He's proposed ten times… so why do I keep saying NO!

He's proposed ten times… so why do I keep saying NO!

‘He’s proposed ten times… so why do I keep saying NO!’: Happily unmarried ex-Cosmo editor LINDA KELSEY insists she doesn’t need to prove commitment to her partner of 13 years

  • Karen Millen revealed she won’t be getting married to her partner of a decade 
  • Linda Kelsey and her partner Ron met 13 years ago in their mid-50s 
  • UK-based writer explains why thinks that she fits into the ‘non-marrying type’
  • 45 per cent of first marriages end in divorce and one in three second marriages

The first time he proposed, I let him down gently. ‘I’m really touched you’ve asked,’ I replied, ‘and I love you, but I just can’t do the marriage thing again.’

By the time he popped the question for the tenth (or was it the 15th?) time, I was a little more brusque. ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ became my stock reply, brushing his question away with a wave of my hand and a rapid change of subject.

My partner Ron and I have been happily unmarried since we met 13 years ago when we were both in our mid-50s. And while I’m hopeful the ‘happily’ part of our relationship will continue, I am certain our ‘unmarried’ state will remain the same until death (or something else) do us part.

Which is why, when fashion entrepreneur Karen Millen, 60, announced last week that despite being with her partner Ben Charnaud for a decade, she won’t be getting married, I found myself thinking, now there’s a woman after my own heart. ‘He did want to marry me, but he’s resigned himself to the fact that I’m not the marrying type,’ said Millen in an interview.

Linda Kelsey, who has been happily unmarried to her partner Ron (pictured) since they met 13 years ago, explained why she believes that she fits into the ‘non-marrying type’

Despite having married twice before, I think I fit into the non-marrying type as well. When my sister, who has been contentedly wed for 50 years, first heard Ron had proposed to me, she declared: ‘You’re just not doing it. You’re good at being a girlfriend, you’re useless as a wife.’

Well it’s a bit more complicated than that, but she’s right that I’ve never felt at ease with the concept of marriage. After all, the statistics show 45 per cent of first marriages end in divorce and almost one in three second marriages hits the buffers, too.

Historically, women married for money because they had few options other than to be financially supported by a man. In today’s climate, when women are increasingly economically independent, I’d say money is a very good reason for not marrying, especially in later life.

When my second marriage broke down, we split our assets (which essentially comprised the home we shared) 50/50. Fair enough, but having paid off one mortgage during our marriage, I then needed to get another to finance a post-split home. If I were to separate from Ron, I would want it to be a clean financial break — what’s his to stay with him, what’s mine to remain with me — so that when I die, whatever is left after death duties goes straight to my son. As of now, we live in the same house, but it’s one I own. Ron, an osteopath, has a flat which he rents out. We only share expenses. Marriage complicates all that.

As a former editor of Cosmopolitan, female emancipation — including financial emancipation — has always been important to me. I was only 19 when I first married — to a man nine years my senior. Back in 1971, it was the only way I could respectably leave my conservative, suburban home. I dreamed of independence and naively thought the label of marriage would give me freedom. In fact, it was more a case of having my wings clipped by a man who was entirely wrong for me. So it was a relief, in my mid-20s, to remove my wedding ring and start afresh.

Linda said she can’t see why marriage makes a difference, unless you feel a religious imperative. Pictured: Linda and second husband Christian, with son Thomas

By the time I was in my early 30s, and met the man who became the father to our son, marriage was far from our minds. We did discuss getting hitched around the time Thomas was born, but with so much else going on in our lives, we never got around to doing anything about it. As a feminist, Gloria Steinem’s famous pronouncement, ‘I can’t mate in captivity’, played over and over in my mind. I was a committed Ms, not a bound Mrs. My first marriage had felt oppressive, and the status quo of co-habitation the second time around suited us both fine.

But then, in 1999, 15 years into our relationship, we did a volte-face. Following a massive depressive illness and some business disasters, we needed a pick-us-up. We wanted to celebrate our successful passage through the darkest of times, and a wedding seemed a good idea. In retrospect, it wasn’t, because the cracks that had begun to open up during those difficult years were already starting to show.

Eight years later and our marriage was over. While I have no doubt that a stable, loving relationship provides the best environment in which to raise children, unless you feel a religious imperative, I really can’t see why marriage makes a difference.

Marriage most certainly does not guarantee loyalty, longevity, fidelity or sticking around in sickness as well as in health.

Linda (pictured) said Ron doesn’t feel insecure and they are romantically in sync, making them wedded in most intents and purposes 

My partner Ron is cherished, and I show my love for him in myriad ways. I am also grown-up enough to be a pragmatist rather than a romantic and don’t feel there’s something intrinsically distasteful about discussing money matters in an open and honest way.

When I asked Ron why he wanted to marry me, he didn’t even mention the word love, though I know, without doubt, that he does love me. What he did say was that for quite a few years after we met, things felt slightly tentative — he felt a tad insecure. He had this notion that marriage would solidify us.

Ron no longer feels insecure and now we’re romantically in sync. To most intents and purposes, we are wedded. I am ‘step-granny’ to Ron’s grandson and would be prepared to take in either of his 30-something daughters should the need arise. He is close to my son and my family has embraced him.

‘I commit to someone and that’s it — I don’t have to prove it,’ said Karen Millen of her decade-long relationship. My sentiments exactly.

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