Saturday, January 12, 2008

When She Wants Marriage and He Doesn't


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My recent Suddenly Single column, published on’s Dating & Personals page, created quite a firestorm! The column is re-printed below. After it, please find some of your comments, along with my responses. What I find so interesting is how people read their own meanings into words I never said. Hey, everyone, there’s no one out there but us! Selective perception causes us to interpret information according to our own personal biases. These biases are not only interesting, they are very telling about who you really are!!


Dear Dr. Gilda,
I am 51, was married for 21 years, and realized my ex would never give up drinking, so I left him two years ago. My boyfriend is one year older than me and has been married twice before. I love him like crazy and want to spend the rest of my life with him. He feels the same about me, but says he will never marry again.

I’m not sure how long to wait until I give him an ultimatum. We are living together, he just bought a house for the two of us, and I know he will take care of me. But I’m an old-fashioned girl who absolutely must have the commitment. As much as I love him, I don’t want to live with him indefinitely. What should I be doing at this point?
– Sunny Southern California Girl

Dear Sunny Southerner,
Whoa! Your guy told you his marital non-aspirations, you ignored everything he said, and you moved in with him anyway, on the basis that he’d “take care of” you. Yet, you continue to long for more, by conjuring up a plan to get him to marry you. If you wanted marriage, you should never have moved in with him unmarried!

Remember the adage our grandmothers told us? Namely, “Why should a farmer buy the cow when he can get the milk for free?” Well, girl, your boyfriend has the whole cow, and now he’s got no vested interest in changing the way things are. As my Gilda-Gram says, “In every relationship, the person who cares less has the greater power.” You care about your guy, but he cares for you. Is this equitable to you? Apparently it’s not, because you say you’re not getting what you want.

From the perspective of a business negotiation, you are at a disadvantage because you gave away your bargaining chits and you are left with no leverage. Had you refused to move in together, perhaps he would have missed you enough to find his way down the aisle. But now, why should he?

All along, you’ve been giving this guy mixed messages, saying one thing, but acting another. Here are some examples of how you are sabotaging your own cause:
1. You describe yourself as “old-fashioned,” but old-fashioned girls don’t move in with a man until they are married.
2. You say you want a commitment, but your move-in behavior shows him that you’d settle for merely being “cared for.”
3. You say you don’t want to live with him “indefinitely,” but you have not set a date for when the term of “indefinitely” will end.

If you were in this guy’s shoes, you would probably act just as he’s acting. This is what I suggest you do now, if — as you say — you cannot be happy without being married:
1. As much as it may break your heart, give your boyfriend a date, and tell him that’s when you’ll be moving out on your own if you’re not married by then. Now, the really important part: Do not go back on your word or your word will never be believed again!
2. Begin looking for an alternate residence now, just to get an idea of available places. When you do this, you’ll begin caring for yourself instead of depending on a man to take care of you.
3. Be positive and optimistic, not needy and weepy, when you deliver your message to your boyfriend. Consider this not an ultimatum, but an expression of your own self-care.

As soon as you love the person in the mirror, perhaps your boyfriend will follow your lead. Or, perhaps you’ll view him as not so loving after all. One thing is certain: You’ll never discover the truth until you give him the opportunity to miss life without you. Do you have the courage to finally let the truth reveal itself?


Dear Dr. Gilda,
I just read your article on the 51 yr old lady who was living with a guy, but thought she was old fashioned to want marriage. I just want to give you encouragement and thanks for your wonderful answer. I am a Dr. Laura listener also and am amazed at how hateful people are to her straightforward advice. You must also get some of this, how dare anyone tell anyone today that shacking up is not a good thing?

I am 45 years old, and until I found my husband at 41, I allowed any kind of riff raff man to take over my life and invade. I gave up a lot of important things for pushy men who never found me important enough to marry. Mind you, I have been self supporting for all of my adult life, these men usually didn't contribute much, and some wanted me to support them. After listening to Dr. Laura for a few years, I finally got it and found a Christian man (a single new Pastor) who never pushed sex on me (clarification, some "Christian" men do, and I was involved with those too), and we deliberated about the choice of not kissing during courtship. We felt kissing would lead to sex, and it was important that we not do that. So we didn't kiss until our wedding day.

This non-sexual courtship allowed me to observe and interview this man for the job, and he did the same with me. Watching his big family let me see the values he was raised with and how that may affect his behavior. Lucky for me, his family is all still alive. And yes, I did ask how he was as a kid.
Keep Up the Good Work

Dear Keep Up . . .,
Thank you for the support. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with shack-ups if two adults honestly express what they want and expect. Since you wanted marriage, you did the right things to lead towards that. Sunny Southerner, above, lied to her guy, and used her living with him to try to rope him in. I am totally against this kind of subterfuge. It will only blow up in the liar’s face. Now this woman is tormented in HOW to manipulate him into marriage. I do training for healing, not for manipulating.
Thanx for writing!
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda:
Your article, "Suddenly Single," sums up the female psyche in this country perfectly. Grandma's quote about "not buying the cow when the milk is free" proves that some women screw for money, others do it for drugs, and still others do it for a good time. Then there are those who do it for security and a roof over their heads. But the female mindset is all the same. If you want sex, you gotta pay. The smarter men know how to make the determination about the price being too high. The dumb men go along with this age-old crap.

Marriage may be fine for young people who want families, but after the age of 40, why would anyone want to assume financial, legal and moral responsibility for another person? To be loved? Hah! They can sell that crap at Walgreen's. I know I'm not buying it.
Turned Off

Dear Turned Off,
Ouch! You assume that all women are prostitutes, and all men are pimps. Where does that place you? Obviously, alone!
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
I read your article on MSN about the woman who moved in with her boyfriend. I was very disappointed in how you responded to her, with your level of education. Ultimatums? Using the "cow getting the milk for free" thing? My gosh, how rude!

She’s divorced, he’s divorced twice, and these aren’t kids without experience on relationships. Why didn’t you explain to her when she used "the commitment" ploy, that marriage or a piece of paper is no commitment today? Commitment is in the heart, and requires "trust," which, of course, is a dice roll for both parties. This is true for anyone who chooses to delve into the world of relationships. It’s all about trust and taking a chance on love, not hedging one’s bets.

There were so many undertones of "we are the enemy" and you’re going to "help save the gals" from God forbid, dependence, that it was ludicrous. I remember the word "neutral" being repeated to me in my college counseling classes over and over. How will we ever bridge the gap between us, when it’s constantly brought to light that we have grave differences to beware of.
Disappointed Male

Dear Disappointed,
We do agree on a few things: relationships are a crap shoot—IF you don’t invest in getting to know someone before you commit—and if you are not honest from Day 1. And yes, a piece of paper becomes a sham if it is not from the heart, with great trust.

The cow getting the milk analogy is an old one, from Psychology 101: if something comes too easily, human nature deems it worthless. Do you remember that from basic Psych? Relationships don’t have to be a roll of the dice—IF you are honest and upfront about your feelings—which this woman was not, and for which I faulted her.

Sorry you saw this as a he vs. she argument. I wonder how much of your own selective perception leads to your conclusion. It isn’t a division of the sexes, and my advice would be the same if the genders were reversed.

If you’re really interested in bridging the [gender] gap, stop worrying about being “aware” of gender differences, and instead, acknowledge them, honor them, and work with them. It’s a beautiful thing to have someone by your side who isn’t your mirror image!
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
I just read your advice to a woman who moved in with her mate after he stated he does not wish to be married.

Your advice was quite good up to the point of advising her she was "ignoring" the obvious aversion to be married her man was stating rather clearly.

Did you take into account that he was married twice before and is now 52 yrs. old? Marriage, as you know, is no guarantee of anything in our current society. If he just purchased a house with her, and she lives with him, he did make a commitment to her. I can't imagine if I were twice divorced I would want to go down that path again either. Her desire to be married is born out of the idea that she's somehow "illegitimate."

Surely someone as progressive as you knows that women, and men, must rethink what society wants vs. what is good for each couple.
Thanks for Listening!!!

Dear Thanks,
Yes, this man DID commit to this woman. I never stated that marriage is the only way to go. But THIS woman was unhappy with HER decision. So THIS woman needed to move on, to a place where she would be happier. It’s also not fair to the guy to keep him hanging under false auspices!
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
Being a devoted male, I completely disagree with your advice. I'm sure I'm speaking for the entire male population who has been down this road before. I found your advice to be completely one sided.

I have been married twice now. I will never get married again either. Ever. Both my marriages ended without fault to me. One left me for another; the other left me because she couldn't leave mommy and daddy. Both relationships cost me a great deal…

I'm 41 now. I have a beautiful home, respect in the community, and money in the bank. I don't have a wife. I do have a wonderful girlfriend with that same fantasy of being married. She has a small child from her former marriage. Her ex is paying dearly right now.

My question is, “What is the point of being married?” What is in it for the male? Nothing but a ring around the finger. That's it.

The courts favor females. Everyone knows that, including my second wife. She used that as her bargaining chip to get what she wanted because she knew that I would be embarrassed and shamed just for being present in a court that favors females.

In my opinion, a marriage is very close to a business relationship. I have no problem with that. So why do you have to be married to help with the finances?

Why end a perfectly good relationship for a fantasy? Instead of placing a ring on a finger, a male might as well put the ring around his throat. I'm sure she will want a leash next.

Most women haven't a clue. Even the ones who waste money on those complicated women’s magazines in the check out lines. It’s all about the female and satisfying a fantasy that in reality doesn't exist. Most of my male friends found themselves in divorce court because once married, the female find out that marriage is more than being whisked away by a knight in shining armor. Then they feel let down and it’s the male’s fault.

My advice: let her give the ultimatum as you didn't suggest, but you really did. Just don't let the door hit her in rear when she leaves. This time the male is protected.
Been Down That Road

Dear Been Down,
Your hurt is obvious. But you’ll never get over it unless you unleash your anger. Here’s a shocker for you: I agree with a lot of your points. I tell women NOT to believe in the fantasy of marriage. My book is called “Don’t Bet on the Prince!” for that reason. Stop seeing black vs. white, and open your mind to some shades of grey. All females are not the same, just as all men are not bad guys.
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
… At her age, she should be thinking about her future. If he will pay all her expenses or any of then she should stick around and put away as much money toward her retirement as possible, enjoy her time with the love of her life and give up her old-fashioned ideas that made sense for your grandmother when she was of childbearing age. An ultimatum will only jeopardize her relationship and set her back on two counts.
Practical Man

Dear Practical,
A lot of my male e-mailers would be angry at your comments about letting this guy “pay all her expenses” so she could “put away . . . money toward her retirement…” Especially see the comments of the next e-mailer, below.
Dr. Gilda


Hi Dr Gilda,
I notice how you characterized this woman’s relationship as a business negotiation. Almost like a supply-demand thing for services, implying a contract needs to be ironed out. I guess the forces driving such a business negotiation reflect the demand part, the male sex drive, balancing the desire to get as much shopping money as possible commensurate with female attractiveness, the supply part.

Fortunately, men are discovering how they lose everything they cherish, contact with children, living standard, and health when divorce occurs. The losers are men, but women gain huge and can always get a live in boyfriend to live in the house the ex has to pay for, per an enforced court order. Usually, of course, this can only happen if a man is stupid enough to marry.

Too bad the 52-year-old man had to be divorced twice to learn how cruel women can be, if you are married to one. In your article, he is treated like a dysfunctional snotty little boy, turn him into a live-in ATM or leave him.

Fortunately, my gal knows we will probably never marry. I’ll keep my own house, there will be no community property, just small gifts. The sex is good, so we are good friends. With that, everything is perfect.
Living for the Moment

Dear Living for the Moment,
I hope your gal feels the same way you do. Otherwise, she may be writing to me for ways to get YOU to marry HER! PS: I NEVER EVEN MENTIONED THE "DYSFUNCTIONAL, SNOTTY LITTLE BOY." That was your choice of words.
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,

I disagree with your statements in the MSN column, telling the woman she should never have moved in with this man when they were not married. My parents are unmarried, and have been together for nearly 25 years.
Today’s Man

Dear Today’s Man,
I NEVER said this woman “should never have moved in with this man when they were not married.” I’m a psychotherapist, not a preacher, so I don't judge acts as moral or immoral. I told her that if SHE wanted marriage, she should have been upfront and honest from Day 1.
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda:
I just read your latest column on In your response you quoted the cliched saying, "Why buy the cow if the milk is free?"

Am I the only of your readers who finds the comparison of human women with livestock offensive?

Dear Offended,
YES, with the hundreds of responses I got, you’re the ONLY one who took the “clichéd” phrase personally. I wonder why. Moooo!!
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
Oy!! I think you missed the mark on this one. It was completely dishonest and disrespectful of this woman to move in with the man she "loves" in the first place. She's known all along how he feels about marrying again, yet she ignored it and moved in hoping to change him? Not fair play at all. If she loves him, she'll respect his wishes to remain unmarried. If she can't do that, and he's been honest about it, she should not have continued this relationship.
Another Lady’s View

Dear Another Lady’s View,
HEY, GIRL, I AGREE WITH YOU!!! What in my column didn’t I make clear??
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
What do you recommend this woman do? What if you are really so pathetic and weak and scared that you can't seem to bring yourself to exit that relationship? What would you recommend the gal do to strengthen herself, and find courage to leave that relationship?
Female Onlooker

Dear Female Onlooker,
Yes, this woman may be “pathetic and weak and scared,” and that’s why I map out a plan for her above. If she doesn’t get some self-love now, she’ll end up with no love in the future.
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
All I can say is THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! Finally someone cut to the chase and told it like it is!
Woman Who Knows


Dear Dr. Gilda,
Marriage is a legal hook into a man’s wallet and you appear to endorse and promote that view. If you didn't think it was important to be able to extract money from a man after a relationship dissolves, you wouldn't tell women they need to get married before living with a man.

And if women were equal to men, it wouldn't matter because the women wouldn't need the man’s money after the relationship ended...

I would love to see what you have to say about this, but I'm confident you will just dismiss it and continue to promote women's right and duty to go after a man's money!
Angry Dude

Dear Angry Dude,
WHAT WERE YOU SMOKING WHEN YOU INTERPRETED MY WORDS?? I NEVER even suggested anything you suggest I did. Your anger is blotting out your brain function.
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
I just read your "Suddenly Single" article in which you gave a rather confused individual some outstanding advice. I'm a 40-year-old male and one of my biggest pet peeves in dating are those mixed messages, as demonstrated by "Sunny Southern California Girl." Thanks for all the great advice you give. It helps me take a look at myself, making sure I keep my own integrity true.
An Appreciative Guy


Hi Dr Gilda,
I read your article from Sunny Southerner and found myself there. The only difference is, I realized you are right! I too am 51, single and thought I couldn't live without marriage. I have a great guy, (56) who also does not want to marry again. He told me that up front 5 years ago. I was unsettled with it at first, and thought I could change him. As time went on (we don't live together), I realized how strong I am on my own, got over the fear of being alone, and now I am the one who does NOT want to marry!

I love this man the way he is—living in his own home! I realized that I don't want him to change for me, but if he changes because of me, that's fine. We have a great relationship, are together most every day/evening, travel together, spend holidays together, etc., but at the end of the day, he goes home. In my opinion, Sunny is needy, having been married for 21 years, then ready to jump back into the fire. That's pretty quick to get over a marriage that lasted so long.

I have to really question her real feelings about this guy, or if she's really over the first one yet and just looking to be comfortable and kept. I love my guy, and we have already decided (mutually) that we will be together the rest of our lives. I too consider myself old fashioned, but I'm also a realist. That marriage "contract" isn't a guarantee. These days, it only makes you each qualified to receive half of everything should things not work out. I'm 51, I own my own home, have a good job, and am helping my daughter through college. If I have one thing I am most grateful to my guy for, it's for NOT marrying me. If he had, I'd never know what I could do on my own. At this point, if we ever marry, it will be because we love each other and WANT to be married. It won't be out of necessity. Sunny should quit boo-hooing and focus on finding herself.

Thanks for the great article...
I'm Strong in Ohio

Dear I’m Strong,
YES YOU ARE. And you have expressed my views precisely about gaining strength BEFORE even possibly taking on the “Mrs.” title.
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
I actually waisted my time reading your advice column. Where you told the young lady about getting married? My opinion is YOU ARE FULL OF SHIT!!!!!!!!! Freedom of Speech is Great. That is why you have your views and I have mine. Remember the people you spin your bullshit to, they may actually believe you and end up worse off than they are.

You have money they do not. Hope in your high and Mighty world "Oh I helped another one today" someday reality will bite you in the ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I live with my girlfriend and her 82 year old mother we own a house together and we are happy and not married. Now I am the dumb for continuing this.



Hello Dr. Gilda,
I just had to let you know that I am very impressed and pleased by your article on the front page of the MSN website. The article was a response to Sunny Southerner, who claims to be 'old fashioned' but is living with her boyfriend. I like your straight to the point, no nonsense approach. You spoke the truth and did not hold back. I appreciate that. In this day and time, it is what people need to hear. I am 30 yrs. old and not married/no kids, but I do understand the value of marriage. Because so many of us men don't, it is important for women to make sure their needs and desires match up with their actions. You made my evening, and I'd just like to say, 'Thank you.' God bless you, be encouraged, and people need to hear you!
Evolved Man

Dear Evolved Man,
Thank you for your kind words. Until BOTH men and women honor each other, and embrace their relationship, whether they marry or not is immaterial. It’s all about respect. And without that, there can be no longevity.
Dr. Gilda


Dear Dr. Gilda,
Thanks for putting me onto this link, Dr. Gilda. I really enjoyed reading the responses to this column. Gee, the number of idiots who can't read and think properly, and who misinterpret what they read, never ceases to amaze me. I'm sure you're used to it.

I personally loved your using the "why buy the cow when you can get the milk free". In fact, I read that "Elvis" himself often used this phrase when asked why he slept around with so many women. Men do think this way. I'm sure Elvis was laughing to himself all the way to the bedroom. For women, the phrase is, "Why buy the whole ig when all you want is a little piece of sausage?"

Personally, I would never live with a man. I am not religious at all and am not conservative in any way. Many of my friends have lived with guys long-term and one even has a "friends with benefits" arrangement. That's fine for them. I just feel that "one foot in is the same as one foot out" and if a man does not want to make a full, serious, long-term commitment to me, I would wonder about his motives. Living together still smells of "we can make a fast escape if playing house doesn't work out." Hey, that's fine for some folks, but it would make me sick. Maybe I'm just not "secure enough" to live with someone. I want the whole enchilada or nothing.

Take care and keep up the great, intelligent work!!!
Appreciative Lady


This is only a small sampling of how this topic hit the nerves of so many of my readers. Many men were angry because they THOUGHT I told this woman to marry to be happy. Some were upset because they THOUGHT I told women to use a man for his money. Some women reminisced about how they, too, had wanted marriage from a man who didn’t.

I NEVER said marry or don’t, or use someone for all he has. I never mentioned the man in this equation, except to tell readers that it was not fair to lead him on. I believe we must respect each other’s needs, be honest and upfront about our own, and see if we can have a meeting of souls. Relationships aren’t complex; it is we who make them that.

If you were one of those who misread my words, re-read them now. And then understand how YOU interpreted what you THOUGHT I wrote. Therein lies the way you are coming across to other people, especially those of the opposite sex.

"OUR WORLD MIRRORS WHO WE ARE BACK TO US. When we get upset by something outside of us, our reaction shows us that we have an inner wound to be healed.

Just as we can be unconscious of our wounds, we can also be unconscious of our strengths. If you are really drawn to the positive qualities in another person, you are being invited to own those same qualities in yourself.

The people we are in relationship with are always a mirror, reflecting our own beliefs, and simultaneously we are mirrors reflecting their beliefs. So relationship is one of the most powerful tools for growth... if we look honestly at our relationships we can see so much about how we have created them."
-- Shakti Gawain

If you are honest with yourself, you’ll be able to be honest with others. That is one of the most vital ingredients of relationship longevity.
Dr. Gilda


Dr. Gilda’s Offerings:
--DR. GILDA’s GUIDES on “How to Win at Relationships” and “How to Win at Work” (
--INSTANT ADVICE —BY PHONE OR E-MAIL for SAME-DAY advice in the privacy of your home or office (
--MENTORING PACKAGES to provide ongoing life and relationship support (
--BOOKS: “Don’t Bet on the Prince! How to Have the Man You Want by Betting on Yourself” ( and “How to Win at Love” (

DR. GILDA CARLE (Ph.D.) is a nationally-known psychotherapist/relationship expert. She is the founder of the video blog, GildaVision, on her web site: She is also’s weekly Suddenly Single advice columnist on’s Dating & Personals page. In addition, she is a motivational speaker, a professor of psychology & communications, and the author of "Don't Bet on the Prince!" (a test question on "Jeopardy!"), "Teen Talk with Dr. Gilda," and "He's Not All That!" DR. GILDA was the therapist in HBO's Emmy Award winner, "Telling Nicholas," featured on Oprah, where she guided a family to tell their 7-year-old that his mom died in the World Trade.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Gilda

I thought your relationship advice was very sensible. For religious reasons, I do not believe in living together before marriage - and for practical reasons too! If marriage is the goal, it does seem silly to offer the physical benefits of marriage without the legal benefits.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Gilda,

I read your more recent Suddenly Single article from "Divorced with Child" where you basically asserted to the woman that her new boyfriend had no right to ban the ex-husband from seeing her daughter.
I wonder if you misread the original letter. In recommendation 2, you said "Tell the control freak directly that your daughter’s father and family are hers for life." That's true, but the woman is talking about her ex-husband, who is NOT the girl's biological father. There are 3 men being discussed: the bio-father, the ex-husband, and the current boyfriend.
Your advice may be no different since it appears that the ex-husband was like a father to the girl, but it sure seems like you were giving advice based on the wrong assumption that the boyfriend was banning the girl's biological father. Since the ex has no blood/adoptive tie to the girl, it's true that he has no legal right to see her. Now whether he should be allowed to see her is a completely different issue.


Confused by your Answer

Anonymous said...

I have to say that with the way family courts are set up now, a woman insisting that a man marry her is frankly selfish. She is asking for him to accept legal obligations in the case of a divorce that will not be imposed upon her. If they marry, she can walk away at any point with little loss. The man can't. She is asking him to make a greater (legally enforced) commitment to her than she is making to him. It is that simple.

If she wants to spend her life with him in a committed relationship, why can't they simply give each other promises identical to marriage without handing the government a hammer to cudgel the man with? If she is afraid that doing so gives the man the ability to simply walk away without consequences whenever he gets tired of the relationship, well, that is the reality that men face today in marriage, but on top of that, the man is generally economically devestated.

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Maybe he read this article:

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