Q: Dear Meredith,
I am a successful, never-been-married woman in her late 30s who has been in a wonderful relationship with a divorced man in his late 40s for about 18 months. By all accounts, this has been the most fulfilling relationship I have ever been in on many levels. He is a funny, loving, smart, and generous man who is also a standout father to his three (now older) children from his previous marriage. His children have grown up to be smart and polite human beings who also treat me with great respect and for whom I have grown to care deeply.
So where does my problem lie? Well my boyfriend made it clear initially that he never wants to get married again. He had a terrible first marriage and his parents also had difficulties in theirs. He has also has seen the marriage of many of his friends end in bitter divorce, whereas I was raised with parents who have been blissfully married for 50+ years and I have many friends in (seemingly) happy marriages. Of course I thought that I could change his mind over time, but I am beginning to realize I was naive in thinking so. Over the years my perception of the importance of marriage has diminished to some degree, and I truly believe my boyfriend and I could have a great long term relationship for many years to come. That being said, I almost feel like I am selling myself short in this deal as I have been nothing but a wonderful girlfriend and often ask myself why I need to pay the price now for his ex-wife's terrible behavior?
By stating he will never again remarry, I take it as a personal insult that I myself am not good enough to marry, which I know is not the case. My dilemma now is whether to stay in this (almost) totally fulfilling relationship and just try to come to peace with the fact that it won't end in marriage, or do I cut my losses and hope to find something half as fulfilling with someone I might not care as deeply about, but who is at least willing to show long-term commitment to me? I am hoping your readers who are married can shed some light on the big question here: "Is marriage totally overrated and should I just be happy with what I have got?"
– Do I need a ring to make me happy, Cambridge
A: We're not really talking about marriage here, DINARTMMH. This is about love and commitment. You want to be with someone who plans to stick around, even when things get rough. There's nothing overrated about that.
If your guy told you that he wanted to grow this relationship with the hope of being together forever, would you be satisfied? If he began to treat you like a partner -- as opposed to a girlfriend -- would it be enough? I think it would. Because you don't seem desperate for a ring or a wedding. You just want to know that he feels bound to you.
Many people aren't comfortable with the idea of marriage. That doesn't mean that they can't commit. Your guy, however, seems to be saying that he doesn't buy into the idea of lifelong relationships. And you do. That's not good.
You don't want to be a girlfriend forever. Talk to him and explain your needs. Find out what he wants ... as opposed to what he wants to avoid. If he intends to keep things status quo forever, you can't stick around. You're capable of so much more.
Readers? Should she be happy with what she has? Is this about marriage or commitment? Do you think he's more committed to her than he lets on? Is her age relevant? Should she even settle for a committed non-marriage? Help.
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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 new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.