Do you hear that? Lean in and listen a little closer….That’s the sound of your family members and friends whispering the all too familiar in your ear:
Girl what are you waiting on, you know you aren’t getting any younger!?”
Or what about this one,
You haven’t married that girl yet?
I can see you right now rolling your eyes and thinking…”I wish they would shut up and stay out of my business!” In fact, I’m not going to any more family reunions or social gatherings because I am tired of these interrogation techniques! Yup for many folks the pressure to get married is ON and that pressure is strong sometimes and it starts to burst pipes….let’s talk about it…follow me!
I remember very vividly after my wife and I were dating, for a few years, people thought that something just must have been wrong because I hadn’t “married her yet.” What they failed to realize though is that I was only 19 when I met her (she was 21), and even more importantly I had seen what failed marriages looked like so I was taking my time with this big life decision. Maybe it was this gift that God gave me to think and reason 3 steps ahead, or maybe it was because I studied psychology in school. I recall studying Erik Eriksons Stages of Psychosocial Development that emphasizes the importance of first developing one’s own Identity before he moves onto the stages of Intimacy. No matter how many times these questions came up from others or what was rolling around in my own mind, I had to think this thing through!
You see, in my mind I wasn’t going to take the decision to get married lightly. Although I know sometimes marriages don’t work out for different reasons, I didn’t think that marriage came with a trial period or a return policy, I wanted to be in it forever. I was patient because my wife and I met at 19 & 21 and I wanted to make sure that at 28 and 30 we were still compatible even throughout the growth we experienced in our twenties. There were some #QTNA (Questions That Needed Answering). Whether couples marry when they are too young, or when they marry simply because they have been together “long enough” the end result is often the same. When you don’t have the chance to come into your own as an individual, or when you have nothing but time invested in a relationship and have hit no other significant milestones (defined emotional support, growth as a couple, sacrifice of self, planning toward a future together, etc.) too often it makes for an undesirable end result: divorce.
What I see happen so many times when coaching my clients is that they end up with so much societal pressure and family pressure about marriage that they get married prematurely and it ends up being the beginning to the end. These are also people who often times got married very young. By no means am I saying that younger people shouldn’t get married, but I am in the business of building sustainable and healthy relationships and it is my belief that you must have developed a sense of SELF before you can develop a sense of US with anyone! The period of one’s 20’s (especially the mid to latter part) is where you truly develop that sense of self, thus it allows for better discernment when choosing a mate later. You find out a few things that will be essential for a sustainable life and marriage like:
1) What makes me tick?
2) What do I value in education, what do I want out of my career and what are my financial habits and goals?
3) How do I feel about building a family and having kids?
4) What do I bring to the table?
When in a relationship you will start to rationalize ideas like:
5) Who are we socially and do we have the support of our families? How could this impact our marriage?
6) Outside of physical attributes and having fun, does my mate have the work ethic, ambition, loyalty, and staying power that it takes to get through the hard times (economically, sexually, emotionally, etc.) or with kids?
Being able to see past the glitz and glam of the wedding is essential. They say that “age ain’t nothing but a number” but I would argue that age does give you something a little extra and it’s called experience! Also, don’t give in to the pressure that says you should be married “because it’s been long enough,” when your relationship hasn’t really matured. Instead, be intentional about doing the footwork and investing into marrying the RIGHT person! And as much as it may sting to hear it, the “right” person isn’t always the person that you have been with the longest.
Oh and by the way if you are pushing 30ish then ummmmm… your shelf life of “finding yourself” isn’t as long! Self-exploration and assessment is continual, but if you are still trying to figure the answers to questions 1-4 then I suggest you stay away from the dating pool to spend some intense time with yourself until you no longer have to wonder who and why you are!
BMWK Fam – get involved in the conversation: How have you handled pressure from outsiders to get married?
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