Ask Dr. Gilda-Should She Wait For Him?

He says he’s going to propose, but time keeps passing. When should she give up?

By Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

ear Dr. Gilda,
After a bitter divorce, I have been in a relationship for over four years. Several months ago, I caught my guy cheating. This was a result of our relationship souring and my not treating him well. This is not to excuse him, but we have since
Nobody can tell you how long is too long to wait for this guy to come around.
had long conversations and feel we understand how we both contributed to our relationship sliding. Now it’s going well. He is very remorseful.

He wants to have children. I am open to this, but I want marriage first. I turn 39 this year, and I don’t feel I have a lot of time left. We have talked about this and he says it will happen, but I’m losing my patience. In all other ways, he’s a very generous, loving person, but at 41, he’s never had a serious relationship before, and he’s extremely cautious with relationships and money. He did give me a time frame, but it has now passed. Should I walk away and lose the only man I have truly loved, or should that love be something that keeps me with him even when I don’t get what I want?
– Torn in Two

Dear Torn in Two,
Nobody can tell you how long is too long to wait for this guy to come around. It all depends on what’s important to you, and how important it is. You’ve hung in with him for four years—and still there has been no movement toward permanence. The relationship went through some burps, including infidelity, for which you took a large part of the responsibility. But the two of you thrashed it out and have come out of the dark tunnel and into the light. Nonetheless, four years seems like a long enough time for a mature man to decide whether or not he wants a commitment and family.

You mention that at 41, he’s never had a serious relationship before. Why? Have you fully explored his real feelings about women and marriage, as well as his real fears—beyond what he verbally admits? Your own rationale is that he’s “cautious with relationships and money.” Being “cautious” implies being “cheap.” Yet you call him “a very generous, loving person.” How can he be both “cautious” and “generous” at the same time? Are you sure you’re seeing him clearly?

Money is a symbol of control. As my Gilda-Gram warns, “Someone cheap with money is also cheap with love.” This could
Share your own feelings without beating around the bush.
explain his reluctance to enter into a relationship with equally distributed power. If he needs constant control and fears being vulnerable, your problem is greater than someone who just won’t commit. What you must figure out now is whether there is any hope for this guy or whether he’s just paying lip service to your marriage requests to keep you at bay.

You already gave him a deadline, he passed it, and you remained. That sent the message that your requests and his promises are empty. If you really want more, this is what I suggest:
  1. Since the two of you have a successful foundation for heart-to-heart talks, have another one with him, this time with a definite time line, and a plan for consequences should he not keep to it.
  2. Share your own feelings without beating around the bush. You ask, “Should love be something that keeps me with him even when I don’t get what I want?” The answer is, “No, if what you want is stronger than anything else.” As you say, you’re 39, and your baby-making days are dwindling. If that’s what you really want to pursue, this may not be the man for you.
  3. Read some books on assertiveness. It’s a blessing to stand up for what you want.
In business, when a deal goes sour, we cut our losses and leave. Determine if this man really has the ingredients for your future, and then have the courage to follow your gut.

Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., has a private practice and is an associate professor at Mercy College in New York. Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit her website ( and send her your relationship questions.
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