“I Want to Have Marriage and Kids By 26, But My Boyfriend Doesn’t Want to Move That Fast”

I’m 23 and have been with my partner now for four years. We have a lot of fun together, and share similar interests and friendship groups. However, over the last few months I have been underwhelmed in the relationship, and wondering if there is something more out there. Recently, I started chatting to an old friend whom I used to work with, and we get along like a house on fire. Not only that, I find myself quite attracted to him, and more interested in receiving his messages than those from my boyfriend. Now this would seem simple: break up with my boyfriend, and chase this other guy. But then who knows if he even likes me, or if we even would make a great couple…it’s such a risk.

The other thing really messing with my mind is that, I always wanted to be married and having children by the time I turned 26. Now, my current partner can’t make me any promises with this, which has been another cause of our arguments of late. He said he wants to do those things with me, but not as soon as I want them. What if I break off my long-term relationship, and this guy I think I like doesn’t work out. Where am I left with my dreams?

I still very much love my partner, but I’m scared I’ll wake up when I am 40 and resent him for always being so absent in our relationship, and I feel like I will always be thinking but what if. — Thinking What If

You’ll “wake up” at 40? What does that mean? That you’ll be sleeping until then? I know it’s just a phrase you used, but it’s telling, and it speaks to your behavior and attitude. When you hang out in a boring relationship for years because it’s safe and you’re afraid to take any risks because what if they don’t work out, you are living passively. You might as well be sleeping. Come on, you’ve been wondering if there’s something more out there and now’s your time to find out! You’re 23 years old, you’ve been with the same guy for years, you think you want to get married by 26, and this guy doesn’t want to move that fast. This is literally the perfect time and you have the perfect excuse to break things off and go see what else is out there.

Maybe this guy you’re crushing on will be a better match for you. Maybe not! You say it’s such a risk… but is it really? I mean, you’re 23 and there are lots and lots of guys out there. If things don’t work out with old work friend dude, go pursue one of the other millions of guys out there. If you aren’t married and babied up by 26, is it really the end of your dreams? What if there are different dreams for you that you haven’t even imagined yet because you’ve been basically sleeping through a relationship you hoped would lead to marriage and kids in a few years? What if, instead of waking up at 40 and resenting someone else for choices you passively made, you wake up now and take the reins of your life, start taking risks, start making active and thoughtful choices that may not lead you to marriage and kids at 26, but instead marriage and kids at 30 or 33 and down a path with a lot more scenery along the way? Wake up. Life is happening out there while you’ve been snoozing.

I have been talking to my friend whom I met online for about six years. We have used various messengers and video calling services throughout the years and it has made it very easy for us to open up to each other. We have always been attracted to and interested in each other but we never addressed it because we have never met in person. Throughout the duration of our friendship he was in a committed relationship and I had a few boyfriends and eventually got married. However, we both have become single in the past year. He broke up with his girlfriend, whom he met online and started a LDR with. I married very young and that went downhill as well.

We finally started talking about meeting and I am hoping to make that happen within the next couple of months. I did tell him that I have always had a thing for him, but there are some things I would like some help with before I make the trip to see him. My first question is: is it a good idea to propose a long distance relationship when I meet him? Should we visit each other more before having that talk?
Should we both give ourselves more time to be alone after our huge break-ups? If so, is it still a good idea to at least express real interest in the possibility of a future together?

I really care about this person and I want to know the best option to keep him in my life and eventually have a real relationship with him. — Considering a LDR

Don’t plan too far ahead. Focus on your first in-person meetup. Where will it be? Will you sleep in the same place? Get a hotel? How long will you stay together? I’d recommend no more than three nights for a first meetup, and having a hotel room at least for the first night (that can be canceled for remaining nights if things go well enough the first night that you want to spend as much time together as you can). If the long weekend visit goes well, plan another, and at some point after the first meet-up (or at least after you’ve established whether you have chemistry and are open to a relationship at all), you can broach the idea of whether a long distance relationship is on the table. It should ONLY be considered if one or both of you would be willing to move within two years. Here is some more advice before starting a long distance relationship, here’s how to survive a long distance relationship, and here’s some advice for after you’ve established a LDR and are considering a move.

I recently got a Save The Date wedding invitation from a friend. I had a suspicion that I may not get a +1 so after I got the STD, I texted the groom and bride saying I’d receive the invitation (I live out of state), and I had the perfect date I wanted to bring if allowed. The bride got back to me that only wedding party, people living together or married will get a plus one. Part of me understands but I am still a little pissed. I’ll spend all this money going and really wanted the opportunity to bring a date. Especially since most of my friends ‘live’ with someone they can bring. I’m now leaning on not going at all. I’ll still send a gift but I don’t feel like going alone strictly because I have to.

Is it rude if I send a gift but decline to go for this reason? — A Confused Guest

No more rude than texting a couple after getting a Save The Date card and telling them you already have a date picked out when they haven’t even yet sent an invitation and you have a strong suspicion it won’t include a “+1. Look, if the thought of spending money to travel to a wedding where you’ll only have a group of friends to keep you company pisses you off, stay home. Send a gift and your regrets. But since you’ve already made clear that you’re available on the date of the wedding (implying you planned to go and had the perfect date to bring), the couple will know why you’re skipping their big day. I get the impression you’re young and this long distance friendship would probably fizzle out soon anyway. So, save your travel budget and learn from this: don’t ask people if you can bring a date before you’ve even gotten an invitation. It’s tacky and rude.


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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.


  1. Am I the only one who saw this post yesterday morning, then it disappeared?

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Ok, I *knew* I published it! I bet when my editor (hi, Mom!) went to copyedit, it was inadvertently moved to my draft folder. Sorry about that!

    2. Nope! I saw it too, then it was gone.

  2. #LW1 move on already and take some risks, allthough setti g a soecific age by when you want to be married and have chikdren is ridiculous, relationships dont work on a specific schedule.

    #LW3 dont go to the wedding, if nobody could have a +1 fine, but only married people or living together couples is just Rude.

    In my case I could never bring my partner of 7.5 years because we will NEVER marry nor live together, we like having each our own house for various reasons and see eachother every day, anybody thats not welcoming my partner can buzz off.

    1. dinoceros says:

      I think that a long-term relationship is different from “finding a perfect date,” though. LW didn’t indicate that she was actually in a relationship.

    2. Ruby Thursday says:

      While I can’t speak for this couple, I think most people who set restrictions on dates would welcome your long-term partner. I know that for me and several of my friends, we placed or are placing restrictions on dates because we cannot afford it. However, long-term unmarried couples were/are included because we want to welcome everyone’s partners. I just don’t have the money to pay for people’s random dates.

      1. Yeah I agree. It would be nice for a couple to make room in their budget to give everyone a plus one, but the truth is that wedding budgets are a finite resource and adding a plus one for everyone can quickly turn into a lot of people and a significant expense.

        It’s obvious you’re not in a long term relationship or you wouldn’t have written you had “the perfect date” in mind but rather “I want to bring my boyfriend.” And honestly, someone else’s wedding is not just a night of dinner and dancing for you and some random dude.

  3. dinoceros says:

    LW1: It makes me a little sad that you’re so worried about taking risks at 23. Risks aren’t inherently bad things, you know. The fastest way to end up regretful at 40 is to decide that if a decision involves any risk, you can’t do it. If you follow that path, you should stay with the same partner, same job, in the same city and same home for the rest of your life. I don’t know if you have a lot of friends who are settling down at your age, but the vast majority of people don’t feel that 23 is when they have to lock down a partner. Every choice as a tradeoff. Settling down at 23 might be safe and means that you can reach your goal of family by 26, but the tradeoff is you might choose the wrong person and regret sticking with someone just because you had a pre-determined timeline. Ending things with him and looking for someone you would be happier with means you might find that awesome person, but it also might mean that you don’t or that it takes ten years to find them. But life isn’t a checklist, and most people are happiest when they don’t force themselves to follow the checklist.

    Also, you shouldn’t choose whether to be with someone or not based on whether you think this other person will work out. That’s disrespectful to your current partner and honestly, not very logical. If you’re not into your current relationship enough that you think you’d be so much happier with someone else, then you’re not into your current relationship enough to stay in it at all — regardless of who is out there. But how would you feel if your boyfriend was only with you because the person he thought he might want was too big a risk? Sometimes doubts mean something and sometimes they don’t, but I think you owe it to both of you to decide if you want to stay with him SOLELY based on your relationship with him, not based on whether you can get someone else or not.

    LW2: No, you shouldn’t start a long-distance relationship with someone you’ve met once. Talking online is not the equivalent of spending actual time together. Don’t jump into something just because you want a relationship with somebody.

    LW3: You sound bratty. Do you actually care about having a date, or are you just mad they said no? I can’t tell. Regardless, no one is obligated to give you a +1, especially when you’re not even in a relationship. I suppose people with probably fuss with each other about the etiquette here, but in the end, they have to pay per person at the wedding and spending extra money just because you “found” a date should not be a priority for them. If you don’t want to go, then send regrets, but don’t tell them it’s because you can’t get a date. You want to save a little bit of your dignity at this point.


    1. As the person who wrote it I will comment a little more. The date isn’t a random person they have been a close friend for a couple years. I see this person much more then the wedding couple. All my friends back home ‘live’ with their significant other but are NOT engaged nor will they be for years if even with that person. And I don’t even know if my date couple definitely come, I just wanted the opportunity to ask them. Maybe I am bratty, but I am sick of going to weddings and sitting at the table alone when ‘couples’ dance to certain songs because I couldn’t bring a plus one. I get it is expensive and their call and either way they will get a generous gift.

      1. You sound even brattier this time around!

        Why would your friend want to go to this wedding with you in the first place? Why should the bride and groom pay for your non-date date to attend their wedding because you can’t handle being alone (or, apparently, even feign happiness) for one evening.

        I’ve gone to weddings alone, both while single and while in relationships. You can find someone to dance with if that’s all you care about. I know because I’ve done it, not to mention, it’s not like *every* song is a slow song.

        Don’t go to the wedding. You care more about who you will or won’t be dancing with than the bride and groom. And you don’t sound like fun, either.

      2. The point of the wedding is for you to celebrate the couple getting married. It doesn’t matter who you’re better friends with – it’s not your wedding. It sounds like you’re considerably more concerned about yourself than the bride and groom, and if you go, you’ll probably be a pouty downer. So ya, stay home.

      3. Most of the weddings I’ve been to have had only a few of those couples dance slow songs. Maybe its different in your friend group, but if its just a few songs here and there then just take the slow song to get another drink or visit the restroom or rest your aching feet so you’re ready to jump on in there for the next one.

        For what it’s worth, my husband and I decided years ago as we were scoping travel budgets that we wouldn’t travel to weddings where the only people we knew who were attending were either a) the bride and groom only, or b) local friends we could see at home without the cost of a plane ticket. This is because while celebrating the couple is great, the truth is you only see the couple for a few minutes and if you don’t have anyone else to hang out with then it’s just not our highest priority for where to spend out limited time and money. We send a really nice gift and our apologies and then plan a trip to see the couple some other time when we can actually hang out with them.

        Its ok to decide that celebrating the couple’s special love is not a good enough reason to travel for their wedding without the perks of a fun date night or a reunion with your college pals. But don’t be mad about it, just be an adult that has priorities.

      4. dinoceros says:

        I don’t think anyone was implying you were going to pull someone in off the street to be your date. But bringing a friend or someone you’ve been on a few dates with is very different from bringing a long-term partner. Some couples are cool with dropping money so you can a friend can have a fun night out, and some aren’t. It’s a perfectly reasonable decision to make. Weddings are expensive enough as it is. I really don’t see how sitting through a slow song alone is that terrible. I’ve been to most weddings alone, and I barely even remember that part occurring.

      5. When I got married we only had plus 1s for people who were married/engaged or together for about a year. We had maxed out our room by inviting our large families and all of our close friends, only 2 of whom were in relationships and both brought someone. To give people plus ones just so they could bring a date would have meant picking some friends over others since I couldn’t have invited them all. I did have one person call and ask to bring someone and I explained why we handled it how we did and she was still kind of cranky about it. I was pretty mad that she asked honestly.

  4. LW#1 — You’ve always wanted to be married and have a child but age 26, but refuse to conform that ‘wish without a committed guy you love — just a fantasy goal’ into reality. That you are so strongly considering another guy means that your bf is not the guy for you. A bf is not a security blanket and any new relationship is a risk, but with no taking a risk for change comes no improvement. You are running your life based on your plans for age 26 — plans made when you were a child. It sounds like a paradox, but there truly is a lot of risk to a happy life involved in being as risk-averse as you are.

    LW #2 — Of course your marriage failed, it sounds like you were engaged in an emotional affair with your on-line sort-of bf through the whole course of your real-life relationship. You are locked into a fantasy life with a guy you’ve never even met in person. That’s just a way of hiding away from reality.

    LW #3 — You really have no reason to be pissed. Get over your social insecurity. You really can attend a wedding without a date. On the other hand, if you think it’s too much money to spend on a non-date, then stay home.

  5. LW1: it is not fair to reproach to your BF not to marry you, when you in fact fantasize about an other man. You are not ready at all to get married. End the relationship, enjoy your freedom, and then, when you are in a good relationship, you can start thinking of a wedding.
    LW2: you seem to think of everything about this wedding (your date, your friends), except your friend getting married. Poor friend.

  6. What’s up with people not being OK with going to a wedding stag? I often got a +1 but since I wasn’t dating anyone about 50% of those I took a friend that also knew the couple, the other 50% I was solo. The times I didn’t get a +1 on my invite I was all “Well, I’m assuming they want to keep costs down. I’ll still be happy to attend!” And LW#3 it’d be rude to ask a date to travel and not pay for their expenses. So you’re saving money flying solo.

    1. LisforLeslie says:

      Went to a co-workers wedding stag. Didn’t know ANYONE there. I was the only person from work. It was a little uncomfortable (tbh I was the only woman not wearing a Sari) but it was lovely seeing my analyst so happy and with his gorgeous bride. Would do again.

    2. Avatar photo rosie posie says:

      I agree completely. I have also gone to weddings stag if I wasn’t offered a plus one or even if I was & wasn’t in a serious relationship. More often than not, at least for all the men I know, weddings are not a good time unless they know the couple very well. every time I went solo I had a great time.

      Also, I recently got married and oh boy did we get feedback from people who didn’t get a plus one. I was mildly annoyed when a friend asked if she could bring a date when her invitation was only addressed to her and she wasn’t even casually dating anyone but I was really bothered by someone else who was casually dating someone and asked for a plus one because they knew someone else we invited wasn’t going to be able to come. They didn’t understand the domino effect at all.

    3. Hah totally agree that if I’m your date to your friend’s wedding where I don’t know anyone, you better be paying my way. So in that respect, it would be MORE expensive to take a date.

      I have been to plenty of weddings solo and it’s really not that bad. One I went to and everyone I knew was in the wedding party so I ended up at a table of wedding party’s plus ones that I’d never met before and it was STILL fine.

      That said, depending on the location I might not want to travel to it alone– like my friend got married in NYC last year and IDK if I would have wanted to do that solo. But that’s because I’m a lame suburbs person.

  7. LW1: Most people don’t end up with the guy they dated when they were 19. I agree with what Wendy and others are saying about living your life actively, tossing out your timeline/checklist, and being open to risks. However, I also want to add that you’re being unfair to your boyfriend right now. You have feelings for another guy and it seems the only reason you haven’t left is because you’re worried they’re not reciprocated. That’s shitty, and your boyfriend deserves better.

    LW2: Do not propose an LDR to someone you’re meeting in person for the first time. You need to see what it’s like in person first.

    LW3: I understand why couples make choices about who gets a date to their wedding and who doesn’t, I admittedly dislike when I don’t get a +1. (I’m not someone who would bring any date just to have a date — I’ve gone to plenty of weddings solo and had a great time — but I think it’s nice to have the option of it.) That said, your behavior is pretty darn tacky and you’re being petty. If this friend isn’t more important than having a wedding date, then by all means, sit this out. The way the letter was written also makes me wonder if there is travel involved, so I’ll also throw it out there that depending on the associated costs, a SO or casual date may not be interested in accompanying you in the first place.

  8. LisforLeslie says:

    LW1 – you sound like your desire to have babies by 26 is your driving force. Not who you are having babies with. You’re interested in someone else, you’re bored with your boyfriend. You love him but you like the familiarity of him. You don’t want babies and marriage with him – you just want babies and marriage. Break up with your boyfriend. He can’t commit to your timeline and you’ve missed a realistic window anyway. It would be two years before you were married and and popping out a kid if you got engaged tomorrow and went off birth control on your honeymoon, you were ovulating and all things lined up perfectly. Sure it could happen but the likelihood is slim.

    LW2 – go in slowly. Online chemistry is different then IRL chemistry. Don’t jump to exclusivity.

    LW3 – So your justification for not attending your friends wedding is that you don’t get to spend more money (and their money) so you can show off your date? Are you the perpetually single friend and this is your chance to show everyone that you bagged someone? To show off? I can think of a lot of things I’d like to do with a date and bringing them to a wedding is far far down the list. I can also think of things I’d rather do than travel with someone where I will have to wear uncomfortable clothes and spend money to go to a wedding where I won’t know anyone.

  9. I love Wendy’s answer for LW1. It could have easily been super short, or condescending but it wasn’t. Perfect.

  10. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW1 You can turn 40 and regret that you stayed in a bad relationship just because you had an arbitrarily imposed marriage and baby deadline and you met the deadline but hated the marriage.

    If you want out of your relationship you should breakup. Not because you have the next guy already lined up. You need to breakup because the current relationship bores you. If it already bores you just give it another ten years. You will end up married and divorced. There are lots of things you can regret and not breaking up when you are unhappy is one of those things. Don’t worry about whether the next guy is ready and waiting. You need to take relationships as they happen and see how they turn out. You have to give a new relationship time to develop and time to fail. You have to know that you can invest years in a relationship and then realize it isn’t the right relationship. You have to realize that there are things worse than not being married with children at the age of 26, like being married to the wrong man and having children and feeling trapped and miserable.

    Getting married on an arbitrarily, self-imposed schedule, which is what you want, is no guarantee that you will find the right marriage or a happy marriage or that you will be able to raise children in a happy, stable home. If your goal is a happy, stable home with spouse and children you begin by carefully picking the spouse. You need to not only love the spouse you need to respect them and want to spend your life with them. Being bored by them at the age of 23 is a recipe for unhappiness. Almost no one ends up happily married to someone they started dating as a teen. The traits that are appealing as a teen aren’t the same ones that you will want in a marriage partner. You both will grow and change and your personalities won’t be the same as when you were a teen. Taking your time is the best gift you can give yourself if you want a happy life.

  11. LW1: A sure fire way to not have what you want in life is to put so much pressure on an arbitrary timeline. You are out of your noggin if you actually believe you can schedule life like that.

  12. I know it’s not the main point, but I don’t understand why it’s so important to bring a date to a wedding even if you’re not in a relationship. Why do you need to drag someone else into a wedding they have nothing to do with and where they will only have you to talk to? Is it really so terrible being alone for a couple hours, especially since you’d expect many if not most weddings you would know someone aside from the bride and groom? It just seems pretty ordinary to go to a party of any nature without a date. Do you need a date for a Christmas party? A Bar Mitzvah? The Superbowl?

    1. So agree. I do not get people’s obsession with this. You can be apart from your whatever for a few hours to celebrate someone elses wedding. Note I said someone else. I am so exhausted with people making weddings about them.

      Reminds me of the other letter “My fiance and I have never been apart for three whole weeks before”. You’ll be fine.

    2. I’d rather not have a date if I’m going to an event where I know everyone and they will know no one. I’d want to spend time catching up with friends instead of having to worry if they are having fun/feeling included/etc.

      It would be different if this were a serious boyfriend but just a date…yeah, I don’t need that kind of pressure to make sure someone else has a good time when I’m trying to hang with old friends.

  13. LW1: Why the rush to have kids?? You have plenty of time, like into your 40s. Once you have a kid, life changes. Just last night, all I wanted to do was sleep, but my kid kept me up, wanting to play. Kids do that. It isn’t all peaches and cream.

  14. The thing about throwing “tacky” around in regard to wedding stuff is that it’s fairly subjective, to the point that it often ends up cutting both ways.

    I’ve heard plenty of people say it’s tacky to ask for a +1, but I’ve heard just as many people say it’s tacky not to offer +1s to help their guests feel comfortable and have the most possible fun.

    I didn’t give automatic +1s to people I thought were single and would be attending with their single friends or family. I had several people ask me if they could bring their new SOs, and I was flat-out happy that they (politely) asked, and because it was feasible, was more than happy to incorporate their +1s into my headcount.

    I’ve been to many weddings stag before, but they were all ones where I had plenty of friends who wouldn’t leave me sitting by myself while they slow danced with their SOs all night. Considering the expensive and time-consuming undertaking that an out-of-town wedding can be, I don’t think it’s out of line for someone to not attend if they don’t think the circumstances surrounding it would be much fun for them. Though in LW3’s case, it’ll be obvious why she’s not coming, and the bridal couple may judge her for it, and she’ll have to decide whether she can live with that.

    1. Technically, if people are dating, their significant other is not a plus one. A plus one is truly afforded to single people to bring a date they aren’t dating or a friend.

  15. LW3, go to the wedding without a date and have fun spending time with your friends. I remember feeling slightly disappointed during the maybe 2 slow songs played during a reception, but go get a drink or use the bathroom during those songs. Or, maybe you’ll find a hot guy to hang out with at the wedding. That’s happened to me on more than one occasion, and I have very fond memories of those weddings, despite going without a date!

  16. The O’Hara Girl says:

    LW1: When I was 16, it was my plan to graduate college at 21 with a degree in elementary education and be married soon after that. I am now 27, in college getting a degree in history and am five years out from treatment for cancer (Yay!!!). Oh, I’m unmarried with 0 kids. My point for this life story is that NOTHING in life goes the way we exactly want it to. It’s hard to accept, and believe me, I’ve shed tears over it at times! I’ve since figured out that my “plans” were what I wanted, not what I needed at the time. Concentrate on family and friends, goals, careers and hobbies. Get to know yourself better. There really is a season for everything and you can’t put a time limit on things because life just doesn’t unfold like that.

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