Good morning Robin, I heard you on Wine and Sass a while back and became an instant fan, I read your blog daily. I have an issue that has been bothering me for a while and I would like to hear your opinion on if I am just being an idiot about the whole deal.
I have been in a relationship for a little over 3 years (we moved in together after 5 months) with Dennis, an amazing man who is very good to me and my kids. I am 33, he is 35. We are both divorced and have 2 boys each. We both went through very rough marriages and divorces so when we first met the thought of ever remarrying was not an option. We do not want to have more children and in fact I cannot because I have battled cancer for 10 years.
3 years later I want to marry him and he has no interest in it. He tells me that we do not need a paper or a ring to show that we love each other and that in our state we are technically married anyways, and he loves me so why does it matter. I tell him that though that may be true, I want more now that we are getting older and buying homes and cars, and raising our children together. I want to have the same last name and to be able say that he is my husband rather than my boyfriend, it kills me that he does not understand that.
I had a breakdown about it a few months ago and told him that I felt like I was not good enough for him because he wouldn’t marry me. His first wife was terrible she cheated, lied, and stole from him and he still married her. I am faithful, devoted, respectful, attentive to his needs, take care of our home and kids, and I work and pay bills……why am I not worth marrying? Help me Robin!!
Tessa in Texas
Readers, at this point I asked Tessa for more detail, and rather than paraphrase it for you I’ve decided to use the writer’s own words:
Hello Robin, here is the background on Dennis and his ex-wife. When he was in college she got pregnant so they got married. They split when the 1st child was 1yr old due to her cheating and getting pregnant, but got back together and he claimed the child as his own (still does).
They divorced 2 yrs. later due to her cheating and lying about money and drinking. He works a lot as a lineman and while he was out working on storms and stuff like that she was out drinking and spending his money. He pays her $200.00 a week for both boys, and she lives with her mother now that her last hubby kicked her out when he busted her stealing from the state in the form of food stamps and TANF.
She destroyed his credit (as my ex did to me) and completely broke him for many years. We have been together almost 4 years now and are about to purchase a home together, also we just purchased a truck in both of our names. However, we still maintain separated bank accounts and split the bills 50/50, we each control our own income.
He has come a long way as far as trust and sharing things since we first started dating. I love him and know that he loves me, we have a good strong relationship that I know will last.
Holy shit Tessa, have you considered writing a country western album? Because honestly, you’ve got all the elements of some major hits here: booze, infidelity, divorce, cancer, kids of questionable paternity, welfare and the finally finding the love of a good woman. All you are missing is a loyal dog and a bar fight.
Let’s start with the legal stuff. Don’t forget to read my disclaimer which explains that I am not giving you legal advice: You Get What You Pay For and I Ain’t Yer Lawyer
Dennis is not exactly correct about Texas law.
(BUT NOT YOUR LAWYER, GOT IT???)
In Texas, cohabitation is but one element in the establishment of an “informal marriage” (they don’t call it “common law” in Texas).
Under Texas law, an informal marriage can be established either by declaration (registering at the county courthouse without having a ceremony), or by meeting a three-prong test showing evidence of (1) an agreement to be married; (2) cohabitation in Texas; and (3) representation to others that the parties are married.
You may be able to get Dennis to the courthouse to sign the registration declaration. Alternatively, you may be able to get Denis to agree that he intends to be “married” to you and to tell others that you are indeed married, which along with the cohabitation establishes informal marriage under the laws of Texas.
What Dennis may not understand is that informal marriages must be dissolved by formal divorce proceedings, unless both of you choose to do nothing for two years after a break-up. So if it is an ugly divorce he fears, he can’t avoid it via an informal marriage.
That’s all technical crap though, right Tessa? What you want is for him to want to marry you. Right now, he doesn’t. Let’s answer some issues and questions raised in your emails:
1. I want to have the same last name and to be able say that he is my husband rather than my boyfriend.
In your state, you can change your name and you can truthfully tell people he is your husband so long as he intends to be married to you. But that’s not really your issue, is it? As I stated above, you want him to want to marry you formally. That’s quite different.
2. Why am I not worth marrying?
Ugh. Tessa, this man loves you and is sharing a home with you and your children. My question for you is this: what makes you think that marriage is the end game here, and the event that determines your worth? I’d like to think the female gender has evolved beyond marriage as a life goal seeing as how it’s 2014 and all.
3. Now that we have been together a while and lived together for 3 years, I want more, I want to be his wife. Is this crazy?
Of course it isn’t crazy. It’s how you feel, and he needs to respect those feelings, just as you need to respect his desire not to be married at this time. I included all the content from your emails because everything was highly pertinent to my advice, but because I did I am way over my word limit today. I’m going to try to be succinct and make some AskDesCamp by Numbers Advice and Observations here:
1. Don’t ever judge your own worth by another person’s commitment to you. Whether or not Dennis wants to become your second ex-husband should have no impact on your self-esteem.
You need to do some work in this area because if you don’t, I fear you may keep making the same questionable decisions over and over again… decisions like moving yourself and your kids in with a man you had only been dating for 5 months.
2. Just in case you are considering an ultimatum, I’d like to point out the two possible outcomes: either he capitulates and agrees to marry you or you break up. I don’t know about you, but if I was wearing a wedding ring put there by a man under duress and threats, I don’t think it would hold much sparkle.
If Dennis insists he doesn’t want to get married, you uproot your kids again and in the process lose your partner whom you say you love very much.
3. Dennis probably feels like you are changing the rules of the game because you initially told him you did not want to remarry. You are both still very young and Dennis has been through a lot, to say the least. Since you don’t plan to have more children, I’m not sure why you are so intent on getting married again.
Here’s the thing, Tessa: being married doesn’t mean he can’t leave you. You know that in your heart but do you know that in your head?
4. As for buying a house together:
Tessa, you and Dennis need to get on the same page before you make a major financial investment together. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you both to either agree to the informal marriage, a more traditional marriage or no marriage at all prior to buying a house.
If you do proceed against my wishes, do so with a solid contract spelling out rights and responsibilities regarding the property and what happens to it should you break up.
5. Tessa, here are your words: I love him and know that he loves me, we have a good strong relationship that I know will last.
If I were you I’d focus more on the love, intimacy and trust between you both than I would the legal status of your relationship. In time, Dennis may change his mind. If not, you will have to weigh the options and decide what is more important to you: the man or the ring?
I think it’s too soon to make that analysis. Relax and enjoy what you have, because there are a lot of very lonely married people out there.