        They don’t like it when I point out that by their own narratives, they knew exactly what was wrong and chose to blow it off. But I’ve heard the exact same story with the exact same elements from more men than I can count, and it runs all up and down the age groups.

        I don’t have an answer, sadly. Well, maybe I do — I always thought that booting the guy to the couch and other associated ways of showing that the intimate relationship is in hiatus at best seemed a bit…much? But it does seem to actually work in some cases — it works where enough of what the guy values about the relationship is taken away and he wants it back enough to listen rather than getting angry or defensive. So women for whom it has worked tend to swear by it. I think the reason it sounds off to me is that if that’s what it took to get a guy to take what I was saying at face value, I would be entirely unable to want him anymore, and there’d be no point in trying after that. The women for whom this has worked are able to forgive that at a level that I don’t think I could. Life is far too short and full of good things to do to waste any of it on some dude who wants to play games with pretending that certain things I say are not what I mean. Think of all the good shit I could do rather than waste time on that!

  19. “I love him, and I’m not ready to leave if I don’t get a ring tomorrow, but I’m starting to feel resentful and I know that’s not fair to anyone.”

    LW, there’s a lot of good advice already, but I wanted to focus on this sentence for a moment. You say that you aren’t ready to leave, and it seems to me that this might be where a lot of your resentment is coming from. It sounds like you are thinking of this in terms of “I either have to accept his way which is not at all what I want or I have to leave him”. What would happen if you switched that and made it his decision to make? “I need a commitment in order to continue putting my resources (emotional/financial/practical) into this relationship. If that isn’t what you are looking for, the time has come for us to part ways.” What would happen if HE was the one who had to make difficult emotional decisions and possibly compromise?

    I am not asking you that because I necessarily think you should do it. I am asking because you know him best; think about his reaction. Would he decide to leave you? (Useful data point: he is not as committed as you are, because you have already decided to stay). Would he become engaged to you? (If so, how would you feel about this? Would it completely sour the engagement for you? Then it might be time, come what may, to stop pushing for an engagement, because at this stage it likely isn’t going to make you happy). Or, most likely, would he find a compromise that reassures you and works for him? If so, what does that look like? Is it, perhaps, something that you could pitch to him as a compromise right now?

    One further thought: of course you don’t want to leave him RIGHT NOW. He is your only source of support on a daily basis, and without him life is TERRIFYING. You do not have power in this relationship. This isn’t inherently good or bad. Be aware that he can choose to use that power over you – if he is, use the Captain’s advice, have a get out plan, and go. Seriously. Right. Then. But even if he isn’t That Person, that doesn’t invalidate you feeling dependent on him, or like you have to accept his choices because you don’t have the power to “fight back” (by leaving, or other measures), or being really scared of what will happen if you aren’t Exactly What He Wants. Be aware of that dynamic as you navigate this. Again, there’s some great advice on building networks and connections and support (and don’t underestimate how quickly someone can become a friend or a support network if you need them). Choosing to accept what is on offer right now rather than leave, if those are your only two options, is a perfectly valid choice, but mentally schedule in that you’re going to come back and explore how staying in the relationship you have right now feels once he is no longer your only support. You may still choose to stay because you love him enough to accept what he offers, you may not, but it’s going to look like a very different discussion once you have your independence again.

    Whatever happens, the best of love, luck, and happiness in your new life to come.

  20. I haven’t seen anyone else mention this, and apologies if I’m repeating, but LW, if you do have that conversation again, you can ask when. When will he be ready to get engaged? Does he see it happening in one month, six months, two years? Working out a timeline together may help, because at least then there’s no mystery or guesswork. If he’s feeling pressured about his mom’s passing and planning a wedding, this could also be your time to discuss how long an engagement you have – plenty of people are engaged for a few years before marrying.

    1. Or even if not a date-driven timeline, a specific thing he wants to have happen first. Maybe he feels strongly that the situation with his mother’s estate must be settled before he can continue on to something like an engagement and wedding planning. Maybe the move and everything else depleted his “ring budget” and he needs to rebuild that fund. Maybe there is a job-related milestone he’s waiting on. If it’s one of these things or something similar, pressing for a certain date is probably not going to give useful information.

      Even if it’s something that doesn’t matter to LW as much as being engaged or “having the ring” does, it might be something that matters to him in the same sort of gut-level way. And maybe there is room for compromise (a specific point in the estate-settling process that is not “done” but is “done is in sight”; a little less money on the ring in exchange for having it sooner; etc.)

  21. All of Jennifer’s advice is good, but I wanted to share what I did do and what I wish I would have done when I was in a semi-similar situation. TL:DR: Propose to him instead of waiting for a proposal.

    A decade ago, my husband and I agreed to get married – even decided on a venue – and to move across the country. He kept procrastinating on the ring, and then once the ring was acquired he kept procrastinating on the proposal. Some people would have said “he’s just not that into you! If he wanted to make the committment, he would have done it!” They would have been wrong and we’re happy as hell now, but it was a queasy situation at the time. What was holding him up was that he wanted to propose – I didn’t especially care about a proposal, but he felt it was something he wanted to do – but he’s just not a romantic or especially creative person, and he did not know how to live up to my expectations. The logistics of the tradition held him up.

    Here is how I handled it: I told him that as of a certain date, I was no longer waiting for a proposal. I would take the ring out of the box, consider us engaged, and start planning the wedding with his mom, and if he didn’t like it we could break up and I would go ahead with that move across the country. He agreed and proposed juuuuuuust before the deadline. I’m sure people will be like “no good relationships start with an ultimatum!” but it wasn’t. It was a practical agreement to get him past his anxiety and get moving on the planning of the wedding (which was a huge task and couldn’t wait much longer). The proposal was a little underwhelming, but the wedding was wonderful, we moved across the country, and we’re doing great now.

    Here’s what I wish I had done: Proposed myself. My husband is great at doing the dishes and making me a priority and generally being a good partner, but he just has no instinct for the romantic gesture. I am creative like that. It would have made a wonderful memory and saved us a few months and some anxiety on both our parts if I had proposed myself.

    Maybe it’s really important to you to be proposed to, which I totally understand! But it wasn’t actually important for me to be proposed to, and I think my husband would have been fine with me taking that off his shoulders.

    1. TBH that sounds reasonable and egalitarian. I’m more of a big-gestures person than my wife – I proposed (it was a surprise – somewhat to me too, it just sort of erupted out of my mouth) and then she took some time to think about it, and then she counter-proposed.

      I understand how men faced with the example of large (horrible) public proposals/the “the ring should be 1/4 of your salary” rule/those same ads might be paralyzed by the production involved, even if they are sweet fellows who don’t hate the idea of being _married_. My wife and I would still be engaged today if we hadn’t given up and eloped on a work trip, because the counter-task – wedding planning – was just too huge for us to get our heads around. I think moving forward on splitting proposal perfectionism from actually wanting to be married would be a good tack to take.

      1. I think my suggestion in that case might be (MIGHT be) to say: “so how would you feel if instead of doing a proposal and a wedding, we just drove downtown on our lunch break and got married at the courthouse. Would that be WORSE or BETTER than what you’re imagining we’ll do?”

        Reactions to this range from “delighted relief at the thought of being married without all the other stuff” to “I really do want to celebrate this in a formal way with our families, AND that’s a lot to plan right now” to “that would be worse, because I’m still thinking through this commitment.” It can be a good thought exercise. (But it’s important to present it as a hypothetical in case someone’s so into it that they want to cancel important ceremonial components that you’d miss.)

        1. I wish I could up-vote your comments like on reddit. I keep wondering if the hold up with LW’s boyfriend is that the idea of a big wedding is the hold up, and not the “I want to be with you forever” part.

    2. I hear what you’re saying, but the difference I see from the LW’s situation is that you guys had already agreed to get married with a venue and, it sounds like, a wedding planning timeline. For all intents and purposes, you WERE engaged, you just didn’t have a ring and a proposal yet, and for your husband, it really does sound like the logistics of the proposal were the issue, not the engagement and marriage. For the LW’s boyfriend, it sounds to me like the proposal has become the excuse to not move forward. If he wanted to get married, for real, in the near future and was just, like, bad at picking out rings, I think we’d see some more concrete steps. (Also, it sounds to me like the proposal IS important to LW).

    3. I think this could be a really great suggestion, but I also think it could land up meaning she’s the one doing all the work for the thing that she’s told him she needs to be happy making this big sacrifice for him, and essentially saying – to him and to herself – that he doesn’t need to put in effort for her or to sacrifice for her or to focus on her needs or even to talk honestly with her about what he’s willing to do and what he’s not, that this can be a relationship where he does nothing and she waits and gives up and deals with things herself and the only cost is her unhappiness and time and effort, and he’s fine with those costs.

      In a reciprocal, equal relationship where you can trust that even if you’re picking up some slack for your partner or being understanding when they fall down on something (as we all do sometimes), they’re doing those things for you, too, recognizing when something’s not a strength and taking it on yourself is a loving thing that benefits you both. But I’m quite worried that this might not be that sort of relationship, and that taking on herself the things that she’s asked him to take on will just mean that she’s the only one pulling for her happiness in the relationship.

      1. “I also think it could land up meaning she’s the one doing all the work for the thing that she’s told him she needs to be happy.”

        Oh hi, it me.

        I just wrapped up a multi-year (haha but actually *criiiiiinge*) saga of this with my Partner. The specter of a cross-country move was hanging over our heads at one point, but once that was no longer part of the picture I still managed to “Cool Girlfriend” myself into a world of unhappiness.

        To sum up: He stated early and often his intentions to marry me, life kept getting in the way, I kept saying that I was OK with waiting and that I didn’t have a deadline. Thing is, when we started out I truly *didn’t* have one, but after a few years of timelines getting pushed back, adjusting life plans, and non-action on his part, I became DONE with waiting.

        We don’t want kids, and we are pretty settled in our Current City for at least a few years due to various career things, but I started to become concerned with his ability to follow through, to commit to doing something and then do it. This lack of follow through was something I had observed in other areas of his life, and something that I had experienced in our relationship, although not nearly on this level or with these high of stakes. Having a partner who is able to commit and follow through (or at least communicate clearly when/if they can’t) is a BIG thing for me – I personally couldn’t spend my life with someone who isn’t able to do those things. The lack of proposal was about more than just A Shiny, it was becoming (for better or for worse) a doubt about who my Partner fundamentally was as a person, and was making me question if a long-term partnership with him was even tenable for me.

        As the person who does a lot of the emotional labor at home, I REALLY did not want to have to ask any more, propose on my own, or spoon-feed him everything. I was happy to provide examples of things I liked, and suggested we go look together (which he really wanted to do), but I needed him to be the initiator. So much of my struggle with this was me just figuring out for the first time in my life to ask for what I need to be happy instead of just trying to do it all myself. At the end of the day, if I had led, if I had done it all myself and he had gone along with it, I always would have wondered in the back of my mind if he really was all in, or if he had just gone along to get along.

        Late last spring, I laid it all out for him. How his lack of follow through was affecting me, and that I was tired of waiting on him to decide that he was ready to get married, even though he had be claiming he was with words for YEARS. I told him that I expected to be engaged by the end of 2018, and that if that was going to happen we needed to start looking around at rings this summer. I also set the condition that he would be the one to research jewelers and set appointments for us to go look.

        LW, he kind of panicked. Turns out that he thought “going shopping together” meant that he would put on a suit, I would get dressed up, we would go to a jewelry store together, pick a ring and BOOM engaged. He was actually actively saving, and had a couple more months until he felt that he had enough socked away to get something he thought I’d like. Once we cleared up that misunderstanding (no, it means we go look to get an idea of what we each like that falls within our price range, and you talk to different jewelers to see who you actually feel comfortable working with – you still have some time to save and you can still make the actual ring and proposal a surprise) he was all in. He set the appointments, did a ton of research, and – wouldn’t you know it – had a really fun time going to look. The icing on the cake? Turns out he had more than enough saved up once we started getting real quotes from real jewelers instead of The Internet: Where All Things Are Nebulous And Confusing.

        We found “the ring” at our very first appointment. He had it purchased and on my finger within one month of that appointment. It took a sit down talk about exactly how this was making me feel and the doubts it was putting in my mind about our relationship (as well as some clarification around what “going shopping” actually means…) to give him the kick in the pants he needed. It wasn’t about a ring, or a wedding, or even a marriage – it was “Are you the person I can depend on to do what he says he is going to do? If not, then this isn’t the right relationship for me and I need to move on for my own sake.” I was absolutely willing to walk away if he had balked, or delayed, or just blown right past the year-end timeline.

        Your feelings are valid, and I think it’s worth remembering that sometimes the people in our lives need to step up and do what we’re asking them to do. If it doesn’t go against their beliefs, if it doesn’t hurt them in some form or fashion, then if they love us, they should let us know in real, tangible ways.

      2. Yeah, and if she ends up doing the emotional work by default at this point, then as they get older and acquire caring responsibilities, whether that be children or older family members or whatever – I mean, women tend to have that assumption put on them anyway, it takes active involvement from a partner to say “wait, this is also my job” and if he doesn’t do that now I suspect that it will be harder to renegotiate the relationship further down the line to get him to do any of that, or even recognise it as work. I am not a fan of big weddings and proposals but for women who like them and who are marrying a bloke, I do think they serve a useful purpose, which is to show that your bloke is willing to do stuff for you that he’s not interested in personally, up to and including spending hard cash and being willing to look like a noodle and deal gracefully with his inlaws.

    4. If LW is considering this approach, I’d advise them to first think about and perhaps even make a plan for what happens if he says no to your proposal, or if he doesn’t say yes or no.

      That’s certainly high on the list of possible outcomes when proposing marriage to someone whose actions to date demonstrate that they’re less into marriage than you are, so it’s better to be prepared than to have a bucket of surprise heartbreak dumped over your head.

      It might also be an idea to think about whether you’d feel better about living in a world where he hasn’t proposed to you yet, or a world where he has declined your proposal. Some people might be more comfortable with the certainty, others might be more comfortable with the possibility for hope.

      (And, of course, he might say yes, but that’s something you’re already prepared for.)

  22. I can’t speak so much to the relationship side of this, but I’ve made multiple cross-country moves away from loved ones. It’s hard!! It’s hard every time. At first, you don’t even have a favorite takeout place or a go-to grocery store yet–you have no routine there, you have to make active decisions every time you leave the house. It’s really hard to feel at home in an area when everything around you is unfamiliar. And even once you start settling in, it takes time to build community and make friends. Moving with your partner theoretically means you have at least one person to do things with, but none of us can really manage with just one person we’re connected to around…and while the internet and phones and such make staying in touch with old friends and family easier than it would otherwise be, there’s a big difference between a phone call and being physically present with each other.

    All of this does get better with time. You find a favorite takeout place. You figure out which grocery store is your day-to-day go-to. You find a social circle–maybe it’s the group at the rock climbing center you go to every Wednesday, maybe it’s your coworkers, maybe it’s the people you volunteer with at the Humane society, maybe it’s everyone who goes to board game night at your local game store, really anything you show up at regularly has the potential to become this. You make a friend or two who you feel comfortable hanging out with one-on-one. But it’s a slow process, and the time until it happens can be really painful. It’s a lot to handle even when you’re moving for your own reasons and have a deep sense that you’re doing the right thing for yourself.

    It sounds like what you’d need to feel like you’re doing the right thing for yourself is a physical, tangible sign that your relationship is a marriage-track forever deal. It’s not really about the ring–it’s about the promise behind it, which clearly has deep meaning for you. Without that promise, this move is the wrong thing for you.

    Have you told your partner that? That you can’t do this move anymore if they’re not ready to get engaged and commit to getting married? That it needs to be a now thing, not an ‘in six months, in a year, in someday’ thing? You’re allowed to need that. You’re even allowed to say “We get engaged or I’m leaving,” if it’s your truth here. It’s not a manipulative ultimatum when it’s a genuine need of yours; you deserve to have your needs met, and you deserve to know if your partner isn’t going to meet them so you can make your own decisions accordingly.

    1. Came here to say something similar! I’ve moved a lot—different cities, different countries, with my family, on my own, and with a spouse. For me, the first three months of a new move are exciting! So much to do and see and learn! I love novelty, and a new place to live is FULL OF IT. The next nine months are… not so great. The novelty has worn off, but I don’t know where everything is yet, much less do I have mental maps for how to accomplish things conveniently. I don’t have a social network yet—I’m still in the exhausting process of trying to get one off the ground. (This is often a difficult and demoralizing process—the nicest, coolest, and most stable people tend to already have lots of friends—it’s the predators/creeps/Difficult People who are necessarily Perpetually On The Lookout For New Blood.) It’s hard to make new friends and learn new places and figure out where I belong!

      About a year in is where I start to really settle and feel good about things. That’s how long it takes me to put together a gaming group that’s knocked the obvious duds out, figure out which grocery stores have the weird ingredients I need, and find a library that works with my commute. (I don’t know, insert your own life things here.) So, I’m not trying to comment on your relationship! Maybe this is a rough point in a fulfilling and joyful partnership, maybe he’s disregarding your plainly stated needs because he just doesn’t care for/believe in you enough to attend to them. But for me, months 3-12 in a new place are the most likely to be miserable, and when I’m putting the most pressure on the people who moved with me because I don’t yet have adequate exterior support. It’s when I’m doing all the work of learning a new place and new people, but not yet reaping the rewards. So, if this is your first move, it might be good to know that feeling lonely/unmoored/overwhelmed at this point in a new place is very common.

      Good luck, whether you stay or go!

  23. Take it from a gay: the legal protections and rights involved in being a legal marriage aren’t symbolic. They are real and concrete. At this point in my life, I’m actually, um, a huge and unromantic advocate of being married before one partner takes a huge financial or logistical hit to support the other. I know that there are ways that this can backfire (like ending up on the hook for 50% of an Arby’s franchise…) but if anyone else is beating themselves up about how they’re shallow for wanting a shiny rock and a silly party – review: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rights_and_responsibilities_of_marriages_in_the_United_States

    Not speaking for all gays (some of us are against the institution for various well-thought-out and valid reasons) – but there’s a reason why people cared about this enough to push it to the Supreme Court, and it’s not because we couldn’t throw parties or buy jewelry otherwise. The decision to legally go all-in on a shared household is a real-ass thing.

    To be honest I have been at this crux in the relationship: one of us is all-in and the other is holding pieces back. It sucks! It really sucks. At a similar point (with a boy, that time) we went into couples’ counseling, which at least gave us a fun shared activity to do while we… broke up anyway. But that’s not a universal outcome! And I think you should consider couples’ counseling, if nothing else, because it does sound like your new town sucks for you right now and it’s at least something to put on your calendar.

    1. Yes. I am a woman married to a man, and it was never odd to me that same-sex marriage was (and is!) such a big deal. I get that some people don’t want to be married, and honestly if my marriage were to end I probably wouldn’t remarry, but marriage IS NOT just about the feelings or the romantic gesture. There are a suite of legal protections and rights that come with a marriage, and those things are powerful and meaningful. There’s a reason women who want to be in a long-term relationship with a man often get nervous about the marriage aspect, and frankly, it’s because women involved with men generally have more to lose if their partnerships end. Women generally make less money than men, and women more often end up the primary caregivers of children. If a marriage ends you have legal protections and certain entitlements, financially. If you’re not married, your partner can walk away at any time and abandon you with nothing, and you have no recourse*.

      A lot of these things are also reasons to NOT get married of course (you become responsible for your spouse’s debt, for example)… but generally, in a heterosexual partnership, the financial risks of doing things like moving across the country for a partner’s job are borne disproportionately by the woman. It makes complete sense to want the legal protection of a marriage in place before doing that.

      *I recognize that in the US the law protects things like child support even if there’s no marriage.

      1. *It does, but the fallout from NOT being married to the mother of your children can be intense! (For instance, if the relationship ends during the pregnancy and then she gets married to someone else before giving birth – it happens! – in some states her husband is automatically on the birth certificate, no matter what. … The straights do this and yet the hoops I’ll have to jump through when we have children are super extreme, oh well, can’t have everything)

    2. YES! One of the hardest things that happened while I was engaged to Mister Cheshire was the sudden death of a dear friend of ours and the up close and personal view of all the rights her committed life partner did not have in Pennsylvania in 2004.

      I told the surviving friend that having seen this made me feel guilty about getting married when same sex couples couldn’t (especially given that both Mister Cheshire and I are bi) and she YELLED AT me. Basically, “No, don’t you DARE decide not to protect yourselves because of what happened to me, do you want to be Mister Cheshire’s next of kin or do you want his horrible fundamentalist parents in that role if the worst happens?” So we got married as planned, and she crocheted us a big beautiful pride rainbow blanket.

    3. Thank you so much. Marriage is a change in legal status which makes it *much* easier for two people who have chosen to commit to each other to have that commitment recognized outside of the social circle. (The house buying is worrying me so much. If the purchased property isn’t in both their names, what happens if he gets hit by a bus? Where does she live?)

    4. I think couple’s counseling is not likely to be super useful when one person thinks there’s a problem and the other one doesn’t. I know it gets recommended a lot, but I’d like to point out that going to individual therapy with the intention to focus on relationship issues (or in this case, more broadly on “I moved here 3 months ago and I’m unhappy about everything” issues) can be just as effective, if not more effective. You can learn communication skills in individual counseling, you can get more clarity about your feelings and needs and wants, you can learn assertiveness…and you won’t get derailed by trying to get the therapist to gang up with you against your partner to pressure your partner into changing. Therapy is great for providing empathy, understanding, and validation. It’s not well set up to provide accountability. So if one person needs more empathy, understanding, and validation and the other one thinks everything is fine, it makes sense for the empathy-needing partner to go to therapy alone, even if everything would be fixed if the other partner changed his/(whatever pronoun’s) behavior.

      1. I agree, but in the example where we went and then broke up: I went in and said “we have different goals around career, where to live, how to raise children, what kind of life we’ll lead, and what kind of commitment we want” and my boyfriend said “I need counseling advice on how to get her not to worry about that at all because we’ll work it out when it’s time to work it out.” It gave me a lot of information on how seriously he was taking a gap that was basically as big as “I want to live on a sailboat and I guess a dolphin will homeschool the kids or something” versus “I want to live in an affordable apartment with a patio and good bus access”, and it gave me that information fast. I know that that’s not always the case, and if I hadn’t already been to counseling by myself about how to take my needs seriously it probably _would_ have been worse. But he told a stranger that he wasn’t taking any of my concerns seriously, where he would never have just told me to my face that he figured eventually I’d be down with whatever it took to make his sailboat-level ideas about the future happen so he didn’t need to put any more thought into it. It took me six more months and repeated demonstrations that he dgaf about my (metaphorical) seasickness for me to dump him, because I was young and not very confident, but it did make it way clearer.

        That is just my experience, ymmv.

  24. Hey LW, I just wanted to tell you that what you want is NOT silly or not important. And it’s not less important than things he wants – moving, getting the house.
    I think it’s a orange-y flag that things you want are ‘silly’ and less important than things he wants. Sorry if I’m over analyzing, because I can be just projecting and if I am – sorry and pls disregard. But it seems to me you are very quick to call your needs not important and call yourself silly for wanting those things – while he gets what he wants in the relationship and his needs are treated seriously.

    Also, and that’s just my personal opinion of course – if a guy wants to get engaged/married, he will. All excuses are just that, excuses – just a sign he is not really interested. He does not know HOW to start ring shopping?
    Okay… when will he know? If he is not making any steps to get this knowledge/find out, how is he going to know this in a year, or in five years? That’s something you decide to put time into, sit in front of dr google and search. If he is not doing that, does that mean he expects the knowledge to just.. pop into his head? Because that’s not going to happen.

    I’m sorry LW, but I think he doesn’t want to marry you. I also think he cares mostly about his own needs – and as long as he gets them, he is going to placate you by making up excuses. and you also care more about his needs and comfort than your own – that’s the thing you two are agreeing on. That his comfort and stuff he wants are more important than yours.
    He is not going to willingly change this dynamic because it suits him. Your words, tears and pleading won’t change it either – only serious, actual consequences, will – like you going back to your hometown until he is ‘ready’. And I’m afraid he may still never be and it will simply end the relationship – the question is: would you rather be in this relationship as it is now, forever, or would you rather look for a new one?

  25. I’m not very impressed with the excuse “I don’t know where to start with ring shopping”; at one point the boyfriend didn’t know where to start with job hunting and home buying, but he managed to figure it out. Still, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he finds ring shopping a daunting task.

    In LW’s shoes, I’d be helping him out. Here’s the price range of rings I like. Here’s the budget to show we can afford one. Here’s a list of jewelry stores in the area. This is when we have a free weekend to go shopping. Present this as a fait accompli. You’re having having trouble finding a starting point? Here’s one for you.

    I wouldn’t do this because I think it’s fair or my job or anything like that. I’d do it to see how the boyfriend responds to it. It says a lot if he hems and haws and still won’t do the one thing he claims he’s ready to do and he knows would make me happy. Or if he’s put out that I made a plan without him, even though he won’t help. Or even if he’s grateful, because wow, that plan took a lot of work.

    I’d do it to see how I felt while doing it and afterward, because if I have to do it once, I assume I’ll have to do it again. Maybe for the wedding or another event. How do I feel about that? Am I angry? Resentful? Do I want to go through this process again? Is it worth it?

    The goal isn’t to get the ring; it’s to help me figure out how I feel and force an issue the boyfriend apparently would rather ignore. The downside is it sucks all the fun out of ring shopping, which should be a fun, romantic experience. And it’s a lot of labour, which isn’t fair.

    1. “I’d do it to see how I felt while doing it and afterward, because if I have to do it once, I assume I’ll have to do it again.”

      This is a little bit chilling, actually. Because, yeah, what if you have kids, and he doesn’t know how to change a diaper? Or how to talk to the pediatrician?

      You really will have to do this many, many times.
      I think that if I’d felt I had to do this level of stuff “for” my erstwhile fiancé, I’d walk away.

      (he had the ability to figure out how to buy a house, all while settling his mother’s estate…)

    2. I know that when I’m feeling anxious and unsure about something I have to do that I’ve never done before, I have a tendency to blow it up into this huge, impenetrable, complicated thing that I don’t even know how to begin. I convince myself there’s some kind of prerequisite that needs to be done, even though the answer is really just that I have to start doing the thing and making headway. It has way more with how I feel about the task than about how complicated the task actually is. I don’t know if that changes anything about what LW should do, though.

  26. Dear LW,

    The Captain’s advice is really good. You’re not foolish for wanting your boyfriend to step up. You weren’t foolish to trust that he would, and to move for his sake.

    Wanting the legal protections of marriage makes perfect sense (even if you decide to postpone the celebrations for a year or so). Maybe you could marry first and buy the ring later.

    I hope you sort this out happily, soon.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

    1. I want to highlight this: “You weren’t foolish to trust that he would, and to move for his sake.” It’s pretty easy to say after the fact that LW should have insisted on getting engaged before the move and the home buy. I’m inclined to think that. And yet, life is complicated and things very, very easily could have gone differently. Lots of people believe partners who say they’re ready for more commitment, and that belief is justified. It’s ok, it’s reasonable, it makes sense to trust the people we love, even though sometimes that trust gets broken or bent a little bit. And this still could be in the “bent a little bit” category.

  27. Just wanted to mention that letter writer might want to limit time on social media. LW mentioned it several times, especially the ads. It’s awful to be feeling lonely and miserable and see all these far away family/friends/strangers having what appears to be idyllic lives. LW might be happier to use social media time to deeply connect by calling or texting (not dm or messenger) people that love and support them. I am not over critiquing social media, but sometimes taking a break can be really helpful!

    1. Adblock on all the things instead or in addition to the above might also help. If only there were adblock for billboards and screens public places.

    2. I was going to advise the LW to take a big step back from social media. If you’re sad and lonely, social media is going to be really tempting and likely to make you sadder and lonelier.

      That time would probably be better spent either putting down roots in your new city or better connecting to people in your old city (ie, not looking at pictures of everyone having fun without you at this week’s engagement party and imagining how perfect their lives must be).

      There’s some good research on how damaging social media can be because you’re seeing a filtered version of everyone else’s lives and comparing it to the unfiltered version of your own life. I can imagine this would be the perfect storm of tempting and depressing when you’re in a new city with a partner that has a lot going on and unhappy in your relationship.

  28. I actively dislike weddings, and every marriage that started with a wedding in my family has ended poorly.

    Weddings are really important to my girlfriend, and she’s really important to me. When my girlfriend wanted to get married, I realized that I wasn’t ready.

    So I found a couples therapist and we spent months going over marriage and what we needed from each other, and what I needed to be ready to marry her. It was annoying and expensive, but so worth it.

    My fiancée are getting married this August. I’m moderately excited for the wedding and really excited to spend my life together with my best friend.

    I could have lived my whole life without getting married, but I knew it mattered to my fiancée. So I figured out what I needed to do to get us both what we needed to be happy, because I couldn’t ignore her unhappiness.

    If your boyfriend knows you’re unhappy and he isn’t working on fixing that situation, then I don’t think he’ll be a good husband. Living with someone who is indifferent to your suffering will make you miserable.

      1. Congratulations! Having a wife is awesome. I hope the day is wonderful!

        On the converse, I thought that having a wedding would be important to me, my wife wanted to get married on a Tuesday in our sweatpants, we ended up having a just-her-and-me elopement in fancy clothes. It turned out that I could give on the wedding aspect, because after reflection, enhhh. But there are other things about our commitment that were serious dealbreakers for one or the other of us – and LW, it’s OKAY not to give on those! It really is.

    1. I love this comment. I’m married to a man who had very bad associations with marriage due to his family of origin, and his original reaction to the marriage discussion involved a whole lot of weird assumptions about how our relationship would change that had nothing to do with how we were together or my actual behavior in the relationship. Eventually we got to a point where I told him that I understood he needed time to work through his shit, and I would do my best to give it to him, but once I started to feel like I was wasting my time, I would leave and he needed to understand that. From there, the biggest thing that kept me going was that I knew (because he would talk to me about it) that he was actively thinking things through and it wasn’t just a stalling tactic. Now, he did still wait until nearly the last minute (as in, I was talking about whether we should really commit to traveling together for the upcoming holidays since I wasn’t sure we’d still be together then), but it did happen.

  29. He doesn’t want to get married now and he’s stalling. I have the feeling that if all his current reasons for not getting engaged were solved, he would think of new obstacles. I’m sorry you were bait-and-switched into jointly buying a house in a new city, but you might either have to try to make the most of the current situation, or make plans to leave.

  30. This really takes me back to before I was engaged. I was in almost an identical situation. In many ways women are still expected to be passive and go along with a partner in a straight, cis-gender relationship (and maybe others, but I don’t have experience with that). LW, it is not unreasonable to be true to yourself and go after what it is that you want out of your life. Looking back, when I was there, I might have been more aggressive in going ting shopping together. It’s so hard to wait and not know if you’re really on the same page.

  31. A lot of people are offering great advice on the relationship aspect, so, I’ll come in on the “learning to like a new city” side. A year and a half ago I left home and all my favorite people behind to move to a new city with my husband for his career. For Reasons I don’t work, so even though I knew people in town, it was a hard and lonely adjustment. I did a lot of what the Captain suggests to get settled into New Town, and I will always miss Home but I like New Town, too.

    Keeping in contact with friends/family from back home helps. Skype/FB/texting/sending them silly snail mail things? All helps. Knowing I still have those people in my life even if I can’t see them all the time helps.

    Making an effort to build the social circle here has been important for me. I had a few “People I always liked but didn’t know very well” in town when we moved, and we both have family here, so even if it’s “Go to in-laws with food to do their dishes and play with their kids so they can have a breather” and “sister stops in when she’s in this neck of the woods for a few hours” every few months, it made me feel less lonely. Also unlike his old job which was all dudes who talked about nothing but sports, work, and beer, he now works with a bunch of women who are unilaterally all lovely.

    When home was a new city, I threw myself into exploring it. It’s harder to do that now for Reasons, but venturing out to find new coffee shops/bakeries/book stores/game stores is always rewarding for me.

    Lately I’ve been rolling up my sleeves and trying to make our place Ours, which, as the Captain points out, maybe isn’t the right move for you right now because of $$$ but little things like putting up spice racks and paintings have made a big impact. Assuming you’re not the type who’s already thrown themselves into that.

    No matter how things shake out for you, fingers crossed and wishes sent for you.

  32. The ring is a symbol. That doesn’t make it trivial. It does mean that you could ask your boyfriend, over dinner one night or just while casually hanging out, “Will you marry me?” If he says yes, you can enjoy that for a little while (an hour, a week) and then suggest “let’s go ring shopping Saturday.”

    If he’s not ready because planning and throwing a wedding is a Huge Deal, it could be an explicit “Will you marry me? I’m thinking June of 2021 would be a good time” or “If planning feels like too big a deal, we could call my parents and then go down to City Hall.” (That’s more or less what I did–we got married a few weeks after deciding to take that step, and arranged for our parents and a few friends to be at City Hall with us. There is space between a big formal event, and you, him, and one witness in front of rhe registrar. And my 20th anniversary is next month.)

    But do spend some time sitting with those questions the Captain suggested. Just so you don’t find yourself with an engagement, a ring, a date 18 months out, and increasing doubts about staying with this guy.

    1. This. It will help to sort out the reason for the delay. I’m a woman and was engaged to my husband for two years before I picked out a ring and we got married. We’ve middle-aged and were living together, and I had an enjoyable year looking at vintage rings online before I found one I wanted. Much of the delay was just about not feeling the need to rush and not knowing what we wanted for the reception. Then one day we realized we could just do a BBQ in front of our house, and all the pieces fell together in about a month.

  33. This is not to say that LW should take this option, but “Maybe if you’re this unhappy, it’s okay to move home” is something that I really wish that I’d heard when I was living in New York for school and completely miserable. It was my childhood dream come true, and I hated it, but I kept trying thinking that I would figure out the secret to this life that made everything okay. I never found it, moved home, and that ended up being the correct decision.

    Still working on not seeing that particular adventure as a failure.

    1. ^^ I don’t think your New York (mis)adventure was a failure, Becca! For one, because it’s a helpful story for other people to hear.

      And for another, because if you’d never gone to NYC, you’d probably still think it was your dream to go there and you’d be beating yourself for never managing to go…but instead you know it’s just a gross, overcrowded, super expensive city that you don’t like living in.

      I dropped out of a fancy-name private college to move back to my small hometown & work a terrible office job before finishing my degree at my unimpressive state college–where I ended up being immensely happy. But was a long time before I could rewrite the story of my (very expensive) “failure” at that first college into the useful life experience that it was. If I had stayed home & gone to the state school in the first place, I think I would have always wondered if I’d sold myself short or missed amazing opportunities at a “better” school.

      1. I recently watched through all of the Netflix Marie Kondo show, and one of my favorite moments was her talking about getting rid of clothes you never even took the tag off of. Paraphrased, something like “you can still thank the shirt for what it taught you: that you don’t like wearing shirts like this”

    2. Try chanelling the “Thank U next” energy and frame it as a learning experience. All experiences are learning experiences in a way, but something big and life altering like that? I would bet money you learned a lot about yourself and what you’re compatible with.
      Experience gains are not failures!

  34. You explained through tears and he still doesn’t consider this something pressing. That bothers me, LW.

    In other areas, how pressing does he consider your emotional needs? How much effort does he put into the things that nurture, support, and comfort you? Because right now, when you’ve told him that this is highly important to you, he’s given you excuses and brushed you off.

    Sheelzebub it, build your plans, but honestly, don’t be surprised if he continues in this vein.

  35. LW, you bought a house with him. (He bought a house with you.) Yes, that is a commitment, but it’s a property arrangement as much as an emotional one, and one that can have big repercussions. Even if you never do the ring and the ceremony and the honeymoon and all that, being actually legally married by a JP or the county clerk will protect both of you in the event that something happens to one of you, and that includes things like hospitalization.

    If he is not ready to commit to the relationship by marrying you, is he ready to buy out your half-interest in the house? Has he made out and executed a will making you legally his heir and his health care trustee? Is that too much commitment also? If he isn’t willing to do the relatively easy thing (socially speaking) and get married, is he willing to do the things that protect you both if you aren’t married?

    1. I wonder whether LW’s boyfriend could have afforded to buy the house without LW. It can certainly be seen as a commitment to a relationship, but it is possible it’s also simply convenience. I absolutely agree about making sure that LW is protected and has legal rights to her share in the house; I wouldn’t see the house purchase, on its own, as evidence of anything other than the fact that LW’s boyfriend wanted to buy a house and LW’s financial contribution was helpful in achieving that goal.

      1. That, and/or maybe he needed her labor. I had a bizarre set of conversations with an ex once where I declined to move cross-country with him, and the thing that really surprised me was how fast and readily he flipped from, “But moving to City X is my life dream and the only possible thing and I MUST do it and it’s what is best for me no matter what!” to “Oh. Not going, I guess,” when he really got it that I wasn’t going with him.

        But I figured out that at least one major factor in there was that he was expecting me to supply a lot of labor and know-how. He didn’t feel able and ready to achieve it on his own, but thought it would be GREAT if I did the heavy lifting. The stupid part was that I was willing to listen to ideas he had for how he could supply an equivalent heavy-lift to make the move an attractive proposition for me, and he stalled out there — his preferred solution was that I should just decide I wanted to move, and then all my labor would be for my benefit and he wouldn’t need to pull his weight.

        Sadly, that ties into what others have pinged on above with gendered patterns of men not listening or not getting it when the relationship problems they cause are careening towards ending the relationships — the ones who just shrug are doing so because they make up a narrative where they don’t have to do anything:

        “She should see how City X is obviously better and be grateful I’m “giving her a chance” to go there.”

        “She should see that she should stop worrying about the children someday being raised by dolphins and just trust we’ll work it all out as we go.”

        “She should trust that I do the important things right, and accept that all the stuff she doesn’t like doesn’t even matter and therefore she’s venal and fussy and stupid to pester me about that stuff.”

        As others have noted above, relationship counseling doesn’t necessarily work well with such guys, because they think the purpose of it is to have the counselor tell their partner to stop being so silly and stop pestering a “good” guy over “unimportant” stuff, so they either refuse to go (and maybe say, “But YOU should get counseling,” or they go and don’t fully engage, because their reason for being there is to have the therapist tell their partner to settle down and shut up.

        I can tell you that they reinforce these patterns to each other — they tell each other a lot of stories about how wimmin complain bcuz wimmin is wimmin and they make funny mouth noises like that. For no reason. Yeah, man, it sucks when they won’t shut up with the complaining, doesn’t it? No, of course none of it means anything! — Wimmin just making complainy mouth noises a lot. Ignore it and try not to let the annoying mouth noises bother you.

  36. Hi OP, I was also having a real HARD TIME getting my long-term boyfriend (now spouse) to take the next step and propose to me. He’s active duty military and I couldn’t move out to live with him because he wasn’t allowed to live outside his barracks if he wasn’t married. it caused a lot of tension and almost ended our relationship because he responded in a similar way to your boyfriend when I ask about next steps in our relationship. He would just say vaguly “soon” and “almost” and “we won’t be long distance forever”. *Rolls eyes*
    We ended up getting married sans diamond for *long and complicated off topic reason* but I found out that part of the reason he wasn’t proposing was because he didn’t have a ring yet and something in his mind equated a ring as a necessary step to even discussing marriage/engagement. Like for some reason he thought he couldn’t even talk about timelines and finances and the very real logistics of being engaged and married until he had a ring, which was super surprising to me because he didn’t ask my ring preferences or ideal proposals or anything.
    CA has amazing advice here. I would also tell your partner that a) you have put in a lot of financial sacrifice here, b) you are not asking him to be married Tomorrow, but you need a timeline or to know where he is on this, c)this is IMPORTANT to you so it needs to be IMPORTANT to him, and d) give him information about rings, preferred proposal style, what you want from him specifically so he doesn’t need to ask, or tell him “I need you to ask me for this information and then act on it to show me you’re taking this seriously. ”

    Good luck!

  37. I find this letter somewhat confusing, because the LW says she didn’t want to move, and move in with, her boyfriend, without a larger commitment. Except, then she did. (So maybe her boyfriend is confused about that too?)

    Also, she says they “bought a house together.” I am not quite sure what this means. Did they apply for a mortgage together, combining their assets, and make a 30-year commitment based on both of their incomes? Did one of them technically buy it and the other is paying rent? What specifically is their financial arrangement? Because, if they literally “bought a house together” that neither of them needs or could afford without the other, that is an extremely serious commitment. If being married could be described as “financially and legally entangled and forced to live together for the foreseeable future,” they might as well be already married.

    In light of this perspective, I see LW’s problem as a failed negotiation. She said she needed a commitment to marriage to move, but he called her bluff. If they indeed own the house together, she could make him an offer to buy his half for $1.With the understanding that when they marry, the house becomes 1/2 his again. If he refuses, she could arrange to rent out her half and move back home.

    None of this solves the relationship and emotional problem of the situation, and the Captain’s advice is much more on target for that. My suggestion does seem ridiculous – but, essentially, she has sacrificed a great deal for their relationship based on the idea that it would culminate in marriage. The only way the sacrifice is worth it to her is if she gets that marital commitment. Presenting this “deal” to her partner would put him in the same position – being asked to sacrifice a great deal in a way that becomes “worth it” if and when they are married. Perhaps the question would get across to him the position she is in.

    1. This reminds me a bit of my friend, who moved away from our hometown to live with her then-boyfriend. They then had mould developing in their (formerly his) rental apartment and decided they would buy a house because that was easier or cheaper or there were more options available or whatever. It was a house he couldn’t have afforded on his own, and which had a lot of things he wanted (a barn where he could tinker with his cars, for example). They were talking about marriage but not really engaged, and he didn’t want to do simple things for her like going with her to stuff she wanted to do but he didn’t, or even meeting her friends (I never met the dude all the time they were together). A year after them buying the house and her being really unhappy, she ended things and moved out. It took several years to get her ex to commit to selling the house again, because he really liked it there, but he couldn’t really afford the payments on his own nor could he afford to pay her back. They finally sold the house (at a bit of a loss because she really wanted to get rid of it), but before they were done with that he was already engaged to someone else (the girl he met just a few months after they broke up). She still has debt from that, but is now much happier.

  38. Would a deadline help?

    For example, you pick a specific date that you want to be engaged by (6 months from now, a year from now, whatever.) Negotiate with your partner to get a mutually agreed upon date. Make it clear that if the deadline is missed you will start to take actions to move back home. You will not remind him of the date, not will you follow up.

    How your partner responds will at least give you useful info:

    1. He puts the date in his calendar and starts taking actions to respect the deadline. He keeps you apprised if his progress, seems excited and hits the deadline with glee.

    2. He tells you he respects the deadline but then completely forgets about it.

    3. He balls at the deadline and refuses to accept one.

    4. He procrastinates then acts helpless.

    5. He boldly misses the deadline, acknowledges this and then goes, “Well I guess you’re moving out then?”

    All of these reactions will give you so much useful intel about what marriage and other life goals will be like with him.

    1. “You will not remind him of the date, not will you follow up.”

      This resonates with me so strongly! I finally (finally!) realized that I was married to a sweet, kind, loyal man…and that whether I asked him to do something, or he volunteered, it would *never* get done unless I reminded and reminded and reminded and followed up. No matter how large or how small.

      And I know that dynamic can work for some couples. But it absolutely did not work for me. Divorcing him was hard, and sad, but not nearly as hard and sad as spending the next 20-30 years in the same situation would have been.

      1. I was with someone like that, too. And it is infuriating. Like, I’m supposed to manage my time AND yours? If I want something to happen I have to either don’t all myself, or put even more work in by guiding you like a child? That dynamic doesn’t work for me either.

        1. This can very much be my spouse. He does deal with some brain weasels (still figuring out the right names and meds), he also *SUCKS* at communicating where he’s at that particular day/hour/moment with me. I adore him, he’s my best friend, he makes me laugh and so many other wonderful things. We’ve been together for 14 years, married for 10.

          I was absolutely GOBSMACKED at how well he handled managing all the things when I was recovering from surgery and could not even mentally engage for 3 weeks, not drive or work for 5 weeks, and wasn’t back to anything close to my ‘normal’ for 8 weeks +. Unfortunately, that did not become the new normal, but I’m still trying to unravel what exactly worked then and why can’t he be more engaged with the mental aspect of adulting our lives together on the day-to-day? He has taken on more since then, though still not equitable. Hrmmmm

          1. Stepping up to be the hero of an emergency is a completely different headspace from being the far greater kind of hero who steps up to the everyday slog.

            Men in our society know they can get huge praise and self-praise out of the temporary effort, enough to tell themselves they are swell guys who deserve women doing all the everyday slog for them.

    2. LW, if you do this, I want you to repeat “It’s important to me, and that’s okay, and that’s a GOOD ENOUGH REASON.” over and over into the mirror. It’s okay that it’s important to you. It’s okay for your preferences to be important to you!

  39. Just chiming in on the ‘I understand wanting that level of commitment’. With my ex-husband, I proposed via email on a Tuesday morning… because we were pre-approved and going house hunting that weekend. He accepted, calling me impatient and saying he was still saving up for a ring.

    We put a bid in and bought a house we saw that weekend, and he counter-proposed, with ring left on my pillow, when we were packing up for the move.

    You’re not silly for wanting to be engaged. I needed that level of commitment from him before I could buy a house with him.

  40. I can only respond to this with a friend’s experience. She left her hometown and family to move hundreds of miles to be with her boyfriend, in his home. They spent 5 years together and discussed marriage repeatedly but he would not commit to a date or even a timeline. She finally gave him a deadline, and when the deadline expired, she left. Two months later he was engaged to someone else.

    I suspect that LW’s unhappiness is rooted in knowing that boyfriend is not truly committed to her. This move has cost her both financially and emotionally; her needs are not being met. And I’ll point out, too, that we don’t know when boyfriend’s mother died, only that they had to settle the estate. I wish her the best.

    1. This is actually something I heard and read about: men being with their partners for YEARS, never getting married, and then after a break up they get engaged and married after a very short time to another person.

      It seems to be ‘a thing’, a pattern even – I wonder why does this happen??

      1. Obviously this isn’t universal, but I suspect some people fall into the following:

        1. Date someone for a long time. Get comfortable.
        2. Topic of marriage starts coming up, but it doesn’t feel right. They like the relationship as is–it’s comfortable!–so they assume it’s because they’re not ready yet. (In reality, maybe their comfort with the relationship is covering up the fact that they’re actually not that compatible.)
        3. Partner gets sick of waiting and leaves them.
        4. They realize they liked being in a relationship, and really don’t like being single so much, so they start dating.
        5. They meet someone who they actually are really compatible with. They really don’t want to let this one get away, so they get married fast.

      2. I’m a woman, but I’ve sort of been on three sides of this! (Left because commitment wasn’t on the table and he got married, left because commitment wasn’t right in the relationship and then I got married, watched friends do the same thing).

        Some options:

        1) People feel a lot of guilt over letting a “perfectly good” relationship flounder along forever, so the next time they go to the opposite extreme
        2) The previous relationship was either not-quite-right or actually stunningly bad, so a better relationship feels so MUCH better that they just go for it
        3) The above, but instead everyone learned a lot about how to have a relationship and what kind of relationship they wanted, so they don’t feel the need to do the preliminaries for as long next time
        4) The relationships were kind of stand-ins for life stages – “just out of school, not making big decisions yet” lasted for 9 years, and then in the 4 months of singlehood someone realized that they would in fact like to have a marriage/a family/a house/a shared dog, so the next time they went for it.

        I’m really grateful to the people I dated when I was younger – and hoo buddy we should not have gotten married, so I’m glad we didn’t. I don’t think it’s a failure to exit a relationship without a ring! (I’m really glad that the boyfriend who dug in his heels was so transparent about it that I knew to bail.) But I do think that, you know, the Patriarchy devalues women and it can be hard to feel like you lost the game of “who is good enough for the ring and the big dress”. I don’t think it’s wrong to feel that way! The burden of Making It Work does tend to fall to women – as in this case, where the LW has made a series of huge sacrifices, wants 1 (one) commitment back, and seems to be convinced that she’s a bad person for, you know, wanting ANY reciprocal consideration of her needs.

      3. I read an article about this — it’s definitely a thing, and someone researched the thing, and found that when the men turn around quick and marry the next girlfriend, it’s usually because the next girlfriend made it clear she wasn’t going to sit around waiting for however many years he strung the previous girlfriend along, either they’re going to get married or they’re not. (And if the answer is “not” she dumps him and he dates someone else.)

      4. That reminds me of the plot point in Mad Men where [SPOILERS] Peggy moves in with Abe and Peggy’s mom tells her “he isn’t going to marry you, he’s just using you for practice for when the right girl comes along.” Like, ouch. But I instinctively knew she was right in that case? Even though the characters aren’t real? And then when, after years of living together they break up due to incompatibility as Abe is being loaded into an ambulance with that accidental stab wound, I had the strongest feeling of “he’s going to turn around and marry the nurse who patches him up, I’d put money on it.”

        Anyway, maybe these men took relationships for granted but then singledom jolted them into a new POV where they actively value relationships? Maybe his ego needs a whirlwind romance after such a breakup because his status quo was upset and he was abandoned by the one who he didn’t quite consider to be marriage material?

        Or maybe, by the time they’ve strung someone along for years, after they break up their dating pool is older and more marriage-oriented (and more experienced and wiser and not willing to compromise too much on what they want).

      5. Previous commenters hit a lot of it.

        A key piece is a factor that can be phrased in a number of different ways:

        – Toxic masculinity teaches men to radically overestimate how much hassle and work they are worth.

        – Toxic masculinity teaches men that it’s fine for them to decide they get to define what’s “reasonable”, and that includes what’s a “reasonable” enough reason for a woman to leave without being an evil heart-stabbing harpy, so of course he gets to just decide that nothing he does is bad enough to be a “reasonable” reason to leave.

        – Toxic masculinity includes a lot of men telling each other over and over and over that the wimmin make complainy mouth noises because wimmin, nothing you can do, has nothing to do with you, you Reasonable, Good Man, you.

        – Toxic masculinity teaches men to believe they are the protagonists of their own heroic-narrative life movies, and wimmin are side characters. The woman prize doesn’t leave the protagonist except temporarily at most — that violates all the laws of heroic narrative. She’s there to be the prize, the reward, to follow him loyally. Sure the movies sometimes show wimmin making complainy mouth noises, but in a proper heroic dudely narrative, by the end of the movie she shuts up and follows him loyally and does all the behind-the-scenes work and welcomes him with sexytimes.

        It’s a hell of a shock for a great many guys when a woman they really planned to spend their lives with acts like she is the protagonist of her own life. I’ve been shocking men that way since I was 16. I have a feeling I’m going to keep seeing that same flabbergasted expression at regular intervals until the day I die.

        They’re not all like that. Some aren’t like that to start with, and others take that wake-up call of seeing the woman they wanted headed for the far horizon and actually do the work to wake themselves up and apply some basic rationality to their approach to relationships, whereupon things go much better.

        If the guy who was stalling meets someone new right away and proposes right away, consider it a major bullet dodged, because he hasn’t fixed his irrational thinking at all, he’s just added, “wimmin like shiny” onto the other toxic garbage and he’s not any more committed than he was before — he’s just applying the surface dressing he thinks is required to keep extracting the caretaking he’s used to. If a guy meets someone new right away and build a deep and caring relationship and *then* they get married, he probably did the work to clean up his thinking to at least some extent — nearly all of them are perfectly capable of doing this; they are inherently good if they choose to be.

  41. When my partner and I decided to get married (which was more of a firm decision on something we’d been kindasorta planning for a long time, not a surprise and not a totally new directional turn, just a veer), one thing we realized is that while our definition of “engaged” meant “actively planning a wedding, thinking about details, etc.,” to others, it was a totally different stage of life. Like, there should be a party/gifts for it (which we didn’t want), official acknowledgements from family/friends (which we didn’t care about), a ring (which we were meh on). I didn’t even say to anyone “we’re engaged” because it brought up a lot of expectations we didn’t really hold for ourselves. I’m glad partner and I were on the same page about what engagement meant to us, but it occurs to me that it’s not the same for everyone, and that perhaps LW and her boyfriend have different ideas about what it entails. If for boyfriend, it’s “active planning and picking out napkin colors,” as it was for us, then I can completely understand being ready for other big decisions (house-buying etc.) but not that. It might be worth doing a check on what the expectations for “engagement” are.

    1. This was my same thought. To me an engagement is active wedding planning time. Before that we’re just in a committed relationship – especially if we already bought a house together. So if I was still managing a new job and the clearing of an estate I probably wouldn’t want to add wedding planning to that either.

      Both are valid ways to treat an engagement. But they are very different. And the one has a lot more timing/scheduling concerns with it.

  42. “listed reasons for not moving forward, like not knowing where to start with ring shopping (he offered to shop together and has apparently forgotten about the discussion, as it hasn’t been brought up again and was ignored when I mentioned going). ”

    You don’t need a ring to get engaged (or to get married, for that matter). He’s making excuses – for whatever reason, he is not willing to make this commitment to you right now. Perhaps he’ll be ready at some point, but perhaps not. It’s time to lay things out for him in words of one syllable: You are ready to get engaged, and you need him to either be ready NOW or to acknowledge that expectations are incompatible.

    1. Maybe. A lot of people are reading into this that the LW is ready to leave the relationship if she doesn’t get engaged now. But that’s not what she says:

      “I was clear with him, before anything with the move was in motion, that I would feel better having a more concrete commitment (aka at least being engaged) before we made such a big move…”

      “Any advice on either getting over myself and my timelines or helping him understand how much this is really tearing me up inside? I love him, and I’m not ready to leave if I don’t get a ring tomorrow…”

      I feel like a lot of commenters are reading into this, “I definitely want to be engaged now, and if I don’t get it I’d rather leave” whereas, she’s either not there yet, or not being fully clear even with herself that she’s not there yet. I mean she literally said the exact opposite: that she wants to be engaged now, but not enough to leave over it. (Caveat that no pronouns were specified so I might have picked the wrong ones.)

      I think advice needs to bear that in mind: that the LW has explicitly said it’s not break-up time yet.

      (I agree about the excuses being bullshit though.)

      While LW probably should be careful to not dive too deep down the wedding website rabbit hole at this time, there are some articles on sites like A Practical Wedding on how to deal with that “I want to be engaged and my boyfriend knows it but hasn’t proposed yet” thing. It’s not an uncommon problem.

  43. I feel you. I soooo feel you! Something kind of similar happened to me… my boyfriend and I moved in after 6 months of dating, which we knew was a risk. We lived together for a year and then moved apartments. Before we signed the second lease I told him that I wasn’t willing to live together indefinitely without a proposal and that one more year was my limit. I guess he forgot that conversation because it came time to renew the lease (2ish years of dating for those keeping score) and I basically said I wasn’t signing since we weren’t engaged and we had hit my limit.

    He was… not pleased. There were tears. He felt i had gotten confused with my timeline and that he certainly had more time. He felt I only wanted to be married and didn’t care if it was to him. I felt like he didn’t care about me enough to plan something for me on his own without me doing most of the work for it. We had a talk and it turns out he didn’t have enough saved for what he wanted to spend on the ring. He told me how long he thought he needed to save enough and then built in some time for planning the surprise. Then we agreed I would sign the lease and we’d extend things a bit longer. It was not how I imagined the proposal process: having to ask for it, feeling stressed about when it would happen, etc.

    We have been married for 5 years now and have a son. All of that drama feels like so long ago and has not impacted our relationship at all. I think, in retrospect, it was not correct to say that if he *really* cared about me, he would have done this big thing all on his own on my timeline. Some people are just not planners, or time slips away and then they’re like shoot I forgot to do that! Especially because now a days we don’t always put our lives on hold until a ring appears, it can just seem like not a priority.

    So my advice is to be kind to yourself and be kind to him as well. Just because he hasn’t proposed doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you; just because you had to ask or set a deadline doesn’t mean you are “that girl” or that, if he meets it, he loves you less in some way.

  44. Three and a half years ago I moved from a city where I was very happy living to a very isolated suburb many hours away so we could be close to my then-boyfriend (now-husband’s) family and it was super, SUPER hard. The big thing I struggled with was fear of regret. I was worried I would regret “throwing my life away for a man,” but if I ended it and moved back to the city then I’d regret “throwing love away and never finding it again.” You might notice these are both dramatic and extreme selections from the list of Things That Could Possibly Happen.

    I was able to stop obsessing over these possibilities by putting things in specific, concrete terms. First, I committed to give the area and my relationship the absolute most effort possible for exactly 1 year. I found the best things you can do in my area and did them. I made a lot of efforts to volunteer and join clubs and meet people. I scheduled a million date nights. That way, if it didn’t work out, at least I would know I gave it my all.

    At the *same time,* I looked at what would happen if at the end of that year I was unhappy. I looked at places I could move to and what it would cost to move. I made sure I had that money. I kept my resume updated and an eye out for jobs in a city. Also, I talked to my boyfriend honestly about being unhappy and about the fact that I might not be able to accept this life after all, so that he could think about what he would do if it came to that.

    Doing both of these things made it a lot clearer that neither option was purely good or bad. There WERE parts of the suburban life that could make me genuinely happy, and also there were still possibilities open in the future for a different life, if that’s what I want someday. I wasn’t doomed forever in either direction.

  45. Can we not lose sight of the fact this dude’s mom just died? It’s totally possible that he loves and genuinely wants to marry the LW but that a massive emotional commitment PLUS tons of logistics and planning is not something he feels he can take on right now.

    Or maybe none of that is true. He definitely has been failing to communicate. But all the comments to the effect of ‘this guy just doesn’t like you that much’ are really off base.

    1. Then he should say that and not this “I don’t know how to buy a ring” bs. That kind of milquetoast excuse sounds a lot more like “not caring that much” than “overwhelmed and sad.”

  46. My partner and I have been together for 6 years and have no plans to marry. Before we met, I had a disastrous failed engagement after proposing to a guy who really wasn’t into me. That left me with a real knot of anxiety about how to talk about commitment.

    In our first year, my partner phrased it like this, relationships are like two people building a house out of Lego. Some people have a plan for what the finished Lego house needs to have and they need their partner to be building that same house too. That’s ok, nothing wrong with that. Some people have had Lego house disasters and have real deal breaker boundaries. It’s ok to have specific expectations. Other couples have a vaguer concept of the house and sort of build without a plan, making improvements and changes as they go. My partner has the latter style. He emphasised that he absolutely wanted to build this relationship with me, in a long term commitment and that he wanted me to speak up for my needs and my vision because it’s our Lego house, it’s our relationship. What I wanted was a person who felt excited to build a Lego house with me, who would make our life wonderful.

    When we decided to move in together, he made me a spontaneous vow, that made me sure of his dedication to honouring that trust I put in moving in with him. Fwiw, even as a non marriage kinda dude, he feels like the concept of commitment isn’t this super confusing, tricksy, risky thing. The significance of promises aren’t lost on him. Most decent men I know don’t fit that bullshit narrative of marriage being such anathema that they cannot bear to talk about it. They might want to marry or not want to, but they are grown up enough to have a frank conversation about it.

    It’s natural to want to be reassured that your and your partner are co creating your life together, even if your plans are not set. It’s totally understandable to expect a wedding ceremony and rituals that celebrate your ‘Lego house’ building progress, that enlist your loved ones in supporting you, that mark a moment you step from one stage to the next. Parties are fun! Romance is a human need.

    If you are your partner have a life plan, it’s smart to talk about that and to course correct if this relocation hasn’t brought you the joy you hoped.

  47. Letter Writer here (she/her, sorry I forgot to mention that in my initial post!). I’ve read all of the comments thus far are really appreciate the thoughtful commentary and suggestions (and am beyond grateful for everything CA recommended). Seeing “he’s just not that not into you” first was rough, and put me a little on the defensive, but I appreciate what most people brought forward as far as empathy, related stories, and ideas for moving forward from the point I’m in.

    For a little more context, I struggle on my end with self esteem sometimes, and I think that does make it harder to feel that my emotions and wants are valid (some picked up that it may be a challenge for me). The other part is that I’ve always been a relatively unemotional/emotionally controlled person, so having these feelings I don’t seem to be able to tamper down is adding another level of discomfort for me. I’m not concerned about him not loving me or caring for me, and overall I’m incredibly happy with him and our relationship (hence the future thing…), but this is obviously an issue for me. I know he doesn’t do well with emotions either, and probably doesn’t even realize how upset I have continued to be. I need to be more straightforward, but having emotions feels like weakness, so it’s hard for me to even start the conversation. Some of the scripts and suggestions will be a huge help moving forward. We do a fair share of housework and all of those things, and other areas aren’t really a problem, and it’s not the ring itself but more than just saying “I definitely want to marry you”, as some commenters said – having the commitment, talking about timelines, etc. I hadn’t actually even thought about “Do you see this happening in 3 months?”, etc. I think that will help (hopefully both of us).

    I’m so glad to hear that what I’m feeling about the move and new place is normal and aligns with others’ experiences. I’m introverted and always had a small circle of friends, so it’s overwhelming to even think about starting that over again. I have joined a volunteer organization that I was part of back in my old city, but it’s challenging for me to start the “friend” process (however it does get me out and to meetings and busy stuff!).

    Thanks again to everyone. I appreciate your input. Captain, this response was so thorough and helpful and has really helped spur some reflection and planning on my end. I’m incredibly grateful.

    1. Hi LW, sorry I didn’t see this post before I commented above, so I didn’t pronoun you correctly. My apologies!

      1. No worries at all! I’m not offended, just figured I would clarify since I forgot to include that and I know it’s standard to include 🙂

    2. LW, on the new city front, some advice that I’ve found helpful is to focus on just doing things and meeting new people, rather than on making friends, per se. I’ve moved a few times and initially it was quite easy. This last time, not so much, and I was pretty bummed that I didn’t have a few people to hang out with (e.g. a lot of people here are settled with their friend groups and don’t seem interested in adding to that).

      I feel like this approach of just getting out and encountering people puts less pressure on things, and it feels good to be doing things and having some new conversations, even if it doesn’t lead to meeting people I’ll keep in touch with (at least right away).

      1. Just want to back up what Sara said. It can take a while to make new friends, and you can’t actually control whether the people you meet are likely to become friends. But you can control whether you meet and/or talk to new people.

        For what its worth, the people who ended up being friends were never the ones I would have expected to be friends. They tended to be people I had to do X and Y with, and then turned into friends that I chose to do Z and W with.

    3. This leapt out at me: “I know he doesn’t do well with emotions either, and probably doesn’t even realize how upset I have continued to be. I need to be more straightforward, but having emotions feels like weakness, so it’s hard for me to even start the conversation.”

      What does ‘not doing well with emotions’ look like from him? Does he struggle when *you* cry, or otherwise show emotion? Does he resent it, get upset himself and make it all about him? Or does he have a hard time defining and articulating his own emotions? Does he redirect his emotions into unhealthy reactions, such as ‘fear of doing a proposal wrong’ into ‘resenting this pressure being placed on me’? If any of these are true–does he know that these things are problem areas, and is working on them, at least a little?

      Does that feeling of ’emotions feeling like weakness’ come from you? From your family of origin? Is it from him? Intellectually, you know that humans gonna human, and having emotions is part of that package, but it sounds as though it doesn’t fully resonate with you deep down.

      We are all human. We are all weak sometimes, we all fail sometimes. All of us are afraid sometimes. Every last one of us. Me, you, your boyfriend, everyone. Own this about yourself, and it will make it easier to talk about with your boyfriend. “I am unhappy now, and have been for a while. I need this commitment from you, by the end of 2019 (or, three months after Mom’s estate closes, or whatever). This is a very big deal for me. You don’t have to have the perfect ring in your pocket, a $20 silver band will do as a placeholder. But I’ve shown you that I am all in, and by the end of this year, I need you to show me that you’re all in.”

    4. This leapt out at me: “I know he doesn’t do well with emotions either, and probably doesn’t even realize how upset I have continued to be. I need to be more straightforward, but having emotions feels like weakness, so it’s hard for me to even start the conversation.”

      What does ‘not doing well with emotions’ look like from him? Does he struggle when *you* cry, or otherwise show emotion? Does he resent it, get upset himself and make it all about him? Or does he have a hard time defining and articulating his own emotions? Does he redirect his emotions into unhealthy reactions, such as ‘fear of doing a proposal wrong’ into ‘resenting this pressure being placed on me’? If any of these are true–does he know that these things are problem areas, and is working on them, at least a little?

      Does that feeling of ’emotions feeling like weakness’ come from you? From your family of origin? Is it from him? Intellectually, you know that humans gonna human, and having emotions is part of that package, but it sounds as though it doesn’t fully resonate with you deep down.

      We are all human. We are all weak sometimes, we all fail sometimes. All of us are afraid sometimes. Every last one of us. Me, you, your boyfriend, everyone. Own this about yourself, and it will make it easier to talk about with your boyfriend. “I am unhappy now, and have been for a while. I need this commitment from you, by the end of 2019 (or, three months after Mom’s estate closes, or whatever). This is a very big deal for me. You don’t have to have the perfect ring in your pocket, a $20 silver band will do as a placeholder. But I’ve shown you that I am all in, and by the end of this year, I need you to show me that you’re all in.”

      1. ^^ THIS.

        I’ve always felt that relationships should be the one person who is in your corner, no matter what, and that they should be your safe harbor (and vice versa). A huge warning sign that things are Not Okay is me feeling like I can’t talk about my feelings or fears with my significant other. When I’ve felt that way it usually means the relationship was dead or dying, anyway.

    5. Hi LW,

      I think you are right to divide this up into two problems: the move and the commitment.

      With regards to the move, I don’t have anything new to say except that no matter what happens, new friends in new places will always be a good outcome in an of itself.

      Of the commitment issue, I do have a suggestion. You say in your initial letter you have talked (and talked, and talked) with bf about your future, and marriage etc, but here, you imply that you have not discussed timelines. I wonder if in these conversations you did a lot of the talking, and he went along and agreed with you. Instead of just asking “do you see this happening in 3 months,” you may want to start by genuinely asking him what his 5 year plan vis-a-vis your relationship is. Or, ideally, where he would like to be, or like to have done, in the next 5 years. And then just listening to him, without prompting.

      Has he even thought about what he wants in your future together? Is he just following you lead in the relationship? Does he have wedding plans, honeymoon plans, trips that he wants to take with you? Does he see you with a child? A dog?

      My (now husband) isn’t really an emotions guy either, but I never had these types of uncertainties in my head because he would use “when we get married, when we get a house, when we have a kid,” in normal conversations.

      I am NOT saying that discussing timelines with your bf is unimportant – it is extremely important! But knowing how (or if!) your bf has thought about your future life may tell you a lot.

    6. There’s something maybe to unpack here, because I feel like I encountered something similar in my own marriage, about the discomfort of having that kind of strong feelings, especially when they’re connected to traditionally feminine-coded things or ideas and maybe you’re normally not that and it feels like you’d be bait-and-switching your SO if you suddenly WERE that because what if part of what he likes about you is you aren’t “one of those girls who…” etc.

      Mister Cheshire, for reasons that have mostly to do with childhood trauma and sometimes to do with “money is kind of a disaster right now” as well, is amazingly good at the random cute little “just because, saw this and thought of you!” things…and often Not Great with the conventional gift-giving occasions (birthday, anniversary, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and so forth). I come from a family where birthdays and anniversaries and holidays are Enthusiastically Celebrated with Thoughtful Gifts. This led to an argument during pre-Christmas planning this year where he said he didn’t want to get me Clueless Husband Buys Generic Things For Wife presents and that’s why it was so hard and I let him know that I would COMPLETELY ADORE Generic Wife presents as long as they weren’t mean-spirited (a la “diet books and a vacuum cleaner”) or somehow completely unsuitable. (Box of candy? ABSOLUTELY! But gluten hates me, therefore before getting candy for me, in addition to the obvious you also need to check for the presence of barley malt, the surprise!gluten reason I can’t have my once-favorite candy anymore.)

      He’d built it up to be something that couldn’t possibly be that simple and that he would fail at and I would Secretly Be Mad; I was instead Not So Secretly Mad at his attitude about it all because WHAT THE HECK, HUSBAND, I AM NOT THAT FUSSY. But also I was Secretly Sad as I cried over Insta posts of presents that various women received from their SOs, not because I wanted that specific gift but because I wanted to be given cute things on a special day without having to spell it out in minute detail to the point that I might as well buy stuff myself and move on. And – more importantly – I wanted it to be OKAY to want that.

      (If you’re curious: post-Christmas argument, he did just fine with the present-getting! The highlight was him hunting down a book I’d been wanting to read for YEARS but always seemed to be out of stock whenever I happened to be in a book-buying mode. And there were a couple things that were “Generic Wife”-ish and a couple things that were “Generic Fan Of [Cheshire’s favorite sports team]”, one of which is a coffee mug that now lives on my office desk and leaves me grinning like a fool every time I see it because Favorite Team + Present From Favorite Human = ALL THE HAPPINESS.)

    7. You say that you both don’t do well with emotions.

      I’m curious – if he told you that getting married to him was very important, and he broke down in tears in the middle of the discussion, what would your reaction be? Would you, for example, tell him that buying rings is just too hard and you don’t know where to start? Would you consider that the end of it and never bring it up again? If he later suggested going ring shopping together, like you’d agreed, would you ignore him and pretend you didn’t hear what he said?

      I don’t think it’s fair to you if you’re framing your difficulties around emotions as something you need to work on and improve, and his difficulties around emotions as a reasonable excuse for forgetting that you cried.

    8. LW, I wonder if I’m hearing a self-invalidation cycle? Tell me if this sounds familiar:

      Point: I have a feeling!
      Counterpoint: I should stop having this feeling. This is a dumb, bad feeling.
      Point: But I still have it and it’s louder now
      Counterpoint: No, self, stop! I told myself to stop feeling this feeling! Here are 10 reasons why that feeling shouldn’t be what I’m feeling!
      Point: Well crap, now it’s an incredibly strong feeling and it’s yelling at me
      Counterpoint: Augh ow stop it I hate this feeling and now I’m pretty sure *I’m* dumb and bad for having this feeling.
      (Point and Counterpoint): long imaginary mental argument, possibly mentally putting words in the mouths of imaginary versions of yourself, Boyfriend, your parents, random celebrities…
      Point: ::bursts into tears::

      If you’re anything like me pre-therapy – and you might not be! ymmv! – there’s a real risk that in an attempt to be Chill and Logical you only make your needs known once you’re already at “everything is awful forever”. If so, it’s therapy o’clock – not because you’re particularly broken, but because this is an incredibly common pattern and it’s super fixable. Wouldn’t it be nice to just stop at “I have a feeling, which is one of many true facts about this situation”? Yes? If so: ~~therapy~~. (P.S. life stressors like, you know, a big move and a crappy job will make this pattern SO MUCH MORE UPSETTING every time. That is also normal!)

      Now, if both Point and Counterpoint are happening inside your own head, that’s a therapy problem and you can work on it. But if someone outside your head is being Counterpoint to you right now, then – urgh. That’s not good! That is not the act of friendship (or love). In that case it might still be therapy o’clock if you can access it, but then it’s more a question of how to believe in yourself when someone else is being dismissive.

      1. One caution, because this sounds familiar to me:

        Sometimes the first two iterations of Counterpoint sound a lot like what some therapists try to teach (like the one who tried to debrief a serious incident at my undergrad college by saying “you may be feeling [X] and THAT IS NOT VALID” – to which my internal monologue was basically “fuck off and also how dare you, it may not be accurate but if I’m feeling it, it sure as fuck is valid for me.”) So if you’re looking for a therapist to get Counterpoint to stop (which is probably a good idea!) you might want to make sure that they aren’t gonna actually encourage Counterpoint as part of the treatment?

        1. That’s a good point! There are some applications/uses of CBT and DBT that involve really getting in there and arguing with your feelings. (I was stunned to find out that anyone at all needs to do that _more_.) Focusing on mindfulness and emotional literacy might be better starting points. (I liked DBT but it has to walk a pretty fine line about feelings sometimes.)

    9. Hi LW, I hope you don’t mind one more comment in case my situation is relevant to yours. I once moved cross-country for a boyfriend on the understanding that this meant we would be getting married. I told him that this was my requirement for orienting my living situation around him and he agreed, although there was no set-piece proposal or ring. We were both finishing up training programs and applying for jobs and knew one or more moves, together or separately, were coming up in the near future. Once I arrived in his city, however, he proved curiously averse to discussing what would come next. I had a ton of friends in his city – even more than he had – so I was happy socially. But I felt cheated out of the substantive conversations that I thought I deserved as a long-term girlfriend/fiancee. He had pursued me in the beginning, said ‘I love you first’, and been openly and expressively grateful that I agreed to move. But when I asked about specific details (dates, finances, balancing our two careers) it was like talking in to a void. I often see advice to ‘use your words’ but there’s less guidance out there about what to do when you follow all the scripts and the other person is evasive or silent in response, well after you’ve both invested substantial amounts of time and emotional and financial resources. We had a lot of one-sided conversations (me: direct and honest; him: shifty and noncommittal) before I was able to get through even a little – and the answer was pretty much what I expected. He admitted to being ashamed at breaking a promise to me and finding it difficult to admit, even to himself, that he wanted to prioritize his career over making any compromises for me or the relationship. I broke up with him almost immediately afterwards and moved out.

      I wish I could say my situation is entirely a settled one now. I was in a different long-distance relationship (thanks, academia!) for about 18 months when I initiated a series of conversations about the future. I did everything you are ‘supposed’ to do – be vulnerable, open, and clear. I even proposed myself, via handwritten letter. My now-fiance perseverated for four months before reciprocating with a proposal of his own and a family heirloom ring. This despite the fact that since month one of the relationship he had stated he intended to marry me. I have no doubt that he loves me dearly, but perhaps like many men, he hasn’t been socialized to think about, or undertake, the work that is necessary to transition from a relationship to a partnership. He’s loath to sacrifice his career ambition (this applies to me, too, but my approach is to try to plan things out and come up with multiple options that might make me happy). I’ve learned that there is nothing you can do yourself to guarantee that the other person will have the conversations you broach. I’d read many advice columns suggesting that the female partner ‘just propose’, but no follow-up suggestions on what happens if the answer is shifty or absent altogether. Really the only options in cases like mine are to leave (which I considered often and may still do if there isn’t a shift in mindset from just ‘me and you’ to ‘me, you, and us’) or to wait it out and give the other person the control.

      Just speaking for myself, I 100% would leave a relationship instead of compromising on getting married and trying for children.

  48. LW, everybody here has given good advice about emotions, relationship needs, etc. I’m going to push on a different aspect.

    You are living with this man, and if I understand correctly, have purchased real property with him. What if, the gods forbid, one of you should be killed in a car accident or the like? If you aren’t married, who inherits the property? If you do break up, what happens to the property? At minimum, you both need proper wills and a formal agreement about the disposition of anything you jointly own.

    Marriage is absolutely as much an economic relationship as it is a personal one. Married partners need to be reasonably on the same page about financial goals, interests, and practices. I’m not sure that is happening with you and your boyfriend.

    Don’t let a challenging personal situation turn into a legal nightmare as well. I URGE YOU TO SEE A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Do not tell your boyfriend about it. Go on your own. Gauging by your letter, I think you’d be experiencing so many conflicting emotions, and possibly so much verbal interference from him, that you wouldn’t be able to get a thought in edgewise. So go alone, for your own sake—you’re worth it. An attorney will be able to help you see your situation in the clearest light, so you’ll be better equipped to make decisions about how you want to go forward.

    1. This is an EXCELLENT point. If BF dies without a will leaving his interest in the house to LW, it will go to his parents (unless there are children or they’re in a place with very strange inheritance laws).

      1. Not necessarily. If people own a property as joint tenants, whatever their relationship, then on the death of one of them their interest in the property will automatically pass to the other joint tenant(s), without entering probate. That’s certainly the only way that I’d buy property if I was buying it with someone I wasn’t married to.

          1. I appreciate all of the concern for financials and real estate from everyone! We are both fortunate to be in good places financially and are both on the title/joint tenants, etc. (I have a friend who is a real estate lawyer who helped me understand that all very well). We also had a come to jesus talk before the move about my series of “what ifs” and discussed how long we’d give it a shot here, what would happen if we didn’t work out and I left (to go home to no house, because I sold mine), etc. I’m not really concerned with the current house situation or the financials, fortunately, which I think would just make this all that more complicated. I made a very nice profit on the sale of my house and since the move was with work, even got all of the closing and realtor fees back, so I’m feeling good from that perspective. Also, I know relationships can go bad and people can get icky, but he is a kind and caring person in general and I feel that,if things went south, he would make sure I landed on my feet and had support I needed.

  49. I think this is excellent advice, and I am tired of the narrative that a woman asking a boyfriend about, you know, PLANS FOR THE FUTURE is somehow unreasonable or irrational. I fell for this for nearly a decade (and I say this as someone who doesn’t want kids and is ambivalent about marriage, so I have the luxury of time that a lot of my contemporaries don’t) and it wasn’t until I was facing a career change that could have resulted in permanently relocating overseas that I realized my partner’s refusal to even talk about future plans was absolute crap, as though me wanting to talk about things that affected me was somehow irrational.

    1. I’m tired of traditionally feminine-coded things being treated as irrational/lesser, period. Sick and tired of it. It’s just a way to use supposed-feminism against us. How many women have been screwed over by pressure to be the Chill Girl or “one of the guys”? Or mothers because “equality” means being treated the same, so screw maternity leave and pumping accommodations? It’s bullshit.

      Sorry, I may be a little pissed off today.

        1. Rock on! I have so much respect for every mother who manages to breastfeed in our crazy-ass society.

  50. The vital thing here is for LW and boyfriend to work out (1) what they both want for their relationship long-term, and (2) what engagement and marriage mean to each of them – which are related but still quite separate issues. Working these things out may even need the help of a trained mediator or couple therapist if the discussion keeps going in circles. But being on the same page is crucial, because otherwise the LW could superficially get what she wants – an engagement, a ring, a wedding, a marriage – and her partner still have a picture of the relationship in his head which is fundamentally different from hers. If you think it matters, now, when you’ve committed to a mortgage together, just imagine how much more it will matter that you have a shared understanding if/when children are in the mix as well.

    Many years ago now, I followed my boyfriend of a few months to another city, and although that involved us living separately our relationship developed to the point where I was sure I wanted to be with him long term. I was ready to propose to him one year in, but he got in first and proposed to me. So: now we’re engaged, and there are deadlines looming which will have big implications for the relationship – we’re both in the military and he is due for a posting in 6 months, right about the time when I start my return of service obligation following sponsored tertiary studies and will also be due for posting. We have a choice. If we get married in the next 6 months, we have a high chance of being posted together, we will be provided with subsidised rental accommodation at our new location, and the removal of our combined households will provided free of charge. If we don’t, then there is almost no chance of being posted together, and even if we were we might not actually be given permission to live off-base or even together – we might have to live in separate singles accommodation on base. And our removal entitlements as singles would just be for personal effects and not furniture. It seemed a no-brainer to me that we should get married in the timeframe necessary to get all these benefits. After all, he wouldn’t have asked if he wasn’t ready to commit, right?

    Wrong. Many years later, in marriage counselling prior to our divorce, he said he felt “pushed into proposing” and then “rushed into marrying”. I could not get my head around this at all. Why even ask in the first place if it wasn’t what he wanted? We didn’t own any joint assets, I wasn’t pregnant: what possible difference would it have made if we’d ended up in a LDR as engaged vs single? The only reason I could think of was that he had the idea that being engaged would mean I was locked into being emotionally and sexually faithful to him while he made up his mind whether he “really” wanted me or not. Kind of like putting a deposit on a house so that it’s off the market, even though you’re not 100% sure you want to buy it (something better might come up, right?).

    It turned out that there were many, many other situations over the course of our marriage where we were using the same words, but meaning quite different things. For example, I didn’t want to be a stay at home mother after I had kids. My husband seemed fully on board with my returning to my medical career after maternity leave. However, *my* vision was of us both having to make a few compromises in our career goals in order to raise children as well, and *his* vision turned out to be “sure you can work, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me at all – you may do part time or casual work around my (constantly changing) schedule, but you have to make all the child care arrangements (but only at a cost I approve of) and always be the one to take time off if child is sick or needs a parent for anything during working hours.”

    LW, this may all work out for you if you and your boyfriend really do want the same things, and are merely hung up on how that should be visibly expressed (eg the ring). But if your goals and needs are fundamentally different from those of your boyfriend, and/or you are not both fully committed to finding shared ground, you need to know that NOW, before there is even more at stake. In the meantime, I second everything the other commenters have said about protecting yourself financially and legally, and looking after your emotional wellbeing while you work through your options.

    1. “It turned out that there were many, many other situations over the course of our marriage where we were using the same words, but meaning quite different things. ”

      I have heard that time and again from so many women. It’s heartbreaking.

      One of the most common variants is something along the lines of, “We agreed we wanted to be equal partners in making our lives happen as we wanted, but it turns out he thought that meant I’d be an equal partner in making his life into what he wanted, and as for what I wanted…it’s like it didn’t exist except it could maybe be allowed as a minor side hobby that couldn’t be allowed to impact him in the slightest.”

      I heard variants of that warning from enough women that I learned to ask questions that look for it. I wish we could get an emergency bulletin out to all women to look for that (and run like hell).

  51. Would you really be happier if he proposed? I mean: happier where you are, in your situation? I would hesitate to commit more to a man who doesn’t take your needs seriously, who made a career move without offering you the compensation which would ease the sacrifice, and who is reluctant in general. Self-centered guy.
    I would put the new place issue forward in the to do list, before the wedding project. Do you really want to live there? Just and only for him? Do you have an expiration date for this stay? Or is it for good and you have to suck it up and satisfy yourself with the disappointing job?
    What would you do if your boyfriend wasn’t there? Take him out of the equation and think: I am free, what do I do? A big part of your problem is: you have lost your agency. You didn’t choose any of those things you have to put up with: the city, the job, the vague prospect. What about YOUR career? The only choice you would like to do is to wed. And you don’t get it. Regain your agency. I would start with going to the bank where you have your mortgage and ask the question of the split. What if I move away and sell? Then be more explicit with your boyfriend. You are not happy, as the captain said rightly. You are considering a move back home. Act as if you are on your own: you are free, you are young, you are not married: you can break up, you can sell. But more importantly: what do you want to do (except getting married?)? What are your professional ambitions?
    The more open you are with your boyfriend, the more explicit you are about your struggle, the more honest you are.
    Own your needs. Your relationship is unbalanced. That is not good for you.

  52. You can buy a really nice ring online for under $200. Yes, it’s not a diamond, but who cares? If you really want a diamond, you can buy one after you’re engaged. (I get so many compliments on my cubic zirconia. No one can tell it’s not a diamond. If you want a “real rock,” cool, but don’t worry about other people’s opinions on a “fake ring.” They won’t know).

    Buy the ring you want, give it to your boyfriend, tell him you want a proposal. He might not like you taking over what’s supposed to be his, but it will kill the ring excuses.

    Take it from a married person: wedding planning is making a bunch of decisions that don’t matter that much, only everyone is acting like every minor decision (blue ribbons or pink ribbons) is life or death.

    1. I love wedding sets, and I have a few – some are nice costume jewelry, two are vintage diamonds, and I wear them even though I’m not married. Some people find it confusing but I’ve done it for so long that it’s just considered one of my quirks, like always wearing hats.

  53. There is sooooooo much bound up all together in this letter, and my advice would be to see a couples’ counselor if that is at all (logistically, financially) feasible for you both. A counselor, or some other mediator, might be able to help you both dig down and untangle the different needs here.

    Like the Captain suggests, if I were in your shoes I would be trying to figure out what I need in this situation to be happy. Will a proposal help, really? Or would I still be miserable, uprooted from my friends and family and home? I would ask, in Sheelzebub style, what would I need to be happy and satisfied in a year? in five years? in 10 years?

    What does “commitment” mean to you and to your boyfriend? Like some of the comments above, I think this can vary quite wildly, and your boyfriend hasn’t been clear at all about what commitment means to him. Speaking personally (as in: this thought reflects my own thoughts on commitment, but not necessarily your boyfriend’s), if I were in your boyfriend’s shoes, I would be very confused. I was vulnerable enough to ask for your support while I settled my mother’s estate, I wanted you to move across the country to be with me, and I wanted you to buy a house with me. I want you with me for the long term. How is that not commitment?

    As a reader, it seems clear that your idea of commitment involves something else beyond entangling your financial (and actual) lives in a long-term fashion. (Perhaps something symbolic, as has come up in the responses?) I think it’s absolutely valid to need that, and I think it must feel devastating to ask for it and receive no clear answer from your partner. This is where I think a counselor could help him also figure out exactly what he wants and needs. Maybe he feels like he has already committed. Or maybe for him, too, the act of marriage involves some extra level of commitment in his heart which he isn’t ready for. It’s hard to tell at all because he’s avoiding talking about the specifics by simply saying he’s “not ready”. I doubt he knows exactly what he would need to feel “ready” either, but maybe you can both find someone who can help him (and you) figure that out. And if the answer is “I’ll probably never be ready”, then you deserve to know that so that you can also figure out what you need to do.

    Good luck, LW.

    1. This answer is very wise and very compassionate.

      It’s also worth examining what BF means by “not ready.” He might have some idea that there is a state of “Ready to Be Married” at which there is certainty and no doubt and Perfectly Prepared And The Timing Is Right. If that’s where his head is, he needs to understand that one will never be perfectly prepared, there will always be questions.
      Life often feels like you’re standing on the edge of the high dive board. You want to, and you think you’re ready, but you don’t *know* you’re ready. Sooner or later you realize you’ll never be Ready so you just have to make the leap.
      Marriage isn’t like a space shuttle. Things don’t have to be perfect to launch successfully.

      It could be that he isn’t ready because between finishing school, and new job, and losing his mother, he’s had too many major changes to leap off yet another board. Buying a house might have been possible because he could make it a “right brain” decision, while he doesn’t feel like he has it in him to be happy-happy-joy-joy, which he thinks he needs to be to get engaged and marry.
      I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s feeling overwhelmed by life and marriage is frightening because he fears it could be the last straw in his vulnerable state and he doesn’t want to mess things up.

      Bottom line is, LW and BF need to communicate their desires and fears so they know where they are, instead of speculating and wondering.

      1. So much this. The sentiment, “if he cared to he would propose” is… kind of reductive in my opinion. A lot of times for men proposing can be caught up in complicated feelings about having to do things perfectly or feeling like they are not in this imaginary state of perfect marriage readiness.

        LW, I know you are a big basket of anxiety right now as but it might help you to think generously of how your partner may be feeling, too.

        1. Yeah, unfortunately in our culture it’s pretty normal to treat the proposal as a synecdoche for the State of the Relationship from both sides? That is not to say that LW is wrong to want what she wants! But, like, I think in an ideal situation her boyfriend would be curious about her feelings and she would be curious about his feelings, instead of everyone feeling like they have to guess based JUST on the symbols in play. We are all trying to auger his level of commitment based on what documents he’s signed (a mortgage) and what objects he has not bought (a ring). I understand why we’re doing this, and I think it’s okay for something like this to be the catalyst for a bunch of other stuff… but there’s a lot of mind-reading in this thread (probably from me too) and trying to mind-read too much causes anxiety without information.

          1. When Youtube is filled with videos of ridiculously elaborate stunts just to ask a girl to the prom, it’s small wonder guys feel pressured to make the perfect marriage proposal.

        2. I don’t think that “if he cared he would propose” is accurate, but I think “if he cared he would make space in the relationship to have these conversations” is accurate.

          1. True. Unless he’s already stretched so thin he fears he’ll lose his grip if he tries to take on something more.

            As blurft indicates, attempting to read tea leaves isn’t helping. They need to talk. If BF can’t talk to LW, professional assistance might be in order.

  54. The Captain: Are you holding onto your own money and enough of your own money?

    My grandma: Your family is the most important thing in the world. Nothing is more important than taking care of your man and your children. But keep some money hidden away, make sure you know how to have a job, and keep your passport up to date.

    Heavily implied, which “Family is Everything” Grandma would never say out loud: Know when to leave. Be able to support yourself if you leave.

    So let me second the Captain’s advice, and tell you that it really gives a person confidence to know they are not dependent on someone else because there’s no other choice.

    Also, since you already moved against your better judgement, make sure that you are not paying for things you don’t want! I don’t know your situation, but several other LWs have written that they have no money for the things they want because it all goes to food, rent, utilities, but somehow Live In Boyfriend has money to splurge and no money for food, rent, utilities.

    If this is happening to you… it’s a trap. Run.
    Otherwise, your relationship is going through a rough patch, and you have to decide where you want it to go.

  55. LW, what you want is ok, and makes sense and you’re allowed to want it.

    Go through and do the hard work the Captain suggested. Get your financial, emotional, and work houses in order. For yourself and before you get married (you will need friends and interests and a good job of your own even if he proposes tomorrow and you’re married by the weekend).

    If it were me, I would probably make it an internal 6 month deadline. I get myself together. Get back to equal footing, to equilibrium, make friends, join a group without him, redo your resume. Get to the feeling that you decide your future, not him.

    Then talk to him. Does he still have reasons? Does he still seem hesitant? Can there be no forward motion until some unspecified future?

    Then you decide how long you want the status quo if he does not want to get married (at all or in your timeframe). And you can act accordingly.

  56. LW, with what you added in the comments about emotions and self esteem, have you seen a (good) therapist about this? Relocating is, itself, also a totally common reason to see a therapist. I moved overseas and FWIW it’s taken me YEARS to get settled. Most previous relocations took me a lot longer than 3 months to have a community, etc.

    Your letter reads like you’re trying to placate and be the “cool girl” to an imaginary person (your Jerkbrain) who thinks your emotions are stupid, you worries are silly, you specifically having wants is ridiculous, and you didn’t stand your ground before moving and look what happened (i.e. the title, if you wrote that). And yet, your real audience, the one you chose to write to, is CA, who you surely know one can count on to take emotions and needs seriously. And a bunch of commenters who will, like clockwork, jump to the defense of anyone whose emotions and needs are not being taken seriously. Which tells me that 1. reality (i.e. the CA community) doesn’t match your Jerkbrain illusion of the mean imaginary audience, and you might remind yourself of this from time to time; 2. you may have self-described low self esteem and trouble understanding your emotions, but you allow yourself to know what you want. That is, you felt emotional needs and then reached out specifically to a group that will support your emotional needs, rather than a community that will bolster your jerkbrain. I’m sure you logically know that emotions are important, but it looks like the part of you that struggles with these misgivings has some pretty good intuition after all.

    Also, you might consider trying to disentangle your feelings about the move from feelings about engagement. What if you never moved but were still struggling with the lack of marriage commitment and romantic gesture? Would your emotional needs somehow have less bargaining power and importance just because you hadn’t made yourself miserable by moving for him? Do you feel your emotional needs about engagement are only justified if you’ve paid your misery-dues? Do your boyfriend’s mixed messages and excuse-making and ignoring your suggestions to go ring-shopping have anything to do with having moved or you being lonely in a new town? Do you think that feeling un-heard about the engagement is tied to feeling un-heard about how difficult the move was and is for you, and do you think opening up more to your bf about the latter would help disentangle it from the former? Is there a practice you can start within your relationship to feel more heard on the regular about non-engagement issues?

  57. This post is super timely for me cause I 8 months ago relocated for my boyfriend and it is similarly not-awesome. More and more I find myself weighing what I can do to help the Relationship versus what I can do to help Me. No advice to offer since I’m right in the middle of it but I definitely sympathize with feeling like it’s unfair to be hurt/resentful. Sending you good vibes, LW. I hope we both find a way through.

    1. Sending you good vibes, as well. It’s definitely been one of the most challenging ventures so far. I think finding that balance is an incredible struggle and I’m wishing you the best for you.

  58. I have some experience here, so just, if he does end up proposing, and it’s a thoughtless, crappy proposal, maybe don’t say yes?

    Ex (M) and I (F) dated for five years, talked quite a bit about marriage. He brought it up first and more often, in fact. About four years in, he started talking about a 10-day Mediterranean cruise we should go on, so we booked it about 6 months out. I figured this was proposal time for sure. Before we left, I asked if he wanted to talk about rings, and he said it wouldn’t be necessary. He’d done a great job buying me jewelry before, so I figured he meant he had picked something already, and I was excited. So we went, and it was great, but no proposal, and then we got to the last stop, Venice, and the second night in Venice we made reservations at this tiny little place, candlelight, violinist, all the things. I wore a new dress, and did my hair up all nice, which was hard because my hands were shaking. And then he didn’t propose. We spent another couple of days there, wherein I was confused but still patiently waiting.

    It hit me when we checked into the airport to go home: it wasn’t happening. I thought he changed his mind, and we got in a big fight in a hotel in our layover in Phoenix, where I cried and laid it all out and asked if we were breaking up, and he said he wanted to “do a big thing with our family and friends”. I’m shy as hell, so that sounded awful, but fine, whatever. We get home around midnight, and I have to work the next day, while he doesn’t. When I get home, I unlock the door, and he locks it again. And then the same thing happens AGAIN. I’m tired and jet-lagged and now super-pissed, so when I finally just shove the door open, he’s there in a suit, with toothpaste in his beard and his fly down, with a wedding band, not an engagement ring, in a cardboard box that has some kind of black crud inside the lid. But he said nice things on one knee, and I wanted this, so I said yes. And then he made me change into a fancy dress so we could go to a shitty Italian restaurant down the street, because things can always be more ironic.

    We set a date for a year away, and started planning, and I bought a dress and a cake and rented a venue and the other stuff you do, and he seemed pretty into it for about six months? And then he seemed kind of distant. And then he seemed really distant, so much that I broke down and wrote a list of all the reasons (so many reasons, two pages of reasons) he could be acting so distant. I shared it with him, like, “does any of this seem legit?” He got made that I had included ‘maybe he’s gay’ on the list, stormed out, and told me he had cold feet the next day. The day after that, he told me I wasn’t going to make a good wife, and he wanted to call off the wedding, but “we could still date and stuff”. I kicked him out of the house we lived in together and moved out by myself within a couple of weeks.

    I ran into him in town maybe a year later, like, turned a corner and literally ran into him. We talked. Turns out, he’s totally gay. He had been lying to himself about it for years, and then to me for years, and in the year since our break-up, had started dealing with it. I never really got an apology for how everything went down.

    I know now that I shouldn’t have said yes to his proposal. He did it very thoughtlessly, and sort of rudely, and obviously didn’t put any thought into what I would like. And I’m not picky. Handing it to me in basically any moment where we were both happy would have worked. I definitely should not have continued to plan the wedding in the weeks when he got distant and stopped communicating anything but the basics.

    TL;DR – if he seems like he’s dragging his feet, or is letting obvious opportunities pass, or isn’t putting in much effort, there’s probably a reason why. If he isn’t sharing that reason with you, or if he can’t even articulate it to himself, he’s probably not going to be much of a sharing or communicative husband, so take that for what it’s worth.

    1. Agreeing with your tl;dr. In my experience, the way my husband handled the decisions and feelings around getting engaged was the same way he handled the decisions/feelings around buying a house, moving, and having kids.

      1. ^I mean, that was true for me, too, and shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but I did think back then that getting engaged was the main obstacle. After that we would Be Married. And somehow I thought Being Married had a universal definition with rules that all decent married people followed. Being disabused of this naiveté meant no small measure of frustration, stress, and grief.

    2. “if he seems like he’s dragging his feet, or is letting obvious opportunities pass, or isn’t putting in much effort, there’s probably a reason why. If he isn’t sharing that reason with you, or if he can’t even articulate it to himself, he’s probably not going to be much of a sharing or communicative husband, so take that for what it’s worth.”

      So true. LW, like you, I ended up shaping a lot of my life around my then-boyfriend (based on an assumption of promises made in good faith!) which made the stakes feel so much higher. I know it’s hard, because you’ve invested so much in this relationship and it feels like you must be so close to what you want– an engagement and then partnership with a person you love. But I’d encourage you to look at this whole process- negotiating the move, buying your house together, the new city, the discussions about engagement and marriage, how you’re spending your time– and ask yourself how you actually felt at each step of the way. Because if you do end up getting married and maybe having children with this man, this is how things will go. This is how your relationship works right now. This is how your partnership will likely work in the future. Do you feel excited about that?

      As a data point– since you mention that your partner is fairly recently bereaved and there have been big changes for both of you– my ex was also dealing with some personal issues that made me feel like I was a jerk for pushing to talk about engagement and marriage, and he kind of made me feel like a jerk for bringing it up while ALSO insisting that he absolutely wanted to move in and get engaged and married, he just hadn’t gotten around to the XYZ thing he had promised to do. We ended up having a gigantic fight sparked by the fact that he hadn’t gotten me a parking space in his apartment complex by a specific date like he had promised to do, because he was ‘so busy and overwhelmed’ (but he also wanted me to start moving in? But maybe just as a trial period? Smh). What I realized was: negotiating for things in our relationship felt exhausting and difficult. I stopped looking at the whole process of moving in together as a hurdle course moving towards a finish line, and instead said “oh, this is what my life will be like with this guy.” He wasn’t a bad person. He was struggling with a lot and I do believe he loved me. But he wasn’t a good partner. He wasn’t able to deal with me in good faith. I had to ask myself if I actually liked the life we were building together and the answer was no. And you know what? I was really really sad for a long time after we broke up, but it turns out there was a lot of stuff I wanted that I wasn’t able to have in that relationship– a dog, lots of travel, lots of theater and art and volunteering and hiking. Please pay attention to what you want and whether this relationship makes room for that. And good luck.

  59. LW I feel for you so SO much because I was in a very similar situation, despite being married. And there were some components I’d not considered, which is why the Captain’s advice is SPOT ON. A quick recap to explain:

    When my then-husband proposed, he lived in the country where we first met and had dated for several years (we’d been doing long distance for 2 years, dating for 4). I was so worried about re-leaving my budding career, friends, and family that I waited a week after he prosed to soul-search on what I’d be willing to give up and what terms I needed. I agreed under the explicit agreement that: when I moved back to his home country, we lived in the main city where my job prospects were best.

    But he got his dream job back near his family in his hometown. I agreed to move and try it for 18 months, and we would move back if I hated it. 18 months passed, and I was in a job I hated with no support network, and I resented him. He wanted to stay, and resented my wanting to honor the agreement (again). It was a resentment feedback loop. I tried to put down roots, make friends, change jobs, and we also bought a house together. Here’s the thing: that unhappiness creeped along, the gap grew, and eventually he had an affair. The affair was the symptom, not the cause of our eventual divorce (no excuse, just trying to not get distracted by this particular outcome). I moved back home, sad, but also feeling much lighter. Not angry, just…lighter.

    I’m not saying this for any reason other than reinforcing what the Captain has said, just through a new angle: you are right to set boundaries, and right to ask for that commitment in whatever form it takes, including a ring. But I had that commitment, and the underlying issue (TRUST) was the critical crack in our foundation. Ask for that ring, but pay more attention to what his hesitancy makes you feel. Even when I had my ring, I ended up in a similar situation because we hadn’t taken the time to work through the real issue: imbalance in sacrifice, and the rift that can cause.

    Jedi hugs if you want them!

  60. LW: what cap says. It isn’t about the ring. You don’t need to surrender your feminist hat to want marriage. It’s about trust. And give and take. You are doing giving and he’s doing asking and when you ask he is all vague and ‘not ready’ but he’s happy to have you as his helper of paying the mortgage and a noncommittal sidekick in his vision of the good life. Your vision of the good life is a man who won’t gaslight you into believing you’re being needy and unfair for being honest about what you want. Your letter comes across like you’re on eggshells and it makes me think your bf is withholding marriage as maybe some power trip? But think of it like this: if your bf asked you for something you weren’t ready to give, would you give him vague ‘maybe someday honey’ answers? No? Then why are you accepting them? This guy seems way too comfortable withholding things that are important to you. How many yrs are you willing to live like that? I’m sorry but I don’t think he’s worthy.

  61. I think it might sense to go back and revisit the conversation with a script like: “I would like to understand better what’s holding you back from wanting to get engaged right now. You’ve mentioned some logistical reasons but is there anything else?”. From his answer, you’ll be better able to gauge whether this is a temporary situation or not. (Importantly, you’re not trying to offer him an excuse – if he comes up with excuses then you’ll recognize that anyway.) In the same convo, I would also say something like “It´s important to me to get married and I am worried about that not happening in the timeframe I need it to from your responses.”

    I had a situation where my partner didn’t want to pull the trigger on having children. At the end I had to tell him that I really needed his decision quite urgently. It turned out that he was just sort of staying in “not entirely sure yet” mode forever because it was a scary move for him to make. He ultimately was able to decide within 2 months or so that he was ready. Two things were important: Him understanding that I really wanted him to make the decision, and my (internal) willingness to walk away if he were to continue waffling. It was scary to not know how it would turn out, but I think that sometimes relationships also benefit from these key moments where things are on the line. Once we did come together on this we became much stronger as a couple afterward. And had we broken up, that would have been painful but honestly necessary.

  62. I sadly have personal experience of this. I spent over a decade with a man who kept postponing our wedding plans. After we broke up he married another woman after dating her for less than a year. OP, this dude doesn’t want to marry you, at least not now.
    By the way we did buy a home together and we were living as common law husband and wife. He just wasn’t interested in being ‘real’ husband and wife, at least not with me. I don’t want to scare you OP but you may be in a similar situation. You’ve already made a huge sacrifice for him and got nothing in return. That’s a massive red flag.

  63. I’m an organized planner who likes security. I used to try to be so chill that I married a spontaneous creature who avoids decision making, promises, schedules, and plans and always has good reasons for not doing what would make me happy. Don’t try to swallow all your preferences and feelings, LW. They are lovely and legit. Pay attention to patterns you see now. A diamond ring won’t change them and marriage is likely to intensify them.

    Because my husband and I are from different countries, we got to a break-up-or-get-married point because we had no other legal way of being on the same side of the ocean. In his short-range view way, the decision was simple: “I don’t want to lose her entirely, so heck yeah, I’ll marry her then.” But he did not seriously consider the implications and responsibilities of marriage in the way I did and that caused problems. So I’d also caution against thinking that setting an engagement deadline and having him meet it in some half-assed way is you finally getting all of what you need and want.

    I think the Captain’s advice is solid gold and I wish I’d had it long ago.

  64. LW, three months isn’t very long. Follow the Cap’s advice for a while and see if the unhappiness eases.

    On the marriage front: I (cishet female) made it easy for my husband. Because it was what we needed to do, and he wanted to be with me long term, but didn’t want to deal with A Wedding. So I talked about ‘drive-through wedding in Las Vegas’ (we were driving through there on a trip) and did a little on-line hunting (couldn’t find a Gandalf, and couldn’t afford the Merlin with a dragon), then ended up saying ‘we have the afternoon free, our most anti-marriage friends are in town, want to hit the courthouse with them today? Also, here’s a gin and tonic’ (it was a fun wedding, and has been a good 16 years).

    In your case, it might look like:
    “Can we get married in X month, Y year?” (at least 18mo from now; this gives you timeline, commitment, enough time to save / plan for the wedding you want. Yes, you asked him, but it’s the 21st century. Asking is not being too pushy.)

    If no: Explain that setting a date is a deal-breaker for you, and if still no, start plans for leaving. He can buy you out of what you’ve invested in the house.

    If yes, keep making it easy:
    “Hey hon, let’s go ring shopping on Saturday” (Specific date, joint activity)
    “I think the ring budget is about $x” (aim for about 10% below what you consider ‘reasonable’, that has you looking at the right tier but leaves room to upgrade if something special catches your eye)
    “Who do you want to invite? Can you get their addresses in the next two months, please? I’ll aim to send them a ‘save the date’ in X months and invitations in Z months” (keep him informed)
    Give him things to approve / disapprove; a lot of them, but just a ‘chocolate, red velvet or banana’, not a ‘find a cake maker’.
    If you give him something to do, make it play to his strengths – if he’s computer-y, ask him to put the list of guests into a format that you can send to a printer, for example.
    Keep the scale and logistics *small* – assume you’ll be doing all the planning and activities yourself or with hired help. For me, for special events, the person who cares most does the organizing. For me, events and trips are different from kids and housework and the day to day of marriage, where equal partnership is critical. (The counter-opinion, that ‘he should help because it’s important to you’ is valid, but again, for me, it applies more to ongoing activities than to events. DO assess whether he helps with ongoing things that are important to you, though, before you go through with the wedding. Mr. Jules does his own laundry and is an excellent vacuumer.)

    Says the woman who spent 40+ hours last Sep/Oct making Harry Potter wands and floating candles for Little Jules’ 11th bday party… But Mr. Jules dremeled the candle flames, and did a very good Hagrid. Being willing to wear a fake beard and carry an umbrella wand goes a long way.

    He may be into *you* and just really hate the idea of The Big Wedding.

  65. LW, you need to do more for yourself. You moved for him. You’re waiting for him. You’re in a job you don’t like. You’re focusing on what you left behind. If you don’t like your situation, get up and change it. Look for a new job. Get out and explore your new surroundings more. Get your own apartment if your doubts about this guy are that serious. But everything you’ve listed, you’ve done passively, and it’s not working for you. Now it’s time to figure out what you want and do it proactively instead.

  66. I find myself wondering about the dealings of his mom’s estate. Did she recently pass? He may be dealing with greif and stress from that and simply not be ready for one more Big Life Thing.

    Apologies if I missed something. Read through twice, but quickly.

    1. No apology needed! The thing is, he is dealing with big life things despite grief (moving, new job, buying real estate) but shying away from big life things that are important to his girlfriend. People can need time for whatever reason – if that’s you, try to let the other person in to what’s going on in your mind!

  67. I think it is completely reasonable to set a timeline for when you expect for things to happen and then stick to it. Back when I was dating I was completely upfront with everyone I dated. I expected to know where the relationship was going within 6 months and I expected to be engaged within 3 years. I had people close to me tell me that I was being unreasonable but I knew that I wanted to get married and have children (in that order*) and that it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that someone should know in 3 years time whether the relationship was worth making permanent. Of course, there were several guys I dated who balked at this, but the guy I married – the love of my life! – understood. We married just after 2 years together and are about to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. LW, set your boundaries, stick to them, and don’t feel guilty for wanting them.

    *Please note: I have no issue with how anyone wants to make a family, but due to some family / in-law drama I wanted there to be no question that I wasn’t forcing a man to marry me because I “had one in the oven” (as my grandmother would say about literally every woman in my family married before me). It was actually so unusual that my cousin commented on it – in a speech he gave at my wedding!

  68. Oh LW, I’m sorry, it sounds like you’re very unhappy and feeling stuck right now. I think that the Captain gave you some very good advice about planning for the future – save money, review your mortgage documents (get a lawyer if you need help), and really make a good faith effort to make the best of your new town.

    But I would add one thing. I think you need to have a serious heart-to-heart with your boyfriend about how you are feeling and get to the bottom of how he is feeling. Some of these comments are very harsh towards your boyfriend, but without knowing WHY he is reluctant to propose, I think it’s unfair to say “he’s just not that into you”

    My advice is 1. Tell your boyfriend how you feel. No accusations. No “you said if I moved you would propose.” Instead, tell him you are having a hard time adjusting to your new living situation and that part of that is the uncertainty surrounding getting engaged. 2. Ask your boyfriend how he feels about your relationship and getting engaged. If he says that he’s expending all of his emotional energy right now grieving for his mom and handling her estate, and doesn’t have enough leftover to ring shop, plan for a proposal, etc. then think about that. Can you handle revisiting the conversation after the estate is dealt with? Whatever his reason, once you know, you can make an informed decision about what YOU want to do. If you don’t want to wait around for a ring that you think might never come, then don’t. But it sounds like right now you are driving yourself crazy wondering why your boyfriend hasn’t proposed when he said he would.

    If you’re afraid to have a conversation with him because you think it might end the relationship, well, then I think your relationship is all but over already.

    I’ll add, wedding planning is stressful. I’m doing it now, and it is one of the most frustrating things I have ever dealt with. And it won’t fill the void that is left by leaving your family and friends. Try to focus now on setting yourself up for success in your new town. Apply for jobs you might like, go out and meet people, etc.

    Good luck! And whether this relationship works out or not, you’re going to be fine!

  69. Can I also suggest that this might be a good time to start having the sorts of conversations that you’re supposed to have in pre-marriage counseling? What do you both want long term? Are there kids in the picture? How are parenting duties split? Is whatever he’s going to do after grad school compatible with that? What are your financial an career goals? Are they compatible? The actual content of the conversations is important, but it’s all good practice for you to articulate your wants and needs and to see how he engages with them. Do you feel heard? Does he seem dismissive (“sure, I guess we can have kids if you want” = a bad sign)? Does he talk a lot about what he wants from his career but seem uninterested in your own ambitions? If he’s looking at an academic career, is he assuming you’d be a trailing spouse? Are you okay with that? Is he planning room for you in his life, or are you just going to have to keep fitting into his life on his terms?

    1. I love this idea! This could really end up making LW feel more secure and loved in the relationship even if, say, he says that he’s grieving for his Mom and needs more time before he’s ready for the marriage. Emphasizing that you have common values and a common vision of the future — or finding out that you don’t — is so valuable. And if he’s feeling vaguely “unready” about marriage, talking about it could start to get him a little excited about it.

      Also, it would be good practice for communication and sharing emotions, which it sounds like they need!

  70. LW, I am so sorry you are going through this. I don’t know what his feelings are for you and I won’t assume. Maybe he loves you more than life itself but will never give you what you want–if that’s the case, you may not be happy. (And that’s okay!)

    Talk to a lawyer. Make sure your financial interests are safeguarded if you do decide to break up–or even if you decide to stay together as an unmarried but cohabitating couple. You have a huge financial stake in this. You want to make sure you protect yourself. Upthread a commenter mentioned a cohabitation agreement. I think that’s an excellent idea.

    Think long and hard about what you want to do. If you and your boyfriend broke up tomorrow, would you stay in the place where you’re living? If your boyfriend never married you, would you be happy? How long are you willing to wait? It’s okay to decide that this isn’t for you. It’s also okay to decide that this is something you can live with.

    Do you work in the same field as you did back home? Is there a professional organization you can join? If so, I would join it and go to their events and conferences. Network! It can only help you no matter where you live. Go to local events–can’t hurt–and go to events in your home city. This will help you career-wise no matter where you decide to live.

    All the jedi hugs!

  71. I feel like I’ve been letter writer before.

    Here’s the deal: the status quo works for him, and as long as it does, it’s going to remain the status quo.

    Sometimes when our relationships aren’t working, we look to everything but our partner to diagnose our anxiety. Or we focus so much on the goal of achieving a certain milestone with our partner (he slept over for the first time! We’re engaged!) so as to distract ourselves from the real issues of incompatibility. It can be very hard for us smart overachievers to acknowledge that there are some things that are not going to happen even with our maximum effort.

    I was lucky that when I had moved to a new state with my non-committal boyfriend, I was able to get a job somewhere else and live alone for a bit while I “waited” for him to follow. In those months without him, I realized where all of my anxiety was coming from. I realized I loved being alone. I realized I didn’t want him to move with me or even be in my life anymore. I am a lot happier now.

    Your boyfriend is probably a wonderful guy, but if you want to get married, you’re going to need to find a new partner.

  72. What would happen if you discussed having a a deadline on this issue?

    I mean, when it comez to shit I need/have to do, I usually put in some sort of parameters. That way it either gets DONE… or it goes and I move on.

    So maybe discuss with your partner, “Look, I know stuff has been going on for you, but I want to know if you are going to commit to me or not. Can you tell me if you see us being engaged within 1 month/1 year/[specific date]?” If you are not sure yet, we can discuss this and see where we are at that time. If you can’t, then we need to hire a lawyer to help us with this break up because I want to be with someone who is willing to commit to me as much as I commit to them.”

    My script may not be perfect—but I think the bottom line is set a date, get a yes or no, and lawyer up if no so you can move on and find other arrangements.

  73. I’d just like to express sympathy about all those ads. Once you’ve looked at engagement rings online, you’ll be shown ring ads at every possible opportunity. That is, not just social media but every other media outlet (news stories, etc.), will get filled up with those ads as well. I’m sure there are browser options for blocking lots of the ads, but my own low-tech approach is to visit some online stores that will bump the ring ads for the product you’ve looked at more recently. You might want to pretend like you’re shopping for beautiful clothing, so you can look at those ads for the next few weeks instead.

  74. LW, no matter what, you need to make sure that your interest in the house is legally covered. Many years ago my sister and her then fiance bought a house. Because of her credit issues, it was only in his name. They were getting married, so it would be fine right? They did get married. And they sold that house and bought another, this time her name was on it. But when they divorced, he claimed that all of the equity from the first house should be his, because only his name was on it, regardless of the fact than my sister was there and contributing to the mortgage payments. They finally settled on him getting the equity that accrued before the marriage and the rest belonged to both of them. (He played many other similarly shitty games with her, it was a mess.)

  75. Oh, LW, I feel for you. Moving is hard. It’s hard when you’ve bounced around your whole life. It’s hard when you’ve lived in the same spot since forever. It’s hard. And then there’s love, which is also very hard.

    I don’t think CA touched on this, and I’m not sure if other commenters have, but to me, 3 months doesn’t seem that long, especially with everything you and your boyfriend have on your plates. Moving, setting up house, getting into the swing of new jobs, going through a loved one’s estate, and I’m sure other things too. I think CA is right that maybe right now you’re so disoriented and unsettled in other ways that it’s putting undue pressure on the romantic relationship aspect to ground and nourish you.

    But maybe that’s part of boyfriend’s reluctance: maybe he needs more time than 3 months to settle into all this new, and fully process other important changes in his life. That’s something you could talk about that isn’t just about the emotional side of things (not that I’m discounting the emotional side of things: that matters). Because marriage isn’t necessarily Add-Water-And-Stir-Instant-Stability. In most cases and at first, it’s often Add-Baking-Soda-to-Vinegar-For-Awesome-Volcano-Science-Project. Maybe some of his hesitance is that he wants to feel settled in this new life BEFORE embarking on marriage, and 3 months is too soon for him.

    Maybe it’s too soon for you, too. I’m worried about any situation that we think can be fixed with romantic rituals. I’m not dissing romantic rituals, I think they’re important, but they celebrate things that make us happy… they don’t solve problems that are making us UNhappy.

    So maybe talk to him about that. I think this falls under CA’s suggestion to find out what ‘not ready’ really means to him.

    I am feeling so much empathy for you, because you’re clearly in pain, and I know both the “I just moved to a new place and I’m miserable and lonely and scared” pain and the “confusion and fear around a love relationship I rely on” pain very well. Please don’t discount your feelings or tell yourself to suck it up. You absolutely deserve to feel heard and to feel at home, and I think CA’s advice about how to settle yourself and explore this new life is beautiful and necessary. Open up some other channels for happiness to come in that aren’t reliant on one other person, and see what happens after a little more time.

  76. Figure out the house ownership, what happens if you don’t end up together. That’s huge!
    Also I had good friend dating upper middle class guy. They were looking at houses and she wanted to get married. He kept saying he didn’t have enough money for a ring. Meanwhile my grad student boyfriend proposed to me with a cheap amethyst. Because I would not move without a wedding
    Her bf latered when he found a new woman. A house is not a replacement for engagement if that is what you want. Have a talk where you find out the real reason he doesn’t propose
    Maybe it’s overwhelming to ring shopaybe he thinks your expected ring is too expensive, maybe he’s sacred. Only he knows

  77. I love these kinds of responses from the Captain. The different prompts/angles that she addresses are applicable to alot of situations – they remind me to really dig into what’s bothering me about an issue to find out the root cause, and from there figure out a solution. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out quite what is bothering me about a situation, so it’s a good reminder to try to look at it from different angles and then formulate a plan from there.

  78. The thing that alarms me here is not the ring itself, or that he’s not ready, or whatever. The thing that bothers me is HE SAID HE WOULD in order to get you to DO WHAT HE WANTED which required MUCH MORE EFFORT/COMMITMENT/SACRIFICE on your part, and now he won’t even do the thing he promised to do. I would not be able to trust a person who went back on a promise like this after asking so much from me in return. That is wildly imbalanced and selfish and alarming and NOT GOOD.

    Not being ready or not wanting to get engaged/married is legit, but he a) should have been up front about it AND b) should not have asked for such huge things from you when he wasn’t ready to reciprocate. If this is indicative of how your relationship is going to be, with huge sacrifices from you and minimal effort/empty promises from him, then holy NOPE, Batman.

  79. “He assured me he’s ready to be engaged, wants to marry me[…]”

    Dear LW, isn’t this sort of like you proposed and he said yes but in a non romantic way?

  80. I do think the boyfriend is odd. I have a boyfriend whom I asked to move halfway across the country to live with me. My name is on the mortgage, not his, and we were long distance before he moved. But for me I basically immediately started asking him to marry me. I couldn’t wait to get married. His deal was more complicated in that he can’t work and I’m the breadwinner, and he initially said no to marriage because his anxiety told him that I would get ‘tired’ of him and want to divorce. (while in the back of my mind I was thinking, if we get married and then eventually get divorced, it means I can give him alimony so I don’t have to worry about him. And if we stay married for 10 years, he’s entitled to social security benefits from me even if we divorce! I didn’t tell him this, though.)

    I wonder how the LW’s boyfriend – and other men like him – are weighing this decision, like if they’re thinking about the negative monetary burdens of marriage if it doesn’t work out, if that’s why they want a permanent live-in girlfriend and not a wife. Granted I don’t know for sure that that’s “all” LW’s boyfriend wants, it really will take a discussion with him to find out why he’s “not ready” and what exactly that means. But without more data I’m leaning strongly towards “not ready” meaning “not ever.”

  81. The vibe I’m getting that makes me vicariously dislike this guy is that there’s a clear pattern being established where you say ‘I want/need X’ and then he says ‘Sure, X, totally! Eventually!’ and you trust him and go with the flow, and X doesn’t happen, but when you bring it up again either you’re a nag or he never actually promised you X, what are you talking about?

    Gaslighting is a heavy word to throw around, but his behavior after your second discussion about the ring (‘has apparently forgotten’, ‘[I] was ignored’), not to mention that he’s ‘forgotten’ you needed a commitment to feel safe about the move, skeeves me.

    Bonus points if he’s hinted that HE thinks engagement rings/the concept of formal marriage are old-fashioned/shallow/silly/all the things the Captain warned commenters off implying. Because now you’re not just a nag, you’re a materialistic shrew who’d blow up a perfectly good relationship just because he wouldn’t give you a sparkly!


    If X is important to you, it’s a valid thing to want. You’ve used your words and asked for it. If he knows he can’t or doesn’t want to give it, he can use his own and say so.

    You deserve someone who makes you feel respected and listened to. I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t sound like this guy is it, and I’d advise treading carefully even if a ring does show up.

  82. I really like this answer, Captain! Sometimes so much of our happiness seems tied to our significant other, and we of course can’t control another person, but focusing on what we are able to do to to address a specific situation, or in general working to make our lives better, is something in our control. I will be trying to apply the types of thinking you were talking about as they are still so relevant to me even though my issues with my partner are different from the LW’s. Thank you so much!

  83. This is just to say, Captain, your phrasing around “reinforcing your pair bond” made a bunch of things fall ka-chunk ka-chunk into place in my little asexual heart/mind and wow, thank you for that.

  84. I concur with many of the above commentators: LW is of course free to decide what her own red lines are, but in her position, I would be willing to wait a limited amount of time provided my partner communicated honestly with me about how ey felt about the whole thing—this situation where LW’s boyfriend is stringing her along, perpetually making excuses, is not fair and not okay.

    LW, what do you think would happen if you cut to the chase and proposed to _him_? If he said no, would that be a dealbreaker for you? If so, how do you feel about that?

  85. Jedi hugs Letter Writer.

    And 1 million + on getting some stuff in writing and maybe consulting a legal expert.

    Whether your boyfriend marries you or not, real estate is a massive investment and you need to protect your part of it, as well as building up your savings and making sure the rest of your assets are properly yours. You’d have to do it anyway if you got married, and now is probably the right time to discuss this.

    Your boyfriend asked you for a massive leap of faith. Fair enough if now is not the right time to plan a wedding; he should be fine with the tedium of sorting out the details of mutual financial entanglement, given that he was the one asking you to do this in the first place. Like the captain says, it’s not unreasonable for you to ask some sort of reassurance given the leap of faith you made – he should be glad to jump on something that is not as emotionally charged as an engagement.

    I’m…not trying to be unfair to your bf, but I cannot help but think of how often men ask their girlfriends to bankroll their career moves and to support them emotionally because they feel entitled to it, yet balk when the gf asks for something reciprocal. Your situation just seems massively lopsided from where I’m sitting and I wonder why he isn’t trying harder to redress the balance.

  86. Dear OP,

    Your story feels so similar to mine, that I’m delurking to share. I haven’t read the other responses, so maybe this has already been said, but your story spoke to me so strongly that I wanted to share my in return.

    Once upon a time, I did the same thing. I followed my then-partner overseas, away from friends and family. It was very difficult for me. I was very lonely, I had trouble making friends, and I didn’t love where we lived. I missed home and my friends and family every day, but I went for love.

    I also felt it was very important that we get married. He kept telling me he wasn’t ready. He loved me, but (insert a bunch of reasons here for why it wasn’t time yet). I went with that for a while, but to be honest, it caused a lot of tears and arguments.

    Finally, I set an ultimatum. It didn’t make me feel great to do it, but you know what? My wants and needs were important too. I told him we were either going to get engaged that summer, when we were home visiting friends and family, or I was going to move back home that summer and break up with him.

    OP, ultimately he wanted to be with me enough that he agreed to the engagement. And, more importantly, he followed through. We went home that summer. We shopped for and bought a ring. He proposed and we told everyone. Two years later – because I was honestly fine with a long engagement – we got married.

    Ten years later, we’re still married. We have a child together. We’ve both made many compromises for each other, because that’s part of making a relationship work. Ultimately we’ve both decided that being together is very important to both of us. We both deserve to be happy and have our needs met.

    For you, OP, I’m not hearing that any of your needs are being met. You’ve made all the compromises, and he’s reaped all the rewards. You’re lonely and unhappy, in a place you don’t love surrounded by people you don’t know, with someone who can’t or won’t commit to the one thing you need to feel safe and secure and happy.

    Why is that? And what do you want to happen? What do you need?

  87. Just want to weigh in and say I have been exactly where you are! I moved to a new state sight-unseen, and my boyfriend waited over 10 years into our relationship to propose. I proposed to him (he said yes, but not right now), I screamed at him (“sh*t or get off the pot” was prominently featured), I cried, I said I didn’t want a ring (a ring was important to him), I secret-wedding-planned, and I still feel a little shitty about how he acted sometimes. But he took care of me when I had gallbladder surgery, and he said we could move home to Chicago if I hated it after three years, and he was a great partner in every single other way. If he is wonderful in every other way (like 90/10, not like 51/49), he may still be ready to propose someday. But I definitely agree with Captain Awkward that having your own money and having things clearly spelled out is the way to go here. What finally worked for me was that I said during one fight, “Well, it appears we are at an impasse. I want to get married, and you don’t. Right now, what we have is enough for me. But someday it won’t be, and I will leave.” I didn’t say it on purpose, it just popped out. It was in no way a threat or an ultimatum. It was just a calm statement of fact from deep within me. So I don’t have any good advice, especially since I don’t know much about your specific situation, but I just want to send solidarity from a fellow person who moved cross-country to be with their person and felt yuck about it for a while.

  88. LW, here’s a question: when I dealt with requests from SO’s to move with them / to be with them, I asked a lot of questions and listened to whatever was said without pre-expectations, but I was looking for the answer to one thing — was he envisioning putting equal skin in the game to what he was asking of me? What was he offering that was equal to or greater than what he was asking of me?

    It almost didn’t matter what he was offering specifically — I cared more about the equality of what he planned to offer.

    I was upfront about pointing out any sacrifices involved on my part or disadvantages to me — I wanted to see what he would offer to counterbalance that, to make what he was asking/offering as a whole a positive step forward for me, but I didn’t have a set idea of what that had to look like.

    Again, it was the expectation of equality from the get-go that I was looking for.

    What has he offered you, without you having to bargain for it or fight for it, that is equal to the harsh sacrifices you have had to make? Because you’ve made it sound like the whole relationship is horribly lopsided.

    If you have to fight for equality in a relationship, you don’t actually have equality. So then you have to ask yourself: Are you willing to live that way? For how long?

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