“I Want to Get Married So His Parents Will Be Okay With Us Living Together”

I have been dating my boyfriend for nearly four and a half years. We both know we want to get married, and he has talked to his parents about it as well. Although his family is strictly against us living together before we’re married, my parents are all for it. The problem is that I might finish college a semester or two after him, while he continues on to graduate school. I’d love to get married before he pursues his PhD, mostly because of the fact that if he moves states away, I’d love for his family to be okay with me tagging along. But he thinks I need to worry about finishing school instead of when we’ll get married. I agree that my education is extremely important, but I’m not sure I could handle him moving away for a year before we get married, even if that means finishing my undergrad work at his new college. I’m trying to find a way to get him to talk about when we’ll be engaged and our possible dates for marriage without him brushing me off. He always puts off the topic, but I keep stressing that an engagement period is at least one year. How should I go about telling him that I’m okay with moving away when he has all the “power” over when we’ll get married? — Impatient Undergrad

Wait, so let me make sure I understand this: you want to get married, “mostly because” if your boyfriend moves several states away, you’d love for his family to be okay with you “tagging along”???? Are you insane? No, really. If you’ve read my column for even, like, a week you know that marriage is not easy for a lot of people. In fact, for a lot of couples, it’s really fucking hard. And I’m going to go ahead and put this out there: at least 50% of the time that it’s hard, it’s hard because the couple shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place. That’s not to say they weren’t right to ever get married — although that’s certainly the case sometimes — but that they weren’t ready for marriage yet. How do you know whether you’re ready or not? Well, a pretty good indication that you’re not ready is when your number one reason for doing so is so your boyfriend’s parents will be okay with you tagging along with their son to another state.

“My Girlfriend Broke Up With Me Because I Wouldn’t Marry Her, But Now I Want to Marry Her”

I am not going to give you advice on how to persuade your boyfriend to propose; I’m going to give you the advice you really need to hear: you are not ready for marriage and you need to drop the discussion or you’ll lose your boyfriend for good. I don’t even know you and I know that much. You aren’t ready. If your relationship doesn’t have a strong enough foundation to survive a year of distance while you finish undergrad, you aren’t ready. If you don’t have good enough communication to discuss other options, like your boyfriend putting off grad school for a year while you finish your degree, you aren’t ready. If your boyfriend values his parents’ opinion about your relationship more than he values your opinion about your relationship, you aren’t ready. If you can’t discuss serious topics with your boyfriend without him “brushing you off,” you aren’t ready. If you’ve given up all your power and handed it over to your boyfriend to decide the fate of such monumental occasions, like where you’ll graduate from college, and when you’ll get married, and whether you’re going to move several states away, my God, woman, you are not ready.

Frankly, it sounds like a year on your own is exactly what you need to gain a little independence, get to know yourself some more, and realize that, yes, you can be a-okay without your boyfriend steps away from you at all times. I promise that after four and half years together, if you and your boyfriend are meant to spend your lives with each other, a year apart will be but a tiny drop in the bucket. You’ll look back at your year of independence as a gift — a time to treasure before devoting yourself 100% to marriage and possibly parenthood. A year will go by so fast, and you’ll be a better person and a better partner having proved to yourself what you’re capable of. And a year without you right by his side, may be just what your boyfriend needs to figure out whether he’s finally ready to make choices for the good of your relationship instead of just what mommy and daddy want of him.

Trust me on this, drop the engagement talk. It’s a desperate act that will lead to desperate measures, and that’s not the way you want to start a marriage or end a relationship. When the time is right, it will happen. Pushing yourselves before you’re ready is something you’ll regret forever, whether the short-term outcome is one you think you want or not.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Boom! couldn’t have said it better myself. that was probably the most direct advice Wendy has ever given a LW.
    Preeetty sure that a year apart would be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. Lets leave it at that.

    1. sarolabelle says:

      no, it’s not the most direct. But after 6 weeks of DearWendy.com’s birth we finally get an answer from Wendy like this. This is why we love Wendy so much!

    2. Addie Pray says:

      Boom is right – perfect comment to Wendy’s perfect advice.

  2. RoyalEagle0408 says:

    Wendy said what I was thinking. Especially after the past few letters I can’t imagine someone wanting to rush into marriage. And honestly, transferring to his new college might not be as easy as the LW thinks.

    I have a friend who wants to move in with her boyfriend but his father wouldn’t approve, so he refuses to. He’s most likely moving for graduate school in the fall and she’s going to follow him. That’s the only way that he’ll let her move in with him. This boggles my mind. I don’t want to move in with a potential future boyfriend until I’m relatively sure that we’re going to get engaged (I don’t want to plan/pay for a wedding while in grad school, which to me is the point of an engagement) and then married. I’m sure my parents aren’t going to be thrilled with my decision, but it’s my decision and as an adult it’s my right to make that decision.

    And also, an engagement period doesn’t have to be at least a year. Maybe stop putting so many demands on your boyfriend.

  3. Wendy is right… there should not be any rush into getting engaged! It should be when both parties are ready.

    “He always puts off the topic, but I keep stressing that an engagement period is at least one year. ”

    1. It’s not good that he puts off the topic… you should stop bringing it up.
    2. There is no law that engagement period is at least one year.

  4. honeybeenicki says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with Wendy. There are so many marriages that fail because the people weren’t ready to be married or shouldn’t have been married to each other. I don’t think people see how big of a step it is and what a truly lifelong commitment it is to get married. I’ve seen cases of marriages falling apart over and over again. My husband got married to his ex-wife because they had a kid and then she got pregnant again. That didn’t last. His ex-wife is now remarried and only did so because she got pregnant (her new husband proposed 4 times in about a year and her answer was always no but then she decided she was going to “do it the right way this time” and get married before the baby was born).

    Always, always, always consider the LIFELONG ramifications of a marriage and don’t just jump into it because your boyfriend’s parents don’t want you to move in together before then. I kind of wonder how the boyfriend feels about that. It makes me think maybe he feels the same way about not living together but doesn’t want to tell LW and just blames it on his parents.

    LW – Marriage is a lot of work. Sure, the wedding itself is a lot of work, but the marriage is much more so. When I said my vows, I meant them. My husband and I were perfectly clear about my feelings on divorce (and his) prior to us getting married. We have only been married a few years, but I can tell you it hasn’t been easy for many many reasons. He got into legal trouble and is now serving prison time for it, so I have been without him for over a year, but you know what? I still honor my wedding vows. I am faithful to my husband and love him no less than before. Its a lot of work but totally worth it so its not something to rush into for the wrong reasons.

  5. Sometimes people just need to hear the truth – well said Wendy!

  6. caitie_didn't says:

    ahahaha, I LOL’d at work when I read the first sentence of Wendy’s response.

    This girl is probably about my age (I just finished my undergrad) and as one of her peers I think she sounds crazypants! She sounds needy and clingy, and if I’m estimating her age right she’s been with this guy since around the end of high school. Now, my parents met in high school and have been married for 26 years so I’m not one to knock high school sweet hearts, but it’s really, really rare that people get married to their high school boyfriend/girlfriend in this day and age! (Aside from the obvious immaturity and desperation emanating from this letter this is what stuck out to me.)

    1. she’s definitely around 22.. and her boyfriend a year or two older… sigh.

      1. My God… I am 25 and I can’t even express how much I learned about life in the 3 short years since being 22. I can’t even imagine how much MORE I will learn between 25 and 28… Girl slow down. You’ve got tons of time to get married. Wendy is right, give yourself a year of independence to experience the world.

      2. eel avocado says:

        THIS. I was scrolling down and was going to write this exact thing when I saw your comment.

        When I graduated from college, I pictured myself married to my then-boyfriend by the time I was 23. MAN, I am so glad that guy dumped my ass. I have grown so much as a person in the last 3 years. I’ve developed my own hobbies, grown closer with my girlfriends and family, and really gotten to know myself on a deeper level.

        And while I was doing my soul searching, I met a guy who I could see myself marrying — but I’m not in any rush this time around. I still feel like I have some growing to do. 🙂

      3. ME TOO! I thought I’d marry the guy I was with and have babies before 25… instead he dumped my ass, I had an emotional breakdown, I learned from it, and I grew the hell up. I’ve also met a guy I could see myself marrying… but like you said, I’m not in a rush 🙂

      4. caitie_didn't says:

        Oh hooray! I’ve gone through the dumping and minor emotional breakdown since the beginning of this year…..it’s great to hear that everything worked out for you guys because it gives me hope that it will all work out for me too 🙂

      5. Yes ma’am I’ve been through two god-awful heartbreaks. My first one sent me to the hospital for panic/anxiety attacks and deep depression. My second put me through a depression as well but I got into counseling and realized that I needed to learn to be happy on my own FIRST. I spent over a year being single, and I’ve now been in a really great relationship for about 10 months.

        Don’t worry you’ll get through it. Everything happens for a reason. Just concentrate on loving yourself and enjoying life. Work hard and have fun. You’ll find somebody when the time is right.

      6. eel avocado says:

        It will definitely work out, caitie_didn’t. 🙂 I was in an awful place three years ago, but I got myself back on my feet and haven’t looked back since.

        I’ve been through two traumatizing breakups from longterm boyfriends (#1, 3 years; #2, 2 years and we spent years as BFF beforehand). I look back on those relationships and breakups as learning experiences. I wouldn’t be who I am today with them!

      7. SpyGlassez says:

        @MissDre – just wait til you are sneaking up behind 30, ready to club it over the head! At 22, I stumbled into a graduate program because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I can’t imagine if I had stumbled into a MARRIAGE instead!

      8. Ha! Exactly! I know how bitter I am after 6 years of grad school and what feels like a worthless PhD…I’d hate to see how bitter I’d be 6 years into a bad marriage!!!

    2. TaraMonster says:

      Agreed. Most people don’t marry their HS sweethearts… at least I think they don’t. My experience contradicts this. I have two close couple friends from HS getting married this year (we’re all mid to late twenties). Another close couple get married last year, and another the year before that. And I’m from NY, not some place where people stereotypically get married young. As my boyfriend says, “You’re friends are just weird.” Wise, he is. Lol.

      But my friends all waited until they were out of college, on their own, and not answering to parents wishes anymore (with the exception of my friend with strict Taiwanese parents). I’m just full of exceptions today. I’m gonna shut up. 🙂

      1. Southern Girl says:

        Absolutely true. I married my HS sweetheart (we started dating when I was 16), but not until I was 26. I don’t know of anyone else who has ever married their HS sweetheart. To the LW, some people don’t feel they should get engaged until they’re ready to get married. My husband was one of them. It’s funny, at 19 he wanted to get married, I wasn’t ready, at 22 I thought I was, he wasn’t. At 26 it was right, we got engaged and were married 2 months later. Give it time, live your life and some day you’ll look back on that time fondly.

        Great advice Wendy!

    3. ArtsyGirl says:

      I am 25 and married my highschool BF – but after we were out of college (including my long distance grad program) and had worked for a year which means we were together 8 years before we got married. It isn’t a race LW.

      1. plasticepoxy says:

        It’s so easy to be caught up in “accomplishments”. I know at 22 I had a mental list of the things I “knew” I was going to complete by 25. This list included:
        1. marry the boyfriend I was with (didn’t happen, he broke up with me)
        2. have babies with said boyfriend (didn’t happen, thankfully, given the outcome of #1)
        3. buy a house (still hasn’t happened, 7 years later)
        4. start a business (never happened, not even close)
        I could continue to list the life plans I had at that age that didn’t happen or didn’t work out, but really, I think some of us are just used to having our life plotted out and we don’t question the plan we have set for ourselves and whether that plan is the best path for us to take. When my boyfriend broke up with me, we were engaged (I told him I wanted to be married, so he proposed, but he didn’t want to be married, which is why he left me in the end), and I thought the world was going to end because my plan wasn’t coming to fruition.
        Instead I learned about myself and while I didn’t make smart choices all the time, I think it’s best to let your self grow before you commit to a life with another person (who should also have a chance to grow himself/herself).

      2. SpaceySteph says:

        “I think some of us are just used to having our life plotted out and we don’t question the plan we have set for ourselves and whether that plan is the best path for us to take”
        This is so true. From the day you’re born until you graduate from college, you basically have everything mapped out. Then you graduate and its really scary. Ahh, what now? I was there myself a couple years ago, planning a life with my ex. LW, I think you just are feeling the need to move on to whats next instead of wallowing in uncertainty. Not a good reason to get married. Its ok that you don’t have a detailed life plan anymore, but it takes a couple years to figure that out.

  7. caitie_didn't says:

    Also, I can’t WAIT to hear the update for this one!

    1. callmehobo says:

      Hahahah- I’m so glad someone else uses the phrase “crazypants”!

      1. I have “pants” for most occasions: crazypants, whineypants, greedypants, stinkypants, etc.

      2. I do too! I even call my boyfriend “sexypants”!

    2. she’s probably going to say the important part was edited out so we don’t understand why it’s a good idea.

  8. princesspetticoat says:

    I know 4 and half years is a substantial period of time to be dating but “his parents’ approval” is NOT a good reason to rush into marriage. In fact, there is no good reason to rush into marriage. The only good reason to get married is love, mutual respect and dedication, and being at the right place in life (well, that’s my opinion anyway… any other thoughts for good reasons to get married?).

    1. WatersEdge says:

      shared goals and values?

    2. And imagine how it’s going to be if he’s always needing his mommy and daddy’s approval before any big decision. SLOW DOWN SISTER! If it doesn’t work out with this guy when you have a year of space – there are plenty of other men out there… it might even be fun to date a few of them as an adult before settling down.

    3. SpaceySteph says:

      Because you’re pregnant. Duh!
      Or because your younger sister is getting married in 6 months and you have to beat her down the aisle because Marsha Marsha Marsha!

  9. ReginaRey says:

    GET EM WENDY!!!! I’ve never loved you more than I did in this letter.

    I’d also like to add that she also seems to think that part of the reason she’s ready to be married is because she’s been with her boyfriend for 4.5 years. That’s great if you’re 27. But if she’s still an undergrad, she probably started this relationship at 16 or 17. Call me cynical to the max, but (as someone who’s been there, done that) having one long-term relationship that you started in high school does not automatically qualify you to get married, nor to pick up and follow your boyfriend wherever he goes while foregoing your education.

    I can only imagine what would have happened if I had married my first long-term boyfriend while I was still in college…he was wrong for me in so many ways, and it was only with age, experience, and perspective that I gained that insight. I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d married him before giving myself a chance to mature.

    1. ReginaRey says:

      Also, heat be damned….It *really* sounds like the boyfriend isn’t quite on the same page about marriage…or doesn’t want to get married period. Which, to be quite honest, is completely NORMAL for a 22-year-old person. Damn.

      1. SpyGlassez says:

        I thought that, too! If he wanted to get married — either to make them living together okay for Mommy and Daddy or because he was on-board with the idea — he wouldn’t dodge the question every time. Methinks he realizes he’s 22 (or at least in his early 20’s) and doesn’t want to be trying to start a marriage at the same time he’s trying to start his doctorate.

      2. Anne (I Go To 11) says:

        That is exactly what my husband said when I showed him this letter! 🙂

    2. Kerrycontrary says:

      hahah yes! I always think about what a disaster it would’ve been if I had married my first serious boyfriend in college!

    3. ” I’ve never loved you more than I did in this letter.”

      I could not have said it better myself!

  10. THIS is why I love Dear Wendy!

  11. lemongrass says:

    If the end of this sentence: “I want to get married because” is anything other than “we love each other, have similar life goals and core values, and want to make the commitment to spend the rest of our lives together.” Then you are getting married for the wrong reasons and it will not last.

    1. Cast my vote for comment of the week…

      1. lemongrass says:


  12. I’m thinking if you guys took the traditional 4 years in college, were you high school sweethearts? Or met during your first semester of college? (Or while he was a sophomore and you were a freshman?) I’m the last person to suggest that you need to “go crazy” or date around in college, but if you’re with the same person for the entire duration, it really can limit your social and personal (and relationship!) growth.

    What I see in this letter is that you’re terrified of being a person on your own, rather than the half of a whole. You didn’t specify what your degree is in, but let me tell you, transferring will be a lot of paperwork and hassle, and could easily set you back a year or more. Have you discussed doing an LDR while you finish your degree? If you and your boyfriend are seriously considering spending your lives together, a year apart (tops, if you only graduate a semester behind him it would only be six months) should not be something to be afraid of.

    Honestly though, the fact that your bf brushes you off when you bring up marriage talk is reason enough to slow down and reconsider.

  13. callmehobo says:

    Honey, take it from someone who started dating their current boyfriend during the end of her high school career…

    NO NO NO NO NO!!!! DON’T DO IT!!!!

    I’m not saying don’t get married to your bf EVER- I’m just agreeing with Wendy- you are not ready. You change so much through college and the first couple years out of college, don’t rush into such a big commitment. Who knows, he could go to grad school and all his (or your) priorities could do a complete 180!

    The biggest thing for me is that you sound like you are basing all of your self on him. It’s all about him for you- which is so not good. Don’t start your adult life by defining yourself through another person.

    Figure out who YOU are, stop being so damn clingy, and take a deep breath. You know the cliche about letting the things you love go free? Well, if it’s meant to be- in a few years (after you’ve grown some as an individual) it will be.

    If you keep up with this pestering though, you won’t even have to worry because he will be gone so fast he’ll leave a cloud of smoke…

    1. ReginaRey says:

      I love everything about your comment, but especially “defining yourself through another person.” That is precisely what I did with my first long-term boyfriend, who I started dating in high school and throughout most of college. When you do that, you lose your friends, your family, your interests, your activities, and replace all of them with HIM. And when he breaks up with you? You’re left with absolutely nothing. I think the LW is closer to that than she realizes.

      1. callmehobo says:

        I had to say it because I found myself in a very similar situation.

        I love my boyfriend very much- but there was about a six month period where I started to lose myself in him, which almost made me lose him. Since I had started to become all about him I was clingy and needy and most of all- I wasn’t the person he fell in love with; I was a parasite.

        We both took a step back (and I entered therapy) and we learned that it’s ok to be two separate people in a relationship instead of one symbiotic couple. We are now much happier and healthier.

        I love him with all of my heart and hope to marry him someday- but I’m not in any rush to do so!

      2. ReginaRey says:

        You’re basically telling my story, too. Except instead of therapy, he broke up with me and I slowly came out of the parasitic fog – which honestly, was probably just as good as therapy for my purposes.

    2. RoyalEagle0408 says:

      I have a friend (the one whose boyfriend is moving for school) who seems to base her self-worth on her relationship status, and it scares me for her because I’ve noticed a change in her since they started dating, and I’m afraid she’s lost a lot of herself in the relationship because she’d rather be half of a couple than a whole person.

      And it concerns me so much because I went through it with my first relationship when I was 14 and 15. Thankfully it ended and I was able to regroup and find myself again, but I still have insecurities about things because of that relationship.

      1. RE, I had a friend who pretty much was the same way. She has been unhappily in a relationship for almost 10 years. She feels like if she relationship is a failure, then she is a failure, so she just keeps trying to “change” him. She doesn’t want to live with him or get married, because she knows she isn’t ready to make that kind of commitment, but she won’t let the relationship go either. She has changed into a very bitter and cynical person (more so than me even!) and it is a far cry from the person she used to be.

  14. I would say something, but Wendy and every other commenter has pretty much summed up exactly what I was thinking.

    Wendy, you get a whole pile of kudos for the direct advice. LOVE IT.

  15. Painted_lady says:

    Kind of expounding on what everyone else is saying, there seems to be a lot of “I want” and “we want” in this letter, but are you taking into account what he wants? Are you really listening to what he wants? He doesn’t want to get engaged yet. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He says you should finish school, but that may translate to “I want you to stay put for a bit” or even “I want to do this alone for awhile.” Try to listen, not just for confirmation of what you want, but for conflicting information. I just don’t think he wants to be married yet.

    My boyfriend and I have been doing the long distance thing for about seven months, and at the end of the summer, we’re finally going to live in the same city. While I hate the distance, I have to acknowledge how good it’s been for us to figure out who we are as individuals who happen to be a couple rather than the other way around before we’re in it for the long haul, which is the intent once we move in together. And quite honestly, I got so busy in my own life that a lot of the time has flown by. A year isn’t that long, especially if your relationship is really strong.

  16. wait-we can type “fucking”?

    1. Fuck yeah we can! Wendy knows what’s up.

  17. Kerrycontrary says:

    Ahh! I totally agree with Wendy. This 21 year old girl is not ready to get married. If you are going to marry someone than you need to be able to survive 1 year of long distance. Things harder than long distance are going to come along in your marriage!

    Plus, anyone I know who has pushed their bf to get engaged ends up getting divorced or with a broken engagement. They are prob only together because they’ve been dating since high school and they are comfortable. The LW should go out and enjoy her single ADULT life before she decides who she wants to marry

    1. lemongrass says:

      I don’t believe that a bit of a push is a bad thing if you are doing it for the right reasons. My fiance knew he wanted to marry me but didn’t really care when. He was raised in a household that didn’t care if people married or believed that people with children need to be married. I was raised in a more traditional manner. So I told him that marriage is what I want, before kids preferably. The wedding is in 4 months and he has told me many times that he is happy that I spoke up.

      Sorry I’m going on a rant but I really hate the idea that women should be passive about engagements because it really takes away any power that they have for their own future. Rock the boat. If your relationship can’t withstand the communication necessary for a little push then it will not be able to withstand marriage.

      I will note that no one should take it too far and be manipulative or anything like that.

      1. caitie_didn't says:

        I definitely agree with you that it’s completely appropriate to articulate what you want as a future goal and that if marriage is a non-negotiable end goal with you you need to be up front about that. And I also 100% agree that if your relationship can’t withstand a frank and honest discussion about marriage, it won’t be able to actually withstand marriage. But I don’t think this applies to the LW. She has *clearly* talked about marriage with her bf, and he is *clearly* not interested. More importantly, she is clearly not mature enough to be getting married right now!

      2. lemongrass says:

        Oh I definitly think that they should not be getting married I just really hate the whole “I have to be passive about getting married because he’s the one that has to ask me” idea.

      3. Kerrycontrary says:

        I don’t think there is anything wrong with making your intent for the relationship clear. It’s 100 percent necessary to talk about marriage as a couple before getting engaged. I also agree that it’s fine for a woman to have a timeline in her mind of when she wants to get married ( ex: I will date this guy for X years before I need to move one). I just meant that in this specific case the LW seemed to be pressuring her boyfriend into getting married when he clearly wasn’t up for talking about it. My personal examples are girls bugging their boyfriend about engagement rings, trying on wedding dresses before they are engaged, etc….

        didn’t mean to start drama/insult anyone!

      4. I have a friend who did all that – she made her now husband buy her 3 different engagement rings and she tried on wedding dresses when she was single because she wanted to get married. They rushed into marriage after only dating a short time – my parents got married 2 moths after they met and have been happily together for 30+ years so I have no problem with that, the problem was that they were not sure about each other. The girl just wanted to get married and the man wanted to leave his family/small town life. Their relationship is really volatile (always has been) and they fight constantly. Neither believes in divorce. It is so important to talk about these things and keep open communication with a partner. I talk to my boyfriend about getting engaged all the time (not in a nagging way- we also plan our future wedding and children) and we want to marry each other but he wants to wait until we have been dating longer – i don’t but if he is not ready he is not ready. We know we want to get married but if he needs more time I will give it to him.

  18. absurdfiction says:

    Yikes, this girl definitely needs to take a step back and grow up a little. Not trying to sound mean, but I don’t know why the LW would write to Wendy asking for advice on how to make her boyfriend propose… like Wendy said, anyone who reads her column should know that she doesn’t take marriage lightly. This is like someone writing to Miss Manners, wanting to know how to word their wedding invitation so their guests know they want cash. 🙂

    Seriously though, I think the LW would definitely benefit from some time apart from her guy. A little independence and perspective never hurt anybody. Best of luck in any case!

    1. WatersEdge says:

      Miss Manners… they want cash at their destination wedding 🙂

    2. fallonthecity says:

      Hahaha, I love those letters to Miss Manners.

  19. I have to also agree completely with Wendy’s advice, particularly about the benefits of doing a year of long distance. If your relationship is as solid as you believe it is, not only will you be able to “handle” it, but it will make much stronger. My boyfriend and I had to do long distance (3,000 miles apart!) when I first moved for grad school. Though it was really hard to be so far apart, I look back on it now and it couldn’t be more clear that it was good for both of us individually AND for our relationship. We each had time to focus on school/work/friends of our own and to grow as individuals, and the distance more than ever forced us to improve the way we communicate with each other. In all likelihood, your last semesters of undergrad and your boyfriend’s first year of grad school will be extremely busy and often stressful. Having the distance will allow you each to devote time to those things without feeling guilty about taking time away from your SO (or feeling upset when your SO has to take that time away from you), and this will do both of you a world of good! So as Wendy said, take the year apart as a gift, and go from there!

    1. eel avocado says:

      Agreed! I did long distance with my ex-boyfriend for two years during college. I’m doing it again now with my current boyfriend. It’s definitely trying at times, but it’s also a great opportunity to improve communication and learn about yourself!

    1. MiraGeauxRound says:

      When I read this letter I said to myself, “Ooh! She’s going to get it!” Got to love this site! Waiting _impatiently_ for the update to this letter. Wouldn’t be surprise if she was single by then.

      1. I would be surprised if she was single. “Actually guys, I forgot to tell you, he’s dying of cancer and I’m pregnant with his baby, and the reason his family doesn’t approve of us living together is because we said we don’t want to get a dog and they really want us to get a dog. We got married last April and things are GREAT! The commenters are SO MEAN.”

  20. I just want to mention that this LW might be feeling the pressure around her to get married. As a 25 year old I know how it feels to have all this pressure on your about getting married. Maybe the LW is starting to feel this pressure and finally broke.
    If they want to live together they should. His parents aren’t in her relationship, she is. If they are going to let the parents decide how their relationship is it could end up being a lifetime of not trying to please your partner but trying to please his family. At the end of the day if she wants to get married and he doesn’t then they either need to get on the same page, or in the same book, or it can’t work.

  21. I have to wonder if maybe the reason the boyfriend changes the topic of marriage/proposal is because he has every intention of dumping her right before or right after he leaves state for the new college?

    Getting married while still in college messes up a lot of things. Namely – your school funding. Loans that were originally tied to your parents’ income(s) now have to be redone to reflect your spousal income instead. You probably won’t get on-campus housing and would have to find jobs to be able to afford an apartment off-campus. Scholarships? Well, a lot of those go away too.

    You aren’t ready for marriage. You want to get married because he’s leaving for a year and his parents don’t approve of you two “shacking up”. Honey, focus on your education and let him focus on his. If you were meant to be, you’ll be together in a year or so and will be able to plan that wedding. If you weren’t meant to be, you’ll find out soon and then you’ll be able to find someone else while you’re still young.

  22. I had a friend who got married because his parents wouldn’t approve of him moving in with his girlfriend…he said he knew he wanted to marry her “someday”, so why not do it right now to appease his parents? Two years later, they’re getting a divorce.

    I was in a similar situation to yours while I was finishing my degree. My boyfriend decided to join the military while I still had a year left in school. I decided to finish my degree even though it meant we would be spending a year apart. And you know what? We’re stronger for it. Time apart like that really tests your commitment to each other. Now we’ve been happily married for almost 2 years, and I know that wouldn’t have been the case if we had rushed into it when he joined the military. Not only would it have been too fast, but I would have resented myself and him for not finishing my degree. Do NOT put your own goals on the back burner for someone else. One of the hardest parts of marriage is joining two separate lives, goals, and dreams together so that neither party feels as if they have sacrificed themselves for the sake of the relationship. Marriage is not some finish line to cross…it is a constant work in progress, and the decisions you make now will affect your relationship for years to come.

  23. sarolabelle says:

    The weirdest thing about this letter is this line:

    “We both know we want to get married, and he has talked to his parents about it as well. ”

    What in the world is he talking to his parents about getting married to her?

    And I’m sure Wendy laughed at the comment about waiting a year to get married after you are engaged. If I recall, she was engaged only 5 months.

    1. Yes, just a *gasp* five month engagement and despite that, the wedding was beautiful and the marriage is strong. But there were so many other red flags in her letter, I didn’t even bother to go there.

    2. I couldn’t even imagine planning a wedding in 5 months. I know of course it’s possible, but I’m definitely thinking I may want at least a year to plan my future wedding–though maybe it’s better to get all the stress out of the way in a faster time period.

      1. sarolabelle says:

        I really don’t understand what takes so long. It’s just a big party.

      2. Oh I’m not sure why it takes so long either. I always liked the idea of getting married at city hall, but I guess I have kinda changed my mind a bit over the years.

      3. RoyalEagle0408 says:

        One of my friends is getting married in 3 months after an 18 month engagement. They waited so long in order to get the venues they wanted and they’re paying for it themselves so they needed the time to save.

        Then there are the people who are engaged forever because they like the idea of being engaged (not really sure what that even means…), but aren’t actively planning anything.

      4. Some people like the idea of being engaged because people treat them differently. I’m not necessarily talking about their peers – its mostly older folks. My hubby and I lived together for 10 years before we got married, and when we got engaged it was like all the sudden we were a legitimate couple! Very weird. So I imagine there are some people that like that, but aren’t actually in a hurry to get married. Personally, we probably wouldn’t have gotten married when we did if it wasn’t for health insurance! Plus I just did my taxes and found out I’m getting a pretty sweet deal out of this whole joint filing thing…

      5. You’d be surprised how quickly venues fill up. However, I did manage to do it in 6 months myself (with only about 4 of those being any actual planning). You have to be flexible, which many brides are NOT.

      6. i know about 4 couples who in 2010 got engaged and then married within a 3-5 month span. Why wait if you know it’s right, have the funds and can put it together in time?
        Made sense to me and all of their weddings were beautiful and they are happily married now.
        although, their weddings were on the smaller scale– less than 100 people at each.

  24. Great advice, Wendy.

    You’re probably sick of hearing this, but trust me when I say this: At 21, you feel like you know everything and you’re ready to take on anything… and sadly for the vast majority of people, this is simply not the reality. The sucky part is that it will take you many more years before you truly realize and appreciate this. Also, college is nothing like real, adult life, and being able to experience some real, adult life before getting engaged and married is extremely beneficial to having a successful marriage.

    I have friends who met their soulmates in college and then ended up spending a year or more apart from each other because their grad school schedules or locations weren’t in sync. If they were meant to be (which most of them were), they weathered it just fine and are still together, and if not this is a good, relatively safe way to find out. Like other readers mentioned, while married you will experience many more hardships aside from simply being apart. If you can’t handle the easy stuff, you definitely can’t handle the hard stuff.

    Also, you seem a little obsessed with your relationship. Being obsessed with being with your boyfriend all the time is not healthy, and you should take advantage of whatever time you spend apart making life-long friends. It is way too easy to get obsessed with a relationship to the detriment of your friendships. I made that mistake in college, and I still regret it.

    Lastly, what’s with this: “I keep stressing that an engagement period is at least one year.” I have never heard of that. I have friends who were engaged for 1 month all the way to 4 years (and all of them are still happily married). I think the amount and quality of the time you spend together before getting engaged is far more important than the amount of time you are engaged before you get married. I was engaged for 7 months and it was perfect. It was enough time to plan everything without it totally taking over my life for an extended period of time. But, you should do what’s right for you and the type of wedding you’re having. A large, extravagant wedding may take years to plan, whereas a simple, small wedding may take only weeks. Either way, you need to be really ready to get married (not ready if you’re engaged for a year first) when you get engaged.

    1. SpyGlassez says:

      And not just “get married” but “be married,” with all that goes along with husbands and wives and married life.

  25. “Also, college is nothing like real, adult life…”

    Oh God don’t I know it! No more student discounts on anything! Gotta pay my own rent and utilities! Gotta put my car registration and insurance in my own name! Car breaks down? Gotta pay for it myself! Gotta submit my own health insurance forms! Gotta make my own appointment to get my taxes done! Ahhhhh!

    Adult life is nothing but unexpected expenses, which means bye bye disposable income, and it sucks!!!!! But you know what? I’ve never been happier, or more proud of my accomplishments, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    1. Oh and add to that, gotta be responsible and start putting money away for retirement! Also towards a down payment on my future house! Sigh…

  26. evanscr05 says:

    Completely agree with Wendy on this. A couple of college friends of mine had a similar situation. He was two years older and, thusly, graduated two years before us. They knew they wanted to get married, but the timing wasn’t right yet. He moved a state away to start a grad program while she remained where she was. It was a TOUGH two years, but for the most part, she did well with the separation. It’s always hard to be apart, but you know, she had time to really dig in deep into her schoolwork and discover her passion, and she got to spend a lot of time with friends. It was the best of both worlds. After she graduated, they got married because they knew they could handle anything if they could handle two years and a state apart (they did see each other as often as possible in that time, though). Don’t put yourself on hold for this guy. Though you love him, you are definitely NOT ready for marriage yet. If you still have a year left of college, and you’ve been together for 4.5 years, then, presumably, you’ve been together since you were a teenager. As you know already, people grow and change A LOT in even that short amount of time, and you have no idea how much you’ll change over the next 4 years. Don’t rush this just so you can “tag along”. You could end up getting married and becoming completely different people, just to end up divorced (or you could last…you never know). Besides, if you were to use this year as an engagement period, my god woman, that’s a bad idea! If you have never planned a wedding, you have no idea how expensive, time consuming, and stressful it can be (particularly when you add in the Parent element). For a college kid with little to no income, you’re in no position to afford that financially right now. Plus, why would you add the stress of planning a wedding on top of all your school work, and with a guy who is too far away to participate as much as you’ll need him to in the planning? That’s just too much for one person to take, and it would probably be detrimental to your relationship. That’s no way to start off a marriage.

    Another thing to consider is that most schools require you attend their institution for a certain numbers of years in order to qualify for a degree from them. What if you transferred to a new school, only to find out not all of your credits transferred, and they require 2+ years their before you can graduate? You’ll get sick of school quickly and could start resenting him for “making” you change schools so close to the end.

    Do yourself a favor and calm the eff down, enjoy things as they are, and worry more about your school work and where that will take you in future career, than whether or not you should get married so his parents will be okay with you living together. That’s a ridiculous reason to get married.

    1. Kerrycontrary says:

      Yeh the LW’s comment on transferring schools was weird. I don’t know any college that would allow you to transfer with just 1-2 semesters left? Has she actually looked into this at ALL?

  27. SpyGlassez says:

    Also, what field is he in, and what might be expected of him?

    My friend and her husband got married when they started graduate school. She’s in geology, and so she is in the field on digs several weeks out of the year. And as for him, when he graduated, part of repaying his loans involved living and working in Louisiana for 2 years while she’s in Indiana. It isn’t easy, and they certainly couldn’t have done it without being fully prepared to sacrifice. Depending on the LW’s fiancee’s Ph.D program, he might have to travel, spend time studying/researching abroad, etc. Maybe he doesn’t want to try to do that while simultaneously attempting married life.

    1. Painted_lady says:

      God, great point. When I was in grad school, I was practically living at school. I was usually there till at least 9 pm, often later, and hell, during finals I even slept at school. I can’t even imagine trying to be in a relationship, much less married! I had friends at school who were married, but they usually had incredibly understanding (and almost always equally busy) spouses. Even so, they were only sort of involved. They’d go to classes, but their class projects were nearly always solo so they could work at home, they never socialized (and in a theatre program, that’s vital), and they always seemed so stressed out, more so than the rest of us. The LW doesn’t sound nearly so understanding, nor will she be busy like he will. Either he’s got a better idea of what he’s in for, or he simply wants some time away.

    2. RoyalEagle0408 says:

      This is what my friends don’t understand about my aversion to being engaged/married during grad school. I know I’m not going to have time to plan a wedding/put the necessary work into a new marriage while in grad school. I’m sure it’s possible to make it work, but the goal is to get put of grad school as fast as possible to in order to pay for said wedding and then a house.

      1. Eagle Eye says:

        I actually have some personal experience of being in a relationship with someone completing their PhD in the sciences and I have to say that while my relationship is strong and all of the sacrifices are worth it, there are real significant sacrifices for both people involved…

        The first of which is that my bf just works ALL THE TIME, meaning that I have to pick up all of the extra slack in our house (we live together) so all of the cooking, most of the cleaning, laundry, social schedule…all me in addition to my relatively stress-free 9-5, now this is only a temporary arrangement, one that we talked about ahead of time but its still pretty rough.

        On the other hand, just the fact of my existence disrupts his studying and his ability to focus totally and completely on work, so he suffers as a result.

        Now that said, I wouldn’t give up my relationship for the world and making it work is still the foremost in both of our minds, but its work. I can’t imagine going through this AND working on a marriage/ engagement/wedding, just being boyfriend/girlfriend is work enough…

      2. Anne (I Go To 11) says:

        I asked my husband to weigh in on being married during grad school. Background: We started dating right as he was about to start grad school. We were long distance for a few months, then I moved from being 4.5 hours away to 1 hour away for about 8-9 months, then moved in with him after dating for a full year. We got engaged about 6 months after I moved in, and married after a 9 month engagement (he spent 3 months of the engagement period on the other side of the country for an internship), which we financed most of ourselves. We’ve been married for almost 18 months now, and he’ll graduate with his PhD in aeronautical engineering in December.

        He said he feels being married in grad school could actually be a good thing. He said you have to have a certain level of maturity for both, and the extra emotional support you get from your spouse is a big plus. (His advisor offered to raise his stipend when we got married, but since I work full time it wasn’t really necessary.) Plus, it gives your spouse the opportunity to see what your career would be like post-graduation, and it lets them have a pretty good idea of what they’re in for. He does work a lot, and at times that can be stressful. But it helps that I have my own job and am in school part-time to work on my own degree, so I’m plenty busy, myself. I’m also planning on going to grad school after I finish my undergrad (though in a completely different field), so it gives me an idea of what I’ll be facing down the road.

        The key is that we have a strong enough bond to work through whatever obstacles might face us. We’ve made it through being apart long distances multiple times. We’ve made other sacrifices when necessary; for instance, I would love to quit my job and go to school full-time, but since we can’t swing that right now, I’m continuing to work and only taking 2 classes per semester until we reach a point where we can afford for me to not work at all and just do school full-time. We love each other, support each other, and we’ll work through anything life throws at us as a team. And in reading this letter, I’m not getting any vibes from the LW that either of them is really able to do that. He doesn’t even sound like he wants to marry her, PERIOD. She’s not helping matters by being so pushy about it, either. I don’t think either of them possess the maturity needed to make a marriage work. And as someone who foolishly got married hastily at 19 (then divorced at 23), I’d just like to throw out a big fat DON’T DO IT to the LW. There is NO good reason that I can think of to rush marriage (maybe if one of you is dying and it’s your last wish to marry your partner?). And giving up your educational goals to be with a man is a TERRIBLE idea. I almost went to school for vocal performance (had my audition scheduled and everything), but met my now-ex husband and decided marrying him was a better idea. I sacrificed way too much of myself to be with him, and lost my own identity in the process. I didn’t start gaining it back until after we separated, either.

        So, LW, I am begging you…heed all the advice you’re getting telling you not to do this. You will save yourself years of grief and strife, trust me.

      3. Eagle Eye says:

        I agree with the points that your husband made above. Living with my boyfriend, I was able to understand what life is going to be like with him and what exactly I signed up for. Its not like undergrad, its not only much more difficult, but the stress is elevated as well. Just because we dated a bit in college, did not prepare either of us for difficulties of an extremely competitive PhD program and gives me a good idea of what a professorship will look like in the future.

        My boyfriend also mentions that it is extremely hard to be in a relationship with someone who is in the sciences if you’re not, its a lot of patience and understanding and making sure that you’re life is full outside of the relationship. The person in the PhD program is not going to have a lot of time to spend on the person not completing a graduate degree.

        So it is extremely important that the LW continue to pursue her own goals. I applied to graduate school in the Fall and will potentially be doing long distance with my boyfriend depending on where I choose to go. If your relationship is strong enough you will survive.

  28. crazyayeaye says:

    I have been in a very similar situation to the LW’s, except that I was more in the position of her bf. I finished my undergraduate education before him and went off to graduate school in another state. While my bf and I had been nearly inseparable while we were in the same place, and frequently talked about getting married in the near future, I realized when I was away all of the problems we had and how immature we both were. Unfortunately, this realization didn’t quite hit him as it did me and resulted in a very painful breakup. I can only imagine what would have happened if he had moved to be with me (as we had discussed before and I had come to gradually realize would not be the best idea, thankfully before it happened) and we had got married and I realized all the problems we had after the fact. Three years later, I can frankly say I am the happiest I’ve ever been.

    As a side note, my parents were also opposed to the relationship at the time, and while it really bothered me then, and had a severe impact on my relationship, I would feel absurd about weighing their opinion that heavily in my current relationship. I think the parental influence really loses its touch as you gain more independence and realize what is right for you. If you are asking advice on how and when to get engaged from a third party, then you are probably not independent enough yet to make that commitment.

  29. Quakergirl says:

    I’m guessing that based on the LW’s age (21ish?) that she and her boyfriend have been together since the end of high school. Now I am absolutely not one to say relationships that start in high school can’t be extremely healthy and fulfilling– mine is– and I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that the LW’s is, too. I am also not one to claim they can never transition to “adult life”– mine’s doing just dandy.

    What I can attest to is that once you start to creep up on “adult life” when you’re still dating your high school boyfriend, the idea of marriage hits you like a ton of bricks and I swear it starts to consume you. This is especially true if you’re from a small town or an area where people typically marry in their late teens and early twenties. Suddenly everyone starts asking you when you’re getting married and why aren’t you married and giving you all sorts of advice and/or consolation (“it’s okay sweetie, you’re only 21, that’s not too bad” and “you just have to tell him no more free lunch” and “honey, you better get a move on and settle him down or people will start talking!”…true stories, all of them).

    I would bet the LW is getting some of this flack, too, although hopefully for her it’s a bit more subtle…But you have to SLOOOOW DOWN, take a deep breath and think about why you really want to be married. Is it because it’s something you want or something that’s expected of you? You decide to marry each other because you want to love and support each other forever, not because it’s the only way to get someone else’s approval.

    Also think about the circumstances of your life. You’re in no financial position whatsoever to be getting married if you’re both full-time students with loans and no steady source of outside income. Once you’re married, the Bank of Mom and Dad is closed for business, so think about whether you’re willing to commit yourself to 5+ years of PB&J and Spaghetti-O’s while your boyfriend finishes his PhD on a grad student stipend. Or think about whether you’re willing to be the sole wage-earner and support your entire household.

    More importantly though, do you really want to get married so you can “tag along” on someone else’s life journey? I firmly believe a year of distance would do you good. My boyfriend and I went to different colleges for our first year of undergrad, and it was the best decision I ever made. Even though I hated the school (I picked the one furthest away from him to really give myself some breathing room) and I hated being away from him, I learned a lot about myself and how to be an independent adult. It really gave me the tools I needed to build my own life when I ultimately transferred closer to him, and then again when we moved out of state together after college. Your relationship will survive 6 months to a year apart and you’ll come out better for it. Then, when you both are in a better point in your education and your adult lives, you can talk about getting engaged.

    But if you decide to go with him (married or not), you NEED to have a purpose there, or you’re going to get sucked into his life and not make your own. That’s really no fun for anyone, honestly. He fell in love with you when you were just you and not you+him, so make sure you nurture that “just you” part as much as you nurture your relationship.

  30. If you can’t make it through one year of long-distance, you can’t make it in a marriage. This year apart will be a much better test of whether your relationship is marriage material than the length of time you’ve already been together is.

    1. And I’m about the LW’s age- a college junior. I broke up with my high school boyfriend because our colleges were far apart. At the time I was sad, but now I can’t believe I ever dated him. Yet if circumstances hadn’t broken us up, I would likely still be with him now because my attachment would only have grown. Having been together in your late teens and the cozy environment of college isn’t necessarily enough to mean you should get married.

      And don’t transfer to follow him! Be practical. Just finish what you started. Don’t risk messing up your education.

  31. I agree she is not ready for marriage (and by her boyfriends responses he is not either) but I understand the drive to want to be married, even if you are not truly ready for it.

    It seems like relationships always have to be moving forward towards the next step. Think about celebrity interviews, they always ask ‘are you a couple,’ then as soon as they say yes ‘when are you getting engaged’, then ‘whens the wedding’, then ‘when are you having a baby’

    So I can see why, after four years, even if they are still young (and at the point in their lives where SO much can change) she is thinking, okay next step, next step.

    Plus being engaged would make you feel chosen, special. I’m 27, living with my boyfriend, and rationally I know I am not yet in the place to make the marriage decision. (Based on work, living situations, I’m not 100 percent sure what I want out of life and marriage yet, etc.) Still, when I hear of all these engagements around me, I think ‘Maybe she has something I don’t that her boyfriends wants to marry her. Am I not ‘wife material’, am I also a ‘keeper?’

    So I can understand the drive to want to be married, even if it is not the best decision. I guess you just have to rationalize with yourself.

    1. I am in the same boat as you, absolutely. I feel the pressure of getting engaged all of the time. I’m from a suburb and it seems all of the people I know from there are either engaged, married or pregnant. and while, i can’t imagine being in the position… i still think about it.

  32. PERFECT advice, Wendy! 🙂

  33. MiraGeauxRound says:

    Maybe his parents don’t want them living together because she’s already a leech on their sone now and they know it would be much worse if they moved in together, especially if they got married. She’s trying to dictate his evey move now by forcing him into marriage, the next thing will be her forcing him to get her pregnant. I can only imagine what his parents must feel like watching this. Everything about this girl reminds me of the Virgin Mobile commercial where the girl is stalking her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend. She sends him a text and watches how he responds while she’s sitting in the tree outside of his window or in his hallway closet. Even though I think the LW is a little looney, desperate and a leech, I still feel bad for her because I really think she’s going to be single by the end of all of this. For her sake I hope I’m wrong.

  34. I haven’t read all the comments, just skimmed thru, but I have a feeling my response will be the same as most of the others:

    LW: You are not at all ready to be married! U still have a lot of growing up to do before you take a major step like that! being in a long term relationship is hard enough, but then add marriage college and everything else to the mix and u r in for a rude awakening! And u r def not independent enough; People need to find themselves, and be comfortable enough with them selves and their life to make their own decisions, and not to sound mean (because I am not being mean) U sound WAY WAY too dependant on your boyfriend to make your decisions for u as well.
    Final Advice:
    Take the year apart as a gift to find yourself and enjoy being an individual BEFORE you out ANY MORE thought into getting married!

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