Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
I’m 25 and I’ve been living with my boyfriend for three years.
I lived with another guy, but broke up because he wanted his “freedom.”
I feel my 30-year-old partner is never going to ask me to marry him. We’ve talked about marriage because I brought it up and said, “I love you, I’m happy with you, I want your babies, so let’s get married and plan our lives.” He said he loves me too, but that was the end of our discussion.
We’re both getting our master’s degrees right now. I brought engagement up again almost a year later. He got angry and said he was focused on school and I should be also. Why can’t we be focused on school and be engaged?
I went to my parents’ house. I’m really depressed. My boyfriend apologized. He wants me back.
Should I give him an ultimatum?
Dear Young Woman,
Ultimatums don’t work because they’re threats.
There are many reasons why some people feel marriage isn’t for them. They’re worried it’ll restrict their freedom and career ambitions. They may want to “audition” sexual partners. Maybe they’ve had bad family experiences with marriage. Or they may not have specific moral, religious, or value-centered lives.
New studies show premarital sex and living together may lead to emotional damage:
- Intimacy is more than sexual relations. The most important ingredient (besides love) in having a stable and long-lasting relationship is trust, which requires a real ommitment like marriage.
- By age 21, over 80 percent of men and women in the United States have engaged in sexual intercourse. Sex has become casual. Research has found marriage to be more value-centered than cohabitation.
- Couples who prioritize sex often find their relationship nucleus is underdeveloped, according to Jeremy Uecker and Mark Regnerus, authors of the book Premarital Sex in America, published by Oxford University Press.
- Studies also show living together increases the risk of identity issues, depression, financial hardships, and emotional damage when the “audition” is over.
- Hormones like oxytocin, vasopressin, and endomorphines are values-neutral. They help when things go wrong in a committed marriage and have the opposite effect on cohabitating couples, according to new research.
- Statistically, those marrying between ages 28 and 32 stay married for more than 20 years.
Choose your religious and moral values before continuing your relationship. You may decide to abstain from sexual relations before marriage, even if you’re not a virgin.
Remember you can’t change anyone but yourself. Seek professional or clergy help for emotional support.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri