My boyfriend proposed, then told me he doesn't care about marriage. Should I call off the wedding?

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My boyfriend proposed, then told me he doesn't care about marriage. Should I call off the wedding?
Samantha Lee/Insider
My boyfriend proposed, then told me he doesn't care about marriage. Should I call off the wedding?
Crystal Cox/Insider
  • Just because you and your partner disagree about marriage doesn't mean you don't share the same family values.
  • To get to the bottom of this, reflect on what marriage means to you and talk to your boyfriend about it.
  • Only you can decide if marriage is a non-negotiable for your life.

Dear Julia,

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My boyfriend and I have both been divorced previously.

We've been together about two years now and have always talked about marriage. In fact, he recently asked me to marry him and I happily accepted.

But later, he told me he's only marrying me because it's what I want. He said marriage is "just a piece of paper."

It hurt to think he didn't want to marry me at all, and it's just something he's willing to do.

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Should I call off the wedding?

- Illinois

Dear Illinois,

I'm sure it was shocking to learn your partner has different beliefs about marriage than you, especially after you've discussed the topic.

It's perfectly fine to want marriage as a relationship goal. At the same time, interrogating why you value marriage so much could help you better understand your boyfriend's point of view.

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A person's interest in marriage can be a sign of their family and relationship values, but that's not always the case, Terri Orbuch, a sociology professor at Oakland University in Michigan who's studied hundreds of couples over the past 30 years, previously told me.

"How important is that piece of paper? What does it represent to you that being together, living together, having children together, and families and friends being close together can't show you?" Orbuch said.

For one person, the act of getting married could symbolize their commitment to a monogamous relationship and family building. But another person could value those same things and not see a need for marriage.

Be honest with yourself about which of these categories you fall into, and then sit down with your boyfriend to learn where he's coming from with his "just a piece of paper" comment.

Orbuch suggested saying something like, "Marriage is important to me. It's important to how I see myself. It's important to how I live my life, and it makes me happy." Then, ask your boyfriend what he wants and needs for a happy life.

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Here you'll see if your values overlap, or if you're really on different pages, according to Orbuch.

If, after you reflect on your values, you still find marriage is a non-negotiable for you, that's OK. In fact, marriage is one of the most common values, along with children, that couples disagree about, Orbuch found in her relationship research.

But that doesn't mean you should attempt to convince your boyfriend to change his mind about his stance, since doing so can breed resentment, said Orbuch.

Being honest about who you are and what you want may lead to temporary disappointment and sadness, but you owe it to yourself to feel good about where your life is headed. And you can only do that if you stand strong in your values.

As Insider's resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.

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