I can’t face anyone in real life right now, so I’m confiding to the interwebs.

A good friend–my best friend, really–pursued me for almost a year before I gave in. Of course I was interested, but I explained to him that I wanted marriage, kids, a family, all things that I sensed he didn’t want. I didn’t see the point in pursuing anything and hurting our friendship if it was just going to end in heartache. He wouldn’t relent. I was the love of his life, he told me, the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. He wanted to marry me, have children with me, build a life together.

So, now we’re three years in. I’m closing in on the end of my childbearing years. Anyone want to venture a guess about the status of my left hand ring finger?

Our relationship has otherwise been great. He is kind, faithful, affectionate, does his fair share around the house, works hard, makes me laugh every day. I don’t know if I truly am the love of his life, but he is the love of mine. But this marriage thing has been the catalyst for many strained, tearful conversations over the past 3 years. He tells me that he is absolutely certain that he wants to marry me. That he can’t wait for me to be carrying his child. I ask when he sees us doing these things and he says that he doesn’t want to discuss timelines with me. He’s waiting for the “perfect moment.” Every day that passes with him failing to follow through on the promise he made me–the one that got me into this relationship in the first place–makes me resent him a little more. He’s had (literally) a thousand chances to prove that I’m not just a plaything to him and he’s blown every one of them. I’ve told him that as hurt and bitter as I am about his foot dragging, all “perfect moments” are behind us. He’s taken the “perfect moment” and sliced it neck to navel, worn its entrails like a scarf, set it on fire, buried it, and pissed on its grave. Let’s leave that fairytale crap to the dreamers and just find ourselves an “adequate” moment, ok love?

I hate to let my fear, my anger, my indignation ruin what is an otherwise great relationship. Really, in spite of how extraordinarily bitter I am about this one issue, it is the only issue in our relationship. So, I let it go. I told him tonight–without rancor and without tears–that I have let go of the dream of us getting married. As much as I would love to be able to publicly celebrate our love and make those promises to each other, it ultimately is a pretty dumb hill to die on. We can continue on as we are; I don’t have to have that piece of paper. And, really, I don’t. I am financially and emotionally independent and I don’t have any fears about being left. I did explain that our relationship would be different, though. Without the security and protection of marriage, I wouldn’t be able to quit my job to follow him (he moves every few years for work) or give up a job offer out of town just because he wanted to stay put. I wouldn’t be willing to throw all of my savings into a down payment for the house we want to buy because, as a single woman, I need to stay liquid and have a financial cushion. He said that he would need to take the same financial precautions. I agreed, he agreed, and we both had this egregiously civil conversation about how we were both looking out for ourselves because this could go kaput at any time without warning.

I mean, it makes sense. And I meant what I said. I wasn’t trying to force his hand or get him to pop the question just so I’d throw tens of thousands of dollars into the pot. But he accepted my resignation. And I guess down in the dark recesses of my heart I was hoping that he’d protest. That he would say, “Are you kidding me? I can’t wait to marry you! I really wanted to wait until _______ when it would be the perfect time to do this, but I can’t stand to see you in this much pain,” and throw open his sock drawer and dig out a ring that he had been hiding and I would know that all along, he has wanted me and that I am good enough. But none of that happened. And now I have my answer. All that hope is really dead.

I will never hear those 4 words. I will never wear a symbol of his love for me. Even though he treats me well every day, a part of me will still always feel a little less than. I’m looking at buying a house (I will be paying my part of the mortgage, but no down payment) and building a life with a man who is holding out for an upgrade. I’m considering having children with a man who expects them–but not their mother–to bear his last name. It’s so stupid, and this is just a really dumb thing to cry about, but I am so crestfallen. And confused. And angry, not because he won’t marry me but because he lied about it to get me to date him. I don’t know if this is a temporary phase, like having three sons and mourning the relatively insignificant fact that, although you were blessed with healthy children, you will never have a daughter, or if this will eat at me forever. I wonder if I’m selling myself short. I wonder if I’ll hate myself someday for staying in this situation. I wonder how I’ll react if somewhere down the road I meet someone who actually does fall in love (real love, marriage love) with me. I wonder if he’s lied about anything else, especially about kids.