Will Living Together Lead to Marriage?

Dear Tracy,

Six months ago, my boyfriend and I of three years moved in together. Taking your advice, I wanted to make sure we were on the same page before making this decision.  I asked him if he could see himself marrying me, and he said he could, he just wanted more time to so he could establish his career and have more financial stability. So although I don’t have a ring on my finger, he gave me the sense that he wanted to get married too. But the idea that I know on some level it’s a “trial run” makes me wonder if moving in together was a good idea. I almost feel like I’m auditioning for the role of being his wife. I know it sounds silly, but I worry that if he thinks my cooking sucks, or the condo is not clean enough, or we don’t have enough sex, he might change his mind about me. I don’t like the idea of my behaviors being judged and evaluated, or of having to prove myself.

I guess the bottom line is that living together does not give me the same sense of security that I think marriage would. My parents were divorced and so were his, which has caused both of us to have issues with commitment. Although he is open to marriage, I don’t think it’s as much of a priority for him as it is for me. I don’t want to give him an ultimatum, like “Propose to me in six months or I’m leaving.” But I also wonder if I made the wrong decision to live with him, since it’s causing so much anxiety.

 – Nicole, age 28



My question to you is: Even if you were married, what would stop him from waking up one morning and saying, “Your cooking sucks.” Or “We don’t have enough sex.” Or “I’m tired of this relationship, I’m leaving”? I understand marriage provides a sense of security, but I would argue for many that it’s a false sense of security. This is not to say that your desire to get married is not a valid one – in fact, there are many benefits to marriage.  But what I want to emphasize is that getting married will not suddenly alleviate your concerns about your relationship ending. Your anxiety about the future of your relationship likely stems from the wound you experienced as a child when your parents divorced, and marriage will not solve it.

As a son of divorce, I think your boyfriend likely has the same fears you do. Maybe he fears that if he doesn’t make enough money, or if he gains weight, or starts to lose his hair, or any number of extraneous concerns – you’ll leave him.  You said yourself he has commitment issues, his parents’ divorce being the primary reason. As a side note, so many men give financial or career concerns for delaying marriage. My opinion may be unpopular, but I feel it’s a flat out excuse. People don’t get married when they have a certain dollar amount in their bank account. Poor people get married all the time. There’s no income requirement for marriage. When two people are in love and emotionally ready, they could get married in a hole in the wall and be happy.

I agree that you shouldn’t give him an ultimatum of “Propose or I’m out.” But I would recommend that the discussion of marriage be an ongoing dialog. Be vulnerable with him and expose your fears. Tell him when you’re feeling anxious, sad, or fearful. If he’s the right man for you, he’ll react with kindness and understanding. Ask him to tell you his concerns, aside from the financial ones. Examine together your reasons for wanting to get married and realize there’s no race to the finish line. Your fundamental problem, which is the fear that your relationship won’t last, needs to be worked on before you consider marriage. I encourage you to sign up for our Relationship Builder Kit to receive your free tools.

Tracy Clifford

I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order my new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”