Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Family Doesn’t Support My Upcoming Marriage”

I have been dating my fiancé for three years now and I love him. We met in college and we are very compatible. I’m finishing up my Master’s degree in business and he is planning on attending pharmacy school in August 2018. His pharmacy school is on the other side of the country. We want to get married before he starts school. However, I have received so much pushback from my mom, dad, and grandma. They all think it’s ridiculous to get married before I am out of school and working full-time, especially since I am job searching in another state. My fiancé has been planning to propose to me for over a year, but when I broke the news to my mom about our upcoming marriage, she accused me of being pregnant and being stupid.

I am very hurt and upset because I have not gotten any support. It feels like I’m being torn — if I choose him, I lose my family, but if I choose my family, I lose him. This situation has caused me so much physical and emotional stress. I don’t know what to do. — Feeling Torn Between Boyfriend and Family

Ok, well first of all, he’s not your fiancé if you aren’t engaged yet. He’s your boyfriend…who has been planning to propose for a year but hasn’t. And while I don’t agree with the way your mother has expressed her discomfort with your plans — calling you stupid and accusing you of being pregnant — I suspect she must have some reason for not supporting your potential engagement. Have you discussed with her and your family what their reservations are?

It seems, if it’s so important to you to have their support, and it’s also important to continue your relationship with your boyfriend, there is certainly room to compromise. First, why the rush to marry? Why not finish your master’s program and look for work where your boyfriend will be going to school before you marry and move. I agree with your mother that moving without a job lined up is a little short-sighted. I think you could win over some support from your family if you made the responsible decision of holding off on a marriage until you’ve secured a job and moved and settled in and made sure you’re happy living where your boyfriend’s pharmacy program is. And what about post-pharmacy school? Have you two discussed where you’d like to eventually live? Have you discussed these other topics yet? If you have, tell your family how well you’ve thought out this decision, how prepared you are for the compromises and major decisions you’ll have to make as a wife. If they can see that you’ve really thoughtfully considered the issues you’ll have to face as a married person, they will be more likely to give their support.

I suspect, though, based on the tenor of your letter, that you have not thought of all of these issues. I suspect your family is worried that you’re too naive still for marriage and aren’t really aware of what you’d be getting yourself into moving across the country with a new husband and no job or solid plan. I suspect this because you give no reason for wanting to marry other than loving your boyfriend and saying you’re compatible (important for marriage, yes, but definitely not the only criteria!). You give no argument for a decision that your family doesn’t support, no indication that you’ve thought through and discussed — at least with your boyfriend — what marriage would entail. You say your family doesn’t support you, but you don’t say why they should other than implying that being their daughter is reason enough.

I sympathize that this is causing you “physical and emotional stress.” So I suggest putting it on pause and taking some time to think about what such a decision and move means. This isn’t just about choosing your boyfriend over your family (or vice versa); it’s about choosing a lifestyle, a career trajectory, and a life path. I’m not sure from reading your letter that you are quite ready for that. The good news is that you don’t have to rush. And even better, whatever path you choose can be switched if you find you don’t like it. But it’s much, much easier to switch paths without the burden of filing for divorce, moving across the country, or dealing with small children (so whatever you do, whatever you choose, please, please use birth control until you are absolutely sure you are ready for parenthood).

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

24 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MMR February 13, 2018, 11:28 am

    I agree with Wendy. You sound a little naive. Not just because it doesn’t sound like you’ve fully thought through the reality of moving across the country, but because you’re still so invested in your parents’ approval.

    It can definitely be difficult not get the support from your family that you were hoping for, but if you were ready for the responsibility of getting married and moving across the country, it wouldn’t be the dramatic physical and emotional stressor that you’re describing. It would be a stumbling block, after which you would say “Mom, I’m sorry that you aren’t happy for me, but this is definitely what I want.” And eventually (hopefully) they would come around.

    I think you need to stand on your own two feet before you get married. Live on your own, make your own decisions, learn how to pursue what you want just for you. Maybe it turns out you want to get married to your boyfriend, maybe it turns out you have specific career goals that mean living somewhere else, who knows? You need to be a fully independent adult to figure it out.

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  • Cleopatra Jones

    Cleopatra Jones February 13, 2018, 11:30 am

    What’s with people wanting to get married right out of high school and college?
    People (especially women) need to learn to live independently and manage their own lives.
    .
    LW, finish school. Get a job and build your financial independence, and travel. Lots of travel. When you leave your little bubble, you will grow in ways that you never dreamed were possible.

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  • avatar

    Anon from LA February 13, 2018, 11:36 am

    My read on this is very different from Wendy’s. If the OP is finishing up an MBA or similar, she’s likely somewhere around her mid-twenties–plenty old enough to get married. And the fact that her mother accused her of being pregnant and called her stupid indicates there’s possibility her mother/family are controlling and generally not supportive. (It strikes me as a cruel thing to stay.)

    I do think the OP should talk to her family about their reservations. But if they are the sort of people who say cruel things off the cuff like that, then she should take their opinions with a giant grain of salt.

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    • avatar

      Anon from LA February 13, 2018, 11:36 am

      *cruel thing to SAY

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    • avatar

      MMR February 13, 2018, 1:08 pm

      I think the problem IS that she didn’t take it with a grain of salt. If she’s not able to make major life decisions without the approval of her family, then she’s not ready to get married.

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  • avatar

    carolann February 13, 2018, 12:02 pm

    It seems to me like some women are so desperate to get married that they want to hurry up and lock it down before he changes his mind and they are left 30 (gasp) without a husband and are panicked they won’t have kids in time. (before they dry up) This reduces even the most intelligent /educated women into immature little girls.
    (and men can make babies forever, so they are seldom in quite as much of a hurry)
    I was that way. I HAD to get married and have a kid before 30. I put my career on hold…my LIFE on hold, so I could rush and marry. GIANT MISTAKE! I won’t bore you guys with details. (you may have already heard them anyway) I eventually got divorced and didn’t remarry and have another kid until my late 30s. There was plenty if time. The fact is, if this guy is really the one he will still be the one when she is done with school and figured out all her other details.
    I think she may also be afraid that if her bf starts a new school in a new area he might find new interests and lose interest in her. She needs to focus on herself and not him and let things play out before settling down. Even if her family wasn’t involved, she should slow down a bit. IMO

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    • avatar

      carolann February 13, 2018, 12:06 pm

      Every single “of” becomes an “if”…I have fat thumbs. Why can’t we edit anymore? Or am I just slow and missing something?
      (I think peri pause is getting to me)

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 13, 2018, 12:12 pm

        Are you not seeing an edit tab on the right side of the comments? There should be one — I see it, but I also have admin privileges so it’s possible that those who don’t (which is everyone else) are not seeing an edit tab. Please let me know.

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      • Cleopatra Jones

        Cleopatra Jones February 13, 2018, 1:49 pm

        @Wendy
        There’s not an edit tab for comments to your post. We can edit in the forum but not the regular posts. Even when you’re logged in.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 13, 2018, 1:53 pm

        Thanks! Let me look into this and try to fix.

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    • avatar

      LisforLeslie February 13, 2018, 1:06 pm

      No strong disagreement but I know plenty of men want to “lock it down” – if the woman starts getting antsy or looking around for something better, boom: Ring.

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  • avatar

    Norabb February 13, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Three years ago I told my parents that my boyfriend and I were moving across the country to LA. They told me in no uncertain terms that it was a bad idea, that I would fail, and I would end up homeless.
    They were half right. We decided to move, with no jobs except freelance, and figure it out together. It WAS a bad idea. We didnt think it out very much, we just knew we had to do it! We DID fail, in a sense, lots of times, and will probably continue to fail, because that’s life.
    But we are not dead or homeless. We figured it out and have two lovely cats and a perfect (if expensive) apartment and it’s sunny all the time and we love It! And now my parents are really proud of us. My mom said once, “I was wrong, you did it, I’m impressed. You seem so much happier now.” I didn’t do it to make her say that, but it was nice. We are finally, after 3 years of hustling dead end jobs and lots of stress, so close to our dreams we can taste it. I just made 3x our rent working my ass off on a film set, and my auditions are finally yielding some quality bookings. He just got promoted and is trying to get a raise. It wasn’t easy and I wish I could have planned better or had re foresight but I did my best with what I had. If you can’t see any other way for your life to unfold, go take the corners and shake out the blanket. Own your choices. If you fail, you fail. You don’t need your parent’s permission or bless g for this. Show them you know what’s best for your life.

    However. My relationship was very strong. It remains strong because we knew for sure we had the same dreams, views, values etc. Take Wendy’s advice, go over the checklist, and do what you need to do without worrying about your parents. Once they see that yes, you are an adult making adult decisions and you accept the consequences, they might even be surprised.

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  • avatar

    ron February 13, 2018, 1:12 pm

    This is a ton of angst with your family over a marriage, which is very possibly never going to happen. You should be more worried that your bf plans to go off to pharmacy school in August and that is the last you will hear from him. How does it work that he has been planning to propose for a year, but hasn’t done so, yet you still consider yourself engaged? If he really wanted to propose, why hasn’t he done it? Suggests he’s just stringing you along. Perhaps your family realizes that.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie February 13, 2018, 1:12 pm

    Sometimes everyone around you knows that this relationship is not going the distance. Either the couple is not well matched, but they like one another very much. When my sister was about your age, she and her then bf got engaged. No one was really excited. She was really ambitious and driven. He was not. He would complain about his job but he never looked for another job. He drank a lot. Like a lot a lot. Like in one night drank more than my dad would drink in a year a lot. He was a nice guy, but not really going anywhere. My sister was leaving for graduate school in a few months and this was his way of tethering them together. She went away, she met a lot of new people. She broke up with the fiance, started dating a new guy and is now married almost 10 years. When she got engaged to the new guy we knew it was a good match. They are fantastic together. They make one another better – they fill in the gaps.

    When my sister asked me when I knew that the old bf wasn’t going to last I simply told her the truth: They had very different levels of ambition. She needed someone who was going to push her further, not hold her back.

    Sometimes the people around you see what you refuse to see.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom February 13, 2018, 3:23 pm

    I’ll begin with your mom was rude. She shouldn’t have talked to you that way.

    Wendy is right, you aren’t engaged so you have a boyfriend instead of a fiance. There is no reason for your boyfriend to plan on getting engaged for over a year but not getting engaged except that he is dragging his feet for some reason. It does not take a year to plan an engagement. It’s February and you expect to be married before he leaves in August and yet he takes over a year to propose. He’s not helping things along here. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t get around to proposing before he leaves. If you don’t get engaged tomorrow, on Valentine’s Day, I don’t think it will happen.

    If he is entering a four year program and you plan to live in a different state then there is no point in getting married at this time. If you won’t be able to be together for at least four years and even then you don’t know if you will be together, you should wait. Wait and see if it will work out. Wait to see if the two of you can handle long distance. Wait to see if the two of you can end up in the same area after you both finish school. You can love someone and still be unable to get married because you can’t make it work.

    If he proposes at the last moment before leaving don’t rush out and get married at that moment. Go ahead and get engaged if you want but wait until you know you will be able to share your lives before getting married. That means wait until both of you have finished your education and both of you have jobs in the same area.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom February 13, 2018, 3:25 pm

      If he proposes for Valentine’s Day you should still wait to get married.

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      LisforLeslie February 13, 2018, 3:30 pm

      It may take a year because one of them wants to buy a ring that is more than either can afford.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom February 14, 2018, 12:47 pm

        If that’s the reason it is taking so long at least one of them isn’t mature enough for marriage.

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    dinoceros February 13, 2018, 4:12 pm

    I was sort of on board until you started talking about choosing between your boyfriend or your family. I got the impression that your family just thinks you’re getting married too soon, not that they hate your boyfriend and are saying “him or us.” Is that accurate? Because in that case, what they are saying is “don’t be in a rush, get settled first,” which isn’t bad advice and it’s certainly nothing like asking you to choose between your family or boyfriend.

    So, I can’t figure out if you’re being dramatic or if you think your boyfriend will break up with you if you don’t get married immediately. A couple should get married when they are both ready, not because one partner is getting impatient about waiting to propose. I had two sets of couple friends in the same position as you guys who had been together for a few years when college ended. One set had one move to DC for grad school and the other person doing grad school in TN. They were long distance until school ended and then moved in together and got married a year later. The other couple had one in grad school in one city and the other got a job in that city, so they lived together but didn’t marry until about a year after grad school too. None of them felt like they were going to lose their partner if they got married sooner. None of them felt like they missed anything. But they did feel less pressure in terms of making decisions. Nobody felt like they *had* to tag along simply because of a ring and a legal document, versus doing what was best for their education and career (and bank account).

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    • avatar

      CSP February 14, 2018, 11:57 am

      Totally agree with this. I am late to this party but I don’t think there is a choice here. They might be concerned but they won’t disown the LW

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  • avatar

    CE February 13, 2018, 4:33 pm

    I think since you are finishing an MBA you are probably mid-20s or older. Whenever your boyfriend officially proposes I think you should do what you want to do. If your family disapproves I don’t think this means you lose your family. I just think they voice disapproval and then they hopefully get over it with time. Do they know your boyfriend? What don’t they like about him? Do they try to control you in other ways as well or just this? If he proposes and you move to a new location together I wish you luck finding a job. My husband and I met in college and we moved to Alaska together right after graduating…he started grad school and I worked various crappy minimum wage jobs until I also started grad school a couple years later. Yes we were poor, we were not near family, and we shacked up for 7 years while he was working on his PhD. Then we got married, both got good jobs and had kids. His mom did not approve of of us living together while not being married…although she was always nice to me. We’ve been together 25 years and now I’m great friends with his mom. It all had a happy ending. Good luck.

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  • avatar

    CSP February 14, 2018, 12:10 pm

    LW – I am late to this party but I wanted to add a few things.

    1.) I was a youngish wife. I was engaged at 24 and married at 25. When my husband and I started really talking marriage, my parents had concerns. My husband is very much a jock and I am very much a nerd. They were worried that I was rushing into things. Honestly, they didn’t know him that well. But once I said this was my choice, they all got on board and we have been married 12 years. Just because your family voices concerns doesn’t mean they will reject your marriage. – BTW- your mom was condescending and rude.

    2.) It sounds like your mom is worried about you giving up a lot for this guy. Meaning leaving your family and support system, moving across the country, putting his career behind his. These are not judgments of that choice but you have to make sure that you really think about yourself and your goals and where you want to be in your relationship. Make sure that even if you get in a marriage, that you are able to stand on your own two feet within that relationship.

    3.) why is this engagement important to you now at this time in your life? Is it religious ? is it that you don’t want to move for a guy who isn’t really serious about you? What does this mean to you now?

    For me – my parents and my husband’s parents were both very religious and very much frowned on us living together before we were married. We didn’t move in because of that and got married quickly for the same reasons. I think we still would have gotten married but the speed of our relationship was directly related to that family pressure.

    Overall, you have many life decisions coming at you all at once. You are graduating, moving, starting your career, and moving to the next step of your relationship. I feel like this added family judgement is stressing you out. Weigh your decisions and don’t put too much pressure to get all of these things done all at once. If you get engaged, enjoy being engaged for awhile. Let your family relax for awhile and they will come around.

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  • avatar

    dmarie February 16, 2018, 10:52 am

    I don’t think their lack of support has anything to do with your age. It has to do with you not being prepared for post college life yet. I was a very young bride. I got engaged at 19 and married at 21. Obviously our parents wanted to know that we were ready to get married. My husband took extra classes starting our freshman year of college so that he could graduate a year early and work for a year before we got married. This way we had a financial nest egg while I looked for a job. We had been dating for 7 years when we got married and had stayed together long distance since we went to different colleges so that helped too. I think, while your family was extremely rude, they are probably mostly worried that you are not able to support yourselves. Figure that our first. If you want to get engaged fine but don’t get married and move until you have the financial means to support yourselves.

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    • avatar

      dmarie February 16, 2018, 10:54 am

      Also we have been married for 9 years now and have 3 awesome kids but I am so thankful we didn’t have to stress constantly about money in the beginning.

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