Welcome to Ask Evie, our advice column. Readers can submit their questions, and our editors will dish out their best advice!
READER’S QUESTION: “How do I know when I should get married? My mom and dad say I should get married when I have a career in place and my finances figured out, but that will be in four years. I’m dating my long-distance boyfriend and have been for a year. I’d love to get engaged to him by the time my bachelor’s is done, but I’m not sure if they’d approve!
We’re trying to wait to have sex until we get married and don’t want to mess up! We’re trying to go back and forth with options for finances such as him being an officer in the military or us just waiting until I can be a Physician’s Assistant. We’ve also played with the idea that we could get married but have the same kind of relationship, just one with more hotel rooms and no house or apartment to live in yet. We could still go on as usual, but he would be going to law school in my state, and we could see each other a little more often.
I have no idea what to do! Obviously this is at least a year or two off, but we’d have been dating three years then. HELP!"
EVIE’S ADVICE: Marriage is the ultimate commitment that should be approached with the greatest of care. The most important decision you ever make in your life is who you decide to marry. That being said, the saying "love is all you need" is simply untrue. One day the attraction and weak-at-the-knees type of love will fade away, and you're left with a person that you deeply respect, admire, and choose to approach all of life's ups and downs with. And you'll need a lot more than just love. You have to decide early on to build a long-lasting life together. You don't necessarily need a college degree, a home, or your parents' approval to get married. But you do have to think very carefully and critically about the foundation you and your husband are building.
The answer to your question really depends on your character, your future husband's character, and your willingness to go through hard times together to make it work. We think finishing your bachelor's degree first is prudent, but it may not be necessary to delay marriage until after your graduate degree is done. The same goes for a career and finances, they’re great to have in place, sure! But those things are likely going to fluctuate throughout your lives and your relationship.
Another thing to consider, as much as we sometimes hate to admit it, is that our parents really do bring a valuable perspective to the table. They've been married for a long time. They raised you and know you better than you know yourself at times. They've developed a kind of wisdom that only comes with age and experience. This isn't to say that you should automatically do everything they tell you to do, but we would encourage you to take their advice and consider it. Life is long and marriage lasts until the day you die – is it something that you really need to rush into? Your parents may be advising you to delay an engagement because they want you to become more independent and self-sufficient before tying the knot so as to not add more stress to your new marriage.
The most important decision you ever make in your life is who you decide to marry.
It seems like another motivating factor for you is that you’re waiting until your wedding night to have sex. Although it’s understandable to want to have that physical intimacy and enhance your relationship in that way, remember that if this is your future husband, you have the rest of your lives to enjoy sex. If you truly love each other, you will find a way to make it work by building your marriage from the very beginning on a strong foundation.
So we think it boils down to what are you willing to take on? Are you both willing to take the risk of getting married before things shake out and just do whatever it takes to pay the bills and achieve your goals? Or do one or both of you need to have certain things accomplished first, like getting a degree or landing a job, to feel comfortable getting married? There’s no shame either way, you just have to figure out what works for you as a couple.
If both of you are on the same page that you want to get married right after getting your bachelor's degree, then you have two years to start making a plan of how you can get married, set yourself up for success financially, and achieve your post-grad goals. Ultimately, if your parents see that you’re aware of the responsibilities and weight that comes with making a lifelong commitment and they feel that you’ve considered the different scenarios and made a solid plan with your future husband, they will more than likely warm up to the idea and support you in making a decision that brings you joy.
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