< Back to front page Text size +

Will he marry his 'Cougar'?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  January 29, 2009 12:14 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Today's letter comes from a woman in a warmer place. Let's help her out, shall we?

Q: For the past five years I've been dating a younger man who is in his early 30s whereas I'm in my mid-40s. In June he'll be finishing his dissertation then looking for job. He doesn't feel he can offer me a more permanent relationship as he wants to get a steady job. Although I don't need for him to financially support me, he's more "old school" and feels it's important for his own pride and esteem that he has something to offer me. I'm not sure if it's just an excuse to not marry me or that he really wants to establish himself before deciding to marry me. I feel at times foolish for finding myself in this scenario, then again, I've been quite happy being with him. My question is: Should I wait another year for him to get that job or should I just end it in June and move on?
CACougar, Santa Barbara

A: Ah, grad students. They love to delay the inevitable, don’t they?
Kidding. Some of my best friends are grad students.
Look, CACougar, I get it when a 22-year-old man says he needs to “establish himself” before committing. I don’t get it when a 30something man tells a 40something woman that he needs more time to evolve.
You’re ready. You’re willing to accept him as an unemployed PhD. You have the right to know whether he’s willing to commit – now. The wedding can come later. That’s just a party. But he should be able to tell you whether he’s in or out. Ask him: In or out? Readers? Your thoughts? Share here.
- Meredith

To read yesterday's Love Letters chat, click here. To send a letter, click here.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

53 comments so far...
  1. I agree with Meredith -- it's just an excuse. He doesn't want to marry you and you should move on.

    Posted by Raffi January 29, 09 12:39 PM
  1. Agreed, this dude needs to get himself together fast. If he's not giving a straight answer by a month from now then scrap him for someone who will.

    Posted by DI$CO January 29, 09 12:50 PM
  1. You've been going for 5 years that's long enough. If he was crazy in love with you he would have pulled the trigger long ago. If you want to still date then fine. But, I would make it clear your not waiting and then do date others. If he is serious he won't let you go. If he pleads and beggs for more time tell him time is up and then start dating others.

    Posted by rlsrd January 29, 09 01:00 PM
  1. If after 5 years he still doesn't know....he knows. I stayed with someone I wasn't sure about for 5 years and those are years I'll never get back. If he won't commit, it's time to go.

    Posted by sungirl January 29, 09 01:00 PM
  1. I would have to agree with Meredith. My boyfrend & I have been together for 7 years and while he hasn't proposed yet we have made the statement "When we get married". Right now I am in nursing school and he is saving money as he had been laid off tiwce this year. The difference is, we ment when we were in our early 20s and have had circumstances change, your significant other is in his 30s and should know whether he wants to marry you or not. I'm certainly sure that if he wanted to he could find work doing anything to at least have some sort of an income while he's out looking for what he wants to do. I am an of the addage, "If he/she wants it he/she'll do whatever it takes to get it".

    Posted by RayRay01 January 29, 09 01:00 PM
  1. Move on. Women are always "creating worlds" to satisfy their never-ending need to hear only what they want to hear. Game over, Coug - move on.

    Posted by Straight Shot January 29, 09 01:09 PM
  1. he's just not that into you.

    Posted by Happy January 29, 09 01:12 PM
  1. Oh my God. Ray Ray wake up. 7 years no ring??? Blaming it on circumstances? I think you need to have a talk. Early twenties and 7 years. Tha means pushing 30. I think you need to take the advice that we're giving Meridith. When I got married my dad asked when we we're going to have kids. I said when the time is right. He said son, the time is never right. Actions speak louder than words.

    Look in the mirror.

    Posted by rlsrd January 29, 09 01:15 PM
  1. I also was in relationship for 7 years like sungirl.. She is correct, you will never get those years back.. and you're not getting any younger.. Move on.. Maybe this is what he needs to get his act together.

    Posted by kelly January 29, 09 01:19 PM
  1. Time for you to latch onto a 65 year old looking for a trophy wife. You've worked hard...you're still looking good...the vericose veins are not yet visable. After the old guy kicks it, perhaps your grad student will be ready. As my thrice married dad says, Q) "Why didn't the grad school cow marry the cougar? A) To tell you the udder truth, he might want a family".

    Posted by autumn/spring January 29, 09 01:32 PM
  1. Not to sound harsh but this is the deal....You are a 40 something woman. That is old! You don't have alot of "good" years left and you know what I mean....and so does he....He is 30 and has alot of good years left. If you need to get married find someone your age or older. Don't bother this guy with your "needs"......If you want to fool around go right ahead but forget the marriage crap.

    Posted by nash January 29, 09 01:33 PM
  1. That's one of the BIG problems with the younger generation (under 50). They live life as if it were a business plan. What happened to taking a chance? After 5 years of dating someone you should know for sure if that person is worth a life commitment. And that's what marriage is boys and girls, a life commitment. If that scares you then you're better off living alone than ruining the life of another. I've been married 54 years and met my future wife when I was 18, a freshman in college. I pretty much knew within a year that she and I were going to spend the rest of our lives together. If I had dilly-dallied she'd be the wife of someone else today and I'd be the lesser for it.

    Posted by Anonymous January 29, 09 01:38 PM
  1. Agreed. He's had five years to decide. Either he proposes, or you move on (if marriage is your goal.) Stop making excuses for him.

    Posted by Been there, Done that January 29, 09 01:38 PM
  1. If after five years together he's still "not sure," then he'll never be sure. When people start waving around what basically amount to logistical reasons for not getting married, it's a smokescreen. If he wanted to get married, he would do it. Do yourself a favor and move on. When you find someone who really is sure they want to be with you, you'll know ... and you'll be glad. You deserve better.

    Posted by ramona January 29, 09 01:39 PM
  1. Why on earth do assume that not being married means no commitment? My parents have been together for 40 years and never married. They've raised children and are growing old together. Both have wills leave everything to me and my siblings. Should my mother have left my father 35 years ago, because he didn't give her a ring or sign a piece of paper?

    If you're happy, you're happy. If you're not, then you need to talk to your partner about it.

    Posted by S January 29, 09 01:45 PM
  1. Here's an idea: Ask him if he has any intention of marrying you.

    Posted by AG January 29, 09 01:48 PM
  1. A person can be married and in grad school at the same time.

    Posted by Aunt Beth January 29, 09 01:50 PM
  1. Hey, there are enough crappy girlfriends out there as well - let's not label this phenomenon a 'guy problem'. Get real.

    Posted by Paul January 29, 09 01:51 PM
  1. Who foolish is this woman to sit around and wait for a marriage proposal to validate her relationship. Are you in it for him, or for the ring??

    Posted by schlippittz January 29, 09 01:51 PM
  1. I don't agree with Meredith at all. In fact, all of the comments seem to be straight out of "the Rules." Being a woman in the engineering world and having had MANY male roommates I have seen over and over that men get married when they feel like they've settled in to their lives. Particularly graduate students who live sparsely and expect a pay off later on. I've seen guys who seemingly have a switch go off in their head once they've reached "that place" and then go wife shopping because it is the right time for him. If you enjoy being with him, continue to enjoy it. If you are feeling pressure to have a baby, have one without him. Don't feel like you need to get married just because society tells you that you should be.

    Posted by womaninmanland January 29, 09 01:54 PM
  1. I think that there are a lot of valid points being raised here, but I think the most important thing is how you feel and what your goals are. If you cannot be happy unless this relationship moves forward, you need to admit that to yourself and act accordingly. If you are fine with just "quite happy being with him" then you continuing the relationship as is seems fine. But I think you have to accept that he is unlikely to marry you or stay with you (I don't think marriage is the only kind of committed relationship). You say that he is very "old school" in his approach to life; but "old school" guys don't usually marry a woman 10-15 years their senior. And "old school" guys often want a more traditional relationship with a younger (more compliant?) wife who is of an age to have babies and make a more traditional marriage. I am not saying that he doesn't care for you or even love you, I think he sees this relationship as meaningful for a certain stage in his life, a stage he is about to exit. I don't see that the man you describe sees himself in a permanent relationship with an older woman. If marriage and/or permanence is what you are after, then I think this guy is not the one. I think you should start looking at what else is out there.

    Posted by Nancy G January 29, 09 02:28 PM
  1. Let him go find himself......bet he'll always be like that until some bimbo gets herself pregnant and "minipulates/guilt trip him" to marry her (oldist trick in the book)....and he'll try and make her life hell by blaming his "ungrowth" having to marry her & have kids.

    Posted by Anonymous January 29, 09 02:30 PM
  1. Cougar is a term used for older women on the prowl for younger men to satisfy their libido's...a younger guy has no need for her other than an easy option for his own satisfaction.

    Been there and done that with a 40 something from the north shore married with kids. Had some fun at her expense. She got what she wanted but then wanted more. Thankfully I saved the pictures so when she went nuts I had evidence to save myself.

    I was bored of her and dumped her like a bad piece of fish in the trash. She was no match for the girls my age and younger which is what I preferred and continued to date/sleep with while using her when it was convenient for me.

    You know you are a Cougar and probably were using him when it all began and now you are on the other end of the deal and feeling cheap and used and of course OLD with no options.

    You got what you wanted, now move on out of the way so he can have his younger girl to start a family/life with.

    Posted by brooklines best January 29, 09 02:55 PM
  1. I agree that if he isn't ready now, he's making excuses. I was in a long-term relationship without getting married and said things like, I'm not the marrying type. Then, after we broke up, I met someone else, and we were married within a couple of years. It just felt right, and it turns out that I am very much the marrying type.

    Posted by Sandra January 29, 09 03:03 PM
  1. Aren't you glad you asked?

    Posted by Hef January 29, 09 03:40 PM
  1. It's an excuse. If he wanted to commit to you, he'd do it.

    Why wait until June to move on? That's a waste of time. Do it now.

    Posted by greenclown January 29, 09 03:43 PM
  1. Just go down to Walmart. A lot of younger guys go down there looking for an easy score on a cougar. You can have a different younger guy each week. No need to settle down with someone who isnt sure what he wants to do.

    Posted by Bud January 29, 09 03:53 PM
  1. I agree with womaninmanland. Society has been pounding it into people's heads that you significant other only truly loves you if he/she asks you to marry him/her. Cougar, if you want to get married, talk to him and tell him how you really feel, don't throw away what you have with him because society (and most of the people here) say that "he's had his chance". It sounds like all you want is to know that marriage is somewhere in the plans. If you explain it that way (no crying or screaming or ultimatums) he may not feel cornered and it may open up a dialog. I am a woman who has a boyfriend of 9-years (we live together). I know he loves me and I love him. I don't need an expensive piece of carbon to know that he loves me. Whether we get married tomorrow or never, it does not change the way we feel for eachother. It's not about the parties, the jewlery or what other people think. Talk honestly with eachother about how you feel before you do anything.

    Posted by Kat January 29, 09 03:59 PM
  1. If he really wants to have a life with you, and this is what you want, then insist you get married. You can delay the wedding/slash party if the money isn't there. It's the commitment that matters most. I got married last month for $66 -- $50 for the marriage license, $15 for the judge, and $1 for the parking meter outside the courthouse.

    Posted by Secondmarriage-nowedding January 29, 09 04:01 PM
  1. Listen, as a younger man (28) who loves dating older women (38-46), I will be the first to tell you that the type of man that partakes in such behavior is by nature a commitment phoebe and subconsciously enters into these dating escapades b/c he does not anticipate commitment to be asked of him. If you are crazy enough to date a guy 10+ years younger than you, than you are even crazier to expect him to commit. If he is in his low 30's and just got a PhD, he is going to look for some hot chick in her early 20's that wont ask him to commit for a couple of more years, thus achieving his objective by postponing the commitment phase of his life.

    Posted by P-Diddy January 29, 09 04:22 PM
  1. Yep. Time to move on.

    Posted by jenny January 29, 09 04:37 PM
  1. Cougar is such a hideously derogatory term, don't label yourself as one. You're in your mid-40s - your prime - you can still have children if you so want and choose. If he doesn't marry you NOW you need to leave immediately if you are looking for marriage and/or children. If your needs are different and you are looking for companionship for a few months he's the guy but he's not going to marry you.
    Nancy G's advice @21 is superb and brookline'sbest@23 - something tells me your ex-girlfriend got the better part of that deal when you ended the relationship. Lucky girl!

    Posted by Jen January 29, 09 05:00 PM
  1. Your answer is already written in your question.."He doesn't feel he can offer me a more permanent relationship..." . That is all (sadly) you need to know. Anything written after that is just an excuse, no matter how well-intentioned or self-delusional. Don't wait until June. Have the conversation today. Good Luck.

    Posted by Mick January 29, 09 05:00 PM
  1. What is the problem with women??? Why must you always want marriage??? You are in your 40's and are LUCKY enough to be going with a younger guy and you are complaining about commitment??? Jesus!!! Be happy and enjoy it while it lasts and stop being so serious about the relationship... and women wonder why men lose their minds... it's YOU WOMEN!!!!!

    Posted by sj January 29, 09 05:18 PM
  1. wow.. it is hard to believe people can be so mean on here. I think if you are happy, why mess with a good thing? You know him better than anyone one on here. If you think he's sincere about wanting to wait until he can provide, then be patient. If you think it's an excuse, then do what you need to do.

    Posted by LastNight January 29, 09 05:18 PM
  1. I don't see any contradiction between having an "old school" outlook on relationships and dating someone older than you. He probably just wants to feel that he can be an equal partner in the relationship - imagine being not-yet-employed *and* marrying someone more "adult" and world-wise than you. Many of my graduate student friends with girlfriends their same age or younger have waited until they finished their dissertation and felt that they were "adults" before getting engaged. There are always logistical considerations in marriage as well as romantic ones - you don't want to start a life together where one partner is bringing tons of debt and expenses into the marriage.

    Posted by Jennifer January 29, 09 05:19 PM
  1. You're too old to have kids. Even if he says he doesn't want kids, men like that as an option... because he knows he might change his mind later.

    Posted by Brad January 29, 09 05:23 PM
  1. None of you people should be giving any advice.

    Posted by ross January 29, 09 05:25 PM
  1. If that's Brookline's Best, I'd hate to get a load of Brookline's Worst.

    Posted by Just Sayin' January 29, 09 05:32 PM
  1. "I'm not sure if it's just an excuse to not marry me or that he really wants to establish himself before deciding to marry me." "..(he) feels it's important for his own pride and esteem that he has something to offer me"

    Ugh. That's far, far more troubling than him not marrying you after 5 years, because what you're telling us is that you a. don't respect his view of his role in your mutual relationship and b. aren't taking him at his word, which means you basically don't trust him.

    That's not surprising, since if you two have such divergent views on something big like finances you're either not communicating effectively and/or staking out your own positions without any interest in compromise. I guess you could follow Ms. Goldstein's advice and give him an ultimatum, but that's a heck of a way to confirm the latter pattern in your relationship - you have it your way until he has it his way. Good recipe to be constantly fighting for control of things ad infinitum. Sounds like a miserable way to spend the rest of your life, but hey, never can figure out what makes a couple work from the outside.

    Ms. Goldstein and other posters miss this too: the dissertation isn't an excuse as much as it is a hope that after it's completed, he'll be more comfortable with your respective roles - since he doesn't sound any happier with his position than you are with yours right now. That's possible, since your outlook changes once you become a productive member of society rather than a permastudent. It's also possible that nothing will change whatsoever. Got me.

    However, what I'm pretty sure about is that some professional help is in order to help you both figure out if this relationship is worth continuing. It'll help you identify if the issues are just what you expect from each other and finances. Marriage doesn't suddenly miracle away pre-existing problems between people, and you've got to solve those first before you make any decisions - one way or the other. Setting a deadline won't get you there.

    Posted by observer12 January 29, 09 05:37 PM
  1. Why not get engaged? That would move your relationship forward at this point, without the pressure to get married just yet. You can get married when the time is right. If he doesn't want to get engaged, you have your answer. I personally think this man says the truth with his actions more than with his words. His actions are not saying he is going to marry you.

    Posted by Mary M. January 29, 09 05:52 PM
  1. Hey CACouger...try on someone your own age...I'm available...pretty damn handsome to boot...lol...don't waste your time with this cry baby...

    Posted by Bill January 29, 09 06:12 PM
  1. Well, first of all, forty is NOT old - or past anyone's prime....unless you're shallow. And I'm guessing that those who have posted on this board that 40 is old...are shallow. So since they don't have much in their heads to start with, ignore their remarks. Cougar: You want a commitment. He does not. Period, end of story, wham. Time to move on. I agree there is so much pressure from society to hook up/get married...but society does not always know what is best. Basically, society is a group of people who are afraid to seem different from all the other people in the group (see: Teenagers). Nothing wrong with being 40ish and single. There is, however, something wrong with wasting your time on someone who is just really not interested in the same type of relationship you are interested in. Good bye, its been nice....hope he finds his paradise.

    Posted by Yoshimi January 29, 09 06:28 PM
  1. Ditto Just Sayin! I live in Brookline, and hope to never bump into Brooklines Best piece of trash!

    Posted by Ditto January 29, 09 07:05 PM
  1. StraightShot: Brilliant !

    Posted by CJ January 29, 09 07:17 PM
  1. A PhD in what field? Some postdocs are gypsies doing a year or two at different labs all over the country, can you follow?

    Posted by phdposer January 29, 09 07:48 PM
  1. Ask him to marry you, do the proposing yourself, don't wait for him to do it.
    If he's serious, he'll say yes.
    and remember... anything other than a yes, is a no.
    If he tries to dodge the question,or change the subject, or in some way
    puts you off.... such as saying, "yes but later", that means no.
    So just put it on his plate, and anything other than yes ......... is no.
    good luck :o)

    Posted by al-ski January 29, 09 07:52 PM
  1. Yeah Jen, she got the better deal all right, she went back to her miserable marriage with the threat of pictures and videos of her cheating ways being distributed to her "family" all so she could have some fun. I felt bad for the children but her threatening me in ways you need not to know about led me to protect myself with pictures that YES SHE POSED FOR KNOWINGLY.

    Just sayin and Ditto...you won't ever have the pleasure of meeting me since I am beyond that stage in life of using Cougars for fun. Too bad, it might have been fun meeting ditto in brookline and using her then tossing her aside as well. Just for kicks maybe Jen could have joined us, I hear the over 40 crowd is in to that kind of thing these days. Maybe you can confirm it? Not having to deal with Psycho older chicks anymore is a relief. Go play bingo or knit a sweater like the rest of the old washed up hags.

    To all the other Cougars out there that would like to comment please do so, I enjoy the reading :)

    Posted by Brooklines Best strikes again January 30, 09 10:59 AM
  1. Wow, this scenario hits home. i was the guy in an almost identical scenario. CACougar, if you are seeking marriage with this man, you need to let him know that unless he commits soon, you will be moving on. If he doesn't do so within some explicit timeframe, you MUST move on. NO EXTENSIONS. If you leaving doesn't incent him to pop the question, then it wasn't meant to be. These sort of relationships get convenient to stay in, but time will pass you both by. Don't become an enabler of his apathy...take action and stick with it...no matter how painful in the short term.

    Posted by Mike January 30, 09 12:48 PM
  1. So, it seems that from your letter you have already discussed marriage. Did you support this guy financially throughout his PhD? Cook him meals? Wash his clothes? Make his life comfy and easy? It sounds like he used you. Doesn't it seem odd that after 5 years, he's STILL not ready to commit to you? What was his excuse for the past 5 years? "I'm in school. Just wait until I finish." Now that he's finished with school he needs you to wait until he gets the dream job. What next? Wait until he gets a Nobel Prize? You say he is traditional, "old school", yet he is dating a woman that is 10-15 years older than him! Not very traditional. My husband and I met in grad school. He was a foreign student from a traditional culture. We married months after finishing our PhDs. We built a life and careers together. The 'old school' thing to do is to marry the person you love-for richer or poorer. This guy is using you! Be a real cougar, kick him to the curb and move on with your head held high-and don't look back!

    Posted by powersozyurt@comcast.net January 30, 09 09:14 PM
  1. CAcourgar Get out of that relationship!
    Run as fast you can!

    Posted by LNB February 2, 09 01:12 PM
  1. You need to find a REAL MAN! This guy is waayyy to immature! He may never grow up! Some males never do. It really doesn't matter what your age differences are, it is about his matuity level, what you both have in common etc. Basic things that make up Any relationship. To me I think you would be better to move on and if MR. Right comes along then it will happen if it is meant to be. I don't think it would matter if this guy was 60! He is not emotionally mature. He is 30 for Heaven's sake! He is an adult! Everybody on here needs to quit acting like he is 12!!! He is not going to make any woman 20, 30, 40 or50 a good husband. He is just not marriage material. Find a real Man!!! You will be better off without this screwed up mess!

    Posted by Allie February 19, 09 11:27 AM
  1. Who cares! My friends recommended me a very interesting place ~~~ AgelessFriends.com ~~~ It's a nice place for Younger Women and Older Men, or Older Women and Younger Men, to interact with each other. You may wanna check it out.

    Posted by Mandy September 3, 09 08:48 PM
ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

Ask us a question