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I'm apologizing in advance for the novel, and thanking all of you who actually manage to read through the whole thing and offer your help :)

Okay, I can try to sum up the basics before really diving into my problem - when is the right time to say enough is enough?

My boyfriend and I have been dating for 2.5 years. We've lived together for roughly 8 months. Our only outstanding issue would be how we would find the middle ground to raising children together religiously. It's something we've discussed, and will probably continue discussing to fine tune and figure out if it's possible to come to a compromise or agreement on what we feel is right and respectful of both of our wants and beliefs for our children.

Anyway, we've both spent a great deal of time with eachothers families (I just spent 4 days up at his parents house with him and his brothers/sisters families - nieces and nephews and "inlaws" over Christmas actually), they're all very supportive of our relationship, his nephew wonders if I'm his aunt yet (he's 10), his sister in law and brother are nudgingly wondering when he's going to finally get a move on, and his sister is praying he gets clarity to move forward.

I'm ready. After many trials and tribulations that really don't measure up to a lot of the problems that seem to appear on this board (no infidelity, no drugs, no alcholol problems, very few fights, great communication, just some differences in fundimentals), after thinking very seriously about whether or not I could raise a family with this man and feel that we could compromise and work together through anything - I've realized I am ready. I've wanted it for a long time but never truly thought about the 'can I really do it though?' Aspect.

My desire to marry him has not gone unnoticed or unspoken. We've talked many times about the movement of this relationship and the end desire.

The problem I'm running in to... is that we're in a "poo or get off the pot" scenario ... or at least close to it. He tells me he feels so confident in us, but then says he doesn't see the rush because he's not ready and hasn't fully does his standard issue over-thinking every single possiblity of every end result that could come up strategy yet. He knows he's overly-cautious (which honestly is great you SHOULD really consider and think about it when you want to share your life someone, but you'll never know 100% everything that may or may not come up in the future... he thinks about that constantly and always has a slimmer of hesitation because of the children thing I guess).

My problem is I've known for a long time that after about 3 years, I'm not willing to wait for several more years for "what ifs". Truthfully, and not self-absorbedly, I feel I am a pretty decent catch, I would make a great mom and a very loyal wife. I'm attractive and outgoing, friendly and told I'm fun. He appreciates these things, but is still scared. I know it isn't easy! But I know that I'm not willing to put the things I want in life (specifically a young family) on hold for 10 years while he takes his pretty time figuring it out. I understood the "what's the rush" thoughts after only a year or a year and a half, but I feel now especially after living together for almost a year - we really do know what we're all about.

I don't want to issue an ultimatum, who wants to "force" someone to ask them to marry them? What would be the point in that? I also don't want to blind side him one day by saying "okay sorry, I set this time limit in my head and you didn't make it so as sad as it makes me, I give up and I'm leaving bye!". I don't know a careful way to make it clear to him that it's only realistic that *I* won't wait forever. I know some women are content waiting 4, 5, 10 years for an engagement but it's just not something that I want. I love him. I'd love to marry him, but with no guarantes that he's going to take that step and really build our lives together with a real commitment - well, maybe it sounds crazy, but I don't think it's fair to not consider *MY* timeline in addition to his.

I know at 3 years I'll be at the point of figuring whether or not I will stay. He owns the house we currently live in (he's 33, I'm 25), and it's very small - recently he's mentioned to his family and just casually to friends the idea of upgrading and moving to a larger place late 2006 summer. Truthfully, I feel that if he chose to sell and buy another house on his own and have us move in without an engagement, I would at that time find my own place. If there is no ring on my finger, I'm not moving into a new home with him. I just don't think I can play house without the real commitment forever. Don't get me wrong, I very much felt that I MUST and need to live with my SO before I can decide if I want to marry that person, it was very important to me and I'm very grateful we've done it. But I won't be taken advantage of and though I don't feel that's what he's doing (because he does talk about these things and is very honest about his hesitation)... I just can't make myself willing to wait around outside of boundaries I've set for my own life progress.

I need some advice... help?

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