Charlie Hunnam Isn’t Into Marriage — Shouldn’t His Girlfriend of 14 Years Already Know That?
That’s a long time to live with someone with such uncertainty and unmet expectations and desires
Sons of Anarchy alum Charlie Hunnam has been with his girlfriend, Los Angeles jewelry designer Morgana McNelis, for some 14 years, and has (wisely) kept much of their relationship private. They bought a ranch together in 2013 and presumably have been living together since then if not before. Fourteen years is a long time for a couple to be together, married or not, so you would think that they’d have numerous conversations about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and why they’re doing it the way they’re doing it. And yet.
Recently Hunnam, 39 spoke honesty about how he feels about marriage. After a short-lived “terrible, painful” marriage to Katharine Towne when he was just 18 years old, after a whirlwind romance and 2 a.m. Las Vegas wedding, he’s a bit more — shall we say — pragmatic about the institution. On a radio show with The Gentlemen co-star Hugh Grant — who himself once said, “Marriage is dead (and boring). Long live other options,” until he married his longtime partner in 2018 — Hunnam said:
“I’ve been with my girlfriend for 14½ years, I think, or 13½ years. [I’m] sort of indifferent [to marriage] She does not say the same. She’s very eager to get married. Yeah, so, I’ll do it because it’s important to her, but I don’t have any great romantic feelings towards it. I mean, I’m essentially married.”
This evidently did not go over well with McNelis, 36, as he later admitted.
“I have to say that really hurt my girlfriend’s feelings. I really regretted saying that, cause I actually didn’t mean it at all. it was just, frankly, some stupid s — I said in the heat of the moment.
“Sometimes the tone of an interview … you know, that interview was just like a lot of banter, and Hugh was sort of bantering in a very superficial — not disingenuous — but not really speaking his personal truth — we’re all just bantering. And all of a sudden we’re bantering about one thing and I get asked my opinion about marriage. I just said something that doesn’t really reflect my true thoughts at all.
“I’m like so romantic! The reality is I sort of consider myself married. I’ve been with my girlfriend for 14 years … I suppose what I was trying to articulate was that the official government sanctioning of it doesn’t mean anything to me; but the romance of it means an enormous amount. I really regret saying that.”
Shortly later he was spotted carrying flowers, which many interpreted as sucking up to her.
I feel bad for both Hunnam and McNelis. Clearly Hunnam doesn’t see a need for the government officially sanctioning his relationship — he’s totally committed to her and them, although he’s missing out on all the perks and protections of marriage. As for the romance of marriage, what’s more romantic than what he and McNelis are already doing — showing up for each other day after day, year after year, even though there’s nothing legally making them do that; they’re doing it purely because they want to be there for each other.
Still, McNelis wants marriage. Why she wants a ring on it is unclear. But she wants it and he doesn’t feel a need for it — now what? Flowers are not going solve that problem.
And, it is a problem. Matched expectations lead to satisfying relationships, research says. Mismatched expectations are a recipe for disaster.
Has McNelis been patiently waiting, wishing and hoping for him to pop the question with absolutely no resentment? Fourteen years seems like a long time to live with someone with such uncertainty and unmet expectations and desires.
I have to believe that marriage was a topic at some point in those 14 years, hopefully several times. He knows that she wants to be married; doesn’t she know that he’s not a fan of the institution? Are they truly hearing each other?
If you don’t want to find yourself in a similar situation, it’s important to address the “M” question with your partner to make sure you‘re both on the same page — ideally in a relationship contract. That said, if you want to be married, it’s a good idea to understand why marriage matters so much to you (a whole chapter in my book, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, helps would-be spouses figure that out — let’s just say it’s complicated).
Since being married matters to McNelis, wouldn’t she have proposed to Hunnam by now (yeah, that’s a thing)? Unless she wants it to happen the old-fashioned way, with him proposing. She’s certainly been patient.
Hunnam is pretty clear about his relationship with McNelis:
“You occasionally hear stories of things changing once you get married, and people’s relationships, but I couldn’t foresee that happening with us because we know each other so well.”
I don’t doubt that they know each other well in many ways — 14 years together! But unless they figure out why marriage matters so much for her and so little for him, the “M” word is going to be the elephant in the room. And if he proposes now only because he feels like he has to, well, you can bet things will change once they get married — and not necessarily in happy ways.
Want to explore why you want to be married? (Of course you do!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore (please do) or order it on Amazon. And it’s now on Audible.