Not Married Yet

snickerdoodle564March 6, 2008

My boyfriend and I have been dating just under a year. We've been talking about getting married, and we both believe we're ready for it (not engaged yet). We're deeply in love (with each other, coincidentally). I'll graduate this May, he's got 2 more years left. He's 24, I'm 22. Both of our parents are still together. We've been raised similarly and have like-minded goals.

How do you know you're ready? How can you prepare yourself for marriage? Neither of us are particularly religious, so the thought of doing pastoral counseling is a bit creepy, but we did think of seeing a marriage counselor for pre-marriage counseling (if MCs even do that kind of thing).

I'm posting here because, well, you guys are married, and know how to (or not) make marriage work and thrive. I appreciate your thoughts!

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First thing that popped out to me is that you're still so young (and i'm not saying that to be dismissive). You learn and grow and change so much in your 20s that its important to take your time and really learn and appreciate your experiences.

You've been dating for under a year! Trust me the fact that you talk about a deeper commitment is great, but don't rush things. You think you're ready now.

There is a lot more to marriage than love. Do you live together? I would suggest reading up on marriage/relationships. And focus on having fun together. As much as most want to believe, marriage does not signify the ultimate bond. Use this time to really learn each other and yourself.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 12:56PM
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Yes, you can get premarital counseling from a professional. Just start making calls and asking if they provide it. I'd recommend looking at the Psychology Today website - they provide photos, background, and profile info of counselors in your area.

Even if their sites don't indicate premarital counseling, they may still offer it. Find one that you are drawn to and call to ask if they can help you. Look for MFT - Marriage and Family Therapists. They are well trained to work with couples.

I think it is very mature of you to consider that route.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 1:35PM
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There's no magic bullet to getting marriage "right". Some people do it three or four times and it's still not a good fit and some get it right the very first time and at an early age.

The biggest consideration I see is that people change at certain times of their lives. You're not the same person at 35 that you were at 22 and again at middle age. You will change and so will your partner. You may end up being married to somebody you don't know anymore. The trick is to grow together and in a similar direction.

So what is your hurry? You are finshing school, you're young and have no kids yet - enjoy this golden period. Enjoy each other, before all your responsibilities set in. Maybe travel and see the world. Maybe work on a project together that gives back to your community or to those in need. Cherish this time, it won't come again...

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 2:10PM
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You're young. Until you're BOTH demonstrably commercially viable, I wouldn't do it. Right now, all either of you know is school. Trust me when I say it's a whole lot different after. Another way of saying many of the things you think you know about yourself and the don't.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 6:47PM
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Be sure you're on the same page as far as work goals- where? do you hope to move around the country? settle in one place forever? retire early? work forever? one work? both work? ; children- any? many? soon in the marriage? wait? what will you do if for instance, tests show you are carrying a baby with a congenital problem? ; money- combine incomes? keep some/all income of each separate? savings? budget?; housing- buy? rent? house in the suburbs? city apartment? ; cars- one that's shared? one that's used mostly by one of you? one each? no car at all? and all those little things that can become big issues if it turns out you're singing from different choir books.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 7:53PM
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I think if you analysed the marriage question too much, you would not go through with it.

The way I see it is you grow together, you can't possibly know it all at the beginning.

In hindsight, I think if you have similar upbringings, same sort of standards, then thats a good place to start.

The absolute best thing, is having a sense of humour !

All the best.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 2:05AM
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You both are at a prime age to marry, but you do have time to wait a couple of years more? The only bug I see is that he has 2 more years of school to finish. Unless you both are financially secure, you will find that the cost of mariage will interfere with schooling, or that school will interfere with making a new marriage a happy event. Someone has to earn the bread and put a roof over your head. For a male, this is easier when he is single than when married. When I was single and in college, I could live like a bum when funds were short. I lived in a single room in crappy locations and had very ordinary clothing. One winter, I shopped at a thrift store for an overcoat. I gave up having a car, walked everywhere, and rode a bicycle in good weather. My health insurance for a single person was much less than for family coverge (a couple). Such cuts were necessary for me to finance my tution and books. Every dollar when toward my education and future. I doubt that a marriage at this point in my life would have survived.

This is a serious consideration. But, if you have the funds, maybe it is time to make the commitment. Beware, However, that a baby is possible and one of those little dears will have a big impact on your lives. If the arrival of a little one stops the education of hubby, this could grow into a hidden resentment and doom happiness for both of you. Consider what your plan of action will be in such event - and don't underestimate costs - be realistic. What happens when baby or one of you has to go to the hospital for a week?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 3:36AM
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Thank you all so much for your input. You all had insightful things to say, and I appreciate you all helping me begin to work through everything (I tend to mull over things for a *long* time, and it helps to hear others' thoughts).

Yes, I know we're young, and I should have been more clear on our intentions. We don't want to be engaged until he is closer to being done with school, so we've got a few more years until it's an issue forefront on our minds. And right now, we are just having fun! We're both recognize where our relationship is heading, though, and want to begin to prepare ourselves for it. Too many of our friends are rushing into things without considering the things you have mentioned here, and we don't want to make the same mistakes.

Thank you all again!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 10:07AM
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Well it's actually very simple to know if you're ready.. and here is the answer :) partnership. If you can talk like adults, plan a future and you both want that same future, if you can resolve issues that arise between you, if you can argue and still always remember you love each other.. then those are the best guarantees anyone on earth can give you. Life doesn't come with guarantees, there's no crystal ball, you roll your dice and take your chance, love doesn't conquer all .. but it sure does help a of luck to you both in life..Bobby

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 7:41PM
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I got married when I was 20, DH was 27. We dated for about 6 months before we knew we were going to get married, but our announcement was no surprise to anyone- both of our families basically gave us the "DUH" response. We knew each other for 6 years prior to dating as casual friends who hung out in the same work crowd.

We've been through a lot during our marriage- relocation, layoff, unemployment for 18 months of DH who was primary $maker at the time, bankruptcy, loss of 3 dogs who are like children to us, me going back to school to be a vet (graduate in May- yea!), etc etc etc. But we're still happy 16 years later, and were happy with each other even through the crap times.

Love is important, not in and of itself, but because of what comes with it- respect, desire to work things out together, being open with each other, being supportive. We both have made sacrifices for each other's career- he was relocated, I finished undergrad part time because of our money problems, he took jobs he didn't want or like to make ends meet. It's all working out now, but it isn't easy when you are going through tough times. Showing appreciation for each other when we are sacrificing means a lot.

Having similar life goals is of the upmost importance. You can compromise on some things- you don't have to be the same religion for example, but you can't compromise on others like having children or not. Colleenoz had some very good points to get started. DH and I are very compatible on the life goals thing. We work to live, not live to work. Together time is extremely important, and neither of us will take jobs that take away from family time.

Money is huge. We decided to go in together on everything, so all of our finances are combined. It makes sense for us, but you will have to work out your own financial issues. Remember that money problems are not always strictly about money- much of it has to do with control. So work out how your finances are going to be controlled as well as how they are going to be combined. For us, I do long term planning and he manages the day to day stuff. I couldn't tell you how much money we have in the checking account, but I do know exactly what percent of our income goes to what. That works for us.

We have both obviously grown up a lot since we were married, but I can't say that either one of us had a major personality change. I've perhaps mellowed out a little bit, but that's debatable LOL. DH stands up for himself a little better now, but he's still basically non-confrontational.

I think that at 22 and 24 years old, you are both the basic person you will always be. Things can change- if someone becomes addicted to something for example, but for the most part people don't change very much. If he's worth marrying now, he will be worth staying married to.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 3:12PM
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I met DH at 20, he was 21. Our parents were still together, both near graduating from good schools, all well. We married four years later. Then life hit--

-- My mother contracted terminal cancer at the ripe old age of 49. I quit my job to care for her, and
-- got pregnant, with no job and no health insurance, Dh was in graduate school
-- his parents divorced after 30 years of marriage; his mother was trashed emotionally and financially
-- our baby turned out to have an autistic spectrum disorder
-- we were so broke we had to pawn stuff to make rent
-- my widowed father developed a taste for needy women who viewed our relationship as a threat

It did get better from there :)

Life kinda whacks you sometimes. Buckle your seatbelt, hopefully you won't need it.

We were not particularly religious but had premarital counseling with the Unitarian minister who agreed to marry us. She had several sessions beforehand to clarify attitudes about money, childraising, etc. It was interesting and helpful. Couple thoughts I found useful:

1. One of the biggest predictors of divorce is said to be men who use exit instead of voice-- they won't talk about stuff openly, they just leave the situation. Hopefully your fiance is a good communicator.
2. Pick someone kind. It's an enduring character trait.
3. Keep talking to each other. Open up about what's going on, it's the only way to improve more serious issues.

Best of luck to you! Obviously I think early 20s is a great time to find your life mate-- some people choose to marry at that time, others try to buckle down and sock some money away first. I would do some financial reading like the David Bach books as your 20s are the best time to pedal hard and get your financial house in order. Not delaying the kiddos too long if those in the cards. Best wishes.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 4:00PM
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