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Boyfriend Gets Upset when He Hears the Word "Marriage"


Dear Annie: I am 26 and have been seriously dating "Bryan" for four years. We have lived together most of that time and love each other deeply.

Last year, Bryan was offered a promotion in another city and said he wouldn't go unless I came along. I agreed, quit my job, depleted my savings and moved. Our relationship is strong. The problem is, Bryan refuses to talk about marriage. Every time I bring it up, he gets upset.

The last time, I told Bryan I would not wait forever and gave him an ultimatum — he has until the end of this year to propose, or he will lose me. I am not eager to leave, and I'm not desperate to marry, but I would like to know marriage is in the near future so I can plan. My biological clock is ticking, and I feel that if I don't speak up, nothing will ever happen. Do you agree? — Tired of Waiting

Dear Tired: If you want marriage, you will have to push Bryan into it or get out of the relationship and find someone else. So yes, your ultimatum makes sense.

But you must be prepared to walk if he doesn't come through. You have been with this man for four years and are entitled to know his intentions. But if he is incapable of discussing marriage without becoming upset, we don't hold out a lot of hope.

Dear Annie: I am 14 years old and get along great with my parents, except for one thing. I don't want to play football anymore.

Every time I bring up the possibility of not playing next year, my parents say I need structure and exercise. Right now, my team is having non-mandatory workouts twice a week. I go because they make me, and I try my hardest, but honestly, I hate it. During the actual season, it's hard for me to finish school projects and homework, especially on game nights when we don't get home until late. Please help me out. — No More Football

Dear NMF: Sometimes parents don't realize how much pressure they put on a child when one of the parents has an idealized version of what their child should be.

If your folks want you to be physically active and aren't particular about the sport, perhaps you can find something else that you enjoy more. If it is specifically football, talk to your coach and also the school counselor, and ask them to intercede on your behalf.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Bummed Out in Bradenton, Fla.," whose son served time on drug charges and, although he appeared eager to change his life, has not found work or done anything since his release.

I hope Dad won't give up on him. Our son was arrested 18 months ago on drug charges and fought his addiction. But after his release, the depression set in. His doctor and psychologist explained that the depression would last longer than the addiction. I actually prayed for the morning when our son would get up and shower without being told to do so.

He showers now and brushes his teeth and gets to work on time. Last week, he handed me a little money to help with groceries, and I almost cried. He's not entirely OK, but he's moving steadily forward.

In order to succeed and stay clean, your son has to leave behind the crowd he hung out with. Our son's network of friends is slim now, which means he needs our support more than ever. Attending self-help meetings has been a struggle, so he has private sessions with doctors who are willing to work with us on payments.

Please, Dad, stay involved with your son. You can't imagine how much he needs you. And don't hesitate to get some help for yourself. — Burned Out, Too

Dear Burned Out: Your son is extremely lucky to have parents who stand by his side and work with his doctors. We hope he will win this battle.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



29 Comments | Post Comment
Regarding LW1, personally I wouldn't want a marriage proposal that resulted from an ultimatum. How strong would the foundation be when the man felt forced into the commitment? I'm not sure why LW1 is pushing so hard for marriage. She's been with her boyfriend for four years, claims their relationship is strong and that they love each other deeply. How will a marriage certificate change that? Regardless, the fact that her boyfriend gets "upset" every time she brings up tying the knot, means a few things: Either he has cold feet when it comes to commitment in general; he has reservations about committing specifically to LW1; or he isn't interested in settling down now, or possibly ever. All of these should be deal breakers. If LW1 wants marriage, then she needs to find a new man.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris
Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:15 AM
I don't understand why she has to give him an ultimatum for HIM to propose to HER. How about she asks Bryan to marry her as in, "Bryan, will you marry me"? He will either answer yes, no or maybe (meaning ‘no') and she then has her answer. I would think a marriage proposal based on an ultimatum is pretty shaky ground on which to start a marriage.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Rick
Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:53 AM
LW1, By trying to force your boyfriend to propose via an ultimatum, you are undermining your entire relationship with him. If he does propose, and you get married, he may eventually begin to resent you for forcing him into it. Also, you are already living together and have been for most of the time you have been with him, so he is already getting the benefits of marriage, without the responsibilities. You know what they say, "Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free". You need to sit down with him and rationally discuss why he is so against marriage, and why you are so for it. And both of you need to listen, and I mean LISTEN, to the other person's reason's for why you each feel so strongly about this. Then, you may be better able to evaluate this relationship and where it is heading.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Laura S.
Fri Jun 18, 2010 5:38 AM
jean2 here: Apparently "Tired of Waiting" and her boyfriend want different things and have different ideas about their future together. There is no right answer here but really just a simple question: Can she live with the relationship "as is" or is marriage that important to cause her to break up and find someone that has the same desire for commitment. There are pros and cons to marriage just the same as in living together. I must agree with those who have suggested that ultimatums will cause eventual resentment. If he does not wish to marry her: in ten years will she regret not finding someone who could offer her everything that she wants?
Comment: #4
Posted by: Jean
Fri Jun 18, 2010 5:59 AM
You need to decide if you want marriage for the protection--ability to make decisions about his care if he is incapacitated, ability to have protection regarding inheritance in case you have children, ability to collect on benefits like social security based on his earnings--or whether you would just feel better with the ceremony. If it is the former, go with him to a lawyer and both make out wills, do all the medical power of attorney paperwork and anything else that would clarify your status, take out a life insurance policy on him that you control. If it is that you would feel better if you were married, propose to him and suggest a marriage before a judge so there is no stress financially or chaos that can happen with a wedding. If he says no, then you can decide if you want to continue to be a girlfriend. Getting married does change the tone of your relationship. Think carefully about what your expectations really will be after you marry. You might be surprised about the demands you might place on his time (you go out with the guys too often) and have pre-conceived notions that will kick in just because you get married. Maybe get some couples counseling to figure out what's going on between the two of you and what each of you expect out of the rest of your life.
Comment: #5
Posted by: BB
Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:08 AM
Hang in there Burned Out - sounds like your doing all the right things and it is all working! Instant fixes are not the awnser but many people think that you "get over" addictions / deaths/ job losses or whatever in todays society, but it's not true. The commitment to your child proves a loving dedicated family, even if your exhausted yourself. What a wonderful family you must have - we should all be so lucky to have strength / patience / dediction like that. Anyone else going through it, hang in there too!
Comment: #6
Posted by: Deena
Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:31 AM
LW#1 - Leave him. You ruined your chances for marriage by moving in with him, then moving with him. Move back to where you were and start your own life on your own terms. You'll meet someone who is interested in the same things: marriage, family, and commitment. Don't drag around after a loser. When you meet the new guy, do not move in with him. Never move in with a man if you want him to marry you, never.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Amy
Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:35 AM
LW1 has the right to want to be married; Marriage is more than just a piece of paper. It's a declaration to the world about how you view the future of your relationship, and it offers certain protections to children born of the marriage, and it grants you legal status as each other's next of kin. It's important that she conveys that desire to the boyfriend rather than drifting along for another 4 years, hoping against hope that he'll spring the question and being bitterly betrayed if he does not. I think it's also fair for her to point out that she made a leap of faith for their relationship when she moved to be with him -- believing they had a future together and doing what he asked so he would be successful in his career, at the expense of her savings and her established life (career, friends, family) in that town. (Personally,if I were LW and valued marriage, I'm not sure I'd have made that kind of move without some inkling that he, too, was thinking marriage.)

But her boyfriend also has the right not to want to marry, whether it's her or anyone, ever.

I'd bet the problem resulted from presenting her thoughts to the boyfriend as an ultimatum (probably one she "confronted" him with, at that). That's just about guaranteed to get the other person to shut down, which is not what she wants. She's got a valid question, or rather several, that she needs him to answer: Is marriage something you're philosophically opposed to, or are you just not ready? If you're not ready, what do you need to be ready? Or is it me specifically you don't see marrying?

If they can't have even this conversation without one of them shutting down, it doesn't bode well for a future together, married or unmarried. Couples have to work through a LOT of differences of opinion and major decision; basic communication skills (how to stand up for your beliefs and how to disagree without attacking, how to work through rather than shut down, how to remain polite, how to know when to back off and cool down, and when to open the discussion again) are fundamental to a relationship's success.

Comment: #8
Posted by: hedgehog
Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:57 AM
LW#2 could be my son. We moved from a big city to a small Texas town where my family lives and where High School football is everything! He played JV Football last season. The Head Football coach is notorious for being hard on the boys. Two a days in the Hot Texas Summer sun and morning workouts starting at 6:30 AM Monday through Thursday both semesters. Four hour practices each afternoon during football season. I was completely heartbroken when he told me he didn't sign up for Athletics for his up coming Sophmore year. But now I understand. Because of LW2 I now know I need to support my son in whatever he wants to do. Thank you for writing your letter.
Comment: #9
Posted by: texasflower
Fri Jun 18, 2010 8:02 AM
Can we please lose that horrible old cliché about milk and cows. Women are NOT cows. Why would you want to marry somebody who thought of you as one?

I had a friend from high school who was living with a guy and she wanted marriage and he was dragging his feet. She didn't give him an ultimatum; she moved out. Suddenly, he realized what he'd lost and he was begging her to marry him and they've been married for 20 years now. I agree that she needs to stop waiting for a proposal. Ask him. Lose the "Cinderella" or "Sleeping Beauty" ideas and ask him, now. If he says no, you've got your answer and move on.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Fri Jun 18, 2010 8:18 AM
Regarding LW2 he could be my son. My 15 year old and I moved to a small West Texas town from a big City to be closer to our family. My son played JV Football last fall and they won the District Championship! Football is everything to us, from Pro Football to supporting our Texas Longhorns. My son is a huge football fan and loved to play the game. However moving to this small school who's Head Football coach is notorious for being hard on the boys changed my son's love for playing. Starting with four to five hour two a days in the hot Texas summer sun, to 6:30 am mandatory work outs, and four hour practices after school. I was completely saddened when my son told me he didn't want to play football this up coming fall. He didn't even sign up for Athletics. I voiced my opinion on the matter but now I know I need to just support my son in his decision. I'm going to miss watching him play, but I'd rather see him happy then trying to make me happy. Thanks, young man, for writing your letter.
Comment: #11
Posted by: texasflower
Fri Jun 18, 2010 8:46 AM
Regarding "Tired of Waiting", it sounds like Tired had some un-voiced expectations that went hand-in-hand with this move with BF Bryan. (She should have thoroughly discussed all of this with him before they moved, but that's a moot point now.) Now she is asking what she should do to get what she wants (marriage to Bryan), so this is my advice to her.

Tell Bryan that it sounds like he needs some time and space to think about things, and then give it to him. Move out, if at all possible. It's okay to continue to see him, but avoid sleeping with him. Let him know you love him, but you also need him to commit to you, and if he can't do that, then it is time for you to move on. (This would be a good time for you to really educate yourself about what it means to be married. Too many people see marriage as a temporary condition, hence the heartbreaking divorce rate. Google “covenant marriage”.)

And like the Annies said, you have to be ready to leave when his time is up. If he truly loves you, he won't let you go.
Comment: #12
Posted by:
Fri Jun 18, 2010 8:48 AM
Re: JoannaKathryn
You just presented another prime example of the "old clich." When your high school friend moved out from her live-in arrangement and suddendly her boyfriend realized what he had lost and begged her to marry him, it is because "you don't miss the water (til the well runs dry)."
Comment: #13
Posted by: Myra
Fri Jun 18, 2010 12:31 PM
Re: Joannakathryn. I realize the comparison to a bovine comes off as kind of a put-down; what self-respecting woman wants to be compared to cattle? When you really think about it, though, the expression has survived and become a tired cliche for the same reason as all the other familiar cliches: because there is a nugget of truth to it. It doesn't mean that the woman is stupid like a cow; it simply takes the view that sex is mostly enjoyed by the man, and so said man is going to keep hanging around getting his needs taken care of, with no real incentive to make a lifetime commitment unless his partner demands one and withholds sex ("milk") as a condition. Of course; you're right in that the analogy also contains some flaws - cattle don't gain a lot from being milked, whereas a sexual relationship often does provide some pleasure for the woman. It's no where near as one-sided as what goes on at a dairy farm. If you think the expression is useless, perhaps you can think of a better one.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Matt
Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:25 PM
Re: Myra. Confucious say - sex like air. Only important if you not getting any!
Comment: #15
Posted by: Matt
Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:26 PM
For Tired, Best advice here is from Mary. Don't issue an ultimatum, just say you need space to think about your future and move out. Still be nice and sweet, but no sex while you are "thinking about things." If he wants to know what things and what future, just sweetly say you are trying to evaluate how important being married and having kids really is to you, and leave it at that. He will show his true colors one way or the other. He will either start talking marriage, honestly explain he wants a relationship without any of those strings ever, or he will just start to look for another "roommate with bedroom privaledges." For No More, my younger kids loved band. They lived and breathed band it seemed. The band actually had longer practices than the football team. Then, as the band began winning more and more competitions, the emphasis slowly shifted to an emphasis on winning for the sake of winning. My youngest, who had originally fallen in love with band because of her older sibling, ended up dropping out of band her senior year. There is more to life than band, or football, or even school. Find your passion and follow it.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Elizabeth
Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:16 PM
if you can't communicate about marriage and relationship goals after 4 years, you have a serious communication issue. Tell him how much you want to discuss your future and goals. If he doesn't want anything different than what you have now, you are going to have a problem. I also wouldn't administer an ultimatum, i've seen too many of those backfire and heard about guys whining and complaining saying, "i only married her because she gave me an ultimatum." You want him wholly and truly, not because of some ultimatum. Get some books on communication and good relationships and open the dialog. If he is absolutely unwilling to communicate, then you have you answer, you can have the same relationship forever until he gets bored with you, or you can leave. You didn't even say how he felt about kids? Is he even interested? Doesn't sound like you two really know each other that well in the end, work on that and you'll get your answers. And also, the worst someone can do, is waste someone else time. Try that one on him and see what he says.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Laurie
Fri Jun 18, 2010 5:17 PM
LW1: Sounds like BF has made his decision. He is not interested in getting married. Period. He is waiting for the love of his life to show up and it isn1t you. You are just the convenient place holder..... especially if you are providing part of the living expenses that combined allows you two to live more comfortably. You think you have a solid relationship because it is what you hear not necessarily what he means.
Comment: #18
Posted by: Kelsey
Fri Jun 18, 2010 9:32 PM
Re: Matt--I tried to post some cliches (obviously the accented e doesn't work here, though it did on my computer) about bulls, steak dinners, pigs, and sausages, but I guess the censor didn't like them. Also, the idea that only men like s-e-x is really outdated. If a woman doesn't, the man is doing something wrong. I don't know who said it, but I agree: there are no frigid women, only clumsy men.
Comment: #19
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Sat Jun 19, 2010 8:29 AM
What's up with today's column? Today is Saturday. Didn't this same column appear yesterday? Are we no longer going to get a new column each day?
Comment: #20
Posted by: Pat-tricia
Sat Jun 19, 2010 9:21 AM
My daughter- in-law always brings her dad to all if our family functions. He's a widower and is a very annoying person. Kind if rude and not thoughtful and appreciative, eventhough he's not invited, nor does he contribute or offer to when we go out or have dinner, lunch etc . How do I handle this situation without hard feelings?
Comment: #21
Posted by: Robbie
Sat Jun 19, 2010 12:30 PM
Re: Robbie--you probably can't, but tell your son that you'd rather she didn't bring him. If he doesn't know about the functions, he won't get his feelings hurt.
Comment: #22
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Sat Jun 19, 2010 1:01 PM
Comment: #23
Posted by: POPPY
Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:26 AM
Comment: #24
Posted by: POPPY
Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:29 AM
Re: Joannakathryn - I agree about the uninvited guest. Just don't tell the man about the functions and he won't have his feelings hurt. But it really wouldn't hurt to include him specifically on some occasions. The man must be lonely since it's not uncommon for "friends" of a married couple to drop the widowed person from their activities. It used to annoy me that whenever we planned to go to one of my family's functions, my husband would insist that we invite his parents. We saw his parents A LOT more often than my family. My family didn't know them very well and I'd be stuck entertaining them when I'd rather be catching up on family news with my mom, siblings, and cousins. I should say that my family members were very friendly to my mother and father-in-law and they did take time to talk to them individually and include them in the general conversation. But they saw them perhaps once or twice a year at most which means they weren't close associates. I loved my in-laws but I also wanted to spend time with my own family members who I saw perhaps 1/10 or less of the time I saw my in-laws. So I suspect this kind of thing is another reason Robbie might not like having her son's fil attend every function.
Comment: #25
Posted by: Pat-tricia
Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:02 AM
Re: POPPY - Men have been pushed into marriage for years although it may happen less often now. It used to be if a guy was found having sex with a young woman or if he got her pregnant there would be what was called a "shot gun wedding." Nowadays, women have realized that marrying under those circumstances is not a ticket to marital bliss. (Just what does that mean? Marital bliss. It sounds as those everything's sweet and happy and no problems throughout the marriage. It brings to mind singing birds and flowers and green meadows, blue skies and puffy white clouds. If that's what marital bliss means, it doesn't exist. I've never seen that kind of marriage. Life with or without marriage has problems. My mind is just wandering today. I'm in that kind of mood.) To get back on topic, there isn't quite the same stigma attached to women having babies out of wedlock and the children themselves do not carry the same stigma as they used to. So it's easier to avoid marriage "for the sake of the baby." Anyway, I don't think that simply holding out on sex to make a guy propose is really what anyone or least what some of us mean. A person has to decide what he/she wants his/her life to be. Sex without marriage can lead to certain kinds of problems that many (most?) people wanted to avoid years ago. I'm not so sure about the current generation. Sometimes I think this generation isn't very intelligent in some ways but they may very well think similar thoughts about me. In any case, decide what you really want in life and then live your life accordingly. Want marriage? Then hold out for marriage. There's nothing dishonest or manipulative about that. Don't make an ultimatum. Just say you've thought things over and decided this life - this living together without marital commitment is not the way you want to live and then leave. After living on your own and making a life for yourself, you may decide you're just as happy that way (but give it time). If the boyfriend realizes that he really misses you and wants you in his life, he'll have to decide whether he wants marriage too. Then he can come "courting" again and you can make a decision about marriage. After all, if two people don't share the same goals in life, they won't be happy together.
Comment: #26
Posted by: Pat-tricia
Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:24 AM
I was in a similar situation once. I started seeing my boyfriend when we were 25. We instantly clicked, and moved in together. Two and a half years later, my mother was terminally ill, and I wanted to get married before she passed away. I reasoned that at 27 years old, after living together for 2 years, he should know by then if he wanted to marry me or not. He went back and forth on the idea for months, and I gave him several ultimatums, and I finally stuck by my word after months of failing to follow through. I wasn't mean, I didn't get angry; I just simply told him that I wanted the opportunity to meet other people, and I assisted him in looking for his own apartment. While he was dragging his feet on moving out, I was meeting people online, and enjoying the new conversation. I even met someone in person. Apparently, that's just what he needed for him to decide that I was the person he wanted to be with for the rest of his life, and he proposed. I waited a couple of weeks to see if he would change his mind, and when he didn't, I started planning the wedding. We got married 2 months after he proposed so that my Mom could be there. It's been almost 2 years since we got married, and we couldn't be happier now!
Comment: #27
Posted by: CMPM
Mon Jun 21, 2010 4:05 PM
For whatever reason, she's made up her mind that she needs to be married and she's willing to walk if it doesn't happen. I guess that's fair. If she were my girlfriend, I'd ask why she wants to be married so bad. It is supposed to be a lifetime committment after all. They need to talk and get on the same page. Are they gonna start a family? Is he rich and she wants his money? Maybe she thinks being married will make their relationship stronger. With so many marriages ending in ugly divorce, what really is the point anymore?
Comment: #28
Posted by: Deft
Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:08 AM
I find it interesting that LW1 states that she is "not desperate to marry". It kind of sounds like she is, if it has to happen this year or not at all. I agree with above that she needed to talk about it before she moved out of state with him.
Also, I disagree with the several comments above that if a man lives with a woman before marriage he will never propose. That may have been true 10-20 years ago, but not today. Plenty of 20-somethings live together and then get married, sort of like a "test run" - if we can handle being around each other 24/7 & do things like splitting bills & housework, we can get married. Obviously in this case there was no understanding that it would definitely someday lead to marriage, which became a problem.
Withholding sex should not be a weapon in which to get a proposal, much like issuing ultimatums shouldn't happen either. I know of many religious couples, waiting for marriage to lose their virginity, who instead of dating for awhile and finding out how truly compatible they are, get engage after only a few months because the man is eager to finally have sex. Not what I would consider an ideal marrying circumstance.
The bf's inability to talk about marriage definitely means that they will either need to get counseling or she will need to move out. Perhaps a counselor would be better at getting out his fears and getting him to talk about these important issues. I'm dating a commitment-phobe myself now and it can be really tough sometimes, seeing other people taking steps in their relationship that take longer or don't happen for you. But I am happy with him and not in a rush to get married or have kids, and that really makes all the difference.
Comment: #29
Posted by: michelle
Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:39 PM
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