Thursday, January 9, 2014

In-Law Week, Day 4: Why Buy The Cow When Milk Is Free?

Dear Tazi:

I am having a "mother-in-law" issue. Notice that I put the word in quotes. It's because my boyfriend's mother does not consider me her daughter-in-law, even though I have been dating her son for 10 years and living with him for almost six.

"George" and I have a great relationship that is only marred by his fear of making our commitment to each other legal. He married his high school sweetheart and divorced after less than five years of marriage, and then had a broken engagement that ended a two year relationship. Because of these "failures" (George's word, not mine) George is afraid to take the next step in our relationship until he is certain our relationship is ready. How ready do we have to be???

Just before the holidays I was on the phone with my best friend, telling her I was hoping that I would get a ring this Christmas. I thought this conversation was between her, me, and the four walls, but George's mother had come over unexpectedly and let herself in the house. She overheard my end of the conversation, including the part where I refer to her as "my mother-in-law". "Millie" let me know that she was not my mother-in-law, that her son and I were not married and that as long as he "got milk for free he will not be buying the cow!".

Tazi, I have never been so insulted! How backwards is George's Mom - and how little does she think of her son - that she thinks that a man only gets married so he can have access to regular sex, and that by sleeping with him I am the reason George won't marry me? I told Millie that George has much more respect for me than that, but she just looked at me smugly and asked, "Then why has he not honored you with a ring? He gave a ring to his ex-wife and his old girlfriend, and you have been with him twice as long as either of them!" Tazi, I had no answer for her...

That evening, when George got home from work, I spoke with him about what is mother had said - about him not honoring me in the way he respected and honored women in his past. This turned into a huge argument, with George telling me that his mother is only looking to start trouble because she wants to see us married. He said it was her way of showing "tough love" to me and to ignore her.

I am now wondering if George is right - that I should ignore his mother for her "tough love" stance or if she has some valid points. Technically, she is not my mother-in-law because there is no law between us; George did honor his ex-girlfriend with an engagement ring - that she got to keep, even after they broke up - while I have no ring of any kind; and I do want to get married - it is George who is dragging his feet. George keeps telling me that I am letting his mother ruin a good thing between us, but I am not so sure she is. I am starting to think that George is the one ruining things. Your thoughts, little kitty?

Not A Cow

Dear Not A Cow:

Millie's line about milk and a cow is a very old-fashioned way of thinking, but does not necessarily refer only to sex (at least not anymore). As George's live-in life-partner, your relationship is one that reflects many of the domestic facets of marriage - an extra paycheck/shared living expenses, someone to help cook and clean, a person to depend upon - as well as the more intimate parts that were once restricted as a benefit of marriage only. You are right that men do not get married solely to have access to "regular sex"; they get married for the same reasons women marry - because they fall in love and want to build a life with their partner, one that is legally recognized, and not just accepted, by society.

You still can't marry a cow, though...

Millie has brought up some hard points for you to consider, but that is what tough love is - making someone you love uncomfortable for the sake of their own good. You have lived with George for almost six years - that is longer than he lived with his ex-wife. Before now, was your relationship showing signs of giving out on you? Or were you still as solid as always? Has George reached a point where he is comfortable and feels like you will not leave him, regardless of how unhappy you are with the stagnant state of your relationship? Do you want to get married for the sake of being married, or do you want to marry George and no other? These are all questions that you need to answer before deciding what to do about your relationship with George, because it seems like you are the one who is going to have to make some decisions!

It appears that George has decided that he is comfortable with how things are; if you want things to change, you are going to have to make him uncomfortable. If you can afford to, I suggest that you tell George you are making plans to move into your own place - that you need space to think through the things his mother has brought to your attention; that you do feel dishonored that he gave an ex-girlfriend an engagement ring after only a year or two and here you are without even a promise ring after ten. Give George a deadline to discuss matters - say three months - and stick to it. Saying that he is scared to move forward because of his past is pretty thin reasoning, considering that your relationship with him makes up a large part of his past!

In the end, you will have to be prepared to accept the fact that George may simply not want to marry you. If this is the case, you need to decide if you are better to stay with him and settle or move on to greener pastures.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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