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How sure should I be before I say yes?
April 10, 2007 8:07 PM   Subscribe

How sure should I be before accepting a marriage proposal?

Through various clues and hints, I've gathered that my boyfriend plans to propose to me upon my graduation from college next month. We've been together 3 years, and have talked about marriage for the past year, so this isn't any huge surprise. I am constantly wavering between happiness and doubt, though, and while I feel some of that is normal "cold feet," how do I know I'm making the right decision? I don't want to end up divorced in a few years.

He really is a good person, and he treats me much better than any man I've ever known. There are no huge red flags, like drinking or violence. However, we approach life in very different ways. My main concern is our personality differences: he's sloppy, spontaneous, procrastinating, forgetful, and distant when he's stressed; I'm a neat freak, detail oriented, anxiety-prone, and need a lot of affection/attention. We both come from abusive backgrounds and are working through our baggage. We don't fight a lot (every other week), but there seems to be a fairly consistent level of annoyance/tension, at least on my part, and sometimes I seriously wonder if I can accept him as he is. Sometimes the freedom of singlehood seems like a siren's song.

It's worth noting that this is my first long-term relationship, and the longest lasting he's had. Given that, plus an "interesting" family history, I don't have much of a yardstick for "normal."

Since he will most likely be proposing in front of friends and family, if I'm not going to accept I definitely want to tell him beforehand (he hasn't bought the ring yet, AFAIK). I don't want to leave him; I'm just not sure I am ready to commit.

Throwaway account: shouldisayyes@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (63 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not sure about this one.

My main concern is our personality differences: he's sloppy, spontaneous, procrastinating, forgetful, and distant when he's stressed; I'm a neat freak, detail oriented, anxiety-prone, and need a lot of affection/attention.

That was me and my ex. I wouldn't underestimate how significant your differences are.

We don't fight a lot (every other week), but there seems to be a fairly consistent level of annoyance/tension, at least on my part, and sometimes I seriously wonder if I can accept him as he is. Sometimes the freedom of singlehood seems like a siren's song.

Hmm. That sounds like a lot of fighting to me. (The aforementioned ex and I fought maybe twice in two years.) The constant annoyance with him and desire to be single seem to be red flags as well...
posted by danb at 8:18 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Every other week" IS fighting a lot. Move on.
posted by notsnot at 8:18 PM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


How sure should I be before accepting a marriage proposal?


Sure enough not to ask strangers on the internet for their opinion?
posted by falconred at 8:22 PM on April 10, 2007 [6 favorites]


Advice stolen from an episode of Frasier: Flip a coin and catch it in your hand without looking at it; heads you marry, tails you don't. Pause a second. What's your gut reaction? Are you rooting for heads or tails?
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:22 PM on April 10, 2007 [4 favorites]


• Point A: You're asking on the green, rather than bringing this up with your BF
+
• Point B: Nowhere in your post do you mention loving him

• Conclusion: You're not ready for this, at least not with him
posted by rob511 at 8:22 PM on April 10, 2007


From what I've observed on AskMe, pretty much the majority of the responses you see will be that you're too young/inexperienced to get married. And, indeed, you don't really sound that happy in this relationship. Can you picture yourself getting old with this boy if he never changes his sloppy ways? It kind of sounds like you're writing this post in a negative mood; I imagine there are plenty of times when you can't imagine life without him and don't want to. Right?

As someone who's about the same age, and in the same situation (first serious relationship, moving toward marriage, thinking yes about 75% of the time and aaaah what am I doing I'm 21 the other 25%) I hope the responses will be a little more widely varied. It seems like your question is along the lines of "How crazy can my future spouse drive me for our marriage to be workable?" This is the question I'm dealing with, anyway, and admittedly the only thing for it is wider experience. But I think what I have going on now is really special, you know? I don't want it to go away because I have totally unrealistic expectations of how well I could possibly get along with anyone.

In any case, the question-answerers around here do seem to lean toward not getting married until you've seen the world, but there are plenty of people who get married young and do great, and only you and your man can figure out if you're going to be such a pair. I can't really give you any advice because I've been thinking the same question myself, but I look forward to the responses you get.

And on preview, if you decide to do that coinflip thing, do it several times over several weeks in several different moods before you let it affect you.
posted by crinklebat at 8:24 PM on April 10, 2007


If you're not sure you should accept, you shouldn't. Way too many people get married when they're not sure.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:25 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't tell you what to do, but I'll make a couple observations...
One is that any disagreement you'd call a "fight" should be pretty infrequent - every other week is an awful lot. Have you lived together? The personality differences you describe seem like the makings of terrible roommates, nevermind spouses. Keep in mind that every aspect of daily life is magnified once you're married - that thing that just kinda irks you now is gonna bug the hell out of you after it happens every day for five years.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:25 PM on April 10, 2007


fairly consistent level of annoyance/tension, at least on my part

That is a massive red flag. So is

We don't fight a lot (every other week)

That is a lot. I can count on one hand the number of fights my husband and I have had and we've been together 10 years.
To answer your opening question, you should be really sure, way surer than you are. This is such a pat answer, but counseling might help you decide whether you want to put up with his approach to things. It's not that a different approach is always bad, it's that his approach sounds kind of shitty or at least immature. Also, any sane person would flip out after the thousandth time he forgets to pay the bills or loses his car keys again. You need to figure out if you want to deal with that forever (personally, I would not).
posted by boomchicka at 8:27 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


You are going to have to bring this up. Let him know you where you are at. That is, part wanting to and part not wanting to.

This is really a question of frustration tolerance--can you increase it? Great marriages are all about it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:27 PM on April 10, 2007


Depends on how big a stigma you place upon divorce. Differences can actually be very good for a relationship. Every other week does sound pretty often for fighting, but at what level of intensity are they, and are you and he people that handle such things well?
At this point, if he is thinking marriage it is a make or break point for the relationship, if you are going to stay in the relationship why not get married. Else, move on.
posted by edgeways at 8:27 PM on April 10, 2007


keep in mind that there's never a "right time" to get married / have children / go on your dream vacation / make a big life change.
posted by sian at 8:30 PM on April 10, 2007


My gut reaction is to say that if you have to ask Metafilter, you shouldn't. Talk to your friends, the people who know you best; they'll have a better sense of how the crazy and the happy this guy makes you.

Nonetheless, I will offer this: I got married right after college; we grew into rather different people over the next few years and are no longer together. I think most people grow in these years--ask yourself if you'll be able to grow with each other and adapt to each other.
posted by stevis23 at 8:32 PM on April 10, 2007


The best piece of advice my father gave me, after finding out that I was getting married and asking me serious questions about it, was simply this:

"If I, or someone else, could talk you out of it, you wouldn't be ready for it."

If a group of unknown MeFites can potentially talk you out of it - especially since this potential is large enough that you thought to ask - you're not ready, plain and simple.

The problems you highlight in your question tell the tale. I'm not saying bail on the guy, but don't ask us - talk to him. Either tell him now, or wait until he asks. (I'm going to suggest now, though - if my wife had thought I was going to ask her, had issues and waited for me to put my heart out there and reply "maybe"...I would have been WAY WAY hurt. YMMV, though.)
posted by plaidrabbit at 8:33 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


This much is obviously true: You *might* want to marry him, but you're not sure.

Don't wait until he puts you on the spot. Before he gets the chance, tell him that you *might* want to marry him some day, but you're not sure. Just make sure he doesn't interpret it as a break-up: You might want to marry him some day, but you want to spend more time together to be sure.

After all, that's the truth, isn't it?
posted by mikeand1 at 8:38 PM on April 10, 2007


The "fairly consistent level of annoyance/tension" sets off my warning bells a little. It's not that two people with different approaches to life can't have a happy relationship. They can, but I think each person has to truly accept the other just the way they are without any deep lingering desire to change them. If you're continually irritated with him now, what makes you think that will suddenly change? You guys may totally be able to work through those differences, but I can't help but think it would be better to do it before a wedding rather than after.

And I guess it depends on whether by fight you mean little disagreement or tiff, or if you mean actual raised voices argument, but once every other week sounds like a lot to me. I really think you guys might want to deal with building a solid foundation for the relationship and how happy you are in it before you take it to the next level.
posted by mostlymartha at 8:39 PM on April 10, 2007


if you're looking for approval to say no, you clearly have it.

if you *need* approval to say no, you aren't ready for marriage, period. i don't say that to be mean, it's just that you aren't sure enough about your own wants to make that kind of decision. that's not unusual for someone of your age.

what strikes me most is that you didn't mention a single thing that you actually like about him. i'm sure he has many redeeming qualities, but it sounds like he doesn't make you happy. when i was your age, i often enjoyed the idea of the boyfriend rather than the boy himself. it's a part of being young, and growing, and learning about yourself. i thought i would marry one of them, but i didn't, and although i still think of him fondly and didn't marry anyone else, i'm glad he's not my husband.

you should let him know your feelings. i wouldn't just come out and say, "i think you're going to ask me to marry you and i have my doubts" because that will probably end the relationship immediately. (which may not be a bad thing--if you aren't ready to commit after 3 years, it's probably time to move on.) but if you're unwilling to confront that possibility, at least find or engineer an appropriate time where you can mention that you're not wanting to get married for a long time. he can then do what he wants with that information.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:40 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, every other week sounds like a lot, especially if you guys haven't been in flux (moving, getting new jobs, etc) in the past 3 years.

Forgive me for being a bit presumptuous, but it sounds like you're posting to make sure that all the anonymous strangers who reply think it's a bad idea, and that our replies will confirm what you already think deep down.

Just to be contrarian, I'm going to tell you to get over your cold feet, and commit to him. This is a man you've invested three years in, and he respects and loves you enough to make the grand gesture of proposing in front of your family, and he wants to build a future with you! Embrace it.
.
.
.
.
Okay, how did that feel? Ungood? Welp, then you know what you need to do.
posted by universal_qlc at 8:40 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whether "every other week" is a lot, really depends on what she means by "fights."

I don't think a minor argument, where nobody yells, and tempers cool fairly quickly, is a fight.

Any disagreement involving yelling, tears, things getting thrown, etc., would count as fight.

A union of two intelligent, assertive people is bound to have a fair amount of arguing. Arguing is fine --- fighting is not.
posted by jayder at 8:46 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


he's sloppy, spontaneous, procrastinating, forgetful, and distant when he's stressed

This sounds like me. If my wife were answering this question, she would probably urge you to think very, very carefully about whether you want to commit to him for life. I'm hell to live with.
posted by jayder at 8:48 PM on April 10, 2007


When you say that you're just about to graduate from college, that makes me really want to tell you to wait. Why not live together for a year or two AFTER college? "Real" life is a lot different from college and you might be more comfortable making this decision later.
posted by k8t at 8:50 PM on April 10, 2007


Talk with him in very frank and open terms about your concerns. It is hard to do, awkward, and nerve-wracking. It will also tell you a great deal about how healthy your relationship is, and if he is feeling any of the same reservations.

Before I proposed to her, my wife and I sought out the opinions of people who knew us well, and who were in the position we hoped to attain--happy, long-lasting marriage. Their advice was, and continues to be, invaluable.

As a couple of commenters have mentioned above, marriage magnifies your differences. If you have any significant doubts now, they will become major issues within a couple of years of married life. This is not to say you cannot overcome these challenges, but you will have a miserable time together until you do, or your marriage breaks up.

Perhaps you could read a book together that would help you clarify where your relationship is leading? If you would like, I'd be happy to suggest a couple that have been helpful in my marriage. My email address is in my profile.

Think carefully. Marriage is wonderful, terrible, glorious, frustrating, confining and liberating. Marriage is work. It would be a shame to enter into such an important relationship with any truly significant doubts about your compatibility.
posted by dunderhead at 8:51 PM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


We don't fight a lot (every other week), but there seems to be a fairly consistent level of annoyance/tension, at least on my part, and sometimes I seriously wonder if I can accept him as he is. Sometimes the freedom of singlehood seems like a siren's song.

Tell him now that you are not ready to get married anytime soon. Then dump him a few months later. You are not ready.
posted by LarryC at 8:58 PM on April 10, 2007


Take a minute to read your post again and count the number of times that you say that you love your partner. None. All of the adjectives you use are either negative or resentful. You owe it to your partner to come clean and communicate your feelings in an honest way.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 8:58 PM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


What cerebus said: Way too many people get married when they're not sure
posted by growabrain at 8:59 PM on April 10, 2007


Also, don't assume that you're doing him a favor by not telling him how you feel. It will come out eventually and the longer you wait, the uglier it will be.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 9:02 PM on April 10, 2007


I agree with many of the responses that note your post is not positive about your relationship.

However, if are not sure you want to break up just yet, then don't. Assuming you went to college straight out of high school, you are still pretty young. Give yourself time to figure this out. Have a frank talk and tell him that you are not ready to entertain a proposal. When he asks why, list all the reasons you posted.
If you can't have that tough conversation yet, then your relationship is either broken or not mature enough for marriage. If you can, then you'll likely make some progress on some tough issues.

Marriage is not something that should be taken lightly. It is much more serious than living together or dating for 3 years. You are doing the right thing by asking these questions of yourself.
posted by about_time at 9:10 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


The year after my university boyfriend's cohort graduated, we went to 6 weddings. The year after that, we supported 3 couples (to varying degrees) through their divorces.

The thing I learned in that second year was that a lot of people have this "life script" in their minds. It goes something like: go to college, 1-2 years dating, meet someone serious, move in together for final year. Graduate, get married. Buy a car, start career. Buy a house. Have kids.

That's fine, and it works for lots of people. But a bunch of people, some time between getting married and having kids, start to question where the heck they got this script from and why they are following it. Some of those people work it through, some of them gracefully change their script, and some of them cheat on their spouse but are too chicken to admit it so they make their spouse miserable enough so the spouse will dump them all the while faking "working on it" in therapy. Okay, well, that last one was a pretty specific example, but you get the picture.

If you come from a not-so-good family it can be really hard to figure "normal" out. Or, not even "normal," just "functional." And here's this script floating around in everyone's head, and it seems like a good, solid model on which to build an adult life--one that you don't have very good training for. And there aren't a lot of equally obvious alternative models out there, so it's hard to compare and figure out.

The thing you have to do is ask yourself why you are thinking about getting married: why now, why him? Ask yourself if you have been talking about it because it seems like the next logical step in your relationship, or because it has some other purpose or meaning for you. I'm not saying that will work for sure for you, but when I started thinking about these "next stage" or "next step" types of things as belonging to a script, it helped me to weigh my personal investment against the generalized feelings about what I "should" do.



A note on fighting:

Two weeks is often, and it's a concern, but it isn't an automatic red flag. My current partner and I have a great relationship, but at the beginning was rocky. We also both came from abusive families, and had few skills for negotiating the stress of living together. What kept me invested, though, was our mutual willingness to try to improve. There were a few years of figuring out communication both when angry and when not angry, but we really worked at what our triggers were, and what we needed from each other when we're angry (I want to be talked to, he wants to be left alone. Once we figured that out, things got much better).

I give you these details because I think that things might get a little skewed by all the not-screwed-up people posting. Two weeks is a lot, but it's workable. For what it's worth, though, I would not have even considered marrying him before we got the fighting worked out. Now, if it was important to him I'd do it in a heartbeat, no question.
posted by carmen at 9:11 PM on April 10, 2007 [8 favorites]


I haven't got anything to say about your dilemma, but I do want to make a suggestion.

If you decide you would say no to a proposal, make sure he knows. Don't let him ask and then say no. That would be mean.
posted by robcorr at 9:16 PM on April 10, 2007


Advice my dad gave me? "If you have to think about that much, it's probably not right for you."

Advice from me? Having held onto my first long-term relationship far longer than I should have for fear of being alone, fear of letting go of history, etc., I can relate to your worries. While you can romanticize your differences ("He's my other half," "We complete each other"), only you know in your heart of hearts if you love him. Think about what you want in life. What you want for your future, what you want to have accomplished when you're 80. Is there a person by your side? Is it him? Or could it be anyone? DOES THE SCENARIO NOT WORK IF IT'S NOT HIM?

It's easy to want to hang onto someone for fear of never finding what you have again. But do you want to settle with something that's 75% right when somewhere out there, there's someone for you that's 100% right? Don't sell yourself short, because inevitably, the time you spend alone, ESPECIALLY time after graduation (because nothing is more scary or empowering) is going to be the most valuable time. You can't expect to know what you want from someone else until you know yourself, after all.
posted by messylissa at 9:18 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here is my armchair analysis of your relationship, based on nothing more than what you have written.

You love your guy. You love having someone to come home to. You love having someone who treats you nice, and you love having someone who knows you very, very well. I just don't think that you're in love with him.

I don't want to leave him; I'm just not sure I am ready to commit.

I was in a relationship with someone who said/thought things like this, and what she really meant was "I know deep down inside that I am not ever going to be able to married to this person, but they treat me real good and I want that to last as long as possible." Think long and hard about it. Is your reason for wanting to not have him propose really so that you can get convinced that you want to be married to him? Or is it just that you want to get as much out of this relationship as you can? If it's closer to the second than the first, open yourself to the possibility of just ending the relationship.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:24 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just want to say: No matter what you decide, talk it over with him, now.

Good communication is THE number one factor in any successful relationship. Regardless of whether you marry him, you absolutely, positively should talk about this with him.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:30 PM on April 10, 2007


Predictably, I will say that there are a few things that point to not getting married yet.

1. You're young. On the young side to be getting married. Especially if you have been in college rather than the working world -- lots of things will change for you over the next 3 or so years.

2. You've been together for a fairly long time, which can exaggerate your level of compatibility. There are private jokes that only you and he understand, etc. This is good, but it makes it easy to overlook some basic incompatibilities (eg different temperaments). All I mean by this is, it's possible to develop this type of compatibility -- where you know all the same jokes, etc -- with others. Don't inflate the uniqueness of this part of your relationship (don't think "nobody else could ever understand me like this!").

3. This is your first long term relationship. You are wondering about what it would be like to date others, or to be single as an adult. It's very natural for college relationships to end shortly after college, and in almost every case I have known, this was a good thing. It's a natural break point in people's lives, as they move on to the next phase. I'm not saying you will break up with him, but I'm saying it sounds like you want that option and it's very reasonable for you to want it -- because honestly, you're very young.

I would say, tell him that you don't want to get married yet. That you might be open to it in a few years, but you want to be honest with him, and you can't make that kind of commitment yet.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:31 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


That is, I think 23skidoo might be right. And if you were 40, I would say "you have a good thing here, hang on to it". But you're in your early 20s -- you have a lot of living to do before you decide you want to commit to the comfortable thing.

(And keep in mind, if you do end up breaking up and then dating other men: being nice is the bare minimum someone has to do to qualify to date you. There are a lot of nice men out there. Don't waste time dating people who aren't at least good and kind to you.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:36 PM on April 10, 2007


There's a lot of good and varied advice here, and without getting a lot into your relationship, my advice would be to confront your boyfriend and tell him about what you think he's planning to do. Tell him you're not sure, but in the case he's planning to propose soon, could he give you both some more time to talk things out?

Marriage isn't something to go lightly into, and being proposed to in front of a lot of people would certainly put you on the spot.

If you're not sure about getting married, then don't. If you're not sure about breaking up, then don't. Give yourself some time to think things out. Graduating from college will certainly open up some new perspectives for you and your boyfriend.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:41 PM on April 10, 2007


How sure should I be before accepting a marriage proposal?

Imagine if I came to you and said, "I think I want to marry him. I mean, I'm not sure. I think I do. I know, I'll ask a bunch of Internet strangers for their opinion..."

Sounds silly, doesn't it? You'd probably tell that person, maybe you should think this over some more...
posted by frogan at 10:00 PM on April 10, 2007


Think about it this way - what's the point of getting married to this guy? If it's because it seems to be the thing to do, and you've been dating a long time, and you want to have babies some day... These are the wrong reasons. Most people that get married right out of school do it because they feel a sense of social obligation/family obligation/aimlessness. Maybe it works out and maybe it doesn't, but I don't think that's how it should be.

Take a step back and realize there is NO necessity to marry someone at your age to validate your life or your history together. There is no rush to marry this person. Do you WANT to marry him right now? I think the answer is "no" - so have a frank talk with him about all this, and hopefully he'll see eye to eye with you on it.
posted by lubujackson at 10:04 PM on April 10, 2007


You sound like you love him but not necessarily that you like him. There's nothing wrong with marrying the first person you've been in a long-term relationship with, but if you're feeling doubts now, it is unlikely to get any better and a whole lot more likely to get worse.

Echoing the other posters: Don't rush this sort of thing. But I don't think you should necessarily bring up the topic with him either, unless you're prepared for the possibility that he'll abandon ship if he knows you feel this way. After three years, if you're not sure .... I just don't see what might change in the future to MAKE you sure.
posted by Happydaz at 10:44 PM on April 10, 2007


"But I don't think you should necessarily bring up the topic with him either, unless you're prepared for the possibility that he'll abandon ship if he knows you feel this way."

And why shouldn't she be prepared for that possibility?

Apparently, she's interested in marriage. If merely raising the topic (knowing he plans to propose to her) is enough to scare him off, then she SHOULD scare him off!

Besides, it appears he is going to raise the issue with her -- in front of family and friends, no less. Best to deal with it before then.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:48 PM on April 10, 2007


Please discuss this with him, before your graduation. If, as you say, this will be a public proposal, then spare the guy the humiliation at the very least.

I married a man I wasn't sure about, and regretted it.
posted by essexjan at 11:31 PM on April 10, 2007


It happened one cold winter day behind AVAM in Baltimore. She was smoking (which I hate), overweight, not really paying much attention to me, was going off on one of her damn religious tangents, hair was a mess and I was completely sure.

When you're sure, you don't harp on differences or X or Y. You're just sure.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:41 AM on April 11, 2007 [8 favorites]


RE fighting every other week: yes it's a lot. I should know: my beloved and I fight at least that often. In our case, we're sure of what we want and we want to be married to each other, so the fighting is worth it. We also kind of get used to it after a while. (Oh yeah, this is fight 11B. The last few times we had 11B we handled it this way and it worked out fine. So let's just get this one over with.)

RE being sure. My beloved and I got married in our late thirties. We'd each been around the block many times by then, so that when we met each other we knew how precious that connection was despite our many faults.

Even if your young man is right for you, you will not know that until you have much more experience. If you marry him now, without dating other people, you will spend your marriage thinking that things could have been better or different. You will not be happy.

Break up with the poor guy. You aren't ready to marry anyone yet and stringing him along is not fair. Cut him loose so that he can find someone else available to commit.

(Yes, yes, other people are sure in their teens and marry someone and have a wonderful fulfilling 70-year marriage. That's them. We aren't talking about them. Most of us have never even met them.)
posted by kika at 4:26 AM on April 11, 2007


Why would you marry anyone unless you're set on having kids young? Take it from the old hands on this board. Marriage is not the summation of love. It's a constant struggle. If you fight every other week right now, I'd give you guys 5 years, max. And there's nothing like being divorced at 27 to cap off your youth.

Marriage sucks. You do it for the kids and the taxes.
posted by spitbull at 4:37 AM on April 11, 2007


She was smoking (which I hate), overweight, not really paying much attention to me, was going off on one of her damn religious tangents, hair was a mess and I was completely sure.

That's either very romantic, or (more likely) a very accurate description of most marriages at 5-7 years into the sentence.
posted by spitbull at 4:39 AM on April 11, 2007


"he's sloppy, spontaneous, procrastinating, forgetful, and distant when he's stressed"

Do you respect him and does he respect you? When you fight do either of you express contempt for the other person/position? If a person does not care enough for the other person to try to see their point of view or at least respect their point of view (while still disagreeing) then the relationship needs to end.
posted by Wong Fei-hung at 5:04 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


The average person goes through many challenges in their life, and the person that you're married to will help determine how you weather those challenges. I've always thought that a good yardstick for measuring potential for a successful marriage is to evaluate how you act together when times are bad. Do you band together and act as a team? Do you protect and shelter one another? Can you depend on this person to pick up the slack when you can't handle things?

You are young, healthy, and right at the beginning of your life. However, I can guarantee that one of you will get sick, maybe seriously, one of you will lose a job, one of you will have an emotional crisis of some kind, and if you have children, then that's another layer of challenges and very hard times. If you can look at him and say without doubt that he will be there for you and help you, then you will probably be okay, because let's face it, the great sex/attraction/gee that person is gorgeous is going to become every day stuff or disappear altogether at times.

In my twenty years of marriage, I have survived with my spouse a brain tumor, job loss, speech therapy for one of my children, separation from one of our families, very difficult realtionships with our parents - and that's just the ones that I can remember off the bat. And we're a "normal" family. Weathering these things took a great amount of teamwork.

So, my advice to you is to wait until you are more sure about this man.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:10 AM on April 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


How sure should I be before I say yes?

100%
posted by signal at 5:26 AM on April 11, 2007


If I may be blunt:

Being treated well and the absence of violence are not things to aspire to in a relationship. They are the bare minimum. I can't imagine how hard it must be for someone with an abusive background to realize that there are actually tons of people out there who would treat you well in a relationship, but there are.

The relationship you're in now is the one where you realize that you can break old patterns. You and your boyfriend have created something functional together and you should both be proud of that acheivement. But you're not compatible -- you practically say so yourself -- and you need to realize that it does get better, and that you both deserve better.

Don't get married if you have doubts like these. It's not fair to either of you. There's absolutely no reason to rush into marriage, so in the very least hold off until these feelings are resolved.
posted by AV at 5:28 AM on April 11, 2007


The standard is: abso-fucking-lutely

As in you should be asbo-fucking-lutely sure you want to marry someone before you say yes.
posted by unSane at 5:48 AM on April 11, 2007


Just to add a slightly different perspective on things. I don't know why, and it may mean nothing but most of the people I know who got married without any doubts finished pretty quickly.
That's not to say you should get married though!
posted by razzman at 6:08 AM on April 11, 2007


Razzman, there's a difference between not having doubts and being blindly idealistic. The immature version of "not having doubts" is where you think the other person is perfect and that you'll always be ecstatically happy. The grownup version includes the realization that the other person has flaws and so do you, and while there's never a 100% guarantee that a marriage will be a success, you know you'll give it your best effort. I would wager that most of the friends you're talking about fell into the former category.
posted by boomchicka at 6:26 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's one perspective: If you don't have SERIOUS doubts about marriage, you probably don't take it seriously enough. I was scared shitless on the morning of my wedding. It's lasted, though, going on 23 years. So fear of it working isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's an indication of how important marriage is to you.

I tend to be a pro-marriage romantic; I think everyone shouild get married to someone. But the general read I get agrees with what several others have stated: there are too many red flags going in. I still think you should get married, but I don't think this is the one.
posted by Doohickie at 6:26 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Honey, if you can't be honest with him about your doubts, then you're definitely not ready. Having spoken to couples who are still together after [x] number of years, the one thing that kept them going, from the good times to the bad, was consistent, open communication. Do you lie to your partner? Does he lie to you? Are there consistent surprises or drama episodes? (The answer should be no). You should be confident enough to share these feelings with your bf, and vice versa. If you can't do that, not only are you unready for marriage, you are building a relationship that will never be ready for marriage.

Start by sharing your feelings with him now, no matter the consequences. You shouldn't be in a relationship that is building towards marriage if you can't even bring yourself to be honest with him.
posted by Menomena at 6:38 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's fighting and there's fighting. My wife and I were debate partners in college for three years, and we have some degree of argument every other day or so. I've known plenty of miserable couples that never fight, either because they don't think it will ever resolve any disputes or because they're just squelching areas of disagreement and putting off the reckoning.

On the other hand, your question makes it obvious you shouldn't say yes for many other reasons. You're young, live a little.
posted by norm at 7:06 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tell him right now that you will be out of town for the month following your graduation, to clear your head and get some refreshing.

Go on a solo trip to celebrate your graduation. Head to Greece or Italy or Boston or Reno or somewhere you've never been or somewhere you love, and heed that siren song of solitude. Take time to nurture your soul and be gentle with your heart-- it sounds like you've had to work pretty hard to hold things together and get where you are, so take a break. DO NOT let yourself come home before two weeks. Let your head clear and frazzled nerves simmer down. Be gentle with yourself and let yourself recover. Ask for wisdom to come to you, and it will.

After two weeks, check in with yourself. Do you miss him? Do you wish he was by your side? Or are you enjoying your solitude time?

We were inches from being engaged-- everyone thought we were perfect for each other, except for a teeny nagging voice in my head that said, "You're babysitting." I finally listened to that voice, to my gut, and I came to the place where you were and realized I was dreading the thought of committing-- that's not a good thing. I realized I had been lying when I said we were a perfect match, and I broke up with him. It sucked. But five years later (oh, those five blissful years of singlehood!!!) I met a man worth giving up my single life for. We've had two fights-with-tears in five years. I still hear that siren song of solitude at times, but then take one look at him and swoon. He makes me a better woman, and I make him a better man.

And I KNEW on the second date. I just knew. And no one in the whole world could have talked me out of it. No cold feet on the wedding day, nothing but joy and certainty. Wait for that.

Best of luck to you, dear one. Remember to be true to your heart, to your gut. Listen to your doubts and explore them. Never push them away.
posted by orangemiles at 7:06 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Marriage sucks. You do it for the kids and the taxes.

Geez Spitbull. Those certainly aren't the reasons I got married. In fact, my husband and I aren't even sure we want kids yet and neither are many happily married couples I know. And while marriage certainly has its upsides and its lowsides and comes with a fair amount of work, I don't think I'm being too romantic when I say that there are many many people (myself included) that knew when they found the right match and couldn't be happier to be married.

The hollywood movie idea of marriage is a total myth, though. If the OP has some sort of happily ever after idea of marriage, clearly she needs to rethink things. But I agree that, to me, fighting every other week is A LOT, if they're truly fights. I think, anonymous, it's quite normal to have nerves and cold feet about the commitment you're making. Marriage is a huge life change, so of COURSE you feel a twinge (or a full out spasm!) about what you're about to jump into. But my nerves had much more to do with the idea of being married, and much less to do with the person I was marrying. I was sure about him.
posted by theantikitty at 7:08 AM on April 11, 2007


You should be pretty damn sure about deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone. Certainly sure enough that you don't need to validate the decision by asking people on the Internet.

The questions you need to ask yourself are why you are unsure, and whether this uncertainty is something that will pass with time. The problem with asking a question like this on Ask.Mefi is that you'll usually get the same answer, which is basically, "run woman run." Sometimes that isn't the best course of action. None of us can really know what your situation is, certainly not from a couple paragraphs of text. Talk to your friends. Talk to your Boyfriend. Don't waste your time -- and it most certainly is a waste -- talking to us.
posted by chunking express at 7:11 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


And in case you are still reading, when I asked my fiancee to marry me, I was quite nervous, but definitely sure. And I'm sure when she said yes, she was equally nervous, but certainly sure. Best of luck.
posted by chunking express at 7:14 AM on April 11, 2007


No one here can gaze into a crystal ball and tell you how things would work out, but based on what you've told us, it's not promising.

1. You're both young. People change. You both will change a lot over the next 10 years. And 20 years. If you're together and you both change in the same direction, great. But there's no reason to expect that.

2. You're both inexperienced in relationships. Even if this guy is an excellent match for you, you don't have a broad enough basis for comparison to be confident in that—and the same goes for him. So both of you could spend the rest of your lives wondering "what if?". Not a recipe for happiness.

3. "I seriously wonder if I can accept him as he is." Contrary to a belief held by many women, guys are not fixer-uppers.

4. "Sometimes the freedom of singlehood seems like a siren's song." That song is a red alert.

Unfortunately, you can't say to this guy "I think you may be the guy I want to marry, but I need to take five years to date around, and gain perspective and experience." Well, you can, but he won't be waiting for you at the end of it. Life pushes us into these difficult decisions.
posted by adamrice at 7:22 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you can't actively celebrate your differences, and not just tolerate them, the marriage will never last. That doesn't mean that when you meet the person who's right for you you'll never get irritated with them, but it does mean that you won't spend all of your time in a constant state of annoyance.
posted by MsMolly at 7:30 AM on April 11, 2007


As yourself these questions:

1. Does he give you what you need (intellectually, emotionally, sexually)?

2. Do you give him what he needs (intellectually, emotionally, sexually)?

3. Can you accept him has he is? When he does something that's annoying, do you say, "Damn, that's annoying," and then move on? Or do you dwell on it?

4. Can he accept you as you are? Does he already?

5. Can you talk to him about the things that frustrate you about your relationship, about things he does that hurt your feelings, about your anxieties, and feel like he's really listening?

6. Can he talk to you about the things that frustrate him about your relationship, about the things you do that hurt his feelings, about his anxieities, and feel like you're really listening?

7. Can you imagine being old without him? How does it make you feel?

The answers to questions 1-6 should be "yes." Dwell on number 7 a bit, too.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:52 AM on April 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Something my husband once wrote to a person unsure about marriage, re: my husband's parents:

As an observer who knows them both well, I can say with total confidence that they had no business trying to make their incompatible personalities work together in a situation like marriage that's supposed to last for decades. Obviously, I'm not going to complain because I wouldn't be here and neither would (sister), but they did it the hard way, no question about it. Divorce is real, and it hurts. Not just you, but your finances, and your kids. Think about that. Do marriage the right way if you're going to do it. The best thing you can do is wait.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:56 AM on April 11, 2007


Some good points here; some I agree with, some not so much:

1. You're both young. People change. You both will change a lot over the next 10 years. And 20 years. If you're together and you both change in the same direction, great. But there's no reason to expect that.

College graduation age isn't that young. I was married the summer after I graduated. In retrospect, I think it was great that my wife and I finished "growing up" together. We were essentially who we were going to be, but as we adapted to adulthood, we did so together, and in a very compatible way. A lot of people who get married later in life, 10 years, 20 years after college, are too set in their ways to meld into one with their spouse, in my observation.

2. You're both inexperienced in relationships. Even if this guy is an excellent match for you, you don't have a broad enough basis for comparison to be confident in that—and the same goes for him. So both of you could spend the rest of your lives wondering "what if?". Not a recipe for happiness.

Mrs. Doohickie was my first (and only) serious relationship and first (and only) sexual partner. I think we've both gone through the "what if" phase (without acting on it). Eventually I realized that the "what if" scenario is that we would both regret walking away from a good thing. You don't need a "basis for comparison" if you're happy; the happiness is enough.

3. "I seriously wonder if I can accept him as he is." Contrary to a belief held by many women, guys are not fixer-uppers.

With this I can agree 123%. If you cannot accept the other person as he or she is, it will not work out over the long haul. Does that mean you're totally happy with who the other person is? No. But it means that it is a no-brainer that the love and affection you feel for the other person greatly outweigh any imperfections you perceive. There were things about Mrs. Doohickie that, when I was younger, drove me nuts. She still does them (and I could list them for you), but the fact that she still does them is kind of comforting to me now- I know who she is, I know she's the same girl I married 23 years ago, so it's easy to know I still love her (even though she's a lousy house cleaner).

4. "Sometimes the freedom of singlehood seems like a siren's song." That song is a red alert.

This is definitely a warning sign, but it is not a death knell. The first year I was married, I envied single people for their freedom while I was tied to the ol' ball & chain. It wasn't Mrs. Doohickie that was the problem, it was the way I saw marriage as putting limits on my life. Eventually I saw the benefits and saw they far outweighed the limits. This didn't come through some internal, introspective epiphany though.... it came when a coworker asked me if I wanted to out for drinks with the guys. I said, "No, I gotta go home to the wife :( " He said, "You say that like it's a bad thing; don't you realize the only reason we go out and get drunk is because we have no one to go home to?"

Bottom line is this: Project out 10, 20 years. Where do you really think you'll be if you get married? Where will you be if you say no to his proposal? Which would you choose? The decision is upon you.

I wish you all the happiness in the world. Good luck with your decision.
posted by Doohickie at 12:54 PM on April 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


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