Dear Carolyn:

I broke up with my boyfriend eight months ago because he was too scared to tie the knot. We were together four years and are 28. He has said before he can’t ever see himself getting married, to me or to anyone.

I am conflicted. I love him very much, was happy with him and know he’d still be with me if I had not broken up with him. But I would like to get married to have some security that he’s going to be with me forever, even when I’m old and gray. (Yes, I know he still could divorce me.)

Maybe I really want marriage, or maybe I am too influenced by our culture to think that marriage is what is supposed to happen when in reality we could be together without the marriage certificate. Any advice?


This could be irrelevant, but it bears mentioning that this line — “He said he couldn’t see himself getting married, to me or to anyone!” — is often recalled in a smear of tears by those processing the news that he married someone he met six months ago. And not just in “When Harry Met Sally.”

Here’s why it might be relevant, though. People who are committed to someone for life can feel that way while also not believing in marriage. It is not automatic that won’t marry = won’t commit.

If your boyfriend saw yours as a life partnership, though, then it’s curious that didn’t come out during the reckoning that led to your breakup. Wouldn’t he have said, “I feel no less committed to you than I would to a wife?” Wouldn’t you have asked, “Then why not just get married?” And wouldn’t he have been willing either to say “I do,” for you, or to explain his reluctance in a way that assured you it wasn’t you, it was the institution?

That didn’t happen. If it didn’t because you closed your mind to any possibility but marriage, then, by all means, revisit your decision; be sure it was in your best interests. But breaking up was your only choice if the commitment just wasn’t there.

Hi, Carolyn:

I was approached by a co-worker asking for donations to a fundraising event to benefit a specific medical condition. She asked knowing that a close family member of mine passed away from this condition.

The problem? I despise the organization benefiting from the event. I believe it misrepresents its mission and doesn’t do well in supporting patients, families and doctors.

How do I decline without coming off as cold or arrogant? I’m extremely grateful for my co-worker’s time/hard work for the overall cause and wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings, either.

A similar situation happened a few years ago (same org, different person); I stalled several times until left alone.

Supportive, but not supporting

I don’t see anything “cold” or “arrogant” about telling the truth. “This cause is close to my heart, as you know, but I’m afraid I had a bad experience with [organization].”

I may have a blind spot, of course, but I tried to put myself in your colleague’s position. If there were any chance my hard work was being squandered on an unworthy cause, I would want to know.

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