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Carolyn Hax: Her response gives you your answer

Dear Carolyn: I recently asked my girlfriend of one year if she will ever want to get married. Her response was, “I don’t think so.” This wasn’t completely unexpected, as when we began dating she was unsure of marriage. However, it still was painful to hear.

I had brushed off her initial doubts as being part of the many questions people face after college. Or that she has a “hang-up” from the past or from childhood that she needs to work out. While these may still be in play, I’m left wondering if I’m wasting time.

I’m not ready to propose now, but I do look forward to one day having a family. She knows this. Do you have any thoughts? – N.

If you’re waiting for someone to change, then you’re wasting your time.

The only exception is when the person you’re waiting on has healthy motivation to change and is taking concrete steps to change.

So, if your girlfriend, for example, knew she was carrying around childhood baggage, wanted to get rid of it for her own reasons – that can’t be emphasized enough – and had started working with a therapist to sort it all out, then I’d say, sure, give her some room to do that.

If, on the other hand, she hasn’t expressed any desire to change, or taken any steps toward changing, then show her the respect of taking her at her word. Even if she goes on to marry the next guy she dates, that doesn’t change the fact of who she was for you – someone who wasn’t thinking marriage with you.

Let’s say both her words and actions are telling you she wants X, while you want Y: How long does it make sense to stay with someone who will eventually diverge from your path? Your answer to that question will tell you how long you should stay.

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