Would You End a Long Term Relationship over the Question of Marriage?

Updated on June 30, 2011
C.B. asks from Oskaloosa, KS
17 answers

i am just curious because i am not in the situation so i am having a hard time empathizing with my mother (not that i don't support her 100%, i DO utterly and completely support her decision and i would love and respect her no matter what) because i have never been in this position. she is in her 50's, my parents have been divorced for about 15 years now, and she has been with this current man about 10 years. they live together, his 17 year old son lives with them full time, they were in the process of buying some land (adjoining her house, which is where they live) together. it has been serious and exclusive almost since day #1. my whole family considers both him and his son family, his son calls my grandparents "grandma and grandpa", ect.

marriage is very important to my mom, she thinks at this point it is the right thing for them to do (as they are making this major purchase together, and have been living together as a family for a year and a half now). they have had this fight a few times over the years, he has even left before, but this time, she says he's not welcome back. he has disrupted his son's life yet again (the boy's mother was/is negligent and doesn't have a maternal bone in her body, before my mom and her bf got custody he had gone to about six different schools, bouncing from his moms newest boyfriends house, to the next, and been kicked out of his mom's house twice, before she finally moved to texas, which was how he came to live with them. sorry this is confusing i am super tired and stressed out for my mom....!

so long story short this is like the divorce all over again, everyone's upset, we're worried about losing his son as part of our family (he is 17 but doesn't drive or have a car). huge drama. me, i'm just po'd that this guy would be so terrified of a dang piece of paper (that changes NOTHING!) that he would do all of this to everyone. i myself lived with someone and then married him - it changes nothing!! (unless, i suppose, the person decides in their head it does...as in this case). i SERIOUSLY don't get how he is choosing to run, and hurt so many people, rather than just sign the dang piece of paper. but at the same time i am wondering at my mom's fortitude in insisting that he marry her or leave. how many of you would give the same ultimatum, or have? i just can't imagine being her age, in a relationship for 10 years unmarried, being mostly happy (he really is such a great guy that's another reason this is just puzzling) but willing to end it all if a piece of paper isn't signed. and i'm not talking about "getting the milk for free" or all the religious aspects (although i suppose that is a big part of it because that is how my mom's feelings came about, i am sure). i am simply saying, would something as simple as a piece of paper making it "official" be a deal breaker?

i am sure she is right and i have zero intention of ever mentioning these questions to her...i just wonder.

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So What Happened?

thanks everyone! i appreciate all your input. i have continued to talk to my mom and support her decision, and the more i talk to her (and read your responses), the more i see how important it really is to her, so i at least can sleep at night - i know that she is doing what is right for HER. it doesn't matter how much i can see her point of view or not, it's her life and she is being true to herself. she wouldn't be happy staying with him and not being married, and THAT is the bottom line. when i thought of it that way, that's when it all clicked. thanks again!

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answers from Tucson on

IMO Its not just a piece of paper. Because i have that piece of paper its costing me thousands to undo it.

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answers from Phoenix on

At this point, she was living like a marriage couple without the marriage for 10 years. Usually, people will make the stand to get married first before moving in together. Maybe she just made the decision that enough's enough. It is like a divorce. I wish you the best!! Good luck!!

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answers from New York on

To me marraige is NOT a piece of paper. It is a commitment, it is a vow, it is a promise. (I would not define myself as a religious person) Maybe it didn't change your life, but it changed mine, and I truly beleive it also changed my husbands.

I agree completely with your mother's feelings and actions.

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answers from Hartford on

If it's important to your mother, then yes, his refusal to marry her should be a deal breaker. He has expressed just how "important" your mother is by his lack of willingness to fully commit to her in the way that she requires. She needs to stick to her guns. Why would she want to stay with a man who doesn't want to make her happy and doesn't want the same things she wants?

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answers from Seattle on

It sounds like it is to BOTH of them.

Your mom is willing to throw away everything if he won't marry her.
He's willing to throw away everything to not marry her.

They sound very much alike.

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answers from San Francisco on

Personally if my husband wasn't on the same page as me when we were dating and didn't want to get married, I would have ended the relationship. Marriage and commitment are that important to me. I am sure he would do the same for me---We both believe in marriage and this was right for us.


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answers from San Francisco on

It is much more to some people then a "piece of paper". The sad thing is your mother waited so long before she felt strong and worthy enough to ask for what she truly wanted. If the live in companion loves and respects her, he will marry her or leave.

The 50's may seem ancient to you, but if your mom wants a total commitment, there are probably plenty of men out there who would love and cherish her for the long hall.


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answers from Jacksonville on

Someone several weeks ago posted a question about marriage ("Why do you think it is or is not important?"-- or something along those lines). It was interesting reading the responses.

I would have to guess that for your mom, it is sort of the 'bottom line'. Either he IS committed to her, or he ISN'T. This is the measure by which she has decided she will know. If he walks, he is not committed to her (obviously). If he marries her, then he is.
Of course, we all know that once married doesn't guarantee that the two will never go their separate ways.... but for your mom, this is how she has decided she will judge his commitment to her. And I'm guessing having legal entanglements with him (buying property for example) have prompted her to press the issue.

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answers from Dover on

A piece of paper itself does not change anything but apparently marriage is more than "just a piece of paper" to both of them. To him, it is a step he's not willing to take (maybe because of his past experience, maybe because of fear of true commitment, or maybe because he feels you should only get married once, or whatever his reasons are). To her, it is important and a natural next step (whether it be her feelings for him, desire to be married, religious reasons or whatever it is). Either way, just as he is willing to run rather than wed, she is willing to let him rather than remain unmarried. Would she really want to be married to him knowing he doesn't want to marry her? Even if he did agree to marry her, how would they both truly feel about it? If they have had this fight before, it should come as no surprise now. While I don't fault her for wanting what she wants, what is making her take this stand now? Maybe they will work something out.

As for losing his son as part of the family, remember that family isn't just who your are related to but rather it includes those you love. If you love this child as your family, reach out to him and his father (since he is a minor) and let them know that you still consider him family and would like to continue to include him. Additionally, be sure to offer the son the support of consistency as he has been through a lot already.

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answers from Minneapolis on

It sounds like this is an issue of autonomy and property for your mom's boyfriend...not love. He's asking your mom to give up a lot for nothing with this big purchase, and if I were in your mom's shoes, I'd want marriage too. So much for all of those years invested in their relationship! This man doesn't sound as wonderful as you've painted him...and a year-and-a-half of living together isn't that long in the big scheme of things.

I understand where your mom is coming from. Considering she is in her 50's and well past her best years for building up finances and a career, if she ties herself up with this big purchase, and he's free to bolt with no strings attached, where does *that* leave her? It will most certainly leave her very broke financially and spiritually and very much used and alone if he's as fickle as you've told us! She's at an age where she'll never recover financially if things don't work out for them. What protections will she have if they choose to go their separate ways? Has she drawn up some sort of contractual agreement that would protect her investments and assets? If she dies, who will stand to inherit her portion of the property? Are you really up to fighting the boy, the man or any other relatives that aren't your own who stand to benefit from your mother's estate if she should have an untimely death? Is this man trustworthy? Will he now have unbridled access to her financial accounts wealth and any holdings she has? What about wills? Has she thought about that? I'm sure if he's as stubborn about this whole marriage thing...HE HAS. He wants little entanglements with her as possible and is hoping she signs the dotted line. It's like money in the bank for him. He'll be retiring nice. With that said, heck yeah your mom is right to be pushing for more. But I'd go a step further and say if I were in her shoes, I'd just end this relationship now. I think the man is a snake.

I think she should trust her gut and end this now if her boyfriend is so greedy and shallow that he's going to get up in arms about getting married. Clearly he's more interested in accruing wealth at the expense of her, than doing something that proves his enduring love for the long haul.

It is truly sad that the boy will lose out on a positive female role model in his life, but as far as I'm concerned, he has no more stability with this man now, then any other time in his life. Sounds like not only does his mother have a problem with commitment, but so does his father and he's been bounced around physically and emotionally because of it.

Sorry, I don't agree with you about marriage being the same as living with someone in a long-term relationship. Aside from the love component, it has major societal and legal ramifications for those involved. It (marriage) is more than a piece of paper and no things do not stay the same as when you live with someone. It's a bonafide commitment that if things do not work out, both parties will be legally protected in ways that just living together won't do.

Your mom's boyfriend knows this and is clearly being very wiley about his money and investments at the expense of his relationship with her. He sounds manipulative and materialistic. People like this make lousy spouses and parents. Sometimes they are just down right sinister and scary if they are so hardend that they go as far as to get insurance policies out and whatnot. Investigative news shows thrive on woeful tales of lonely widows, divorcees, and spinsters who get mixed up with the wrong joker...get tricked into spending their hard earned retirement money or inheritances on their "boyfriend" only to get robbed blind. Or worse, the joker marries them, but quickly disposes of them after the insurance policies is deemed good.

Stop pressuring your mom to settle with someone who doesn't seem to be a candidate for a healthy relationship for the sake of that boy. If your family really loves the boy, you don't need your mom to forever tie herself financially to a man to make the boy a part of your family.

Keep the relationship and lines of communication open with the boy if his father ends the relationship with your mother if you don't think it will be unhealthy for all parties involved.

If the boy goes his own way, no need to worry. He's almost an adult. In a year, he'll be legally old enough to leave the old man and go out into the world on his own. How tragic for you to talk your mom into stay in a loveless contractual relationship (because that's what this will be) that will end in a civil suit over property and ownership. This just sounds bad all the way around.

I say stop fretting and tell your mom to be wise and let the man go.

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answers from Charleston on

Well...it's a "deal breaker" to her. And that's all that really maters, right? She's smart by not entering into joint ventures without being married, I think. I know you feel like it is a divorce. It hurts. Hopefully your mom and you and the rest of the family can continue to be there for this boy in a supportive way for him. It sound like your moms boyfriend might have had a REALLY REALLY bad marriage experience, which I can understand, too. But I hope he comes around. They sound like a happy couple ohterwise.

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answers from Dallas on

hmmm...the statement that marriage is nothing...that it's just a piece of paper...not really true. It doesn't mean you love them any differently when you're married. I agree with that, if that is what you're point is.

But that piece of paper says you are legally bound to each other. It IS much more than just a piece of paper. It's kind of a factual thing, really...not so much an opinion like so many people think it is. There is something that changes very muchly legally when two people get married. It is a big commitment (legally, and sometimes religiously before God) for people.

The only reason I say all this is that your mother clearly wants that commitment. Her SO is not currently bound legally to her at all. She wants him to commit to her on that level where it's not just a commitment between the two of them, it's a commitment on a legal level.

then, of course, religiously (depending on the religion), people feel like they are sinning if they aren't married but are living like they are. It sounds like that might be a big thing for her too.

As for me, if it were truly something as simple as a piece of paper, it wouldn't make a single difference to me. But since it's more than that - it's that person telling me he loves me that much that he is willing to legally bind himself to me. I would want that level of commitment. It's important to me:-) And I would want to commit to him on that level too. Plus, for me, religiously/spiritually it would be important to feel like I'm making the proper choice with that too.

It would be a deal breaker for me if he refused, but...I wouldn't choose to live with someone. All that waits until I'm married. (yes, I'm old fashioned!) I know others feel differently, and I mean this as no judgement on them and their decisions, it's just what feels right to me. So, all the living together and such wouldn't happen until I was married.

I can definitely see where she's coming from. It seems kind of odd to me that he's willing to live in this relationship like that but he won't commit on a deeper level legally with her. That's too bad! I hope it somehow works out still.

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answers from Portland on

It would not be a deal breaker for me but I'm not your mom. I agree that a piece of paper doesn't have to change the relationship but it sometimes does. My brother was easy going with his girl friend but after they got married he believed that he'd become "head of the house" and now was in control of everything. She had to ask his permission before she could do anything, even go to a Tupperware party at her sisters.

So I suggest that you talk with your mother about why the paper is so important. If it's for legal reasons because of the purchase of the property, I suggest that there are ways to insure that her interests are protected without marriage. She could talk with a lawyer.

Have you listened with an open mind to her reasons? I suggest emotions are so tense right now that it's difficult for the two of you to hear each other. Perhaps putting your concerns on paper and having her respond on paper might help.

Do keep in mind that things we say in the heat of the moment, such as if you leave I won't let you come back, are frequently changed with time. Hopefully your mother can work this out for the benefit of everyone involved. It is your mother's to work out. I suggest that the more you try to change her mind the deeper she gets entrenched in her decision. Perhaps it would help to back off and see what happens.

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answers from New York on

She needs to look at the finances as well as emotions. Is she better off financially married or him or not? How does them buying property effect that? I don't know your mom's situation but I saw my father loose out on any inheritance from his father due to his step mother (although the second marriage lasted several decades).

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answers from Atlanta on

I think (especially at her age and after having one marriage) that it's silly to demand marriage. They've lived together with his son for 10 years, so why now? So what that they're buying land? If marriage is so important to her, then why didn't she demand it a long, long time ago? I ALSO think he's silly for being so freaked out by it, but many people are after they've had one horrible experience -especially if they have kids. He probably made a promise to himself that he would NEVER marry again, and he seems to mean it. I would never ruin a great relationship and give up a relationship with a boy I thought of as a son over a silly piece of paper -especially if I had already been living with them man for years!

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answers from Tampa on

It's not just a piece of paper... when one spouse dies, the other can collect widower's pay for awhile. They also get first 'dibs' on their spouses liquid assets and most of their personal stuff too.

Your Mom has already wasted much of her life with one man, 10 years with this one - I don't blame her for wanting a LEGAL commitment from this man.



answers from Phoenix on

I'm married, but, I can't say, because I'm not in that situation.

Marriage is not for everyone. You argued that nothing changes when the paperwork is signed, well, to some people, that is the point - why sign a piece of paper that will essentially make no difference in your day to day life? Sure, it changes the legality aspect of their relationship, but it has no affect on how they treat each other or live their lives together.

They are both remaining true to their own wishes, so really, it's no one's right to judge. She shouldn't stay if she wants it "official" and he shouldn't get married just to appease her. If they are open to it, they may want to seek counseling. I, personally, don't think anyone should do something they don't want to do, but that's me. Maybe they are looking for different things and it had to come to this to find that out.

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