Perspectives from former old maids?
June 15, 2009 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm officially one of the last ones standing. I'm almost 30 and I'm not married. I'm having a really hard time dealing with this. Have you ever been last or close to last? How did you deal with the horrible feelings of inadequacy that accompany that?

There's a saying I've heard a lot over the years, esp in Self-Improvement mediums: "Why fear the worst, it never happens anyway?" I never really understood that saying because in my life l've been like Job--that which I fear the most often comes upon me." Hence, I find myself now facing 30 and I'm unmarried. That's been my worst fear since I can remember. No matter how hard I tried to not let that be a reality (like I'm in a 3-year relationship with someone I'm not in love with, but who seemed to be into me enough to want to marry me early on but who hasn't proposed so I guess I was wrong), it has.

To make a long story short, in a matter of about 2 years, practically all of my peers, family and acquanitances included, have gotten hitched. Some in formal weddings, some at the Justice of the Peace. For some reason, it seems like they calculated right. They 1) got with a guy who was ready to be married, 2) acted in a way that made them appealing for marriage, and 3) by luck or whatever, got to get hitched before the big 30. So I am virtually alone now in this awkward life stage--not where I want to be and knowing no way whatsoever to get out. I'm officially "that girl," the last one standing, the one approaching old maid territory and it sucks azz. Big time.

Have you ever been last? How did you cope? How did you deal with the self-pity and the pity from others? How did you manage enough energy or faith or whatever to try again, even after you've basically lost the race, you've missed one of your biggest goals.? HOW DO YOU KEEP GOING???

I realize there have been other questions like this, but the last one I read, I don't think the commenters were really empathetic to the poster and the answers were thus skewed. I'm looking not for mean, hard-liner responses, but some real, solid stories of "I feel you, here's how I mentally/emotionally/etc. worked through it." I really need this. Thanks in advance for any help whatsoever.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (84 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I'm 28, one of my best friends just turned 30 and my other good friend is 33. None of us are married, and we don't fret over it. The subject never comes up in our daily conversations. Look, 30 isn't old but you aren't getting any younger. If you aren't happy at this point in your life, then change it. If the boyfriend isn't giving you want you want, break it off and find someone who will. As they say, today is the first day in the rest of your life.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:39 PM on June 15, 2009

I meant to say, "today is the first day of the rest of your life."
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:41 PM on June 15, 2009

Er, you're 30, not 60. Speaking as a 33 year-old unmarried guy, I would advise you not to go bananas yet. We humans are irrationally attached to numbers - like 30. Your life will not be incredibly different from when you were 29, nor will it be all over when you're 31.

You're in a 3-year-relationship that you don't want to be in just so you could get to a goal of being married by 30? Even if you are not happy? That's not normal. The goal of most people who get married is to be with someone they love, and be happy. Marriage isn't something you get into just because it's something on a to-do list at any cost.

I think you should find yourself a good counsellor and talk over these issues with him/her.
posted by madman at 9:46 PM on June 15, 2009 [21 favorites]

I am a 22 year old female, but I know a bunch of men and women who are in their late 30's/40's beyond and who are not married. Maybe it stresses them out, but they all lead incredibly full, attractive lives. And what do you mean, missed one of your biggest goals? You still have (more than) half of your life left. I certainly can't give advice from experience, but figure out where your priorities lay re: the guy you are dating, and make the most of the life you have.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:47 PM on June 15, 2009

I never really understood that saying because in my life l've been like Job--that which I fear the most often comes upon me.

I would consider seeing a therapist.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:47 PM on June 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

No matter how hard I tried to not let that be a reality (like I'm in a 3-year relationship with someone I'm not in love with, but who seemed to be into me enough to want to marry me early on but who hasn't proposed so I guess I was wrong), it has.

Seriously, sort out your relationship first. That's the important bit. The marriage itself? Icing. Not crucial.

You want to feel a bit better about being unmarried? Have a chat to people of your parents' generation who got married because that was "what one did", and then ended up having to go through the subsequent divorce.

As to being 30?

"Marriage is a concept invented by people who were lucky to make it to 20 without being eaten by dinosaurs."
posted by pompomtom at 9:49 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

I didn't meet even meet my husband until I was 30. We took it really slow, then got married when I was 34. I dunno, it seems like a lot of my friends who got married in their 20s are divorced already or on their 2nd marriages and are juggling things like joint custody and alimony. When people feel a rush or pressure to get married, I think sometimes they end up settling for a partner or situation that isn't right for them and end up unhappy. You don't want to settle. I know lots of very satisfied, successful people who aren't married. I also know many people who didn't settle down until their 30s and 40s. Why the rush to keep up with the status quo?
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:53 PM on June 15, 2009 [11 favorites]

Being married is a fine goal to have (and a realistic one as over 90% of people will marry someday), but you can't let it be your life. Setting arbitrary goals and letting them consume you isn't healthy.

You are in a relationship with someone you do not love. You are not only making yourself unhappy, you're leading someone else on and toying with his emotions. That's cruelty.

I second finding a therapist.

You are nowhere near "old maid" territory. In fact, I'm willing to bet all this arbitrary concentration on 30 is making you smell of desperation, which is not going to attract anyone nor make you come off as anything but neurotic.

Harsh as that may sound, there is hope. First, break up with your boyfriend. He deserves better. Second, find a therapist. Then maybe try and find some supportive friends. My friends and I are in our late 20s and early 30s. Some are married, some engaged, and some of us are single and/or involved long-term. You need supportive friends. If they are your real friends, they won't be acting as if they are in competition with you, nor you with them. Friends are people you can relax around.

Maybe you were one of those little girls that grew up dreaming and dreaming of marriage and the perfect guy and planned it all out in your head. That's not real life. I have an aunt who just got married for the first time at 40. She and my uncle are ridiculously happy together. Don't settle just to fulfill an obsessive fantasy.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:56 PM on June 15, 2009 [4 favorites]

Did you give yourself this arbitrary deadline of 30, or did someone else? What do you think will happen after marriage that will so fundamentally change who you are? What do you think will magically change about life after you turn 30? You write that you didn't want any 'hard-line' responses, but you've given no reason in your question why either marriage or turning 'the big 3-0' will actually change anything for you.

Fact is, it probably won't.
posted by Pecinpah at 9:59 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding cmgonzalez... you need to ask yourself why you're willing to be in a relationship with a person you're not in love with just because they might marry you. What does marriage even mean at that point?
posted by Nattie at 10:00 PM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Well, think of it this way: you won't be among the first of your friends to get a divorce.

Seriously, IT'S TOTALLY OK. I was married in my late 20s in part because I (not entirely consciously) felt the panic to hurry up and not be the Big-L Loser who wasn't married at 30. Problem was, I married someone who -- while a great human being who is still a dear friend -- I just shouldn't have married. It simply wasn't a good long-term match: he's a great guy and I'm a great gal and we were simply never meant to be lifetime partners. Had I not been freaked out by OMG IMPENDING 30! I AM UNLOVED! I SUCK! drama, I would have seen that -- and spared myself (and him) the tremendous heartache of a divorce a few years later.

30 is just a number. Really. Some people find The One at 21, some people find The One at 41, and some people never have The One -- they have The Ones. There is more than one way to be happy -- despite the bullshit cultural message we are told every day that there's One Sure Path, and it involves getting married and having babies at a certain age, and that if you don't live up to that expectation you are an old maid/failure/etc.

Well, let me tell you straight: that message is a damn lie. It is designed to pressure you to fit social norms and make you feel inadequate. So I give you permission to tell that message to piss off, that you can craft your own life and meaning and happiness on the terms you see fit.

Your identity is more than the status of your partnership. Your worth is measured by the qualities you possess in yourself, and cultivate in others. You can have a life of worthwhile experiences and love and joy and activities whether or not you ever happen to get married -- but that's a choice that's up to you. As I've already said in another thread today, nine years after my ex-husband and I split up and I moved halfway across the country to start my life over from square 1, I am grateful to report that I have a good job, great relationships (both with my partner and with a small but tight circle of loved ones), and a fundamental sense of well-being. I got here with the help of a lot of therapy, a lot of yoga, a little Buddhism, a little luck, and a couple of very good friends.
posted by scody at 10:02 PM on June 15, 2009 [33 favorites]

Comparing your achievements to those of your immediate peers is crippling you.

It's a huge, amazing world out there. Go join it!
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:07 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Pecinpah and Nattie have good points. Your problem isn't that you're not married. In fact, in just a few years, that's going to be your advantage -- when some of your close friends' marriages fall apart and suddenly you look like the one who's got your shit together. But just like that's going to be the wrong way to look at it then, yours is the wrong way to look at it now. It's not a competition. It's about YOU and YOUR life. You don't sound like you're in a healthy space now. You're putting too much stock into a meaningless framework of an institution, without worrying about what you'd fill it with to give it personal meaning. Worry about that first. Build a life you actually want to live, then find the person you want to share it with. THEN consider whether marriage is right for you.
posted by edlundart at 10:12 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, also this. Make a list of the 20 most important traits (in order of importance) you'd like in a mate. Keep that list handy and up to date. Knowing what you're looking for is a big step to getting what you want.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:12 PM on June 15, 2009

Oh, and I'll trot out my usual book recommendation: How to Be an Adult in Relationships. It radically changed my perspective on what to expect from relationships -- and, more crucially, what to expect from myself in a relationship, thus allowing me to have, for the first time, a healthy sense of what a relationship is (and isn't) for.
posted by scody at 10:13 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh my god. Oh my god.

Do you realize how many times I've been dead last to something? Dead last so sex, to dating, to kissing, to masturbation. But it never occurred to me that there was a race, much less a specific goal.

Second, do you realize how much power you have over your life now that's you're unmarried? How many women look at you and wonder how many dreams, how many hopes they had for their future, how many times they wished they could pack up their lives and move to New York City?

How did I get past it? I reframed my belatedness into not a source of anguish and pain—but control, and because of this, actual happiness.

Good luck.
posted by trotter at 10:18 PM on June 15, 2009 [8 favorites]

I could cite positive statistics about people who marry later, and advance their education or career in the meantime. I actually wrote a much longer post that I deleted, because it was starting to sound very critical. But still I feel I have to state the core of it here: You don't sound realistic or rational about marriage. You're in a relationship with someone you admit to not loving, and it sounds like you're still hoping he'll ask (which would be a disaster.) I'm sure you're kind and lovely and as sweet as apple pie, but if you sound as desperate as you do to other women (like me), most guys will run a thousand miles away when they sense it. You don't, in fact, mention even a single reason for being married that's worthy of respect. Because it's simply your goal? Because your friends are all doing it? Because it's your worst fear not to be? Because you feel inadequate due to your unmarried state? Those are pretty weak reasons. I read this part, horrified:

For some reason, it seems like they calculated right. They 1) got with a guy who was ready to be married, 2) acted in a way that made them appealing for marriage, and 3) by luck or whatever, got to get hitched before the big 30.

Where is love? The feeling you can't live without this person? Simple chemistry? "Calculation," "getting with a guy who was ready" and "acting in an appealing way for marriage" are just plain terrible ways to perceive what courtship and marriage should be. Think about it. (Actually, if this is how your friends perceived of it all, stay single. In a few years, they'll be divorced or miserable, and you'll look like a genius for not having made the same mistake.)

You really not to get some perspective so that you can approach the future with a more level-headed and mature perspective. Many people will tell you what you want to hear; this is especially true as you flat-out admit to looking for empathy. But simple empathy, I think, will get you nowhere. Talk to a therapist and figure out what's going on here. Everyone deserves someone awesome, and I'd hate to think that fear or self-esteem issues will cause you to miss out on the right guy.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:25 PM on June 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


i'm 31 and single but i've already been married. no dramas at all.
posted by micklaw at 10:36 PM on June 15, 2009

Response by poster: You just turned 30, which means you did not come of the age in the 1950s. So I am having trouble figuring out why you have chosen your primary life goal to be Get The Ring And Wear The Dress.

Look, why do you want to be married? Why is it so important? You haven't given us any details: Is it to make lots of babies? Have financial security? Wear a Big Fancy Ring? Be a Princess For A Day? Because you can do all of those without the marriage, you're a big girl. Get a job, buy a ring, go to a spa, get artificially inseminated and make your own babies. Is it just to say that you're married? What is so vital about that? Seriously, ask yourself: Why is being married so important?

On the other hand, if marriage represents lifelong commitment and companionship with someone you love, then why are you worrying about it happening before you're 30, and why would you ever consider marrying someone you're "not that into" just to make it before your twenties are up? You're only 30--you're not dead, you know.

Look--if I met someone who was as hysterical as you are about not being married at 30, calling herself an "old maid" and fretting about whether a boyfriend she doesn't even like would marry her, even if I thought she was the most beautiful, fascinating, greatest damn thing on the planet I would run the other direction. I'd never be sure if I were someone you really wanted or just a means to an end.

Go live your life beyond marriage, beyond some Sex-in-the-City idea of how a woman's life is supposed to pan out. You will probably find when you stop looking for marriage it'll come sooner than you think.
posted by Anonymous at 10:40 PM on June 15, 2009

If it makes you feel better, statistically plenty of them will be single again eventually.
posted by hermitosis at 10:45 PM on June 15, 2009 [8 favorites]

I guess I'm "That girl," too but I never think of it like that. I really agree with cmgonzalez and would like to add- do people actually pity you for not being married? This is not a reaction that I ever get. In fact, I'm inclined to kick some ass if someone tried to feel bad for me because I'm not married. I'm not trying to be mean at all but just a few observations:

1)I've got to assume that you're being pitied because you want to be pitied. Pick yourself up, girl! So, it's not gonna happen at 30? How do you know it's not gonna happen at 31 or 32? Maybe once you're on the market again (after you break up with current boy) you're gonna get snatched up right away! Who knows? The pity party has to stop. If marriage isn't happening for you now, well, start acting like you could meet the one soon.

2)I know that this is your big dream. I get that. My "big dream" isn't working out exactly as planned either (and if anyone's actually did/is, I need to speak with them) but I'm not sweating it and I'm readjusting things so that my "big dream" is still likely to happen. Just because the timeline doesn't add up and kinks arise, that doesn't mean it won't happen. The way you're talking about it sounds like you're dooming yourself. Therapy. It might be time for a new outlook on things.

3) Try to change your MO from "That which I fear the most often comes upon me" to "Some things are worth the wait."
posted by smeater44 at 10:50 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think roger makes a good point - if the OP feels herself to be Job-like, that's not a good thing, and probably something which bears addressing.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:53 PM on June 15, 2009

Your fear is pushing you into the wrong relationships. Once you can get rid of your fear of spinsterhood you can relax and find the right person. In fact, I feel pretty bad for your current boyfriend given your list of "calculations," particularly with respect to your #2.
posted by rhizome at 10:53 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anyone who "calculated right" just in order to reach an arbitrary goal of getting married by 30 has probably made a big mistake and will soon find they are in a much worse situation than someone else who is single. You really dodged a bullet there and still have your freedom, congratulations! Now I think you need to work on changing your goal to "finding the right person, no matter how long it takes, and enjoying life in the meantime." Enjoy this stage in your life as it can be a great one and it won't come around again. Oh, and definitely DTMFA!!!
posted by hazyjane at 11:14 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

If a 30 year old friend of yours came and said all of those things to you, would you tell her that yes, her life is over? Presumably she's someone you like and respect and think good things about, so would you tell her she's a failure who should give up now?

Why would you treat her differently to you? Be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack.

I spent my 20s depressed because I hadn't been married at 22 like my mother. I thought I was doomed... DOOOOMED... because everyone around me was getting married and having children. It's really hard to be the single/unmarried person watching all your friends getting married, particularly when you cherish that dream for yourself, but bloody hell, there's more to life.

Sometime in my late 20s, someone said to me, what if it never happens, what are you going to do? Forced to answer that question, I decided that well, I wasn't going to die, the world wasn't going to come crashing down around me -- sure, it was not an attractive prospect, but in the meantime, what was I waiting for? My life was (is) pretty good, full of lovely people, great friends, wonderful family, good job, fascinating hobbies, books to read, movies to see, places to travel... the list goes on. Why limit yourself when there are so many other things in life in addition to marriage?
posted by prettypretty at 11:35 PM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

I understand your discomfort and frustration! I’ve been struggling with some of the same; I will probably be single when I turn 30 in a few years, because of my career path. I'm bummed by this; I want to be married. But I believe that I can still live a happy life, even if I'm single. So to remind myself of that, here's what I tell myself:

1) There is no reason why I need to be married by 30. It’s a free country and plenty of people get married after that. Somehow, the number “30” got ingrained in all of our heads. (especially for women.) But there’s no real reason for that to be true. My uncle got married for the first time in his mid-50s (it was his new wife’s first marriage, too), but they’d each tell you that their pre-marriage lives were vibrant and successful, even if they did carry around a desire to be married.

2) I don’t need to be in a relationship in order to live successful life that I can be proud of. Anyone who says differently does not truly care about my happiness and well-being. I define success in life by the things that I can control. Am I challenging myself to improve in my career? To improve as a person? Am I nurturing my friendships? Am I getting out there to meet new people so that I can make new friends (and maybe some dates)? Am I supporting myself and staying out of debt? Note that since Relationships are NOT entirely in my control they don’t count.

3) It’s cliché, perhaps, but I’ve learned from trial and error that I’m happier being single than being in a less-than-fulfilling relationship. I don’t have to deal with relationship stresses at all. I get to see my friends a lot. I can do whatever I want after work, and I can accept last-minute invitations guilt-free. (Do I want to drive up to New Hampshire tomorrow with Jane and stay the weekend?) I can even decide to go live in another city, state, or country if I want to. Or I can really focus in at my job and work long hours in order to get a promotion. When I’m single, all these decisions are mine and I don’t need to involve anyone else. So I get to do what I want, all the time, and that is pretty awesome.

4) A lot of people are single all their lives and they live happy, full, successful lives that they’re proud of when they die. (or, like my aunt & uncle above, they get married later in life.) There are lot of joys in life aside from marriage. My mom’s best friend is 60+ and unmarried all her life, and she lives one of the most interesting and happy lives I know. Good career that she likes, her own home, car, a dog that she adores, and boatloads of family & friends.

Anyway. I ramble on like this to try to emphasize that you have NOT failed if you hit 30 and are unmarried. It’s a number that has become common in popular culture, but there’s no logic behind it. You can live your life however you end up living it, and you are still a worthwhile human being and you can be proud of your life if you’re single. And if you still truly desire to be married, then go do things to help make it happen. Either ask your boyfriend to marry you (instead of waiting for him to read your mind), or step back and ask yourself if/why you are waiting around to get married to someone you don’t love. Perhaps get yourself back out there into the dating pool and trust that when you meet the right person, it’ll happen for you.

And when people offer you pity, what I do is I try to remember that they have good intentions, and to be gracious in my reply while saying something that shows that I’m loving my life as it is, thankyouverymuch. Usually it involves quickly changing the focus from my single status to something else that adds meaning and purpose to my life, such as a hobby or my apartment or that trip to Costa Rica I just took. I guess I take it as a chance to help debunk their misconception that because I am single, I must be living a boring, unhappy life. In fact, I’ve made it so that it is quite the opposite! :)

You're going to be OK! Life has so many facets that you can enjoy, so go focus on those instead of on marriage! Good luck!
posted by inatizzy at 11:52 PM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

You get to a certain age... [link to comic]
posted by blueberry at 12:12 AM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

Then maybe try and find some supportive friends. My friends and I are in our late 20s and early 30s. Some are married, some engaged, and some of us are single and/or involved long-term. You need supportive friends. If they are your real friends, they won't be acting as if they are in competition with you, nor you with them. Friends are people you can relax around.

This. And to add a different perspective, I'm honestly somewhat shocked by your question. I live in an academic world where everyone (including, oddly enough, all of my high school friends) are in graduate, law, or medical school, and I know literally three couples who are married or engaged yet (we're all in our mid-20s). So it's a different world than one where people starting getting married right out of high school, but along with that comes a completely different perspective on the BIG 30 thing. I'd be damned shocked if I were married by 30; I've never particularly planned to be, because I've got an awful lot to learn about myself and relationships yet and I'm not sure I'm ready to settle down. I'd very much like to be married someday - once I find a guy I can't imagine not spending my life with. My parents were married in their 30s and have been deeply in love for 30 years. So no pressure from that camp either.

My point is, this strange deadline you've set yourself may (semi-) exist within your social circle, but it's absolutely not normal to lots of other groups of happy, successful, and reasonably well-adjusted people. Try to internalize that. Tell the people who harass/pity you to grow up. Focus on yourself and your career/hobbies/friends.

And for chrissakes don't get married just to get married. That's the craziest thing I've ever heard.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:30 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you want a bigger dick, measure from a different place.

You are upset because you measure yourself against a peer group that has dashed forward into marriage, leaving you alone, despite your sometime efforts. That's a bad situation. But you need to understand that there's a whole universe of peer-groups out there, and many people -- including women -- who are not married at 30 and not losers either. Why not meet some of those people? Expand the universe of competitors you compare yourself against.
posted by grobstein at 12:34 AM on June 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

Male perspective here. I only can offer you my own experiences to tell you that there's no need for worrying. I was in exactly the same situation as you at your age. At one point it was very difficult to cope with. Then I just decided to stop worrying about it. Not like I had given up all hope, but I just didn't worry about it anymore. I know this sounds like a typical guys' solution, but after a couple of months of not-worrying, I started to regain my independence. As in: no way I am going to settle for a compromised relationship. It has to be the love of my life or I won't have a relationship at all.
That change in attitude alone, somehow made me more accessible, I guess. It certainly made sure I regained my enthusiasm for life in general. Looking back, I'm so relieved I never settled for less. After a couple of years, at 31, I met the love of my life. She had the same attitude, it took a couple of months before we finally approached each other. We had our first kid 4 years later, another one followed. Last year we celebrated our 15th anniversary with a marriage.

Stop worrying anonymous: you're fine. You just have to let go of the thoughts that control your moods. Live a little. Start enjoying being you again. You posted your question on AskMefi, which for me is proof that you are a perfect human being.
posted by ouke at 12:35 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, of my friends who have gotten married, nearly half are divorced, so I'm not worried that I'm waiting to make sure things are right before getting married.
posted by salvia at 12:37 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Um, I really want to respect your desire for no "hard-liner responses" but seriously, get over it.

I'm a 42 y.o. woman, never been married but have had (and am continuing to have) some amazing LT relationships. A happy life does not equate to a fixed number. So much to do/be/see, and there are unexpected wonderful things and people around every corner. Open your eyes to that and quit fixating on what you "should" be doing. Eliminating the word "should" from your personal vocabulary is the key to the door of infinite wonder and happiness, guaranteed.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:37 AM on June 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

Stop thinking that marriage is the thing that will finally make you happy; first make yourself happy! Paradoxically, relationships and marriages are far more likely to come along when you don't NEED them.

Try listing out things that make you happy. For each thing on your list, work out what it is about it that makes you happy. If "kids" is on there... what would make you happy about having children? Being able to look after someone else? So go and volunteer for the Scouts or the Guides! Go and live your life in the best possible way for you. Go and do things you have never done before. Stop waiting for a husband to come along and wave a magic wand and make it all better.

Being married won't magically change you into a happy person; married or not, you will have to make that change yourself, so you may as well start now - and that will give you a much better head start at getting married and staying that way.
posted by emilyw at 12:51 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Honestly, the only friends of mine that are married didn't exactly "calculate right" if you know what I mean. What I'm reading here is "I'm 30 and all alone". If don't feel in good company among your friends or boyfriend, that's a deeper problem. If all your friends are getting married within the span of a few years, it kind of sounds like letting other people make choices for you. Which is rather normal; what you need is a wider diversity of friends and acquaintances. With some contact with people outside your age, perhaps you'll feel less like there's some race to be won or lost, which I guess is what mefi is for.
posted by pwnguin at 12:57 AM on June 16, 2009

I'm usually not the one to suggest Bible study, but since you came up with Job yourself...reading his story and maybe meditating on it might help you deal with your issue. It's understandable that you're very unhappy, and that being in a different phase of life than your peers sucks, but, seriously:
If you compare your being unmarried to the fate of a guy whose ten children died under terrible circumstances, who also lost all his possessions and his health - that might be a sign that you really need to put things into perspective.
Yeah, I know that you're probably just speaking metaphorically when you say being single is "your worst fear" - but now might be the right time to unmetaphorically, seriously, realistically think about what's important in life. That's what usually works for me when I'm miserable: taking a step back and looking at the big picture. It doesn't make you oh-so-happy, but it helps you deal and go on with your life.
posted by The Toad at 1:10 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm 29, and this is such a bizarre question to me.

What would being married do for you? If you were married, then _____? Make a list.
posted by trevyn at 1:23 AM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

As an aside: It would be really helpful to know your cultural background, since the significance of getting married varies wildly from culture to culture. This might also explain why previous askers of "old maid"-questions have gotten anwers that you perceive as snide or unhelpful...obviously, if you're from a traditional society, the question you're asking means something totally different!

(And since you wanted personal perspectives: I'm almost 30 and unmarried, but in my part of the world, that's very normal. In my context, just like trevyn's, your question really seems somewhat bizarre...)
posted by The Toad at 1:29 AM on June 16, 2009

I don't think you need inspiring quotations or words of comfort right now. You need a PLAN.

You want to get married. That's your goal.

First step is dumping the boyfriend you're not in love with. That should be clear, right? Not part of the plan.

Second, find a mate. It sounds like you're a great candidate for online dating. While it has its ups and downs, the great thing about online dating is that you can be very specific about what you're looking for. You're not looking for a casual fling. You're not looking for a long-distance relationship. You're looking to get married.

Lay your cards out on the table. Make it clear to your friends that you want to get married in the next couple of years. Write in your profile that you're looking for a life partner. That will eliminate anyone you don't want to waste your time with.

Put yourself in situations where other people are looking for life partners. Singles bars may not be the right place for you. If you're religious your organisation might have a singles group.

Don't send any mixed messages. Don't wait around hoping the stars will align and cursing the gods for not getting what you want.

You made it pretty clear in your post that you want to be married. This is something you can take some actions towards and do something about! So quit whining and do something! Start dating!
posted by Flying Squirrel at 1:46 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

but who seemed to be into me enough to want to marry me early on but who hasn't proposed so I guess I was wrong

Although you aren't in love with this guy and he's therefore out of the running -- for next time: Who says you need to sit around waiting for a proposal? This is the year 2009! If you want to get married to your boyfriend -- ASK HIM TO MARRY YOU! If he says yes, great! Who cares who asked? If he says no -- well, then you have your answer and you can decide whether your happy to stay with him and not be married, or whether and when it's time to move on.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 1:49 AM on June 16, 2009

i use to have a to-do list of specific relationship goals that had hard age related deadlines. every birthday i got a little drunker and a little sadder. i wasn't as twisted up as you are, but i was certainly a little nuts.

i got a piece of terrific advice as i was coming out of my last relationship. it changed my whole outlook. you have to find the man before you come up with the plan. you can't have the plan and then find the person to fill it. it seems so simple, but it's absolutely true.

if you want a marriage (and not just a wedding) you want someone to make the list of goals with. you don't want to just find a cracker-jack ken doll to push into the mold you made. you can't put "find perfect mate and get married forever" on a time based list (but you can put "marry the wrong guy and regret that decision forever" on that list). you have to keep growing and learning about yourself. you have to keep becoming the person that will be ready for that great relationship when you find yourself there. don't waste your time in relationships that are bad for you (and him, i'd wager) just so you can meet a deadline.
posted by nadawi at 1:53 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Have you ever been last? How did you cope? How did you deal with the self-pity and the pity from others? How did you manage enough energy or faith or whatever to try again, even after you've basically lost the race, you've missed one of your biggest goals.? HOW DO YOU KEEP GOING???

I'm not trying to be mean, but please try volunteering in a kidney dialysis ward - you will see examples of hardship and courage that will make your own questions seem like the trivialities they are. You need to get outside your own head and what must be a rather limited social circle (or locale) - who doesn't know happy singles over 30?

Volunteering and developing an awareness of the world outside of your arbitrary timetable will do you a world of good.
posted by benzenedream at 1:58 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

You need to focus a lot more on your own happiness and sense of self and wholeness and a lot less on external circumstances that are totally beyond your control.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:12 AM on June 16, 2009

Marriage works out really well for some couples. It's a horrid disaster for others.

You probably don't need any more cynicism in your life right now, but you seem to have a fairly unexamined take on how marriage actually plays out for roughly half the couples who do it.
posted by bardic at 3:05 AM on June 16, 2009

I'm going to guess that you are involved with a religious tradition or culture that differs from what many of the posters here are familiar with.

I'm not saying that because you mentioned Job. I'm saying it because I'm from Utah and I know those attitudes when I see them. Both yours and your friends' if you don't know anyone over 30 and unmarried.

I'm not trying to be hard on you. I'm trying to say there other things you should be thinking about besides the M word as you try to find happiness.

Hence, I find myself now facing 30 and I'm unmarried. That's been my worst fear since I can remember.

That shouldn't be your worst fear.

I'm in a 3-year relationship with someone I'm not in love with

THAT should be your worst fear. Would you actually marry someone you're not in love with?

Consider getting out of that relationship. Consider getting out (if only for a 2-week vacation) of your culture, your religion, your neighborhood, your family. Consider getting into therapy. Definitely get out of the "race" that you think you're losing. This isn't a competition. Get a hobby. Get a career. Travel. Be creative. Be artistic. Help others. Make new friends. Make enemies. LIVE.

The silly romantic stuff will take care of itself.
posted by mmoncur at 3:55 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I didn't get married until late and then I subsequently got divorced. Here's the thing - I realized later that the reason getting married seemed so important to me was because underlying everything, I think I felt like not being married meant that no one loved me enough to want to marry me. Unless you're from a culture of arranged marriages (like from India), most western cultures now have this whole value set and mythology about marriage, monogamy, true love, etc. It's hard not to get sucked into it.

When I hear you say "that's been my worst fear since I can remember," what I think I hear you really saying is I don't feel loved and I don't feel loveable. It's hard not to feel unloveable and unloved in a culture that has this whole fairytale about true love and marriage. I think we all know logically that we're not less worthy if we don't have some piece of paper. It's just so hard to sort out all the feelings. It's definitely an issue worth talking to a therapist about.
posted by gt2 at 4:01 AM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

Marriage is like a worthiness race. First, the very best people get snapped up. The second-best people get married next. And so on down the line, until the only ones left are the real losers. With each of your friends, family members, and acquaintances who get married, there's one more person who you're obviously worse than. You're among the lowest of the low, and everyone can see you're slipping down that ladder with each passing year.

Do you know that the above statements are completely false? I ask because I used to believe similar things in my heart (though not about marriage, in my case), even if my head was smart enough to recognize their ridiculousness, and those beliefs would explain the statements in your post that people are finding otherwise inexplicable. Like that not being married is your worst fear, that you feel pitied and self-pitying, and that it's a hit to your self-esteem.

A therapist would be able to help you shed false beliefs like the ones I started with. And I agree with everyone else that you need to let go of the guy you don't love.
posted by daisyace at 4:49 AM on June 16, 2009 [8 favorites]

First, let me say I feel you. June is the cruelest month. I'm dealing with it as I begin to prepare for another summer of births and marriages. I'm single (as per usual) and 28. All of my female friends and relatives are married/getting married, or are pregnant. I'm the last one. It seems like everyone I'm close to was on a secret schedule that I wasn't privy to. I have been celebrating the crap out of my loved ones' happiness.

My sister is getting married in a couple weeks, and she's guiltily confessed to me how relieved she is that she's achieving this "goal" of femininity in the "right" time frame. And she knows it's not about that, marriage is real, not Jane Austen. And these things are lies. And you know that too. Here's what has helped me get a grip:

Therapy! It's taken nearly 3 years, but I've finally broken the cycle of getting into relationships because the guy would have me, even when he never really could have me. I was cruel, even if benignly, and my limited returns on those relationships were reflections of my own behavior.

I spent a long time analyzing and trying to act in a way that made me "appealing for marriage," and I'm pretty sure now it doesn't work like that. I don't have the solution, but I know I can no longer emotionally afford to pin my self-worth on a situation that is not in my control. What I can do is be grateful for what I have, admire my own achievements and qualities, and create the life of my dreams-- one step at a time, OMG-true love or no.

Also, I find that buying myself a gift along with every registry purchase is an effective (albeit temporary) form of relief. Because I'm celebrating my own kinda happiness, dammit. PM me if you need a sympathetic ear.
posted by LolaCola at 5:14 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Guys can smell desperation and avoid it like the plague - the 2 key ones are the ones who want to get married (see Muriel's Wedding) and the ones with the ticking biological clock.

Guys are attracted to independent, happy, confident girls.
posted by lamby at 5:19 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I feel you, anonymous. Here's how I mentally/emotionally/etc. worked through it...

I guess I'll preface this by saying that I am a 26 year old male and my story is nothing about marriage or love, so maybe I have no business responding to your question. but hopefully you'll get something out of it.

Several years ago when I was going to school I hit a wall. I decided that I didn't like what I was studying, and started to falter. All my friends started graduating, moving on, progressing--and I felt like I was being left behind.

I don't know if it's real or an urban legend, but there's a story about how if you introduce a regular mouse into a group of mice that has been given certain amounts of hormones the regular healthy mouse will still begin to exhibit the same behaviors as those in the group. That's what I realized was happening to me. Here I was, getting caught up in the "rat race" and beating myself up for not keeping up with some self-imposed imaginary standard of progress.

Sure, there's a race going on, but you decide the pace and the destination. Is your goal simply to be MARRIED? or is it to find someone who you truly love and who truly loves you back? Do you need it NOW NOW NOW? or can you look ahead and accomplish the things you'll wish you could have done while you were young and single?

I hope you find what you're looking for.
posted by sambosambo at 5:31 AM on June 16, 2009

My aunt - who is beautiful, successful, and interesting got married for the first time last year. She is 52. She has led an exciting, rich life and my uncle is just the right match for her. They just didn't cross paths until later than average.

I'm 38 and divorced and if I can get a relationship like that, I am happy to wait. But that's not my goal. My goal is living a happy, interesting life. Sure, sometimes it's weird to be The Single Gal in the group, but mostly I'm having fun and experiencing things. And if Mr. Right makes an appearance, even better. That is to say, work on building the life you want for yourself. Personally, I think you've got a better chance of finding the right Mr. Right if you do that anyway. Good luck!
posted by pointystick at 5:34 AM on June 16, 2009

I was married at 23 and divorced at 27. Honestly, I would rather be single and 32 than divorced and 32.

Work on you and being happy with who you are. lamby is right - desperation is apparent. If you are thinking that marriage will solve something that is missing in your life you are almost certainly wrong.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:47 AM on June 16, 2009

Imagine you're married, right now. There's a ring on your finger, a photo album of honeymoon pics, and your husband - let's call him Trevor - is sitting in the next room watching golf. Or, heck, imagine you're married to that guy you're currently in a relationship with and don't actually love. Does it make you feel better? Are your problems gone?

You're probably thinking, "but it's not that simple!" But it really is. The inadequacy and worries that you bring into the marriage don't magically get resolved; they stay with you until you work on them yourself.

Marriage is less "happily ever after" and more "okay, now what?" It's less of a solution to things and more of a set of entirely new things to work on.

You know that saying "wherever you go, there you are?" It applies to "whoever you're with," too.

I suppose I count as an "old maid" too - I'm in a relationship, but not married, and I'm almost 30. My goal used to be to get into a relationship, and I thought that would prove that I was worth loving. But you know what? Even in the best relationship I've ever had, those nagging feelings of inadequacy and unloveableness would occasionally pop up again, and that's something that only I can work on (with the help of therapy). Ultimately, the only person who can solve your problems is you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:56 AM on June 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

For some reason, it seems like they calculated right. They 1) got with a guy who was ready to be married, 2) acted in a way that made them appealing for marriage, and 3) by luck or whatever, got to get hitched before the big 30.

Were your friends' actions actually that calculated and deliberate? Or did they just happen to fall in love and you're simply viewing their actions as calculated and deliberate?

Have you ever been last?


How did you cope?

I remembered that it wasn't a race, so the idea of being 'last' isn't applicable.

How did you deal with the self-pity and the pity from others?

I reminded myself that I'm not living in a Jane Austen novel. If someone was particularly snotty about it, I'd point out that the first to get married were likely the first to get divorced.

How did you manage enough energy or faith or whatever to try again, even after you've basically lost the race, you've missed one of your biggest goals.? HOW DO YOU KEEP GOING???

I had a friend like you once. She was all OMG I MUST GET MARRIED NOW NOW NOW CAN'T GET LEFT BEHIND CAN'T BE AN OLD MAID OH DEAR GOD etc., etc.. And she did. She married a man who stole money out of her retirement account, verbally and emotionally abused her, and basically made her miserable for nearly seven years. When she complained, her sister eventually got fed up and said, "Yeah, but the important thing is that you're married, right?"

My friend contacted a divorce lawyer that same week, and got out of the marriage some months later (thank God there were no kids). She decided to instead focus on finding someone that she could love, and who would love her, figuring that if she found someone lke that marriage would eventually follow. She relaxed, in other words, and decided to try to be happy first.

She's now married to an old boyfriend from high school and couldn't be happier.

Whenever I get the slightest bit anxious about not being married, I think about her.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:06 AM on June 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

No matter how hard I tried to not let that be a reality (like I'm in a 3-year relationship with someone I'm not in love with, but who seemed to be into me enough to want to marry me early on but who hasn't proposed so I guess I was wrong), it has.

I know other people have already gone over this, but: holy shit. You need to break up with this man, because you're not doing either of you any favors. Then you need to seriously reconsider your goals. Why in the fuck would you want to marry someone you're in love with? Just to get married? Would you be happy? Better off? No no no no no. You would just have a shitty marriage, which most people will say is much worse than no marriage at all. I never say this, but you really do need therapy, because this is no way to live.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:11 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's FINE to want to get married, and to be anxious about when it's going to happen. It seems like you are focusing on that instead of on your bf of 3 years, though, which is where you focus should be, IMO.

It sounds like you want to get married, but that you're waiting for him to propose--but you don't even love him. Have you talked to him about wanting to get married? If that is a goal for you and after three years he isn't sure, or isn't ready for some reason, you need to discuss it. Or, if you really don't love him, you need to DTMFA and find someone you can love.

Despite all these people in this thread telling you to be fine with being single in your 30s, that's not the way you actually feel. And that's OK. You don't need to turn yourself into a super-independent, career oriented person if that's not who you actually are. There's nothing objectively better about that than being marriage and family oriented.

You just need to be doing things in your life that open you up to that possibility of things actually working out for the best. Make yourself available to good men who you can love and who will be a good spouse for you. Don't settle for someone you can't love. That will lead to the worst-case-scenario situations all these people are warning you against.
posted by tk at 6:16 AM on June 16, 2009

Do you have a good life? Are you interesting? Are you interested in many things? Are you valuable to other people? Do you routinely demonstrate caring for other people?

Do you have ideas? Are you working on something worthwhile? Should people know about what you've accomplished?

Can you laugh things off? Can you play with other people?

Get to "yes" on all the above and you'll either be married or you won't give a rip if you are or you aren't.
posted by argybarg at 6:25 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Hence, I find myself now facing 30 and I'm unmarried. That's been my worst fear since I can remember.

That shouldn't be your worst fear.

I'm in a 3-year relationship with someone I'm not in love with

THAT should be your worst fear. Would you actually marry someone you're not in love with?

THIS THIS THIS, emphasized for truth and importance. Being in a bad relationship is so much worse than being single. Being divorced at 32 is much harder than being single at 30.

I'm 28 and I'm not married. Most of my closest friends are married, and most of them have a kid or two. Even my peer group (urban working women) who have mostly not been married are starting to get picked off and sporting rings and talking about bridal sample sales. Sometimes it makes me feel crazy, even though I don't want a traditional wedding or a traditional ring or any of the commercial trappings that go along with it. It's hard not to fall into the trap of thinking that the only successful relationship is the one that ends in marriage, but that's not true. All of my relationships have been successful in teaching me something about myself and about others. All of my relationships have better prepared me to be someone who will probably be married someday, and if not, someone who had a life full of interesting relationships.

Don't stay with someone you don't love just because he might marry you. What will you get out of it? Why are you willing to pledge the rest of your life to someone you don't love? Are you pining for a marriage or for a wedding?

One thing I realized about two years ago was that I wasn't treating myself as nicely as I should. I was using hand-me-down linens and Tupperware, because in the back of my mind I was waiting for my wedding when I would get the "real, grown up" stuff. What a revelation! I don't have to wait for other people to give me nice stuff. I have a job, and I have money, so I can buy matching Tupperware and dishes and high thread count sheets. I hope that when I do get married, there will be nothing left to buy me, because I won't have lived years of my adult life like a college student waiting for marriage to bestow me with enough importance to own nice cookware.

Strangely, this revelation pushed away a lot of my marriage desperation, and I'm able to evaluate relationships based on "Do I love this person? Am I happy with him?" instead of "Does he like me enough to propose?"
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:31 AM on June 16, 2009 [9 favorites]

"How did you deal with the horrible feelings of inadequacy that accompany that?"

You deal with horrible feelings of inadequacy by becoming adequate to yourself. How can you feel adequate staying with someone you don't love in case he might marry you? Do you really want a loveless marriage just to be married? Set him free so that you'll be free to create a rich new life for yourself that will make you feel adequate without a husband or with. Your life sounds reactive and desperate.

Adequacy can come with treating yourself and other people well and with emotional honesty, turning current interests into passions or accomplishments--or developing new skills and interests if you don't have them--finding a satisfying career path, developing new friendships with people who aren't already paired off, volunteering, self-educating, or getting further education, traveling, trying new, exciting things--growing. Do these things for yourself, not to catch a husband.
posted by Elsie at 6:32 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm a 31 single gal, dating someone but not exclusively, and I am surrounded by friends who are getting married and having children. Even the ones who already have children,a re having more children! I also have a couple of friends who are my age and single. We have all at one time or another had moments of feeling like we were being left behind, we were missing something we really wanted, and we might never get it. It's easy to be plagued by the what ifs: What if I don't find a partner? What if I don't have children? What if I'm 80 and die alone in my apartment, who will find me? It's easy to get carried away and despondent. Thing is, you can manage to have a full life with or without marriage and children, and at 30 there is no reason to assume that you won't have those things, if you want them. The odds are decidedly in your favor. Unless you just assume defeat and disaster, than it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You also may want to keep in mind that there are worse things than being single at 30. For one, being in an unhappy marriage at 30 and divorced by 33. Don't stay with someone you don't love because you think it might end in being called "wife." That's a recipe for disaster and it is unfair to both of you. Plus, while you are wasting time in an unfulfilling relationship, you can't find the one that might work and lead to a happy partnership! Marriage should not be the goal. Happiness is. I completely understand for you that means being married, but that can't happen unless you are making choices that make you happy, and that includes choosing to spend your time with someone you love regardless of when or if it leads to a walk down the aisle.
posted by katemcd at 6:48 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm in a 3-year relationship with someone I'm not in love with, but who seemed to be into me enough to want to marry me early on

I'm sorry, I know people keep quoting this over and over but it is just such a stunning thing to say. I really think you need to work with a therapist to examine your ideas of marriage because neither having a wedding nor being married is the holy grail here - it should be spending your life with someone you love in a solid, healthy relationship.

And honestly, I'm concerned that if you were to get married tomorrow, it wouldn't be what you think it is - because the mere fact of being married does not make you happy. In fact, if you look at divorce rates, it makes a vast number of people very unhappy.

FWIW, I met my husband at 32 and got married at 34. Make no mistake, I wanted to fall in love, get married and have kids, and I was clear about this with my now-husband because I felt like I didn't have a lot of time to waste and there was definitely age pressure. ("If you don't think we're moving towards marriage, stop dating me.")

But life is funny and unexpected things happen; we can't have kids. And I can't tell you how glad I am that I picked a great, funny, smart guy I love and love to spend time with, instead of just the first guy who was willing to marry me or someone who's best quality was that they'd be a great provider or a great dad. Because now I'm left without the happy families fairy tale I was aiming for, and it's just us - but just us is more than good enough.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:06 AM on June 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

How did you cope? How did you deal with the self-pity and the pity from others? How did you manage enough energy or faith or whatever to try again, even after you've basically lost the race, you've missed one of your biggest goals.?

Oof, you expand your circle of friends. I'd be depressed and freaked out if I was surrounded by pity, too. I'm not saying you should ditch everyone you know, but there are a lot of versions of "normal," and yours is only one of them. Among some circles, it's downright odd to be married much before 30. My friends who got married young (i.e. in their early-twenties) were anomalies.

I'd encourage you to work through the self-pity, though. I got the same impression that was mentioned a number of times upthread: self-fulfilling prophecy. If you went out on a date and the other person was clearly in the throes of massive self-doubt and feelings of being a terrible failure, how much fun do you think you'd have? (We tend to project that sort of thing.)

Hence, I find myself now facing 30 and I'm unmarried. That's been my worst fear since I can remember.

The worst? The absolute worst? Not illness or injury or homelessness or loss of your loved ones? Catastrophic accidents? Violence? You can't imagine anything worse than being a presumably able woman who is not yet married?

Get yourself busy, find something creative or otherwise fulfilling to do, try not to wallow. Fill your life with meaningful things, aim to accomplish something meaningful for someone or something else.
posted by desuetude at 7:09 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

comment from someone who would prefer to remain anonymous.
I'm looking not for mean, hard-liner responses, but some real, solid stories of "I feel you, here's how I mentally/emotionally/etc. worked through it." I really need this. Thanks in advance for any help whatsoever.

When I was 29 or so, I was feeling much as you do, although I don't think I articulated it so thoroughly to myself. Everyone else was doing wonderful things and falling in love, and I felt time and death following me around. A man I had been attracted to came on to me and I started dating him. He was married. I told myself that the man's wife wasn't my responsibility, that I only owed loyalty to those close to me, the people I loved, and anyone else could go screw. He eventually left his wife, and we got married. It was easily the shittiest thing I have ever done.

The marriage failed, as well it should have, and I was miserable pretty much every day when I was in it. We were completely incompatible. I'm quiet, measured, introverted, cynical, irreverant. He's extroverted, loud, confrontational, and gullible. I can't tell you how terrible it was, or the joy I felt when I was living alone again, and that first day, by myself, alone in my apartment, was so peaceful and so very much my own and probably one of my happiest. I had dreaded that aloneness for years. It was sublime. I made dinner, had a glass of wine, and read the New Yorker. I felt like someone had been holding me under water, and had finally released my feet and I came up for air. I got a dog and a cat and I started to garden, I went running, I went back to grad school. I had a life.

Years later I have come to see how impatient and greedy I was, and how I missed that time in my life, ten years younger than I am now, because I obsessed about what I thought were the trappings of normalcy, how I was afraid to be alone, how worried I was about what other people thought of me.

I can't undo what I did, and I can't apologize for it. It's one of those situations where apologizing would make the other person feel worse just so I could feel better, and is just a continuance of selfishness.

So I've decided to do this: I offer you this story as a cautionary tale of what it means to have your priorities all fucked up. I did a terrible thing to another person that I'll regret forever because I was panicking, because I was young and didn't have years of adulthood behind me, and because I couldn't fully appreciate the idea of 'regret,' and because I thought other people were unfairly getting a disproportionate measure of love and there wouldn't be any left for me.

Later on, I met someone else and we had a baby (I was almost forty), and we have a good life together. I wish that I had been more confident of that eventuality, and more aware that it's possible to be happy in a wide variety of circumstances. I wish I hadn't given up so easily. I wish I'd had more fun. I wish I had made my happiness and integrity, as opposed to my greed, the focus of my life.

So in answer to your question, 'how did I work through this?' the answer is, I did not work through it. I let it consume me, and it's now ten years later and I can see how profoundly stupid that was, and how profoundly stupid the things I allowed it to do to me and to others were.

I strongly recommend making a decision to do whatever it takes to develop a different view of the world. The one that you have is incorrect, and what's more, it's dangerous.
posted by jessamyn at 7:19 AM on June 16, 2009 [34 favorites]

Have you ever been last? How did you cope? How did you deal with the self-pity and the pity from others? How did you manage enough energy or faith or whatever to try again, even after you've basically lost the race, you've missed one of your biggest goals.? HOW DO YOU KEEP GOING???

All through high school, I wanted to be kissed. All my friends had been kissed, but I was super shy and it didn't seem to be happening to me. My sister called me up on my sixteenth birthday and said, "So, sweet sixteen and never been kissed?" and I sobbed about it later. Two more years passed. Sometimes I'd be alone with boys and freeze up. How does one kiss? Why isn't he kissing me?!

All my friends told me to chill out, that kissing wasn't a big deal. But because it hadn't happened to me, and I felt all alone in that, it felt like a huge deal. The issue got bigger and bigger and bigger.

Three weeks after high school graduation, a boy kissed me, while I sat there, frozen and petrified. And then I kissed him back. It was nice, but you know what? It was really no big deal! It was easy! I looked back on all of those times when I'd been alone with boys and realized that I could have just made a move. Amazing! I could have kissed several people! There was nothing wrong with me!

(I spent the next three months or so kissing lots of people, and then got into a seven year relationship with the man I'm currently engaged to.)

Feeling like you're the last at something--and I've meant plenty of women since who didn't make out with anyone in high school, either--can feel pretty awful. But that feeling has no grounding in reality and causes the problem, whatever problem, you have to get all blown out of proportion so that you can't really look at it objectively anymore. Your panic about an issue can make you make really stupid choices about it--like not kissing someone or staying with someone who's not right for you. I think that's happening here.

You definitely definitely should not be looking for marriage with someone you don't love. I'm speaking as an engaged person, so you might not believe me, but I would much, much, much sooner be single (and making out with lots of people!) than be shackled to someone that I don't care for. My fiance is my best friend, and I want to spend my life with him--that's why I proposed to him, not to have a wedding or be married.

So take a deep breath. Chill out. Ditch the boyfriend you feel lukewarm about and instead of looking for marriage, go out and have experiences with people that make you feel good and happy. When you find someone you feel consistently awesome with, that's when you should start thinking about marriage--but not before.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:23 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your problem isn't that you're not married. Your problem is you're only 30.

Yes, I said only. The age of 30 does a number on people and makes them fly into this massive panic of "omg i don't have everything i thought i'd have yet and i'm 30 already and that means time is running out and i'll never get it and omg what did i do wrong???" All your friends who are getting married? Maybe they're the ones who are feeling like they're "the last ones" to get a really good careers, and they're looking at YOU with envy and feeling panicked because they dnn't have a great job like YOU do.

When in truth, neither you NOR them is "last". You're just going through an "I'm turning 30" evaluation of your life. EVERYONE does that -- something about the number 30 makes us feel like we have to be totally settled. But in truth, your 20's were about figuring out what the hell you were doing, and all 30 really means is "okay, now that I REALLY have some practice down about how to operate in the world, now I can REALLY go out and get what I want." Your dating in your 20's was about learning HOW to be in relationshps -- now that you have that experience, now you can REALLY go out and find someone and have it be a great match for you. It may not happen right away, but you have SO much more experience than you did when you were only 20, and it'll be SO much better for you.

I can't tell you how to work this agita out, unfortunately -- but that's because part of working through this is finding your OWN answers. But I promise you you WILL find your way to your own answers. You WILL find your way to get past the "omg i'm not married yet" and get yourself to the point where you blink and think, "...wait, I've still got another 50 years to get married, probably, WHY am I panicking about this, now?" It does get lonely sometimes, sure -- I'm 39 and still single, and it does bum me out sometimes -- but the good thing is, back when I was 30, I would get bummed out because "oh no there's something wrong with me," but now that I'm 39, I know there's nothing wrong with me at all and it was just dumb luck (I'm more bummed about about one particular relationship not working out, but that was due to some factors beyond my control). And realizing that, realizing "there was nothing wrong with me," made me realize that "well, hell, then, I didn't want to settle for anything less than the best anyway, so it was all for the best."

You will get through this, I promise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 AM on June 16, 2009

Wow, I was the *first* one of my close friends to be married, amidst raised eyebrows at how young I was. I was 29.

I say that to point out that maybe you need to surround yourself with some different friends to give you a different perspective on things. In my world it's abnormal to consider 30 some sort of delineator of spinsterhood. In a high proportion of cases it's when you start to come into yourself as a person, particularly if you were in college/grad school or similar through much of your 20s.
posted by gaspode at 8:19 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you really just want to "insert groom here," you can do that. You could be married within a month if that's what you wanted. Put an ad on Craigslist. Go to Vegas and get someone drunk. Find a total stranger who is stupid, ugly, boring, old, poor, mean, and smelly and tell him that you'll marry him right now; he'll marry you if he knows what's good for him. But I suspect that you don't merely want to be married. You want something else. You want a particular sort of life, and you see marriage as an integral part of that life.

What do you actually want? What is it about being married that appeals to you? Here are a few examples of things that "MUST GET MARRIED" could be a metonym for:

-I want to love and be loved
-I want a family and children
-I don't want to die alone
-I want to feel successful at life
-I want to wear a fancy dress and be the center of attention
-I want to feel more adult than I do now
-I want someone to take care of me
-I want someone to want to take care of me
-I don't want to feel left out at events where many other people are in couples
-I am bored with my life and want to start a new phase of it
-I want to participate in a sacrament of my religious faith
-I want to be honored by my friends and family

There are a million things you could want, but I really hope that you don't actually want to be married without caring who your spouse is or how the relationship develops or what role he plays in your life. And many of the things you might see as important components of marriage are things you can secure for yourself while you're still on the lookout for the man you want to love for the rest of your life.

I'm not saying that you'll be able to get yourself those things right away (your friends and family would probably think it was really strange if you threw yourself a big party and walked down the aisle alone), but focusing on matrimony as the be all, end all is doing yourself a disservice, because it's preventing you from fulfilling your other dreams.

Finally, remember as you date and go through your life that dating isn't a search for a person who is willing to marry you. It's a search for a person you want to share your life with. Try not to think of it as, "what do I need to do to get a guy to propose?" Think of it as, "what do I want from my partner, and how can I find a person who wants the same things I do?" As a lot of the posters above have said, you don't want to marry just any old person (and you probably don't want to marry your current boyfriend if you don't love him). You want to marry someone who can work with you to build all of the things that marriage represents to you. You choose him just as much as he chooses you, so choose wisely.
posted by decathecting at 8:25 AM on June 16, 2009 [8 favorites]

All these people telling you to get over it need to chill. There can be and often IS anxiety when someone has a delayed life transition. Period. It isn't "right" or "wrong". It just IS. (See authors/researchers such as McAdams, Gould, Levinson, Vaillant, Erikson work on mid-life transition.)

I can relate, because I went through three (3!) rounds of friends who married while I stayed single. Right after college (22), in my mid-twenties (around 25-26), and in my late twenties/early thirties. I was so happy for them, they were in GREAT relationships. (And none of them have divorced--we're all in our 40's now.) I had a fun, if demanding, career. A great apartment in the city. Some really neat avocational experiences. But, yeah. I would have liked someone to share all of that with for many reasons. I met some nice guys, had a couple of good longish term relationships. But I was "unattached".

I think it wouldn't have been such a big deal if I had ONE close friend who had remained single. But that was not the case. So, it does sort of throw your life into stark relief, no matter what other wonderful things are going on in your life. You can't help but kind of question what is going on. It is human and perfectly natural. Don't beat yourself up over that.

It also didn't help that I had family members who viewed marriage as the goal, the ultimate validation of your worth. That really sucked. Bucking that trend when their actions and words pushed back against being single. And then getting asked by the occasional colleague or stranger (always male, always clueless), "I don't get it! You're attractive, funny, successful...the whole package! Why aren't you married?" I'm sure they meant it as a compliment, but, good Lord. After enough interactions like that you want to clock them with your purse instead of laughing it off. Yeah, guy in the seat next to me on a United flight from California to Chicago, shut up already. Also, couple with cute baby in row 14 on flight from Houston to New York? Not polite to ask a TOTAL STRANGER her age, whether she is married with kids, and then tell her, "You should really get going. You don't have a lot of time, you know." I would have told you off but it was a totally full flight and I couldn't move my seat. WTF, Society?

Finally, after I hit 30, I'd had enough. I took a three week vacation by myself to backpack up the East Coast, with sailing lessons in Newport and guided rock climbing in New Hampshire. The next year, I was off to Europe for four weeks of backpacking by myself. Bought myself a pretty cool ring in Salzberg and wore it on "that finger" because, hey. I LIKED myself and was having a boatload of fun. Next year? Costa Rica for three weeks with Habitat for Humanity. In between, I bought my own condo, got a dog, took improv classes at Second City, went to spas. Decided that I was going to have a freaking BLAST. All of my married friends moaned about how they wished they could just pick up and take off for a weekend at a B&B. I realized that there were advantages to the single life and I was going to experience them.

Did it fix everything entirely? No. There were some wistful moments. I journaled a lot. Was into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. But, dammit. I wasn't just going to roll over to society's stupid norms of when and where women should do whatever.

Met a great friend through my roommate (who shared a condo with me). He and I hung out for a year, ended up dating. Imagine my surprise when, at 35, I was standing at the altar with this cute/amazing/funny guy, 8 years younger than I was. Not because I felt that time was running out or the clock was ticking. I was at that altar because, even though I was having fun, he just enhanced the fun. I couldn't have dated or married him if I'd met him when I was 22 or even 25 because, um, it was a felony. Now, I'm 43, we just celebrated our eighth anniversary. But I made a deal before we married. I still get a weekend a year just to go somewhere by myself and chill because I ended up really enjoying solo travel in my early thirties. If I hadn't married, I probably would still be taking outrageous vacations, I might have adopted as a single mom, etc. Yes, I still wear my original ring. I moved it over to the right hand, but it is still an important reminder to me to like being by myself first.

Now when I look back, I realize that my early thirties were so much more fun than my 20's. Wouldn't have missed it for the world :)
posted by jeanmari at 8:42 AM on June 16, 2009 [25 favorites]

As an aside, there are a few really good resources for exploring the transition of turning 30. Yeah, it's an arbitrary number. But if you're feeling it, you're feeling it. Here's one.

The ones about the healthiness and helpfulness of solitude are especially wonderful. Like this one. Or this one.

Think about it. Has your life EVER remained exactly the same for more than 5 years? I'm going to bet that your answer is "no". Most of us have different experiences, make different friends, perhaps we switch jobs, or living arrangements, etc. at LEAST every five years (if not sooner.) Enjoy your solitude and freedom now, while you have it. You won't regret the experience if you really embrace it.
posted by jeanmari at 8:59 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Almost 32 here and single. In the past two years almost all of my friends have gotten married, had kids or moved in with someone. I understand to some degree feeling left out being last. But for me its not the fact that I'm not married, I don't really get the point in that. I would like to have someone I'm close to that is a good partner, and don't understand the rush for 'marriage' if you have that already. Its more about not having someone to hang out with since all my friends are boring now and don't want to do anything.

So what are you missing? It sounds like you should be looking for someone that you actually want to be with, not someone to marry. What do you think you'll get out of that piece of paper that you don't already have in your current relationship?

How did you cope?
I cope with not having friends that want to go out any more by making my own plans, doing my own thing and making new friends.

How did you deal with the self-pity and the pity from others?
I don't have pity from others. Who are you associating with who's pitying you? Why would you want to hang out with those kind of people anyway? Sounds to me like you need to meet some different people. Actually, most people I know are jealous of me and all of the cool things I did during my 20s instead of dating and trying to get married. It sure makes me a much more interesting person.

How did you manage enough energy or faith or whatever to try again, even after you've basically lost the race, you've missed one of your biggest goals.?
Well, easy, marriage isn't one of my biggest goals. Maybe you should redefine your goals. I agree with the others that say if you don't love your boyfriend then get out of that relationship today. If you don't like him now I'm pretty sure you won't suddenly fall in love when you're married to him. The sooner you start fresh the sooner you can meet someone new and get started on yourself.
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:11 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I didn't actually have a lot of Very Important Meaning wrapped up in "30," likely owing to my own mother having me, her only child, stupendously late in life according to her upbringing. (Not sure how I feel about 40 yet, though.) But after about the tenth person asks you "ooooooooooohhh how do you feeeeeeel about 30," the most well-adjusted person in the world can get a little touchy.

So, my closest friend and I have a policy of spending major-numerical birthdays AWAY. Preferably leaving the country, but just a trek to a not-yet-seen climate would work, too. Nothing like exploring new scenery and laughing through attempts to understand a foreign language and/or culture to make you feel like you're young and have a lot to learn and see and do. And not knowing anyone else makes it easier to open your eyes to people-watching, and noticing people of all ages -- the smartly-dressed 60 year-old woman with great legs, the 45-year old new mom looking serene, the gaggle of young teenagers goofily showing off for each other.
posted by desuetude at 9:19 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I agree that you should talk to someone. You are holding your life up to the boilerplate and not seeing a match. Also, desperation to get married is not exactly a magnet for guys to get involved. I say, 'what's your rush?' Another saying: the watched pot does not boil.
posted by heather-b at 9:23 AM on June 16, 2009

Hey, I'm days from turning 34 and am single as can be. I'm cool with it, most of the time. I still have a lot of single girlfriends and guy-friends who are around my age or older, and I think having company helps. Even if I didn't, I just try to surround myself with good friends and family, and living a full life that really brings me joy. You've gotta be in the moment and enjoy what you have right now.

Some days it's difficult to be in that mindset, I'll admit. Shoot, my seven years' younger sister got married, all over-the-top fairytale style, last summer, and you bet I had difficulty with that. But I am so happy for her, as I am for anyone who's found someone wonderful. At the same time, I can envision that for myself (the special person, I could care less about the fantasy wedding), but I can't force it in any way. Just try to remain as positive as you can, because negativity feeds on itself and leads to misery.
posted by medeine at 10:16 AM on June 16, 2009

It's not a race. Really, it isn't. When you get to that "finish line" of being married, ask yourself: then what? No one's handing out blue ribbons at the end.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:58 AM on June 16, 2009

I came in here to say something similar to gaspode. Just for some perspective, in my socio-cultural group, not being married at 30 is not weird at all. This was not true when I grew up. I'm from middle Tennessee, land of prosperous suburbs surrounding a moderately interesting, moderately sized, half traditional, half modern city. I see (from Facebook mostly) that among people I knew from high school in the 26-30 age group, a sizeable proportion of them are married and have (sometimes multiple) kids. Because of my current cultural situation, this strikes me as incredibly weird, even though I vividly remember being in my late-teens and early-20s and thinking that timeline sounded perfectly natural.

Now, among people I know from college and since clustered (in large part but not entirely) near urban areas (New York, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas) I'm only close to two married couples, and one of them got married last month. They were 34 and 37 and had been dating since their 20s. My very long term partner and I only started talking marriage around the 8-year mark and still haven't done it yet. It's just not expected, and honestly, its been enormously freeing to learn to let go of the rigid expectations I grew up with.

My point is that even though you feel very strongly right now that 30 is this major barrier that changes everything, but this is not universally true. I imagine you're experiencing this now because of a combination of the intense pressure of rigorously followed social norms and purely internal feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem and what not.

As for the social norms, see what you can do to expose yourself to some different ones. Try broadening your life a bit. Get more education, travel, try to make some new, different friends who come from different places or belong to cultures with different goals, just to give you a sense of the fact that the entire universe doesn't think you're a weirdo if you aren't hitched and to stretch and challenge yourself personally.

As for the internal stuff, I'm a card carrying member of the mefi therapy brigade, so of course, I think that would be a pretty good (but not utterly necessary) idea here. It's not super healthy to want to be married just for its own sake instead of out of an expression of a true desire to spend your life with one particular person who you deeply love. Lots of people do it, but that doesn't mean its at all good for their emotional health. It's not fair to yourself or to the man to push him to marry you to try and feel whole. In a couple of years, the first round of divorces will start in your social circle. Many of them may realize they married primarily because they thought they were supposed to, and they'll have to start their lives over with that in their past.

Being married won't make you feel whole or good or happy in every way. It won't make you more worthwhile or more worthy of love. It won't fix your problems or lessen the sometimes crushing weight of the inexorable passage of time. I'm in a long relationship with someone I love deeply, and its the hardest work I've ever done. Love (and marriage) is a process, a verb, not a single achievable goal. If you don't feel good about yourself, marriage won't fix that. In fact, I agree with the people that say that if anything, this deep need will probably make it harder for you to get married.

This is not to say that your feelings aren't valid or worth trying to understand. As a person who has essentially failed on every major career goal I ever had, I know what it's like to have to examine and reimagine how you see yourself. I just think some therapy to help you figure yourself out some, to grow and get happier just for its own sake would be useful. It could help you be more confident and at peace within yourself, and that's both a great goal in and of itself and also, a think that makes you more attractive to everyone, potential romantic partners included.

(I just saw how long this ended up being. Sorry for the rambling. Good luck.)
posted by mostlymartha at 11:19 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was just like you.

I stood as maid of honor in a best friend's wedding the year before I turned 30 and sobbed, openly, because my boyfriend of 4.5 years (live-in) hadn't proposed. I was a bridesmaid 15 times.


I seriously was sick all the time thinking, Why not me? What, I'm not good enough to be a wife too?

So I told live-in boyfriend that if he didn't propose by our five-year anniversary, I was moving out.

He proposed the day before the five-year anniversary.

I was married 2 days after my 30th birthday.

We were divorced 4 years later, and the last two years were a living hell. LIVING. HELL.

Why? Because I married the wrong guy. I wanted to be a wife. I loved him. BUT.

Wanting to be married and marrying the right person ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

I am now 37 and I feel sexier, happier, and more successful/balanced than I ever have.

Feeling what you are feeling RIGHT NOW drove me into making one of the worst decisions of my life. I paid about 50 grand in 4 years for wedding/divorce. I am still financially devastated, but recovering slowly.

Now. Re-think what you typed above. I didn't read every comment, but I'm sure lots of people are saying the same thing. But I lived what you are going through exactly, and guess what?

8 of the 10 friends who got married in that two-year window are now divorced.

IT'S NOT A RACE. IT'S NOT A COMPETITION. It's YOUR LIFE. Don't believe what the media and your family tells you about your relative value concerning marriage and children.

Having a bad marriage or a child out of desperation based on what you believe are society's expectations is just... beyond unnecessary in today's times.

How do you handle the self-pity and pity of others...

Oh, you think being unmarried at 30 is pitiful? Try going home on Thanksgiving two years after you've just put on the Cirque du Soleil wedding of your dreams and telling your family that your marriage is a failure, that big house you spent two years designing and building is now going to be argued over in court, and trying to figure out who you are identity-wise after that dream collapses. Try reinventing yourself after you've given up everything to be Mrs. Wrong vs. Just Yourself.

Where do you live? If it's in the US and the state has a separation law, you might spend a year separated legally and 6 months waiting for the divorce to be final. Wouldn't you LOVE to be married to someone for a year and a half that you don't love, and maybe at that point hate, and have it costing you shit-tons of money every month? What if he fights you? What if it takes YEARS?

I have friends whose divorces cost them almost 100k. Do you have 100k to spend on fighting for custody, child support, property... with someone you yourself say you're not even in LOVE with???? DO NOT RUSH INTO MAJOR LIFE DECISIONS.

If you marry this guy for no other reason than to be married, i.e. you force him into marrying you somehow, then you'll be me. Do you have 50 grand to spend extricating yourself from a terrible situation? It's pretty fucked up. Worse, do you want to have a kid with a guy you don't love? He'll be part of your life forever then... so when Mr. Right shows up at, say, age 38 and you're finally with the right person, you'll still have to see Mr. Wrong for the rest of your life.

Oh, what if you meet the real Mr. Right during the separation period? Mr. Right might want not to date you until you're legally divorced. Wouldn't that SUCK??

You might be living with your parents and on a fixed income from this horrible decision you forced on yourself, your boyfriend you don't love, and your family. All because you felt sorry for yourself and less than society's expectations, which by the way, are all in your head.

Is that a good decision? I've extrapolated this out to a degree of N so you can see that one short-sighted decision can affect you in ways you can't even imagine right now.

There is more to life than being married. I am sorry for the long reply but... goddamn, you can be so much more than somebody's wife. Find out who you are before you graft your life to someone else's.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:03 PM on June 16, 2009 [39 favorites]

goddamn, you can be so much more than somebody's wife. Find out who you are before you graft your life to someone else's.

If I could favorite this a million times, I would.
posted by scody at 1:28 PM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Watch the movie Mona Lisa Smile. And realize you and that dude could go to the JP tomorrow and get hitched and you'd feel just as bad as you do right now. Marriage is not a cure-all.
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:25 PM on June 16, 2009

I just want to tell you this - I'm 39 and unmarried, never have been, never have even been CLOSE (honestly), and while this fact doesn't make me happy, I live. I'm alive. I'm getting up and doing stuff, I have friends, I get laid, people like me, I laugh a lot - I'm not DEAD.

Would I be happier married with kids? Probably. But the universe has something else in mind for me, and it hasn't actuallyliterally killed me yet.

It won't kill you, either, if it doesn't happen (which - BTW - statistics say it WILL, I'm an outlier, even. You're not even old yet, shit.)
posted by tristeza at 6:48 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you read these replies, anonymous? I'd love to hear your thoughts. I know you said about a previous post:
I don't think the commenters were really empathetic to the poster and the answers were thus skewed. I'm looking not for mean, hard-liner responses, but some real, solid stories of "I feel you, here's how I mentally/emotionally/etc. worked through it." I really need this.
and I worry that that's what you think of these responses. That everyone is just cranky, unsympathetic, doesn't understand that YOU NEED TO BE MARRIED RIGHT NOW and so forth.

I hope you don't think that. I hope you print these replies out and reread them, and that someday, in a better mood, you will see what we are saying. Please, go live your life. Find love, peace, and happiness. When you are 40 and single and want a baby more than anything, then come back to Mefi. (And we'll send you to Single Mothers by Choice. That's a hard decision.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:52 PM on June 16, 2009

I eventually got married at 32, somewhat to my surprise, after I'd decided I would probably remain single all my life. So I tried to have the best single life I could and not wallow in "woe is me". I think that, by doing my own thing and not trying too hard to attract men, I became more attractive to the kind of guy I really liked, who in turn wanted an independent self-sufficient woman. It's a form of playing hard to get, in some sense, without the intentional tease - and it works pretty well. (Of course the irony is that it only starts working after you stop playing; you have to really be hard to get, what with all the exciting demands on your time and attention.)

Regarding the attitude of your friends and family, Andrew Cherlin at Johns Hopkins has an interesting interpretation of the American obsession with getting married. "[Marriage] has become the prime symbol of a successful personal life. People want to get married so that they can show family and friends — and themselves — that they have their personal life in great shape." Nothing makes people quite as smug as flashing their big ol' merit badge wedding ring at losers less fortunate friends who don't have it together. If you consider that the pity from friends might not be so much genuine sympathy as secret gloating over their own "winner" status, you might find it easier to shrug off.

I'm really glad, in hindsight, that it took so long to find the right man to share my life with. By 32 I had pretty much figured out who I was, who I wanted to be, what I was willing to put up with and what was a deal-breaker. I had finished my PhD, completed a postdoc, gotten a good job, and bought a flat, pretty much on my own. I knew that I could handle most of what life was likely to throw at me, without needing a man to help me, and the only way to learn that was to live on my own for so long. I feel sorry for people who get married very young, because to me it seems like they don't get a chance to grow into themselves - they go straight from being somebody's child to somebody's spouse to somebody's parent. Anyway, there are advantages to being single for a long time, which your married friends might actually envy in their heart of hearts.
posted by Quietgal at 8:40 PM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

Wait. You are the last person unmarried in your present group of friends. Do you feel awkward socializing with them, a single among so many marrieds? Seeing them buy a house, furnish it, landscape the yard? Have a child? If so, it's time to find some new friends — single friends — to socialize with!
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:18 PM on June 16, 2009

Been there, done this. I'm 31. 90% of my relatives get married before 21. My younger cousin met her future husband at 18 and just got married. You bet I'm the freaky old maid on both sides of the family (one side cares deeply about this and nags me incessantly, and one does not). People my own age won't socialize with me in my own town because they are all married and want "couple friends", so I either socialize with 21-year-olds (college town) or 40+-year-olds who are married but don't give a goddamn about "couple friends" any more.

Yeah, I feel like a freak at times. I feel like I lost the competition. I know better, but yeah, sometimes I feel like that.

I had one chance to get married. My ex-fiance is a nice bloke, but a financial disaster who couldnt shape up. I got engaged on a lark, plus thinking that my dad was going to die soon and I'd better get myself married off before then. (Note: dad hated the guy and bawled hysterically when he found this news out.) Now, how's that for dumb to do? Well, at least I didn't marry him, because I'd be as broke as he is, having to support him because he didn't like working, and I'd be mad all the time. Right, I could have "won" at Marital Lotto if I married my one chance at marriage before 30, but would I be miserable as hell now if I had? Oh yes.

So, really, I just have to keep reminding myself every time I'm the lone single in the office, or around relatives, or whatever the crappy scenario is where I'm the single freak, that being single is still happier than being married unhappily. Because winning Marital Lotto early is not worth the divorce bills. And waking up in the middle of the night saying "Well, at least I'm married", from what I hear, doesn't make you feel better if it's the wrong dude that you're married to.

It could be worse.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:39 PM on June 17, 2009

I'm 34 and I got married last year, and I'm pretty much the last of my friends to get married. I always kind of knew that I would get married on the later side. I had a lot of emotional crap to work through and I really wasn't ready for this type of commitment until now. Had I gotten married at 26, it would have been a disaster.

People do things on their own time frame. Try to stop worrying about checking the boxes and start (continue) enjoying your life.
posted by bananafish at 11:32 PM on June 20, 2009

I got married at 30. Not the last person in my group of friends, but I was really aware of being 30. My sister got married at 34, with similar feelings of being pressured by age. In both cases, the marriages were disastrous. Better to take your time.
posted by theora55 at 11:39 AM on August 3, 2009

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