Q. I have been with my boyfriend since matching with him on Tinder six years ago. We have moved together, he supported me while I was on chemo and going through radiation, we’ve traveled together, and we have pets. I feel like we’ve packed a lot into a short amount of time. We’re in our 30s. We frequently discuss what city we want to retire in and there is no doubt we are each other’s future.
That future, however, has never involved marriage. Neither of us has seriously considered marriage as an option. Between our parents, there have been multiple marriages. Marriage has meant pain, trauma, and suffering.
I recently discovered, though, with the help of my therapist, that a part of me still wants to get married. I still have hope. But since we’ve never talked about getting married, and frequently discuss all the reasons people shouldn’t get married, I’m not really sure how to approach the topic. How, after six years of saying “I will never get married,” do I tell my partner that I might want to?
– A Marriage Convert
A. Start by thinking about what parts of marriage appeal to you.
Is it the wedding, where you might have the chance to celebrate with family and friends? I get that. It can be wonderful to mark a milestone in front of the ones you love.
Is it the official binding of assets and responsibilities? That makes sense, too. You’re building a shared life, and yes, marriage can answer questions about how that’s done.
Once you figure out what you still like about the idea of marriage, you can talk about it with your partner just the way you did in this letter. You can explain that even though you know every reason why many marriages can end in complicated ways, the idea of a happy marriage is still on your mind.
Maybe some of the good stuff appeals to him, too. Perhaps you can find other ceremonial ways to get the relationship you want — or work together to design a marriage contract that minimizes fear.
My take on marriage, at this point in life, is that it doesn’t mean one thing. It’s not shameful to want it (or to be divorced). Most people go into it thinking it’s one thing and it turns into something else, sometimes for the better. Also, some of the most solid relationships I know are between people who opted out of marriage but share property, family, plans, etc.
There’s no wrong answer here, only the path to figuring out what’s right for the two of you.
You’re not making demands, you just want to talk. Start there.
The pain, trauma, and suffering doesn’t come from a license. It comes from the end of the relationship — whether there is a license involved or not. RESPONDER1234
Find the new season of the Love Letters podcast at loveletters.show. Send your relationship quandaries and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Columns and responses are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.