Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hello Carolyn: I am a 31-year-old American woman in a long-distance relationship with a 40-year-old Canadian man, a friendship that blossomed into more. We agree on wanting children in the next few years as well as closing the gap next year with me moving to Canada.
However, we disagree on marriage. He was married once, years ago to a different long-distance girlfriend, only to have the relationship dissolve barely a year later.
I very much desire to get married, however he thinks marriage is “just a piece of paper” and commitment is more important. He wants to live together first to make sure we can tolerate each other, which I can understand. He would be willing to marry me eventually to make me happy, but I want someone who chooses to marry me because he loves me, not just because I want it.
I’ve made this very clear to him. Would it be foolish to give up my awesome life in America in hopes that he would eventually marry me?
Here’s my resoundingly useless answer: I don’t know.
It could be that you and he have the exact same ideas and ideals about commitment, and differ only on vows. Why is this possible here? Because he has had vows where the commitment wasn’t solid, and he sees now that vows themselves are flimsy, and it’s the stability of the commitment that matters. If that’s the case, then it could be reasonable to move first, and decide on marriage later.
It could also be that he’s living an unhealthy pattern and you’re just the latest enabler. Long-distance relationship, hopeful woman who relocates for him, sudden onset of doubts – sounds familiar, no? If that’s the case, then saying no thanks to an international relocation is the reasonable choice.
It could also be neither of the above and you two just don’t know each other well enough yet – and distance stands in the way. Which would make patience reasonable.
If you don’t know which is true, either, then you have more thinking to do WITHOUT relocating to do so.
Figure out whether you can trust him and can trust your own judgment. That’s your priority now. If you can’t, or if no amount of time seems to be enough to say whether you do, then you have your answer.
Re: Canada man: I relocated to marry the Man of My Dreams. Once the moving van doors were closed, he turned into a completely different guy. I struggled at a much lower income than before, and five years later he still hadn’t married me.
So, before you turn your world upside down, think very, very carefully and have a bailout plan in place.
Re: Distance: Marriage is not “just a piece of paper,” particularly in this case. Most societies confer real, tangible benefits on married couples that aren’t conferred on single individuals. Which is not to say she should use this as a tool to get boyfriend to agree to an ill-advised marriage, just that boyfriend’s logic isn’t very sound.
Right – as another reader pointed out, if he really believed it was just a piece of paper, then he’d have no problem with agreeing to marry her. Thanks.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.