Talking Marriage at 22 Years Old?
Ah to be 22 again...
I received an email asking for some advice from Chris. Here's the email, followed by my response.
If you'd like to weigh in and contribute constructively to Chris's situation, you're welcome to comment.
"I can see you are very wise in relationships and this is why I write.
My girlfriend and I have been dating for 2 years now. I am 22 and she is 21. I was the first to bring up the idea of marriage after 7 months of dating. She felt the same way and she continued to talk about it like we were going to do it soon. I guess I didn't take into account the time frame of when we were going to tie the knot until she expected me to propose before graduating college so that we could be married right after we graduate.
About 6 months ago she opened up to the idea of marrying after we graduate, but she still insists on a time frame being met. I really do see us getting married, and I am really excited about that moment in my life. However, I'm scared to talk about a time frame in getting married.
I know at this moment in my life that I am not ready to marry her and i guess its hard to give her a time when I will because there's a lot of things I need to figure out about myself before I take such a huge step. Things such as religion and my job.
Recently she has been pressuring me to tell her a date to get married because she wants reassurance that she isn't wasting her time with me. All of our arguments, big or small, always come down to this. I see us as being very young and having a while to think and talk about it. She just wants me to be open about talking about a marriage time.
I have no other way of reassuring her that I want to get married because we are still in college and very young. If we break up over this I do not want to look back at this time in my life and say "Come on, man, why didn't you just grow a pair and propose to her." I am very confused in my life right now and would appreciate some advice.
Your note gives me the impression that you are smart, thoughtful, caring, and very mature for you age.
However I really need to point this out to you. There are parts of your brain called the frontal lobes that have not developed yet and will not develop until on average by the age 25 for men. This is the part of your brain that understands long term consequences, long term commitments, and will form your most basic decision making abilities as an adult.
What I'm saying is - you're right. You are too young to be setting a time frame for marriage. No matter how mature you are and no matter how much love you feel for this girl, you are not physiologically capable of making marriage decisions.
Your girlfriend does not sound nearly as mature as you are. That's not to say she doesn't really love you, or that you two weren't meant to be together. For her to be pressuring you into setting a date she is proving she doesn't understand what it is to be a partner. You're doing a lot of listening to her, and reacting to what she wants. I do hear the reverse though. It doesn't seem she is listening to your valid concerns of wanting to wait to set a time frame. She isn't trying to make you feel heard, the way you are for her.
The one sided thing is a pattern that will repeat over and over in your relationship.
I don't mean to shit on your parade in any way. It sounds like you have a nice little relationship going there. I'm sure you know from reading my articles that I personally think you are way too young to be in a serious relationship. You have years before you are even physiologically ready to understand consequences and commitments. If I were you I would be enjoying this time of life and learning all about different people, experiencing different things and going on different dates. Marriage is supposed to be forever. For ever and ever. The same person for the next 30, 40, 50, 60 years. I don't understand how you can possibly decide what you want for the next 60 years if you haven't experienced different possibilities. But hey, that's me.
You said you don't want to look back on this time if you break it off
with her, with regret. Chris, I can pretty much guarantee you that will
not happen. In a few years you will go through that frontal lobe
development. You won't know it as it's happening but when you're 28,
29... 32... 34... you will look back on this time in your life from
such a completely different depth and understanding. You will realize
things about yourself, your needs, and you will see things with such
clarity it will absolutely amaze you. You will not regret breaking it
off with someone that wanted to pressure you into doing something you
were not ready to do. You will appreciate people that respect your
concerns and who are more patient about intelligent decisions.
You should NOT set a time frame. You're right on this.
As for where you are right now, if you really want to stay in this serious committed relationship, then you need to figure out why she is pressuring you so hard to set a time frame.
I'm sure you've figured out that women get wedding-happy. They often want a wedding much more than they want marriage. Another possibility is that she has a sibling or friend who is marrying and she feels the need to keep up or compete.
These of course are piss poor reasons to get married.
There are some other reasons you might want to consider. Does she have a really bad home life and just doesn't want to go home? If she doesn't even want to think about being on her own for a little bit out of college that might indicate her lack of independence, and that's not healthy. Another hard reason to think about is guilt. Sometimes if someone thinks about cheating they feel so guilty that it drives them to make a bigger commitment to their partner to compensate and prove their love.
My advice is to communicate openly and honestly. Try to figure out exactly what's going on in her head. Be a partner and a friend. Help her work through those feelings.
But be very clear with her - you have told her your feelings. You don't want to set a time frame. You're way to young to do so and she isn't respecting your feelings when she dismisses them and insists on things her way. You will help her as a partner but you will not continue unheard and disrespected, and you will not set a time frame. If she can't be partner enough to understand that then how can she possibly think she's partner enough to marry.
I hope you will keep me posted.
The Big Pink - Too Young To Love
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