Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’m Afraid My Boyfriend’s Going to Propose Soon”

My boyfriend and I met in college, and after graduation have been living together for about a year now. We have talked about getting married, and we both want to. In the year we have been living together we went through some rough times (financial and otherwise), and from all that has happened I honestly really think he that is the “one.” Well, about a week ago, his older brother proposed to his girlfriend and they are getting married on 11-11-11. My boyfriend and his brother have always competed with each other, trying to top one another, as brothers often do. So, a few nights ago, my boyfriend says to me, “So you know, we have to get married on 12-12-12 now, right? 12 is so much better then 11.”

Now, barring all of the stupid boy competitions going on here, I really think he was somewhat serious about getting married fairly soon. We have talked about getting married before, we both want to, but we just have never put a real date to it, and he hasn’t asked me yet. To me, marriage is this far off fairytale. It’s this sort of daydream that I think about, but have never thought of what will happen if it ever actually comes up — if I ever have to actually pick a date…wear a ring on my finger, etc. I just sat there, after he said that, and was speechless. So my question is: After you’ve found the guy, how do you know when you are ready to get married? I know that I want to marry this guy, but I am right now feeling a little panicked that this might actually happen. (In a year and a half, no less!) — Not Quite Ready for the Aisle


Well, first of all, you can tell your boyfriend that a 12-12-12 wedding is out of the question because 12-12-12 falls on a Wednesday, and that’s no kind of day for a wedding … especially when his brother will be getting married on a Friday (and everyone knows Friday weddings are the best). In all seriousness, if you feel like you aren’t ready for marriage yet and your boyfriend’s comment freaked you out, then you really need to have a discussion with him about your ideal time-frame and make sure you two are on the same page — or, at the very least, aware of what book you’re each reading, you know?

Marriage is a scary thing, for sure. I knew I loved my now-husband, but committing myself to him for life was such a … well, commitment, that after we got married, I started sleep-walking! Like, literally. Awake, I was just fine, but while asleep, my subconscious must have been processing things like crazy because there were a handful of times that I got out of bed — while still asleep — walked around the apartment and talked to my husband as if I were someone else. One time, I even asked him where his wife was. Crazy, right? And the thing was, I remembered it the next morning when he brought it up. I remembered feeling like I didn’t know who I was or who he was and the only word that made any sense to me was “wife,” so I asked him about his wife hoping that would give me some clarification about who and where I was. But it didn’t, and I remember crawling back into bed thinking, “WTF?!

Luckily, those episodes only lasted a few weeks, but I think they’re testament to what a big psychological change it can be for some people — like me — to go from being someone’s girlfriend to being someone’s wife. There was a definite adjustment in how I self-identified, and I suppose for at least a few weeks there I felt a little lost between these “labels” I’d given myself — or labels I felt had been given to me. And I wanted to get married! It was a decision I was very, very happy to make. But that didn’t make it less scary or less intense or less … forever. Getting married is a big deal, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the idea. In fact, I’d have been more concerned about myself if I had gone into it with no sense of permanency.

So, what I’m saying is, if you know in your heart you’re with the right person and you know you want to marry him one day, don’t worry too much about feeling scared or freaked out about making it real. Talking all this over with your boyfriend will help some, but if you’re like me, these feelings of, “Oh my God! I’m really doing this!” may not go away until weeks — maybe even months — after you tie the knot. And that’s fine. As long as you let your boyfriend know that your feelings are only because you take your love for him and your commitment to marriage so seriously, and not because you doubt your choice, you and he will be fine. But … on the flip side, if your feelings are because you do doubt your choice, then, obviously, you need to be truthful about that first to yourself and then to him before you agree to marriage. Listen to your heart; it probably won’t lead you astray.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

136 comments… add one
  • avatar

    WatersEdge May 18, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I’m with Wendy. The idea of marriage, even to the right person, was terrifying. And I think that’s a good thing; a sign that you’re taking it seriously. By my estimate you’re 22 or 23, so really there’s no rush to get engaged or married.

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    TheGirl May 18, 2011, 3:15 pm

    12-12-12 would definitely be a mistake. Not only is it a Wednesday, its also two weeks before Christmas. Talk about a stress NIGHTMARE!

    Seriously, though. Wendy is right. Its o.k. to know that you want to marry someone in the future but aren’t ready to get married just yet. Just sit down and talk to him about it – who knows, maybe he feels the same way and was just joking in the name of brotherly competition.

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      Mainer May 18, 2011, 4:05 pm

      Forget Christmas!

      “Hey hun, how about we get married on 12-12-12?”
      “Ah, I don’t know sweetie. That’s awfully close to Doomsday. I mean, it’s nine days away! People are going to be planning and preparing for the end of the world. I don’t want them to feel they need to “squeeze us in.” Some may already be underground. I just don’t think anyone would show up.”

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        honeybeenicki May 18, 2011, 4:10 pm

        I’m glad I wasn’t the only one thinking that. Of course, if the other people are right, the rapture/end of the world is coming sooner than that (this weekend to be exact).

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        Britannia May 18, 2011, 5:02 pm

        I have a friend who is seriously considering getting married in Vegas on Doomsday. *headdesk*

        Although, she’s my best friend, so of course I’ll be there. I told her there had to be a Zombie Elvis involved somehow though, otherwise no dice.

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        Kate May 18, 2011, 5:05 pm

        I think it sounds kind of awesome…

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      sarolabelle May 18, 2011, 5:30 pm

      just a little weird fact about Friday. Friday was named after Frigg (the Norse goddess of love – you may have seen her as wife of Odin in the movie Thor). 🙂

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    spanishdoll May 18, 2011, 3:20 pm

    I totally relate, LW! I am head-over-heels, Beyonce-level “Crazy in Love” with my boyfriend, but the idea of him actually proposing at this point makes me a little queasy. He’s 27 and 3 years older than me, so he’s quite open about his desire to get married by 30. I can definitely imagine our wedding, and sometimes I even catch myself getting fixated on other girls’ engagement rings on the train. But the thought of seriously committing this early in my 20’s scares the *bejeezus* out of me!

    Once the year mark passed, I made sure to sit him down and run defense on the situation. I clearly let him know that as much as I could imagine getting married to him, that the time was not right, and if he asked I wouldn’t have an answer for him. We happily agreed to “let things be” for a while, and we both are aware that we can’t get engaged until we are both on the same page.

    Too bad there’s no 13-13-2013, otherwise you could totally get married then! (or maybe 11-12-2013? Tell his brother to suck on that!) ;P

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      honeybeenicki May 18, 2011, 3:40 pm

      Unfortunately 11/12/13 is a Tuesday, so that doesn’t help the day of the week situation much.

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        spanishdoll May 18, 2011, 3:43 pm

        Aw, crap, you’re right…well I thought it would at least give her an extra year before the proposal 😉

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        Mainer May 18, 2011, 5:09 pm

        2/3/45 is a Friday, go for that. That should give her some time.

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        sarolabelle May 18, 2011, 5:18 pm

        1/2/34 would be cool too! But then again so would 1/3/13

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    napoleon1066 May 18, 2011, 3:21 pm

    Do tell him. And do it nicely. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready.

    It sounds like if you wait too long, he might propose too soon, and you’d have to say no (or yes, and not have your heart all the way in it). That’s something you definitely don’t want.

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    LTC039 May 18, 2011, 3:29 pm

    I have the same feelings. But have even less commitment than you! Regarding that I don’t live with my boyfriend. I know I want to get married, I know I love my boyfriend & want to be with him, but it terrifies me to think of getting married anytime in the forseeable future! Luckily enough, he’s on the same page as I am, but we know this because we’ve discussed it.
    So take Wendy’s advice…talk to him! If you already know deep down he’s “the one” then you’ll be fine.

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    callmehobo May 18, 2011, 3:30 pm

    Hahahha, I just had to comment on this- My birthday is December 12th, and just so you know, Wendy’s right, it’s a TERRIBLE time for a celebration! It’s super stressful to try and plan any non-holiday related get together during that time.

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      MissDre May 18, 2011, 3:37 pm

      My birthday is the day before Canada Day…. which sucks… because people are always out of town or have other plans. So my birthday has always been a very quiet event 🙁

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        honeybeenicki May 18, 2011, 4:12 pm

        That sucks 🙁 A guy I dated for awhile’s birthday was the day after Christmas and that was horrible for him. My husband’s birthday is a few weeks before Christmas, but even that seems to be difficult since people have so many different Christmas/holiday celebrations that it always interferes. My mom’s is 2 days before the 4th of July, so its hard to pin people down then too. Thankfully, mine is at the beginning of August. Its always hot and people tend to be free.

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      Rabbit May 19, 2011, 1:07 pm

      My birthday is the 11th! 😀 I’ve never had any trouble getting people to come out and celebrate it with me, though. I think it’s because people start to get into celebration mode around Thanksgiving time and the momentum just carries right on through until New Years.

      One of my brothers was born on Christmas day. Now, HE definitely got the shit end of that stick. He hardly even gets a birthday celebration at all, except my parents give him presents on New Year’s.

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    Bostonian Thinker May 18, 2011, 3:34 pm

    I am thinking that more needs to be said about this competition issue. I would make it clear to the boyfirend that you do not want to always wonder if he married you just to one up his brother, and that if he wants to talk marriage, you are willing but only on a different day than 12/12 and in no way have it tied to the borther’s wedding.

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    • sobriquet

      sobriquet May 18, 2011, 5:13 pm

      That was my first thought! Is he really ready for marriage, or does he only feel ready because his brother made the commitment? I see it happen all the time when it comes to marriage and children. The moment one sibling is engaged, the other siblings hear a clock ticking. Maybe it’s the subconscious idea that you want to have kids around the same time so that they have cousins their own age?

      I’m 3 years younger than my oldest brother who got married 2 years ago when he was 26. I had a brief moment of “oh my god he’s married and I don’t even have a boyfriend!” until I realized that I have no desire to get married for a very, very long time.

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        SpaceySteph May 18, 2011, 5:30 pm

        My boyfriend’s younger sister is getting married in July, and his older brother is getting married in August. His parents are already with the hints and the pressure all “Now we only have one child left to get married,” and “I hope its not too long before [my boyfriend] settles down.” I told him he may not propose to me just because everyone else is getting married and that his parents deserve a full year off from wedding planning after having 2 weddings to prepare basically simultaneously.
        Its totally not a race, so I don’t care if we lose.

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        Red_Lady May 18, 2011, 10:20 pm

        “Maybe it’s the subconscious idea that you want to have kids around the same time so that they have cousins their own age?”
        My boyfriend’s sister is married and trying to get pregnant. I’m hoping the best for her, but part of me hopes it will take a while, so that her kids will be closer in age to our kids… So you may have something there!

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      summerkitten May 20, 2011, 7:34 pm

      I definitely agree; the competition aspect is what squicked me out initially, probably because my last boyfriend was competitive with his brothers so bad it was unhealthy. why does he want to marry me, because he thinks we’re ready or because he doesn’t want to be “left out.” to me, that’s a selfish reason for making a huge life change that involves another person!

      like everyone’s said, if you’re not ready, you won’t be able to make yourself ready, and the aftermath of forcing it won’t be pretty.

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  • MELH

    Megan May 18, 2011, 3:37 pm

    I can relate as well. I wanted to get engaged to my now fiance so badly. I couldn’t wait to get engaged. We went and looked at settings for my heirloom diamond and I was so excited. Then my mom (who was the holder of said diamond) accidentally let it slip that he had come to get the diamond. And I freaked out a little bit. I started thinking about how long forever was. And started thinking all of the what ifs. After some thinking and some advice from Wendy, I realized that she was right, and nothing in the world is for sure. By the time my fiance actually proposed, I was feeling much better, and we are getting married in August. I still have moments where I realize how huge of a decision it is, like once the invitations were printed, and there was no going back. (Although a friend kindly assured me there is going back until you drop them in the mailbox and can’t pull them back out.) But now I know I don’t want to go back. I was also comforted knowing my super analytical dad was the same way before my parents got married, always asking my mom if they were doing the right thing. They’ve been married almost 30 years now. Its totally natural to feel a little nervous, so don’t beat yourself up over it and give yourself time to feel ready!

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    AKchic May 18, 2011, 3:43 pm

    *laugh* Tell him you want to do it on a Friday the 13th in October! That might give him pause. And make him run for the calendar (2017 I think).

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      Kate May 18, 2011, 5:10 pm

      think of the possibilities for a theme wedding…

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        AKchic May 18, 2011, 8:12 pm

        Totally. If I were to get married again, I’d go for a Ren theme. Mainly because I can’t see my side of the family dressing up. I’m the only one that does it (and I have 3-4 dresses, plus pant outfits for my weapons work, and pirate garb just for the hell of it). Maybe even a pirate theme so I could serve rum and try to force my mom and devoutely Baptist grandmother into dressing like wenches. *snicker* If I can’t have fun, then what’s the point of MY wedding, right?

        But, I’ve been married twice now, I’m NOT doing it again (as far as I can see). The guy I’m with doesn’t want to get married either, so why worry? I have more fun planning my funeral (I’m not even 30 yet, so I have a long way to go). I plan on making everyone in my will dance the “Funky Chicken” at my funeral in order to qualify for their inheritance, and mandatory open bar. I want “Funky Town” played at the beginning, “Highway to Hell” played at the end… *giggle* I’m having sooo much fun thinking about the weird looks and giggles at my own funeral. If I wasn’t planning cremation, I’d have my boys rig my corpse to keep sitting up during the service! Instead, maybe I can have a fart machine under my urn and a small fan with confetti to make it look like my urn is farting sparkles. Hmmm… that’s an idea…

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        Kate May 18, 2011, 8:14 pm

        I want to see the photos of either event. You sound like a pretty fun person!

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    melikeycheesecake May 18, 2011, 3:44 pm

    One of the keys to a relationship is communication. Tell him how you feel.. talk it out together.

    My fiance and I knew we would be engaged someday but we did not rush it and let it all fall into place. When he proposed I was ready for it, but we had talked about it many many times before.

    Right now, just live in the moment and soak up each moment. Have peace that you believe you have found the one.

    Best Wishes & keep us up to date!

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      MissDre May 18, 2011, 4:37 pm

      I would just like to say that cheesecake is heaven on earth. That is all.

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        melikeycheesecake May 18, 2011, 5:07 pm

        As you can image.. I agree MissDre… I agree.

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        melikeycheesecake May 18, 2011, 5:07 pm

        Imagine.. sorry :o)

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    SGMcG May 18, 2011, 3:45 pm

    I’m approaching being married for four years now myself. Were my husband and I ready to get married that day? Probably not, but damn if we weren’t willing to spend the rest of our lives trying to STAY married. If we had to do it all over again, maybe we would have gotten our financial affairs in order or maybe plan things better so that other life hurdles didn’t get in the way of those wedded bliss moments. Yet I know I made the right decision to get married when I did and how I did because I get such a feeling of peace sleeping next to my husband every night. Even with our ups and downs, I love being married to him and taking his name – I only wish everyone gets to have that experience and those choices.

    If you’re committed to your boyfriend now LW, I’m sure you’ll be just committed to him when you become his fiancée and then his wife and mother of his children. If your boyfriend is pushing dates for you now due to some stupid boy competitions, talk to him about operating on a timeline the both of you can enjoy together, not one based on catching up to his brother. Nervousness over those big life milestones is normal – just don’t let it stop you from following through when you feel it’s time. When you do decide you’re ready, push for the 5-15-15 date – it falls on a Friday and looks pretty good engraved on a napkin. 😉

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    spaceboy761 May 18, 2011, 3:57 pm

    I think that part of this is that you’re still relatively young to get married for a college grad and that you moved in together right after graduation. That small independent period between adulthood and moving in with someone can really help to get your life priorities in order, and missing that discovery period might be causing some anxiety here. I’m not saying that you should move out just to ‘find yourself’, but it could explain your apprehension.

    Having that said, a bit of marriage panic is pretty normal. We all go through it to some degree. Also, I wouldn’t entirely brush off this whole ‘competition with his brother’ thing. Make sure that he’s doing this for you and not his ego.

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      Kate May 18, 2011, 5:07 pm

      That small independent period can do wonders for some people (like me).

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    BoomChakaLaka May 18, 2011, 4:01 pm

    Whenever I read letters on Dear Wendy, the first thought I have is, what would I do in that situation. I honestly just freaked myself out a bit too thinking about my boyfriend (of only 5 months no less) proposed to me. I’m 25 and I think I found a good, no scratch that, AWESOME one, but I’m just not ready to be married yet.

    I don’t think that says anything of you not wanting to be with him, but honestly, if you feel like you’ve found the one, then waiting for the “right’ time to settle down will honestly be just a drop in the bucket.

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    sarolabelle May 18, 2011, 3:14 pm

    I wonder what it is like to be young and think of marriage like a far off fairy tale. I have a hard time understanding how people give all of themselves to a person and act like they are already married when in fact they aren’t….it’s so confusing to me. Marriage (to me) is a life changing experience because you are now going to live with each other and begin your life with each other together. If you already began your life with that person then what are you so afraid of? I’m so confused!

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      LTC039 May 18, 2011, 3:34 pm

      It’s easier to pick up & leave, even if you’re cohabitating, when you’re not married & the relationship doesn’t work out then to go through divorce. A lot of people take marriage very seriously (I am one of those people). They may believe living together isn’t as big a commitment as actually getting married…

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        sarolabelle May 18, 2011, 3:36 pm

        yeah, the issue I have is people giving 100% of themselves to a boyfriend and not saving anything for their husband….call me a crazy Catholic….

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        MissDre May 18, 2011, 3:41 pm

        If it makes you feel better, I agree with you. I am completely non-religious but I still would not live with my boyfriend unless we were already engaged. That’s just my personal belief and he feels the same way.

        Now I feel like singing the theme song to Diff’rent Strokes… 🙂

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        LTC039 May 18, 2011, 3:53 pm

        I have the same feelings! I am a Catholic, but not a super practicing one, however my boyfriend knows that I want to wait until we’re either well into being engaged or married before moving in together. I just feel it’s something I want to save for my husband, & also there are statistics showing that well over 50% of couples that co-habitate before marriage end up divorced.
        I’m not saying this is the case for EVERYONE, but those are the statistics I have heard about…

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        MissDre May 18, 2011, 4:05 pm

        Same here, I’ve read countless articles about the high divorce rates among couples who co-habitate before getting engaged and the reasoning makes total sense to me. I’m glad that I am dating someone who feels the same way about it as I do.

        But, to each their own! And I certainly don’t look down on anybody who chooses to live together first.

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        Chicka Bow Bow May 18, 2011, 7:51 pm

        Just a thought: Those studies that say that couples who live together are more likely to get divorced cannot say WHY that is true. Here is one very likely possibility:
        Most modern-day couples do prefer to live together before getting married. Typically, the only exceptions are very religious people and people who are very traditional and conservative in their way of life/relationships. Could it be that people who are so traditional and/or religious that they would never cohabitate before marriage are less likely to view divorce as an option if the relationship goes south? Divorce is considered sinful and unacceptable to most people of the more religiously conservative persuasion, and so they probably wouldn’t divorce due to these beliefs and values. Their relationship could be as miserable as a cohabitated couple who is divorcing, but they might stay for that reason alone. Until death do they part.

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        thyme May 19, 2011, 1:41 pm

        THIS.

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        jena May 18, 2011, 4:45 pm

        funny, 50% of all marriages are ending in divorce these days. everyone didn’t live together before getting married, right? right.

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        LTC039 May 18, 2011, 5:25 pm

        I said that wasn’t the case for **everyone**

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        LTC039 May 18, 2011, 6:54 pm

        whatever people…

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        LennyBee May 18, 2011, 4:53 pm

        My boyfriend and I read a ton of these articles when we were trying to decide whether we’d consider living together before marriage. The most recent articles on cohabitation tend to show that the statistics aren’t actually that dire anymore. The theory is that, when the original studies that showed a very high divorce rate for couples who cohabitated were run, society really frowned upon cohabitating, so those who chose to likely had a poorer view of marriage (or at least a less committed view of marriage) – which is what caused the high divorce rate. Nowadays, since cohabitation has reached the mainstream, the link between cohabitation and divorce is pretty much gone. There are many other variables that are much better predictors of divorce.

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        Kate May 18, 2011, 4:55 pm

        I think you are correct. Those “statistics” everyone is citing are old and the studies are no longer valid.

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        MissDre May 18, 2011, 5:01 pm

        Interesting. Those are not the reasonings I read at all! But honestly, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter what some study says. If a couple is making a decision together, whether it be to have sex, or live together, or whatever, what matters is how the two people in the relationship feel, nothing else.

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        Kate May 18, 2011, 5:04 pm

        Very true. It’s up to the two people involved. I do think there are some reasons NOT to live together. Some people may disagree (especially in this economy) but I think financial reasons should not be a reason. I think things can get ugly, especially when the couple is young.

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        LennyBee May 18, 2011, 5:16 pm

        If only we could randomize couples into a true experiment we could know the truth!!

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        Kate May 18, 2011, 5:18 pm

        Someone should do a power analysis so we know how many exp units we need.

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        Quakergirl May 18, 2011, 5:25 pm

        Haha, I got sent a lot of those articles as soon as word started getting out that Quakerboy and I were moving in together, and I always shot back with those updates. The studies aren’t predictive, they’re just illuminating a very common occurrence in a previous generation, where couples who didn’t value marriage as highly lived together but ultimately ended up married either because of relationship momentum or social pressures. But because they didn’t necessarily do the groundwork that other couples did before marriage (the should we have kids/what does marriage mean to us/what are our shared goals discussions, etc.), and they weren’t staunchly against divorce, they ended up divorced. Why this is shocking, and why it is used as an indicator of future relationship failures for our generation, I have no idea.

        What I would take as a valuable insight from those studies is that if you don’t want to be married, or married to the person you’re living with, just say that and then stick to it. Don’t marry someone just because you already live together. And even if you do want to marry the person you live with, don’t do it without talking about the Big Stuff first.

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        _jsw_ May 18, 2011, 7:42 pm

        Well said (LennyBee as well).

        I think that the most important lesson is that living together or not will have no appreciable impact on whether, if you then get married, you’ll end up divorced. Your likelihood of divorcing is based on the two of you, your compatibility, life-altering events, your morality/ethics, and community standards.You won’t become suddenly more or less likely to divorce just because you decide to live together (or not)

        Correlation ≠ causation, as we all know.

        Also, by the way, “not divorced” doesn’t imply happy. It just implies married. You can’t guarantee happiness by trying to ensure you don’t get divorced. You do it by picking the right person to begin with and by working on it throughout.

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        HmC May 18, 2011, 8:00 pm

        It’s funny to me how people on both sides of the issue can skew the results of studies to basically just enforce whatever side they’re already on. Not to be condescending, but a lot of people defending co-habitation prior to marriage strike me as rationalizing. I’ve read studies on both sides, and I admit I don’t know for sure, ultimately, which prevails scientifically. Anyone that claims they do just seems to be defending whatever personal choice they’ve already made for themself, which doesn’t tend to strike me as particularly credible.

        I don’t want to co-habitate prior to marriage, for a number of very personal reasons, including reasons that are personal to my values and my personality. With this type of thing, I don’t judge those that make different personal choices from me, because they aren’t me. Just because something is right for me, doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone else.

        However, I have seen evidence that demonstrates not just correlation, but causation. They could be wrong. I don’t really know. But neither do you. There’s a tiny chance that co-habitating could negatively affect chances of a long-lasting marriage, and even happiness. For many couples, that won’t be true. And, of course, I think everyone should make their choices with their own personalities and values and relationships in mind. But I don’t think anyone has enough information to say definitively that co-habitating does not affect chances for marriage, or happiness, *at all*.

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        Kate May 18, 2011, 8:10 pm

        Isn’t that the point of research? Data are always open to interpretation.

        I don’t think anyone was saying:”You should live together before marriage.” I think they were just commenting that many of those studies may no longer be applicable.

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        _jsw_ May 18, 2011, 8:15 pm

        I agree that we cannot ever know the exact degree to which it does or does not affect long-term chances because no two couples are identical and so it’s impossible to follow identical couples on both paths. However, since it’s essentially impossible to know, there’s no real point to basing decisions on it. You’d be just as justified in deciding to never wear the color blue or to only wear jeans on Tuesdays or to sing In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida one a month because those things could, in theory, affect your chances of getting divorced.

        I can’t rule out the possibility that the sheer fact of having lived together – everything else being equal – will make a couple more – or less – likely to divorce. I haven’t seen any evidence of it being a significant influence, however.

        Again, I think people should strive to feel happy and fulfilled as a couple, not simply to stay married. When I see high divorce rates, I don’t think that people aren’t trying hard enough; I think that it’s too easy to get married.

        If you want to promote happiness, I think it should take years of legal battles and thousands of dollars to get married, but divorces could be done for a hundred bucks in Vegas. In those cases? Married people would almost always be happy people.

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        PFG-SCR May 18, 2011, 8:26 pm

        “If you want to promote happiness, I think it should take years of legal battles and thousands of dollars to get married, but divorces could be done for a hundred bucks in Vegas. In those cases? Married people would almost always be happy people.”

        So…money _can_ buy happiness?

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        HmC May 18, 2011, 8:26 pm

        _jsw_
        I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree that your analogy to wearing the color blue is not apt. I’ve seen information that scientifically supports causation, not just correlation. Like I said, this information could be wrong, or it could just be correlation. But I’m simply not convinced that it’s as arbitrary as something like not wearing the color blue. And I know it sounds judgmental and old-fashioned of me, but honestly the people who constantly and adamantly argue that co-habitating is totally harmless tend to be co-habitating themselves, which does not lend credibility to their arguments, IMO. I realize my choice is a decreasingly popular one, and I tend to not even bother sharing it with people in real life because I don’t like coming across as judgmental at all. Honestly, people know what is best for their relationships better than I do. My choice is just about me.

        I agree with the gist of everything else you’re saying. And to re-iterate, this is not about judgment of other people’s personal choices. I make my decisions based largely upon what I know of myself, and I’d hope that others would do the same.

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        _jsw_ May 18, 2011, 8:43 pm

        @PFG-SCR: Well, yes, I think that all else being equal, money reduces stress and so in fact can “buy” happiness, but my point was that if you make it really difficult to get married and easy to get divorced, the people who were married would tend to be the ones who truly were happy that way.

        @HmC: Likewise, those who argue that living together leads to divorce later on tend to be types who think living together is wrong. The fact that it’s so easy for either side to “prove” a point leads me to conclude that the actual impact is likely to be negligible. I don’t dispute that people who live together first might have statistically very different results after getting married in any number of categories than those who never lived together. I simply – personally – don’t feel that it is the act of living together that causes anything of significance and that it is, instead, due to the couple and what made them more or less likely to live together.

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        _jsw_ May 18, 2011, 8:51 pm

        @HmC: Actually, what I could very much get behind is the notion that living together first makes marriage seem like less of a big deal (because it’s essentially just “legalizing” what they’re already doing), meaning it’s an “easier” decision to make, which means more couples would make it than if they consider it to be a huge deal. As a result, more couples who lived together first would tend to get divorced than those who didn’t … because those couples entered into marriage “too easily” and weren’t as certain of their choice and were therefore more likely to marry someone who wasn’t as right for them.

        I could also see couples who lived together first getting divorced sooner, because they’ll have been together longer in a very real sense.

        That said, for a given couple who could magically both live together first or get married right off the bat, I don’t think it makes a difference.

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        HmC May 18, 2011, 8:52 pm

        “Likewise, those who argue that living together leads to divorce later on tend to be types who think living together is wrong. ”

        Fair enough, I was just thinking about that. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would say that the main difference I notice between my own views, and what I tend to hear from the other side, is that they adamantly argue that there is no causation whatsoever. They claim to know, and feel that it is all correlation, while I feel that I do not know, and feel that there is the possibility of causation, according to what I have seen.

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        HmC May 18, 2011, 8:54 pm

        “Actually, what I could very much get behind is the notion that living together first makes marriage seem like less of a big deal (because it’s essentially just “legalizing” what they’re already doing), meaning it’s an “easier” decision to make, which means more couples would make it than if they consider it to be a huge deal. As a result, more couples who lived together first would tend to get divorced than those who didn’t … because those couples entered into marriage “too easily” and weren’t as certain of their choice and were therefore more likely to marry someone who wasn’t as right for them.”

        Well said, definitely agree!

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        LennyBee May 19, 2011, 11:09 am

        Can you tell me which articles demonstrate causation? Just a cite would be great. I’m genuinely curious now.

        Thanks!

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        HmC May 19, 2011, 1:12 pm

        LennyBee-

        I feel like I have completely hijacked this poor topic! But here is one study that explores the possibility of causation (“Sociodemographic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal functioning variables did not account for the association between cohabitation experience and marital communication.”):

        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00180.x/abstract

        Also, here is a recent cover story from Time that I personally found very interesting:

        http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1209784,00.html#ixzz1MoofHgef

        An excerpt: “Most couples today cohabit before they marry. The crucial issue here is whether they moved in together with the full intention to get married, or whether they moved in together just because it was the logical thing to do, since he was always at her place anyway. You might think that living together is a sort of “trial period” that helps prevent bad marriages, since they can break up before taking an oath to each other. But the odds suggest the opposite; they divorce more. Why doesn’t this filter work? Very likely, whatever it was that made them not want to get married in the first place ended up becoming a problem long-term.”

        This last one isn’t causation specifically, but I found it interesting. And I can’t personally vouch for the scientific significance of articles/studies like these. All I’m saying is, I’m open to the possibility of causation. I don’t think it’s been ruled out.

        And, as the Time article points out, there are better and worse ways to co-habitate, in terms of how it could affect your outcome. I read somewhere that moving in together once a ring has been given, and a wedding date has been set, for example, does not negatively impact the likelihood of divorce. But darn it, I can’t find that one now.

        I’m not on a soap box trying to judge anyone for their personal choices, I’m really not. And I don’t claim to know the answer. I just think it’s naive to assert that you definitively know something that you do not.

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        LennyBee May 19, 2011, 1:33 pm

        Interesting! Thanks! As a social scientist, this stuff fascinates me (the research, and the surrounding debate).

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        MissDre May 19, 2011, 1:54 pm

        I can’t reply to your post with the Time article, but just wanted to say that the reasoning there is what makes sense to me and is what I’ve read before. Thanks so much for pointing this out.

        Our opinion doesn’t seem to be very popular on this board! But like I said, to each their own. The only opinion that matters is that of the two people involved in their own relationship.

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        SpyGlassez May 19, 2011, 1:42 am

        What’s funny is, I still have this same belief. I’m not a proponent of living with someone before marriage. The first time my boyfriend had ever brought it up, I shot it down.

        But now my boyfriend, my roommate, and I share an apartment.

        It’s funny, because I’m not trying to be hypocritical, but I don’t consider us “living together.” The three of us are roommates. And my boyfriend and I are sharing a room, but we are not having sex.

        I think for our relationship, it was good for us to live in one abode before marriage. I am 30, and he is my first boyfriend since high school. To say I was set in my ways when we met was a bit of an understatement. At the same time, he had lived with a girlfriend once just out of high school for a couple months, and I was the first relationship he’d been in in a couple of years. So we each had our habits and “ways,” and those still clash. With our personalities, combining moving in together for the first time after getting married would not have been a pretty picture.

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        SpyGlassez May 20, 2011, 4:41 pm

        Why all the downvotes?? I don’t get it!

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        _jsw_ May 20, 2011, 4:49 pm

        I don’t get it either. I don’t see what it is that you said which so many would disagree with, as it’s purely your own perspective on your own situation.

        Maybe your boyfriend created 8 accounts here to express being upset over the fact you’re not having sex.

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      • EscapeHatches

        EscapeHatch May 19, 2011, 11:15 am

        Couldn’t agree more. My, now fiance, and I agreed we wouldn’t live together until we were engaged AND had set a date. We did both last week, and he’ll be moving in sometime in July. 🙂

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        honeybeenicki May 18, 2011, 3:44 pm

        I was raised Catholic and definitely taught that premarital sex was a no-no and living together was absolutely forbidden. I lived with my husband before we even dated, though. To be honest, I can’t imagine not having lived with him before getting married. I don’t know how I would have handled all the little annoyances without time to get used to it.

        On that same note though, even though he lived on my couch for awhile as a friend before we dated, he didn’t officially “move in” (into my room, his stuff out of storage, etc) until we got serious. And I knew he was the man I’d be with forever.

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        cmarie May 18, 2011, 4:21 pm

        Everytime this argument comes up I take a real issue with the definition of marriage as being more meaningfuly, more committed than a committed relationship. Probably because the only way I will ever get married is if I move to Boston. Everybody has their own individual feeling regarding marriage but when you make a broad, generalizing statement about how marriage is the ultimate committment you demean all the other relationships out there, you demean MY relationship. I am as committed to my relationship as anybody who is married it. However, I can’t get married. I support gay marriage, not because I feel I need it to validate my relationship, but because I believe in equality for everyone. I understand that others may disagree with my view on marriage, but it’s insulting to say that your married relationship means more than my unmarried one.

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        LTC039 May 18, 2011, 4:33 pm

        I support gay marriage too! I’m a heterosexual, Catholic, Republican, go-figure! I really don’t think anyone was trying to demean your relationship. It’s more about what people think inidividually… I don’t think people that choose marriage value their relationships any more than those who don’t…But in regards to same-sex couples, isn’t that what they are fighting for? They want to get married, to take that next step? There are plenty of heterosexual couples that don’t feel they need to get married to show their full commitment & that’s fine. To each is own…
        However in the LW’s case, she does view marriage seriously & I think that’s what many of the commentors are referring to, her particular case.

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        spaceboy761 May 18, 2011, 4:39 pm

        What’s with all the Catholics here? Apparently we comprise 22% of the US population and 96% of DW readers!

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        LTC039 May 18, 2011, 4:41 pm

        Are you a Catholic????

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        spaceboy761 May 18, 2011, 4:46 pm

        Yup. I would say that Wendy attracting a bunch of her fellow New Yorkers could skew the average, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

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        Teresa May 18, 2011, 4:56 pm

        I also noticed all of the hands going up, so here I am too, Catholic – but from Vegas, not New York…..

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        LTC039 May 18, 2011, 6:13 pm

        I’m pretty shocked! Not gonna lie…

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        WatersEdge May 18, 2011, 4:50 pm

        Catholic too. technically.

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        Kate May 18, 2011, 4:56 pm

        Catholic from MA.

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        Maracuya May 18, 2011, 5:38 pm

        I’m a bad Catholic.

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        kali May 18, 2011, 6:05 pm

        Non-practicing Presbyterian in California here.

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      • Kristina

        Kristina May 18, 2011, 7:35 pm

        I’m a “Catholic” originally from MA as well 🙂 I consider myself simply spiritual, but I go to church from time to time, and always a catholic church.

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        TheOtherMe May 19, 2011, 2:22 pm

        Maracuya’s ” I’m a bad Catholic. ” was by far my favorite answer !

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        Maracuya May 19, 2011, 2:31 pm

        Thanks, T.O.M. It’s just the truth 😉

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        _jsw_ May 18, 2011, 7:44 pm

        Used to be a Catholic.

        Now, at best, agnostic.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        Elizabeth May 18, 2011, 10:41 pm

        lutheran, live in chicago but from MPLS

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        SpyGlassez May 19, 2011, 1:24 am

        Catholic from Iowa, even have a masters in theology from a Catholic university. I’m sort of on the “less practicing” end now, however.

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        Quakergirl May 18, 2011, 5:47 pm

        I live with one, although I think that may throw a wrench in this whole argument thread. Clearly the morality part of Sunday school went in one ear and out the other, although he does know all sorts of fascinating historical things about saints and treaties and roman emperors and whatnot. Kinda cool, actually.

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        LTC039 May 18, 2011, 6:15 pm

        You know, when I went to Vatican City, I had more appreciation for it then maybe someone who never studied any theology. However, I might add I DID NOT feel I was in the presence of God whatsoever…I was pretty sad, to be honest. But, on the historical side, I did appreciate it.

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        Laurel May 19, 2011, 12:19 am

        Me too! Me too! Catholic in the midwest.

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        cmarie May 18, 2011, 4:50 pm

        LGBT people are fighting for same-sex marriage because we want, and deserve, to be equal. It’s not about “taking the next step”. For many couples, gay and straight, they don’t need marriage to take that step, they already have. Marriage is putting a name to it, it’s confirming that our relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships, it’s about saying we are all equal. Yes, a lot of LGBT individuals grow up dreaming about getting married, I did, but eventually being told again and again that I, and my relationship, is not worthy, not equal kinda quashes those feelings. At least for me and a lot of people I know. We are fighting for same-sex marriage because, yes, we want to get married, we want to have the wedding, have the cake, the tax breaks, have people celebrate our love and our relationships, have our partners be considered parents to their non-bio children (without having to adopt them) have that one sheet of paper and not an entire filing cabinet giving us the same rights as married couples; it’s about equality, it’s about saying we are equal and deserve to be treated as such. Marriage is a wonderful thing and I support and celebrate everyone who makes the decision to get married, but that doesn’t mean that their relationship is more committed than mine. I understand that everybody has their own feeling, I just get tired of having to defend my committed relationship from people who think that just because they have a piece of paper and white dress their relationship means more.

        The LW needs to talk to her BF and do whatever she needs to be happy and confortable. She definitely shouldn’t get married if she feels that she’s not ready and especially just so her BF can one-up his brother. Even I know that’s a bad reason to get married.

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        LTC039 May 18, 2011, 5:36 pm

        I understand & I validated all your points. I just wanted you to know that (as far as I’m concerned) no one was belittling “unmarried” couples, for whatever reason they are not married… My p.o.v. is that the *government* should not stop ANY couple from getting married…If the Catholic church, or any other religious organization, doesn’t want to accept it that’s ok because that’s not THEIR beliefs…But there should be a separation of church & state. I completely agree & I believe it’s wrong to deny a same-sex couple marriage, under the government**. Hopefully this will change soon! But please understand that in no way do I think couple that are not married have a less meaningful relationship than those that do.

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        cmarie May 18, 2011, 7:13 pm

        I support all couples and whatever choices they make as long as those choices are in their best interest. Sorry if it seemed like an attack, in case you can’t tell I’m a very passionate, if a tad bitter activist. I don’t take issue with people who think marriage is a step up in a relationship or those who want to get married, I would like to get married someday, it’s the broad statements that say marriage is the ultimate committment and anything except that is less than. The person I’m with is not my girlfriend because we don’t consider ourselves to “just” be dating, she’s my partner because we are in a long-term committed, everything but the license relationship. Our lives are as intertwined as the married couple across the hall and if we ever break up it will hurt just as much as a divorce would. Being active in campaigning for same-sex marriage while being told again and again that I’m not allowed has made me a bit sensitive to comments that imply that my relationship is less than, even if that’s not what the person meant. For me though, I would never get married if I hadn’t already made the ultimate committment because I do value the intention and the thought behind marriage. However, marriage is just an official title to the relationship I already have. Every relationship is unique and should be treated as such.

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        LTC039 May 18, 2011, 7:18 pm

        Everything you said was beautiful & true.

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        SGMcG May 19, 2011, 7:45 am

        Catholic in SC. Husband and I lived together before we got married. Didn’t get married in the church though, so working on convalidation of the marriage.

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        MissDre May 18, 2011, 4:34 pm

        I completely understand why you feel that way and I’m behind you 100%

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        honeybeenicki May 18, 2011, 4:44 pm

        You are absolutely right cmarie. I have known technically “unmarried” couples (both gay and straight) who have been together for 2 or 3 decades who are just as committed as a married couple (or more). I think ultimately the level of commitment is not determined by any piece of paper, but by the people who are involved.

        I also support gay marriage because of the equality issues. I don’t see why anyone should be denied rights just because of their sexual orientation. I don’t see how people gaining those rights in any way shape or form actually affects other people who aren’t the ones being denied rights. We are having an issue right now in our state because for some reason an amendment was approved to our state constitution banning gay marriage or anything similar. Well, 2 years later the same voters approved a domestic partnership registry that allowed couples on that registry to have certain rights (hospital visitation, using sick leave for an ill partner, health insurance, etc). Now, our governor is trying to get rid of the registry and all the rights that go with it. Long story short (well kinda), my relationship certainly doesn’t mean more than yours just because I have the “rights” under marriage. And your relationship certainly doesn’t mean less just because you are not able to get married because of constrictive societal rules. I certainly hope that some day you will have the option to get married if you choose… no matter where you live.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom May 18, 2011, 5:04 pm

        I agree. My husband and I keep commenting that gay marriage isn’t hurting straight marriage or making straight marriages fail. I don’t have any idea how keeping gays from marriage is supposed to defend marriage. I think things like infidelity do lots of harm to straight marriage and maybe if people tackled issues like that they might do more to defend marriage.

        I feel that gays should be given all the rights everyone else has and I think that time will come but in some states it will, unfortunately, take a while. It’s commitment and willingness to stick together and work through problems that makes a lasting marriage.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom May 18, 2011, 6:25 pm

        I also wish that those who want to defend marriage would turn their efforts to determining how to do better premarital classes. Most of them are fairly trivial and don’t touch on the real problems that crop up in a long term marriage. They don’t do anything to warn you that children are hard on marriage or to help you balance marriage and children. They don’t help you balance your commitments to work, children, friends and volunteer work to your commitment to your marriage. They don’t touch on how to work through the down times until you reach an up time in your marriage. You’re left to do those things on your own and grope your way in the dark.

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        LennyBee May 18, 2011, 5:24 pm

        I don’t think people are saying that one person’s married relationship is more meaningful than another’s unmarried relationship (at least I hope they’re not). It has more to do with your personal beliefs. For example, to me (as a catholic), marriage isn’t a piece of civil paper, it’s a ceremony of commitment before God and family. So, from that point of view, for myself marriage is a greater commitment than living together. BUT, it would be nonsensical of me to hold everyone else to my point of view, so I fully acknowledge that your level of commitment to someone is independent of marriage – it just depends on your beliefs. Not everyone who lives with their partner is strongly committed to him/her.

        I think I got a little rambly, but my point is, saying “for me, marriage is a greater commitment than cohabitation” is not equal to saying that marriage is always a greater commitment than cohabitation.

        For the record, I’m a strong supported of LGBT rights.

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        jena May 18, 2011, 4:44 pm

        yeah, you’re just a shell of a human being when you get married if you sleep with someone before hand.

        what about the boys who save nothing for their wives? give me a break, not everyone has the same viewpoints as you. you clearly don’t agree with her life choices so why even bother commenting if you were just going to be condescending with your “kids these days” rhetoric.

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        sarolabelle May 18, 2011, 5:00 pm

        I’m just trying to understand…I don’t understand her whole situation. If my boyfriend of two years proposed a date of 12-12-12 to get married I would say, “How about sooner. I can’t wait to marry you!” Knowing you want something, yet being afraid of it is weird to me.

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        MissDre May 18, 2011, 5:05 pm

        Maybe try to think of it in terms of another situation. Maybe think of it like, OMG I’m graduating college and I can’t wait to get out there! But at the same, OMG I’m terrified because my life is about to change!

        or

        OMG I’m pregnant! I am so excited and I can’t wait to be a parent! But at the same time, OMG I am so terrified because I now have this new responsibility and this new life that depends on me and I have no idea what to do!

        Do those examples help at all? It’s certainly normal to feel mixed emotions when something you’ve always wanted suddenly becomes a reality.

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        Kate May 18, 2011, 5:09 pm

        Those are great examples.

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        sarolabelle May 18, 2011, 5:16 pm

        yeah…that helps. Thanks. 🙂

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        jena May 19, 2011, 11:13 am

        How about this. “Man, I really, REALLY want a job in publishing, but I live in Montana and have lived there my entire life.”

        Job in NYC offers you a spot.

        You want it, but are scared, because you’ve never known anything but Montana and in NY, things could go awry and you’ll be without your family, your friends, etc. Get it?

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        Sarah May 18, 2011, 5:58 pm

        Just for the record, banging my boyfriend, and even living with him for four years and being his partner for seven years, does not constitute “giving 100% of [myself]” to him. I won’t be giving 100% of myself to him even if/when we get married.

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      honeybeenicki May 18, 2011, 3:38 pm

      I’m guessing the issue is what Wendy mentioned – permanency. If you’re living together and not married, its easier to walk away. Sure, you have to possibly split up the furniture, but it is not a divorce. It’s a breakup. Some people might not take marriage as seriously and see divorce as nothing more than a breakup with paper, but I hoping LW sees it as a lifelong, permanent commitment.

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      Heather Feather May 18, 2011, 3:21 pm

      I feel like people say all the time, “I know he/she is the right person and I eventually want to get married, blah, blah, blah” and then act all freaked out when it might be time for an engagement.

      All I know, is that getting married is a huge step, not something to take lightly. So maybe people should relax with the “he/she is the one” and just say ” I am in a great relationship that could maybe turn into a marriage”.

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      jena May 18, 2011, 4:43 pm

      Are you saying you don’t understand the difference between signing a lease and “til death do us part”?

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        _jsw_ May 18, 2011, 7:51 pm

        Leases often cost less to break than longer term contracts, and it’s easier to wait them out if you don’t like them. Is there another difference?

        Generally, I’ve found that couples who want to be with each other – vows or not – are a lot happier than those who are with each other purely because of vows they made, and generally the more someone mentions their vows, the more they’re using them as a crutch.

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      Meaghan Self May 19, 2011, 12:35 am

      I’m in the same boat with you, and that’s why my boyfriend and I have postponed moving in together until we’re married since for me and him that ceremony signifies the jointing of our lives and the added commitment of living together. Makes it seem more like going onto the next phase of my life with him instead of just it being us having a huge party where we get dressed up then go back home.

      So…this makes me seem like she’s not really ready to have that tie to him. Almost like she wants that exit to still be there despite believing he’s the one just in case something changes or maybe even in case something better comes trotting along.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom May 18, 2011, 4:24 pm

    You sound like you’re just not ready for marriage yet and that’s fine. I think you’ll know you’re ready when you go from thinking about it as having to pick a date to getting to pick a date and from the idea of having to wear a ring on your finger to getting to wear a ring on your finger. The words you use to think about engagement and marriage say alot about your readiness.

    If he asks you to marry him before you’re ready you can tell him you love him and would love to marry him sometime but you’re not ready to be engaged yet. You can tell him that you think he’s the “one” but you’re not yet ready for marriage. If this relationship is “the one” it will wait until you’re ready and it will be strong and beautiful. In the meantime you can tell him how you feel about marriage and your relationship.

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      Quakergirl May 18, 2011, 5:14 pm

      Such a good point about the words she’s using. I’m get called a nitpicker when I point this out to people, but I definitely think it says something about how you feel– even subconsciously– when you use words with a certain connotation (e.g. “have to” v. “get to”).

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom May 18, 2011, 5:27 pm

        I definitely believe that our choice of words reflects are inner thoughts and attitude even when they are subconscious.

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        summerkitten May 20, 2011, 7:35 pm

        i agree with you 100% but i also want to say i love your name! i’m a recent quaker alumna myself and it makes me smile when i see your comments 🙂

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    SalMarie May 18, 2011, 4:46 pm

    I agree with all of the comments being made about how making a lifelong commitment can be really intimidating! However I have to wonder if the responses would be the same if the roles were reversed and the LW was writing in to express her concerns that her live-in boyfriend isn’t quite ready for marriage yet. I recall at least one or two DW letters in the past where comments have come down pretty hard against boyfriends not being ready to make that commitment, i.e. comments about how getting married should be the easiest decision ever and not being totally ready if you’re already serious and living together means it will likely never happen. I know the details of each situation are unique, but am I the only one who thinks there is at least *somewhat* of a discrepancy in these reactions? I totally understand the LW’s perspective here – just wanted to point this out!

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      Quakergirl May 18, 2011, 4:58 pm

      I thought that initially, too, about the discrepancy in reactions, but I think in this case it’s mostly because the LW and her boyfriend are (I’m guessing) about 23, not 27 or 30, or 35. If she writes back 10 years from now with the same concerns, then perhaps the comments would run more in line with the other letters.

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    jena May 18, 2011, 4:47 pm

    If the reason he wants to be married so badly is not because he is all-encompassingly in love with you, but because he is competing with his brother, absolutely DO NOT marry him (at least not yet).

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    LeahW. May 18, 2011, 4:51 pm

    Let me use wanting to have children as an example of “figuring out when you’re ready”. When I was younger (teenager through early-20s), I always assumed that one day I would want to have kids. Most people do and I didn’t have any strong feelings about NOT wanting kids, so although it was way off in the distance I figured I’d get there. In my mid-20s, as I became into what felt like a fully-formed adult, I slowly realized that I definitely wanted children someday. That day was in some distant, literally unimaginable future, and in the present I wasn’t even comfortable being AROUND children, but now I knew that I wanted them for sure. At 28, I met the man I knew I was going to marry, and for the first time I could picture who I was going to have children with and was super excited. I was able to form a picture of us with our kids for the first time, kids that looked like a mixture of me and the man I loved, but this picture was part of some other timeline that didn’t feel connected to my own. As we continued to date, I started to put dates to things (I want to try to have the first one before turning 35, and I’m going to finish my M.A. around 33 or 34, so we’ll start trying in such-and-such year), but I was still in some unconnected timeline. When I pictured our future family, we lived in the houses where our friends with kids lived, and I realized I was picturing us raising THEIR children instead of our own!

    But in the last few months, not coincidentally at a point in my life when I’m finally conquering some personal that have dogged me throughout my adulthood and I can really picture us takings concrete steps towards my degree, career, and our married life, I suddenly realized that the timeline that includes kids is attached at the end of the one I’m currently living. The kids are still at least a few years off, but instead of seeming like a distant fantasy or part of a math equation (age of decreasing fertility – age at completion of M.A. = baby-making time), it’s a reality I can actually see us working towards. And that picture will become clearer and clearer and more and more real as I work towards it, and at the end of that process I’ll be ready.

    If you’re still picturing marriage as being a “far off fairytale”, it doesn’t sound like you’re ready to get married. And if you’re not ready to seriously consider getting married, you’re also not ready to be engaged. So, my advice is to head him off at the pass and tell him this, whether he was serious about 12-12-12 or not! You know you want to marry him one day, and that’s fantastic. The rest will come with more time.

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    Quakergirl May 18, 2011, 5:10 pm

    Bestie…is that you?? Seriously, this sounds just like my best friend from high school. And I’ll tell you the same thing I told her when she freaked out that her boyfriend was going to propose at college graduation: If you’re not sure that you’re ready for marriage, then you’re probably not ready. When you are, you’ll know. I’m not saying you won’t ultimately be nervous about the immensity of the commitment or that you won’t have the same “aah I’m going to be someone’s wife holy crap holy crap holy crap” moments Wendy describes, but you’ll know it’s right. You’ll feel ready and excited and proud to be almost-your-fiance’s-wife, too. You’ll be happy to be a social unit, to have your boyfriend now be your legal family. You won’t feel like you’re making sacrifices by getting married.

    And if that’s not how you feel now, don’t worry. I know the year or so after college is like marriage-palooza (at least it has been with my friends), but if you’re not ready yet, give it a couple years and see how you feel. As long as you and your boyfriend are both comfortable with the pace of your relationship, I see no harm in letting it progress naturally for a while. Of course, that means you need to talk to him about it. Just say something like “So, were you serious about that whole 12-12-12, thing?” to get the conversation started, then be honest with him about what you’re thinking and how you feel. No matter what happens, you’ll know how he feels and be able to work something out.

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet May 18, 2011, 5:27 pm

    I don’t think I could marry someone I didn’t live with first. There are so many things you go through as a couple that you would never have to deal with if you lived apart (finances, chores, little annoying nuances that come with having a roommate, etc). That being said, I also think it’s necessary to communicate about a marriage timeline if you have successfully lived together for awhile. What do you want accomplished before you get engaged? Is it a career? A certain amount of money saved up? Maybe thinking about your goals and discussing them with your boyfriend will help take away some of that anxiety.

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    • avatar

      spanishdoll May 18, 2011, 6:00 pm

      Though, to be fair, if you spend enough time with each other, you can get a pretty good idea of those nuances (good AND bad). For instance, I tend to spend a big chunk of the week at my boyfriend’s house, and we also talk very candidly about our lifestyles and finances. So if and when I do end up living with him, I will be fully aware that he’s good with his money, terrible at doing his dishes in a timely manner, and pretty darn good at making the bed.

      …Hm…though he could be making his bed only because he knows I’m coming over…I’ll have to wait till marriage to find out that one 😉

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      • sobriquet

        sobriquet May 18, 2011, 8:01 pm

        You should have a good idea about your SO’s lifestyle and nuances before moving in together, but there are things that really don’t come out until you actually split the rent. Tiny, miniscule annoyances that you probably don’t even notice yourself. My boyfriend, for instance, always falls asleep with his socks on and kicks them off while he’s sleeping. Therefore, I constantly find his dirty socks under the sheets and in the couch cushions. It drives me absolutely insane.

        On the other hand, I have a morning routine that annoys him. It goes: shower, coffee+breakfast while reading the news, then hair and makeup before I get out the door. The whole process takes about an hour and a half. My boyfriend wishes I would just do shower/hair/makeup all at once so that I’d be totally out of the bathroom. I never thought this would annoy someone until it was brought to my attention.

        I’ll just say that living together forces you to learn good communication skills. No one wants to be nagged about the dishes, but no one wants to clean up after the other person, either.

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      • Kristina

        Kristina May 18, 2011, 8:08 pm

        So true. I’ve never lived with a boyfriend, and I don’t plan on doing that anytime soon, but in the past, I did often spend weekends with an ex boyfriend at his place, and we learned A LOT about each other and all the little things that bugged us about the other pretty quickly. We were able to work out little issues like that, but I’m the type of person that will want to live with someone before marriage. And I also see no problem with cohabitation with a boyfriend, if marriage isn’t something that’s necessarily a potential with that.

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        Quakergirl May 19, 2011, 8:25 am

        Aaaagh Quakerboy does the socks thing too! They. are. everywhere. Drives me bananas. But you know what, if that’s the worst thing he does I can’t really complain, and when he leaves on a business trip, I get kinda sad when I don’t find any socks all over the apartment.

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    demoiselle May 18, 2011, 7:13 pm

    I’m six years older than my husband, so when we met I was 27 and he was (a very mature) 21. We knew pretty much within the first six months that we wanted to marry each other. However, since he was so much younger, he was not ready to be a married man. Although we knew we both had the same endpoint–and talked about it explicitly–he set the pace for upping the level of our commitment.

    After two and a half years, when he was finishing his professional degree, he realized he felt strange calling me his girlfriend and wanted to call me his fiancee. So he proposed. We didn’t set a date yet, projecting that it would be a year and a half before the wedding. However, I studied abroad for a month, and when we got back together, we decided to marry the next summer, on the three year anniversary of the day we met. We realized that we saw each other as spouses now, and that was comfortable and right.

    By that time, he’d been making his way as an adult for three years. He’d finished a professional degree. He’d lived abroad. He’d gotten a career going and started to make a name for himself in his field (he moved fast, I know). He could support himself fully. That time–and those achievements–were what he needed to transform in his own mind from someone who had just finished college and launched into the world to someone who could be a husband.

    I never felt any anxiety or fear about getting married, but I already knew who I was because I was older. Perhaps your anxiety, LW, has something to do with your conception of yourself. You may know you are with the person you want to marry, and you may be right. But you have to have reached the point where you can see yourself in the role of wife–whatever that means for you. And that’s OK.

    Open communication is the key. Talk to your boyfriend about what you want, and what getting married means to you. As long as you can get on the same page, you will be fine.

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  • avatar

    Jshizzle May 18, 2011, 7:44 pm

    I wanted to get married on 12-12-12 because it would also be our 5 year anniversary, but now I’m just reading all these arguments against it, I can hold off til the much cooler 11-12-13.

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  • Kristina

    Kristina May 18, 2011, 8:55 pm

    I’m interested in what Wendy has to say about living together before marriage. I know she lived with her husband before they were married. And I know they lived together right after she moved, although that wasn’t the original plan, from what I remember.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Wendy May 18, 2011, 9:24 pm

      I couldn’t imagine marrying someone I hadn’t lived with yet, but it’s such a personal decision, I wouldn’t judge someone who chose/felt differently.

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    David Jay May 19, 2011, 6:51 am

    This one is right up my alley! I agree with Wendy… you never feel 100% ready to commit yourself to someone. Even if you are madly in love, your subconscious drives you crazy with doubt and worry. It is even worse once the process is underway and dates have been set and invitations sent. The added pressure just makes you scream “AM I DOING THE RIGHT THING!?!?!?!”
    Here is how I finally got my logical male mind to rationalize it… and I have been offering this advice for decades to help others through it. It’s a simple reversal:
    Instead of asking myself, “Can I live with this person for the rest of my life?”, I asked myself, “Can I imagine my life without this person in it.” That was all I needed to be able to stand at the altar and make the life vow. A “couple decades and some change” later, I STILL cannot imagine living my life without my wife.
    Hope this helps you through the jitters!

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    • avatar

      demoiselle May 19, 2011, 12:11 pm

      David Jay — Your re-framing of the question is perfect. “Can I imagine my life without this person in it?” is just what one needs to ask. Of course, it is possible to know that the answer to that question is “absolutely not. I know I want to be with this person forever” but still not be ready to get married. 🙂

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      • avatar

        silver_dragon_girl May 19, 2011, 12:19 pm

        It’s also possible to answer it with “Yes, but I don’t like it.”

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