Why we're not giving in to wedding peer pressure

October 23 2013 | Guest post by Jes

keep calm and dont get marriedIt's been a busy year for weddings. My partner and I are at that mid-late-twenties age when every couple around us seems to be rushing to the altar and starting families by their thirties. And that's okay.

But my partner and I aren't among them. Sure, we've talked about marriage. We've talked about timelines, about buying a house. We decided that we'd rather be the crazy aunt and uncle than parents. We've agreed that there are some issues between us that we'd like to work out before saying "I do," and that even if we were ready, right this instant, there would still be monumental monetary considerations that we'd have to address.

That decision is a comfortable one for us. It feels right. We live together, and we're building our lives together one brick at a time, climbing over our own personal hurdles as we do so. We're learning what we want from life, and we're doing it together. We don't need to be married right now.

Despite our best efforts, however, that conviction does little to dispel the outside pressure that has been building around us.

This month, two of our drinking buddies are getting hitched. We've been dating for longer than the two of them have known each other. In a month, we'll be attending the wedding of a couple that we set up. I feel like everyone in that ballroom will be judging us: Wondering why we haven't gotten at least engaged yet. Wondering if something might be going wrong in our relationship. Every social gathering, even D&D, is (and has been) dominated by talk of centerpieces, dress styles, and venue prices. It's hard not to feel left out.

And that's just the end of this year. There's already a whole slew of Save the Dates on our bulletin board for Spring of next year.

The social pressure is enormous, though we do realize that we're placing most of it upon our own shoulders. To that end, the boy and I have been trying to work out the pieces of the puzzle that have been bugging us the most:

Will we be able to throw the giant, children-free, drinking-and-dancing reception party that we've both pictured if we wait until all of our friends are starting families? Probably not. Is an awesome party reason enough to make a life commitment? No.

Will it be easier to work through our respective issues if we got married? No. In fact, it might even be more difficult. We're very, very different people, and sometimes finding a point where we would be comfortable making a forever commitment seems out of reach. Doing so before we were ready would be beyond detrimental.

Will the people in our lives look at us oddly if we don't get married before 30? Probably. Does it matter? Not one bit.

Does any of this mean we should rush forward instead of sticking to the commitment we made to build our relationship right now? Hell, no.

The fact of the matter is that it does not matter what other couples are doing (or have done). Our relationship is not dependent on the views of others, nor do we feel that it should ever be. It's about us, about what we want from our lives, and about the slow process of integrating those ideas into one whole.

So what if we're going about building our relationship in a different manner than our friends? We're just not ready to get married right now. And that's okay.

Anyone else feeling the pressure? How are you handling it? What advice would you give to other couples feeling the same thing?

    • I think it's more than whether or not they're ready- it's a question of what they want.

      My now-husband had an interesting view on marriage. He kept saying "I'm not going anywhere." And after several please expand on your feelings and use more words to describe them conversations, we were finally on the same page. His point was that he was already 100% committed to me, and he was found it offensive that people didn't consider our relationship and commitment to each other "real" at that point. We decided to get married, but how we did it and why we did it were largely based on those initial revelations we had about marriage. In the meantime, it was tough feeling surpassed by our friends who went from meeting each other to married in a fraction of the time we had been dating. All of a sudden their relationship was more important? No. (This was based on reactions and perceptions of other people, not our feelings.)

    • So refreshing! My boyfriend and I are in a serious relationship with children involved and literally since 6 months after meeting the pressure of others and comments about getting engaged is crazy. I was recently asked by a good friend if we ever discuss commitment? !?! We are committed but not ready to walk down the isle. With the holidays approaching the winks and comments from friends have very much increased. Its refreshing to read this post.

  1. From this Jessa to a Jes let me tell you, you are not alone. From the sounds of it I'm older than you (36) and in a similar situation except *gasp* we have a child together.

    So we are always knocking the "when are you guys getting married" question around. Our (semi joking) answer: "well, we're having a kid first to see how it goes." Our for real answer is based on both of us coming from divorced homes and making a choice to become a family knowing we may never marry each other: "We've been friends for 20 years, we both take marriage seriously and don't want to end in divorce, we were both in serious long term relationships before we started dating, and we're still dating." (We got pregnant 6 months after we started dating each other).

    My point here is not to bore you with my story but to lend you support and say "Stay strong, its YOUR life and future together not anyone else's, and it can truly take whatever form you want it to."

    Keep doing what you're doing.
    And of course, best of luck for a happy fulfilling life πŸ™‚

    • Can I just say, it's awesome how many other non-Jess's I've run into lately? It almost makes missing out on the monogrammed pencils as a kid worth it! πŸ˜›

      And honestly, thanks for the support. We're in the same boat when it comes to how the boy and I see marriage, and it's nice to hear that we're not the only ones looking at it that way. I sometimes have trouble explaining to people that we're willing to stay the way we are, rather than wind up facing a divorce down the road because we rushed through our current thought process.

      • Precisely Jes.
        (And thanks for digging the nickname. It comes from my British family calling me Jessabelle growing up and over the years it got shortened)

        Anyhoo,
        I have this thing in my heartbrainmind where I only want to get married once, ya know? I mean I'm not so stubborn that if I got married and if it wasn't working I would make us stay in because I said so. But just given both of our familial histories and our own dating histories, we want to make sure it's the right course of action for us as a couple. In our case of course we are committed to each other for the rest of our lives anyway, but that doesn't mean we have to be married to each other….

        Although I'm still looking forward to wearing my grandmother's wedding dress someday πŸ™‚

  2. add a couple years on that "mid-late-twenties" age and you have described exactly my partner and I. However, neither of us have very wide circles of friends, so our list of weddings to attend is more like 1-2 a year – our married friends are very quickly producing babies though! I don't feel much peer pressure – maybe because I have always felt like an outsider in one way or another, even among friends.

    I don't particularly want to own a house ever, and I am still sorting out my career path. I also dislike throwing parties . . . my partner and I are happy as is. I am also lucky to have offbeat parents, though I have encountered some pressure from more distant family members – but the things is, they don't really know me, and they are simply applying their ideas of how a life should be structured (they personally may want to be or currently are married) to me.

    My biggest issue is the word(s) we have on hand to refer to each other. Especially as I get older, I feel more and more awkward using the word "boyfriend" – and how appropriate is "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" for someone who you have been with for more than 10 years? I haven't found a decent replacement though. I don't mind using "partner" in a limited capacity (on this website, on apartment applications), but I don't usually use it in everyday speech. There is just not a good word in English for the relationship we have, and I find that very frustrating.

    • maryr said: "My biggest issue is the word(s) we have on hand to refer to each other…There is just not a good word in English for the relationship we have, and I find that very frustrating"

      Many of my friends in this situation just use Husband/Wife. Even if they aren't married, and this isn't "exactly" true, it fits their level of commitment in a way that's easy for a stranger to understand.

      My coworker says, "My relationship is nobody's business anyway. It's not for them to judge me and my choices…" and I think she is spot on.

      I think you should just make it easy for you, and leave the truth to people who actually care about you…

      Much Love!!

      • I don't think I'd feel comfortable saying husband/wife, even if it does fit the level of commitment. But I like your coworker's perspective! Whichever word one uses, that sounds about right! πŸ™‚

        • Partner worked for the gay community when they didn't feel allowed to use husband or wife. Now that more of them are using the traditional terms, I see no reason why the unmarried but committed heterosexuals of the world can't use partner. Certainly makes more sense than boyfriend or girlfriend which are words deliberately designed to sound juvenile and not-too-serious.

      • My brother and his partner use husband/wife too even though they're not married. They got engaged about 7 years ago, but decided to put the money towards having children instead.

    • I know what you mean about family members: My mom's side of the family is large, Catholic, and very opinionated. Since all of my (many) cousins have gotten married in order thus far, they seem to think that it should be my turn…regardless of me and the boy's feelings on the matter. I'm lucky enough to have parents who are willing to act as a buffer between us and that mentality at family gatherings (especially once the aunts get into the wine).

    • I'm fond of the term "significant other" to describe any close romantic relationship. You can use it for just about any relationship status (dating, domestic partnership, marriage, etc.) and it is gender neutral.

    • I still call my husband my sweetheart or my honey more often than not. He might get called my husband at initial introductions but it's usually honey from there on out. πŸ™‚ Years of dating boys, girls, and non-of-the-aboves drove that habit home.

    • I always felt like "partner" sounded like I was trying way to hard to sound grown up.

      I like "beaux", but that only works if your SO is a man (I suppose?).

      "Other-half" or "better-half" (the former more so than the latter) are very common in Australia for either sex in any stage of a romantic relationship from teenagers that've been together more than two months to elderly couples who've been married 70 years. "Missus" is another one here, usually used to describe the woman in a hetro relationship, but I've also heard it used in same-sex relationships, and occasionally to describe the man in a hetro relationship in which the woman "wears the pants" so to speak.

    • THIS. Or what do you call your long-term partner's parents in a way that doesn't confuse the living daylights out of everyone? Once I got frustrated trying to explain and just said, "My mom and my sister," when referring to my partner's mom and sister, and then his sister said something shortly thereafter about, "Well, have you SEEN my brother?" and the looks of horror on the hapless bystander's face as they tried to figure out if I was sleeping with MY brother were hilarious to behold. πŸ™‚

  3. Thank you for posting this.

    As one of those people who got engaged on their third date (we'd known each other for seven years, it wasn't *that* weird) this isn't a problem I've ever had to face. But! You did give me something to forward to a dear friend who is *constantly* harassing another pair in our group about when they are getting married. It's awkward as hell and astoundingly rude.

    "We live together, and we're building our lives together one brick at a time, climbing over our own personal hurdles as we do so. We're learning what we want from life, and we're doing it together. We don't need to be married right now." That about sums it up.

  4. I had a very similar experience before getting married and am having a similar one now in the kid department.

    My husband and I have been married for 2 years, but we have been together for 8. We got engaged after two years of "dating" and didn't get married for another 4 for a lot of very good reasons, not the least of which is that we were long-distance for most of our pre-marriage relationship. I used to tell people that we might not like each other–we'd have to see when we were finally in the same place! πŸ™‚

    All of that is say that, in addition to being at the age (late 20s) when everyone around us starting to have kids, we've also been together a long time, which makes other people think we should be jumping right on the kid wagon.

    What I find so bothersome about the "peer pressure" you face on the marriage front, and that I similarly (sometimes) feel on the kid front, is the assumption that anyone outside of your relationship can really understand the nuances of that relationship. I don't presume to know how anyone of my friends (or even sister) exist/interact/relate in their relationships and am bothered by those who assume they know all about what would be best for ours. I am confident in my ability (most of the time) to assess my own relationship and to make decisions with my husband. I cannot begin to imagine what can/does/should work for anyone else.

    Not to mention the issue with completely discounting that decisions to not get married or to not have children are every bit as valid and should be respected at the same level as the more "traditional" decisions are.

    • See, I found it to be the opposite reason with a long distance relationship. I often found myself saying "Well, the distance wouldn't be worth it if we didn't like each other."
      And in all seriousness, long distance made us better communicators than I think we would have been otherwise since it was something we had to prioritize with the phone being our primary method of contact.

      • I absolutely agree that the LDR made us much better communicators–when all you have is conversation, you talk about EVERYTHING. They "we don't know if we like each other" was genuinely a joke, always.

    • "the assumption that anyone outside of your relationship can really understand the nuances of that relationship"

      That's one of the biggest things that bothers me. Since when did such personal decisions need to be judged before the people in our lives (family, friends, etc.) will agree to support us?

    • We, too, had the 'when are you getting married' peer pressure. Now that we are, it has seamlessly switched to the 'when are you having kids' pressure.

      What I find mind boggling about this is not only the intrusiveness and underlying judgement of these questions. It is also potentially incredibly hurtful. I mean, most of the people who ask don't know us well enough to know that apart from the fact that we've not felt the urge to have any, there are also health reasons for our choice not to have children.

      With the wedding question: who knows what the couple you're asking this is going through? I find these kinds of assumptions and expectations about other people's lives incredibly rude.

  5. My partner and I were together 14 years and bought a house before getting married. We both had things to work through and it just wasn't the right time before that. Kudos to you for sticking to your own timeline! And further along in your friends' planning processes, they'll appreciate having a someone who can talk about something other than wedding stuff.

  6. My boyfriend and I have alternated between "lets just do it" to "why would we ever", and we've been everywhere in between. It's made me realize a few things. First, there's no better sign than we shouldn't do it than our ever-changing attitudes toward marriage. Two, that I love our relationship exactly as it is. And third that I've stopped feeling like marriage is an inevitability or a relationship milestone that must be crossed. The more I've started viewing marriage as an option, not a necessity, the more I've been able to shrug off any internal or external naysaying. When people ask when we're getting married, I honestly answer "We don't feel like we need to." It's pretty freeing.

  7. My oldest brother and his partner have been together for about 10 years. They got engaged after 3, but decided that spending the money on children was more important for them (they had to do IVF).
    Next brother and his wife were together for 12 years before they got married (11 before they got engaged!).
    My FH's aunt has never been married, she's in her 70s and she's been with her partner for 40 years.

    It's really such a personal decision and matters not one whit what other people think!

  8. This was the biggest barrier to me to getting married: that it would reinforce everybody's idea that there is a single trajectory to relationships, and that the pinnacle of that trajectory is marriage. We got married anyway, but it still makes me so sad that the question of not getting married is always about "not yet" – when "marriage is not the right relationship for us" is a totally legitimate answer. Hope you are able to continue to be strong and committed to what is right for YOU!!

  9. I'm so glad and grateful you posted this. My manfriend and I are 11 years apart and could. not. be. more different… thus, we're in no rush to commit to forever. While we talk freely about a future together, we have a lot to iron out as a partnership, even after being together for over 4 years. Plus, as individuals we're each working on some serious self-maintenance too.

    We're constantly on the defense against the pressure to get engaged, and my parents are asked 'what's taking her so long?" just as often! I'm so thankful that my own family is so supportive of our choices to live our lives and build our relationship in ways that work for us, even if those choices raise more than a few brows. (For example, after 2 years of living together and deciding we do better with personal space, we now live in separate houses on the same property – I rent the guesthouse on the same lot as his 'main' house, and could NOT be happier with the arrangement! We get the perks of both being 'neighbors', and living alone.)

    Everything you wrote was so on-point, and well articulated to boot – I nodded vigorously in agreement the whole time. Good for you for knowing what's best for you, and not letting something as silly as 'popular opinion' sway you when it comes to the very personal choices you make for your relationship and your future. No one understands what a relationship needs better than the people in it.

  10. YEAH! I had to pump my fist in the air by the end of this article. In short: I feel ya. About all of it.
    (Although my partner and I live in different states right now, which is a handy excuse. "Oh, we'll think about getting married when we live in the same state, haha" tends to mollify friends and relatives.)

  11. When you get married, all that "You should get married" pressure, real or imagined, becomes "You should have kids" pressure. Or perhaps "You should buy a house" pressure. You already feel good about your decisions, it seems, so you're already doing awesome; but if you feel yourself wavering, I feel like you deserve to know, the pressure will only change, not decrease.

    Also, as someone who DID SO after turning 30, I want to point out that you absolutely CAN have a fabulous child-free celebration, even if a bunch of your friends have had babies by then. It is YOUR party, after all. You can be super-awesome and pay someone to watch all the kids in a nearby-but-not-adjacent place (a little tricky to pull off, perhaps, but I'm sure it's been done), or you can just make your wishes known and let people arrange their own childcare. (We did the second. It was great.)

    • I love the idea of hiring someone to take care of your friends' kids at your wedding, especially if you have lots of people with kids. A lot of venues have the room for a kids' room. You could probably even look into having a local pre-school or day care center host your kids' party while the adults rock out down the street. As a kid, I hated going to weddings. All the adult parties were boring.

    • But please be clear in making your wishes known! Our friends didn't make it to a wedding once because it wasn't made clear that children weren't okay until it was a little too late to find childcare (evening weddings are likely to be assumed to be childfree due to bedtimes, but this was an afternoon wedding).

    • At least for the "You should have kids"/"When are you having kids" pressure we have a firm, definite response. An unwavering "no" tends to make the people asking uncomfortable enough to quiet down (we've actually gotten this question, given this response, and smiled gracefully as the questioner slunk off into the sunset).

      As for houses; we know where we want to buy and what we want to buy. Truly, the only issue keeping us from doing so right this instance is money, which works even better than a firm, unwavering "no" to make people uncomfortable when they pry into your personal business.

      The problem with weddings is that everyone assumes that you should be doing it NOW, and a response of "not yet" or "we're not ready" leads to more personal questions, rather than discouraging that prying.

  12. This was pretty interesting and refreshing to read. I feel like I have the opposite problem. Mid-late twenties, got engaged 6 months after we started dating, married 6 months after that. We'd barely met each other in college but didn't really know each other until we bumped into each other at an auto shop a few years out of school. Most people were pretty ok about the dating to marriage timeline, but some were really un-supportive (like my MIL "you can still change your mind") or made it clear that "I would NEVER do that".
    The really fun part is that we just celebrated our 1st anniversary and are announcing our impending Spud in 6 months. Spud was planned, but I hardly want to tell people that, since some are having a very hard time adjusting to that. I wonder if even the people who haven't made blatantly negative comments are judging us a little in their heads.
    I hate to think that our friends who have been dating for many years think that we'd be judging them. I think that the important thing to remember is that everyone should do what works for them and makes them happy.
    We're really happy with our decisions, and we hope that our friends are happy with theirs. BTW, I'd totally find a sitter for my kid(s) to spend an adult evening celebrating with dear friends.

  13. I can sympathize. My boyfriend and I are the only ones in our group not married, and I am the only one of my coworkers not married. The worst part is almost every couple in our group is pregnant…and so are we! And I feel sometimes like we are the inferior couple. One of our friends said once right after we announced we were expecting is we "didn't count." What does that MEAN? WeCONSTANTLY get the "ZOMG WHEN'S THE BIG DAAAAY?!" or "YOU'RE GOING ON VACATION THIS WEEKEND HE IS OBVIOUSLY GOING TO PROPOSE TO YOU!" and then when we come back, everyone is disappointed there is no ring…I hear about it constantly. I feel like they, as well as strangers and my family, just don't take us seriously. Nothing is real or official yet until we are legally married. I often get remarks like "I hope he doesn't leave you now that you're pregnant" or "Well, you never know, you may end up single and raising that kid by yourself!" and I just don't know why. We are not any less together than our friends who have been married for a year, or our friends who have been married for ten. I would love to get married some day, and while we talk about it fairly often, he hasn't proposed yet, and that is totally fine. There is no timeline here. Good for you guys for doing your own thing. Who cares what everyone else thinks, really?

    • You and your boyfriend's child conceived out of love "doesn't count"?

      Whoaaa. I feel for you. Well, to me you do count and I wish you and your SO the best of luck with the preganancy, married or not.

    • Kay, oh you are so describing the past couple years for me/us. I wish I could say the questions stop after your child arrives…but it doesn't. Everyone assumes we are unhappy because we're not married. So lame.

      Anyhoo, just wanted to throw some cyber support because its like the last thing you need to be dealing with, feeling, thinking about while bringing a human into this world. I know for me, the questions stopped bothering me once I had my daughter. I don't have time for that πŸ™‚ Good luck with your upcoming birth!

      • And a second daaw thank you to you too πŸ™‚ It's good to know you survived it. I can't believe people have the nerve to assume motivations in other people's lives, but you're totally right – who has time to worry about that?

    • Wow, I can't believe people say stuff like that to you. Time to practice a blank stare, and a calm, "I can't believe you just said that to me."

  14. "This month, two of our drinking buddies are getting hitched. We've been dating for longer than the two of them have known each other. In a month, we'll be attending the wedding of a couple that we set up. I feel like everyone in that ballroom will be judging us: Wondering why we haven't gotten at least engaged yet. Wondering if something might be going wrong in our relationship."

    AHHHH THIS.

    Also, I have a dear friend who has recently taken to bringing it up pretty much every time she hangs out with us. It's SO AWK and unfortunately it's totally from a place of OMG she loves us so much and we're her favorite couple so when are we getting married?! Which is sweet, but just ugh, not your business.

    For us it's kind of a money thing, kind of a why-would-we-be-in-a-hurry thing, and kind of just dreading the logistics that will be involved since my whole family lives in St. Paul, his whole family lives in Pittsburgh, we live in Tulsa, his mom doesn't fly, and I'm sure my grandma will have a conniption if I don't get married in the Twin Cities. But at the same time I do feel a little back-of-my-mind sense of rush only because he's 8 years older than me, it'd be nice to be married for a while before having kids, but at the same time I don't want him to be in his 60s when our kids are in high school.

    Ugh, life! But I guess all of these are good problems to have… I'm happy to get to live with my best friend who also happens to be super sexy πŸ™‚

  15. My partner and I are in a similar situation. I'm in my early 30s and he is just barely hanging on to his late 30s. We've been together for a couple years, we're happy and feel that we've struck the right balance for our relationship. That means we talk daily, but keep separate living arrangements and don't really see each other more than a couple of times a week. We rarely spend the night together, as a matter of fact I think it's only happened once this year. Some people would look at those circumstances and think that we aren't very close or very committed to each other, but most of the people who know us well see us as one of those couples that is just perfect for each other. So there is a lot of pressure to "move forward" in the relationship. Friends pressure us to get an apartment together. His mother is always dropping hints that we should marry. My mother worries that if we do stay together in the long term I'll be passing up on the opportunity to be married at all and that I will regret it.

    The funny thing is that this is the happiest and healthiest relationship I've had in my life and I'm loath to change the things that actually make us work so well. I have all the freedom and autonomy I could ever wish for, plus I have a solid support foundation with him if there is ever anything I need. And he has the same from me. It's just the sort of lifestyle we live. We're both rather introverted and desperately need the time and space to ourselves to be able to recharge from life in general. And we both live rather busy lifestyles that just don't leave much time to spend actually in each other's company. What results is that our date nights feel like some delicious indulgence of being able to slow down for a few hours and enjoy just being together cooking, talking, and working on mutual projects. I couldn't love him more and I would happily spend the rest of my life like this. Granted, I always wish I could see him more, but I feel like that's part of what makes us so grateful for our time together in the first place; it feels like a special treat.

  16. Mid to late twenties here, unmarried and in a relationship of 10 years duration. My reply when bugged (and I have just started a new job so I am getting it a lot) is just no. If they ask why I say we just don't care, we are not religous so whats the point, we have been together for over ten years. That piece of paper isn't going to cement our relationship. Because truth is, I don't care, I just don't personally think there is any point to marriage, as an Australian I am considered part of a defacto couple and have all of the same benefits as any married couple so there is no legal benefits to getting married either. And there is nothing wrong with that, if people want to get their noses out of joint over our relationship that is their problem, if a friend tries to make out our relationship is somehow less serious then they are no true friend. Marriage and relationships are about the couple involved and nobody else.

    • I love this!! its so hard for ppl to believe me when I said I don't care, even those closest to me thought I must secretly care. when we announced we were eloping for a small court house wedding the flood of wedding questions was so intense what kind of flowers what kind of dress… I still don't care I still don't want flowers and a white dress. its exactly as I have said it is yet they feel so confused how much more clear can I make it I don't care about weddings to me they're a giant waste of money and getting married didn't change that lol to each their own but let me be me lol

  17. I'm so glad I found this thread! I'm late-twenties and have been with the BF for almost six years with no plans to get married anytime soon. We have also been to multiple weddings (on both sides) in the past two years so I've gotten the "when are you getting married?" question so many times that I kept getting annoyed and started dreading it (BF only heard it once, lucky!)

    Thank you for all the good ideas for replies! We're going to another wedding in a month so we will most likely have to use a few πŸ˜€

  18. this is another example of why this site saved me( too bad I didn't find it until recently) ! my partner and I take things slow. being a child of not only a broken home but all my relatives got divorced some remarried and divorced again, I wanted to make sure this was the real thing. while everyone around us was getting engaged after dating 2 yrs we were happily unengaged at nearly a decade together. the weird part is i'm always so self confident i'm fat and offbeat and I love it I don't fit in and I don't want to but when it came to why aren't you married my self confidence disappears and I became smaller and smaller trying to explain my various reasons to take our time. the fact that in my family marriage isn't a declaration of love but rather a public announcement that you plan to have a baby ASAP further confused the issue often leading to my explaining my childfree choice when asked about a wedding. in the end I found this site and realized relationship labels are our choice and mean very little when compared to the actual day to day relationship. we did try the knot but in a courthouse elopement to celebrate our ten yr anniversary, ppl ask how is married life?…the same as before, labels don't change who we are.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.