Welcome to Unsolicited Advice, the column where I dispense advice to people who never asked for it and don’t know who I am. Last week I “helped” an angry feminist deal with feeling invisible. This week I mined Reddit’s r/relationships forum and found a desperate plea from a 45 year old woman who said she was feeling frustrated after 15 years of a live-in relationship that was not moving towards marriage. She said she had approached the subject often over the years but he repeatedly said he did not wish to marry. “How do I get him to marry me?”, she asked.

The response was so swift and heavy that she deleted the request and ghosted the room before I had a chance to link to it. However, her letter was a dilemma I’ve seen over and over amongst my female friends over the years. I’ve seen so many women (not all, but many) move in with their boyfriends in hopes that it will lead to a marriage proposal, only to end up frustrated and confused after years of waiting. So, if you find yourself in the same situation as Reddit Ghost here is some unsolicited advice I’ve been saving up for just such an occasion.

If a man tells you who he is, listen to him.

If your live-in boyfriend tells you he doesn’t want to get married, he means he doesn’t want to get married. If upon the first meeting some attractive, boyfriend-material dude tells you, “I’m not a great boyfriend”, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll be the one person to change him. Just believe him.

Change comes where change is demanded.

If you’ve been living with your boyfriend for 15 years hoping for a marriage proposal, you haven’t demanded change. You’ve simply accepted the status quo. If there is anything a man prefers most in a relationship it is the status quo. Even the best of men would be happy to let things coast as long we agree to it.

There is a silent negotiation that takes place between men and women in their romantic encounters. It isn’t what we demand verbally that moves a man, but rather what we demand with our countenance and our presence. When we behave like women who know their worth, men rise to that level to earn our worth. When we behave like beggars, men treat us like beggars. There is a nonverbal conversation that alerts the male partner to the fact that this is a woman who can only be won by giving her the thing he values most – his life. It is that response that tells a woman this is a man she can offer the privilege of letting in to her own life. It’s a back and forth, a dance that can end in a lifetime commitment that is desirable and ultimately fulfilling.

Too many women like our Reddit Ghost think the dance is irrelevant, perhaps even outdated. They want to skip over the hard (but arguably most fun) part and go straight to the life long commitment. For most men that’s a red flag even if they don’t say so out loud. It tells them you aren’t willing to do the hard things in order to get what you want from the relationship and then he acts accordingly.

Our Reddit Ghost loves her partner. She only wants to spend her life with him and that is understandable. The heart wants what the heart wants. But the heart is also very, very dumb. A woman sure about what she wants is willing to follow her head instead of her dumb heart. She’s willing to risk loss. Reddit Ghost isn’t willing to do the hard thing to get what she wants…leave. Her partner knows this. He is perfectly comfortable turning down her requests for marriage because he knows it won’t matter. Nothing will change. She’ll still be there in the morning.

Status. Quo.

So, ladies like Reddit Ghost, how do you get him to marry you?

You don’t. If you are not getting what you need out of this relationship you must leave. How many women have wasted the best and most fertile years of their lives waiting on a man to “come around”? If the people in my life have been any indication – tons. Don’t be like Reddit Ghost. Don’t waste the best years of your life hoping that he’ll just one day wake up and realize the only missing piece in his life is a wedding ring. While he’s coasting, your prospects are getting further and further away. If you want to bear a family one day, this should be a serious consideration. It isn’t fashionable to say such things aloud these days but that is the harsh, biological truth. Don’t throw away your chance to bear children (if that’s what you want) in the hopes that you can change him.

I think most men find a way to tell women who they are when they first get involved. I think most of us prefer to ignore the warnings. We’ve all seen the romantic comedies where the kind, plain, simple girl snags the hot-headed playboy billionaire and he falls so madly in love with her that gives up his old ways and makes an honest woman of her. We all want to be the “special” woman who changes that stubborn man. It’s a victory of sorts.

We don’t change men. Men are simply prompted to change themselves when they see something they want and can’t have without that change. Sitting around for 15 years won’t prompt change, but it will build resentment.

Marriage is a big ask. It’s not like you’re asking for more date nights or a flower arrangement once in a while. This is serious stuff. It requires a serious resolve. He’s shown he doesn’t have this resolve in his refusal to offer marriage, and you’ve shown you don’t have the resolve in your unwillingness to do what’s difficult in favor of having what you know you deserve. It’s a dead end.

If you are Reddit Ghost, cut your losses and figure out why it is you allowed yourself to be in a dead-end relationship for so long. When you figure that out, you’ll start emitting the type of energy that attracts likeminded men. The silent negotiation will happen naturally.

He’s not going to marry you. Leave. Cry your tears. Move on. You deserve what you’re asking for.