Last week, Jodie Paterson made an intriguing comment on my post about marriage. She suggested divorce has become ‘normal’ because people get married too soon in the relationship. I found this idea interesting, since people usually point to people getting married at too young an age as a high risk for divorce. While age certainly plays a part, perhaps the length of a courtship has an even larger influence.
Back in my days as a self-proclaimed dating expert, I did a lot of research on dating statistics. Around the web, I still see the same number. The average American couple dates about 2.5 years before proposing marriage. Various articles around the web claim that the likelihood a couple will get married decreases with every year that passes beyond that point. Perhaps that’s why some of the women I’ve met say they have an 18-month limit. If they date a guy for that long and they haven’t at least discussed marriage, the guy is out the door.
Having been in a relationship for 5.5 years, that time limit just seems crazy to me. I don’t understand why people put a time limit on marriage anyway. To me, marriage is one of those things that happens in its own time. Don’t get me wrong; I do want to be married someday. I just don’t feel like I need to be married right now, nor do I don’t want to pressure my boyfriend into a marriage he doesn’t feel ready for, nor do I want to do the same to myself. All in good time. There’s no rush.
There is a lot of pressure to rush, though. My boyfriend and I had been together for less than a year the first time someone asked when we were getting married. Many people I meet seem amazed to hear we are unmarried despite the length of our relationship.
Where does that pressure to get married come from, anyway? Sure, people may casually ask when you’re going to get married and even act surprised if you’ve dated for a long time without getting married. Is that really enough pressure to push people to marry before they’re ready? My parents rarely give voice to their desire to see me married, so maybe I don’t understand the pressure others are under. In other households parents may be louder about their desires to see their children married.
That still doesn’t make sense to me. How does a person make what is supposed to be a permanent, life-long decision based solely on their parents’ opinion? Or is the motivation factor seeing everyone else getting married? For me, going to four wedding over one summer, two of which I was in, was enough for me to happily proclaim I was not ready for marriage. Watching marriage after marriage through a Facebook feed might make you want to join the fray, but that summer was just too much.
All around, marriage is an intense endeavor for anyone at any age. The red flags I hear over and over are age and cohabitation. Now I wonder, are we possible looking at the wrong thing. The internet is full on information on how to get someone to propose, how long you should wait for a proposal and what to do if you don’t get a proposal as soon as you want it. Maybe we’re focusing so much on getting married and not enough on having a good, healthy relationship.
When I think of marriage, I imagine it being little different then dating the same person for life. You still have to work at the relationship, to make each other feel valued and important. If, as soon as the rings are on the fingers, all effort falls away, the relationship is destined to fail. What is the point of dating someone to see if they are ‘the one’ only to marry them and find out it was all a ruse. Furthermore, what’s the point of the ruse. The wedding? If that’s all it’s about, count me out.
The older I get, the happier I am that I’m not married, yet. Marriage is something I want, but not something I intend to rush. Who knows, maybe I’ll avoid all the stress by eloping. That won’t piss off too many people, right?
What do you think about the idea that the divorce rate (which has been steadily falling) is partly due to marrying too soon in a relationship? How long did you date your partner before marriage? If you’re not married, are you on a timeline? Do you have an age you plan to be married by? What will you do if you don’t reach that goal?