Annoyances or dealbreakers?
May 29, 2006 6:51 PM   Subscribe

When considering marriage, how can you tell the difference between annoyances and dealbreakers?

I love my girlfriend for her many wonderful qualities, and I am thinking about getting married to her. But there are some problems. I know no-one's perfect, but how much is too much? I'm talking things like sexual incompatibility (she's less interested), religious differences (she's more interested), and her excessive sense of entitlement which causes problems in all areas of life... (note... I don't mean to disrespect her, I have my share of problems too, but they are hers to worry about, and this is my question!)

I would love to hear from people who got married with doubts like these. What kind of problems turned out to be not such a big deal after all? And what kinds of problems ended up undermining your marriage?

How can I tell the difference?

Thanks a lot.
posted by tabulem to Human Relations (50 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If you're thinking this way, you should hold off on getting married until you're sure that these are areas of your life that you're willing to compromise on for the rest of your life (he said ominously).

How long have you been with this person?
posted by BackwardsCity at 6:54 PM on May 29, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for your post. More info: I have been with her a bit over a year. Sounds not so long, but we are in our early 30s, so I feel I need to make a decision soon.
posted by tabulem at 7:00 PM on May 29, 2006

If you are asking these questions here you are not ready to marry her. Take your time, one year is barely enough time for the "new sex" effect to wear off.
posted by COD at 7:06 PM on May 29, 2006

i'd worry about the entitlement thing myself ... especially if it affects her relationships with other people
posted by pyramid termite at 7:11 PM on May 29, 2006

COD writes "If you are asking these questions here you are not ready to marry her."

I don't mean to be calling you out, COD, but I always see these kind of answers in these kind of threads, and they piss me off. It's patronizing and dismissive. If anything, tabulem's willingness to examine these issues is a sign of maturity and self-examination, not an indictment of his relationship.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:13 PM on May 29, 2006

Anyone here can only give you opinions such a matter as this, so I'm going to follow suit.

You have concerns that sound big enough to me that it sounds doubtful that you are prepared to accept the current state of things in a "for life" arrangement. If you have, even as a tiny little inkling in the back of your mind, the thought that "if things don't get better, we can just divorce", then this relationship is not the one that will last a lifetime.

To summarize my advice: Solve these problems before marriage (or even engagement), if you really want a lifelong relationship. Or don't solve them and don't get married.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:13 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: "sexual incompatibility" sounds very extreme and I think it definitely dealbreaker territory. "She's less interested" is not so extreme, though. That's something you can maybe work with. So depending on what you actually meant, it could go one way or the other.

Sexual incompatibility has undermined several of my marriages... that is to say it stopped certain relationships from ever getting that far.

I also think that if you are still just over a year and already having these concerns, then you are not ready for marriage. I'm not saying you should dump her and move on. I understand the desire not to waste lots of time, but waiting to see if something promising works out is not a waste of time. I know several people who've made asinine choices because they feel the need to run at the first sign of trouble so as not to waste what remains of their 30s. Unfortunately, the older we get, the more set in our ways we become, and the MORE flexible we need to be sometimes.
posted by scarabic at 7:15 PM on May 29, 2006

I wonder if the "She's less interested" sexual incompatibility has anything at all to do with the "she's more interested" religious differences? Perhaps the fact that you're not yet married is playing in to her sexual disinterest because of her religious convictions?
posted by jcummings1974 at 7:21 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Sexual incompatability - At best, annoying. At worst, a deal breaker. This depends on how un-interested "less interested" means. And, there are only ninety trillion threads on AxeMe already about this sort of thing, so read up under the "sex" tag. Might give you some ideas to nip this one in the bud.

Religion - I think it depends on what type of religion she's "more interested" in. For example, my husband was raised Methodist, and I went to a Presbyterian school despite being a sort of default atheist. *Most* Methodists are pretty laid back and groovy, and our worldview and morals (for lack of a better term) line up, so we're cool. (We had what I jokingly refer to as a "God & Jesus Lite" wedding, because anything less would have freaked his family out a little.) He doesn't have a lot of interest in organized churching, but we go sometimes when we're at my in-laws. It's a trade off I'm willing to make. If you guys have the world-views and morals thing lining up, then you're doing fine. You just have to work out a compromise about how you're going to get through the physical attendence bit, and of course, if kids are in the picture, discuss how you will handle that.

Re: the entitlement thing -- I have no idea. These are all things that you and she should actively work on -- "Honey, I need to understand why you do X when Y occurs, because it makes me uncomfortable," may or may not be a good place to start, depending upon how reasonable you and she can both be, but I think you have to talk about this stuff. Not in the context of possible marriage - just in the context of a continuing relationship between adult human beings who should communicate well. Working on these issues will at the least demonstrate how well you two do working out problems and compromising, which is a huge part of married life.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:23 PM on May 29, 2006

It's not dismissive at all. If he has that kind of doubt, he is not ready to be married. Combined with only knowing her for one year, and he is doubly not ready to be married. I don't need to write 10 paragraph missives to get my point across.

It simply the facts. It's not an indictment of his relationship. I can think of very few situations where I'd think somebody is ready to be married in one year. I think the "new relationship" glow might have lasted about two years for me. We still waited almost 5 to get married. And 14 years later, we still are. Till death do us part is a long time, another year or three upfront to be sure is a wise investment of time.
posted by COD at 7:26 PM on May 29, 2006

... we are in our early 30s, so I feel I need to make a decision soon.
"Marry in haste, repent at leisure."
posted by RussHy at 7:29 PM on May 29, 2006

Not on your list, but here's one that I should have seen as a dealbreaker: inflexibility, manifested as unwillingness to discuss options. (For where we put the living room furniture in our first place together - her way was the way.) Or maybe it was another aspect of that sense of entitlement you did mention. Anyway, if you can't even discuss something like furniture placement, the omens are bad.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:30 PM on May 29, 2006

Those sound like three major issues for a marriage. I think you should get some counseling and bring up these issues in a non-confrontational way. Good luck.

Early 30's isn't too late to find a partner.
posted by Jesco at 7:36 PM on May 29, 2006

FWIW, I married my wife at 32 years old, 3.5 years later we are now expecting our first child. You aren't in any way too old.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:46 PM on May 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

You don't say whether you're living together now, but if you aren't, maybe try that (assuming it's acceptable for religious or whatever reasons). After a while, you'll know if you could stand to be this person's roommate for the rest of your life.
posted by Quietgal at 7:51 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: I don't think you can tell beforehand what will be a marriage deal-breaker and what will not (except for more obvious things like physical abuse or serious criminal activity).

Try to put these - or any - potential deal-breakers into a larger context. Does she come from a background of [insert religious fanaticism of choice] or is she going through a period of exploration that you just don't currently share? Do you have no sex ever, or is it 3-4 times a week, and you'd prefer 7?

Also, have you talked to her about these concerns? Her response to you in that conversation will tell you a lot of what you need to know. Whether or not she agrees with you is not necessarily important. What's important is how the two of you can work together to address the concerns of one of you.

Also, as others have said, no need to rush. You have time. The biggest deal-breaker of all should be someone pressuring you into something you're not sure you're ready for, whether it's a potential spouse, or your peers, or the media.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:12 PM on May 29, 2006

I know no-one's perfect, but how much is too much? I'm talking things like sexual incompatibility (she's less interested),

religious differences (she's more interested),

and her excessive sense of entitlement which causes problems in all areas of life...

So you want to marry a frigid, arrogant, religious nut.

To me this relationship sounds like it's run it's course, if only for the sense of entitlement WHICH CAUSES PROBLEMS IN ALL AREAS OF LIFE.

These are your words and obviously your view, so you may be overstating things, I don't know. But why be with someone you feel causes problems in all areas of life?


What kind of problems turned out to be not such a big deal after all?

That's up to you. Everyone has their limits.

And what kinds of problems ended up undermining your marriage?

I think you're asking the right questions as you clearly have certain views on sex, religous and sense of entitlement. Sounds like she's crossing the lines of what you're comfortable with.

But have you talked about all this with her? Have you told her that you've asked strangers these questions aobut her because you're that worried? what do you she say, how did she take it?

Talk to her and work it out (which doesn't sound easy) or move on. Don't settle for crap because you think you're running outta time.

How can I tell the difference?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:20 PM on May 29, 2006

Is the "we're 30 we'd better do something" coming from you, or from her? I don't think it's a stretch to say that women are more likely to put pressure on a guy than the other way around.

You should definitely live together for more than 1 year before deciding on anything. I have found the sex thing to not be that big of a deal. The dealbreaker for me in the past was the inability of us to have a conversation about meaningful and important things. She just didn't have the insight or vocabulary, and was more the kind of person who felt the world.

Let's be honest: neither of you owe anything to the other one. Is there passion there? I don't mean just the sexual kind, because that'll fade. Is she interesting? Can you imagine yourself bragging about your catch to your buddies? Can you, in the same breath, imagine yourself sitting on a porch in a rocking chair at 70 years old, laughing and having a great time?
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:22 PM on May 29, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you all for your wonderful insightful comments. I really appreciate the time that everyone has take to reply to my question.

Jcummings1974 hit the nail on the head by suggesting that the sex and religious issues might be related. They are. I definitely think she holds back because she is waiting to be sure that I'm the one. But that makes it difficult to evaluate whether everything would be fine if we were committed, or whether she is simply selfish in bed.

Several of you gave answers suggesting that I need to raise these concerns with her, and the way that she responds will be more indicitive of the quality of the relationship than the particular issues in themselves. This seems like excellent advice and I intend to follow it.

Thanks again, and if anyone has anything further to add I would be glad to hear it.
posted by tabulem at 8:27 PM on May 29, 2006

You love her. But do you like her?

The phrases her excessive sense of entitlement which causes problems in all areas of life and I don't mean to disrespect her don't exactly mesh well within the same sentence. Is there any good level of entitlement? When I see words like "incompatability" and "entitlement" show up in your question, the answer seems self-evident.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:43 PM on May 29, 2006

sex, religious, political outlook... these are dealbreakers.

when it's right, you'll know. there won't be questions like these.
posted by 3.2.3 at 8:44 PM on May 29, 2006

That you're more interested in sex and she's more interested in church should not be a deal breaker, in my estimation. This is the state of affairs in most marriages, including mine. The good news is that with each passing year, sex become less imporant in our marriage, and church consumes a mere two hours a week. Not a big deal at all. Want some deal breakers? Try these: Would she take care of me if I was disabled? Would I take care of her? Can mutual respect and a shared mission carry the relationship when taut flesh becomes flaccid with age? Do I trust that she won't screw up my children? etc. Marriage, if done right, is long. Listing sex as first among your worries strikes me as a tad shortsighted.
posted by Crotalus at 8:54 PM on May 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

Best answer: More religious churches require a couple to do premarital councelling before getting wedded in their church. Although I'm a "organized religion is scary" kinda person, it seems like some sort of premarital couples councilling might help you sort these things out.

Therapy isn't the answer for everything, but it's best to at least see how the two of you can mutually work things out now, rather than when they turn into a huge, hairy deal.

Are those things a deal breaker? It depends on what deal you're looking for.

There's not a single relationship I truly understand from the outside. Every couple has their own special deals. To me, marriage is about compromise that doesn't feel like sacrifice. I think you have to ask yourself if what you're going to have to do to make this relationship work is going to make you resent the beautiful creature on the other side of the bed five, ten, twenty years in.

So, why not figure out if you guys are good at working on stuff now in therapy and if not, well, then you know for sure.
posted by Gucky at 8:57 PM on May 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Fair question, but yes, I like her. Entitlement, yeah, of course it's never good. I guess what I said sounds harsh. But it's not like she's the most spoilt girl in the world, and also, it's not like I'm Mr. Perfect...
posted by tabulem at 8:57 PM on May 29, 2006

Re: the entitlement thing - I dealt with that in a relationship, and it's what caused our relationship to break off. She was a liberal arts grad who thought her communications degree -entitled- to her fulfilling, exciting work. She was extremely unhappy in her role as an admin for a hearing aid office, and it colored her actions and reactions towards everyone. She and I are still in touch, and she *still* insists that the world owes her a good job for minimal effort and a lot of whining, and she's going back to school (and adding up more debt she'll never repay at slave wages) for her Master's to prove it!

If you're like me, and she's like her -- you're right, you'll probably always fight about it. There are somethings you can agree to disagree on, but before you get married make sure that kind of thing isn't one of the pillars of her psyche.
posted by SpecialK at 9:01 PM on May 29, 2006

From my point of view shared values is the most important thing. If you don't like your partner's values you will quickly lose respect.

Take a look at whether she shares your values.
posted by Jandasmo at 9:01 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: There is lots of good advice in this thread and I will concur with the general consensus that you should take your time. But in the end this is very much a personal decision you will have to make. As such you are really the only one who can make it. And it is unlikely to be a rational decision; there is no spreadsheet wherein you can tally the good qualities against the bad and crunch the numbers.

Listen to that little voice in your head and that feeling in the pit of your stomach. The voice is you, and all of your hopes and dreams and fears and emotions. If it tells you "this is a bad idea" then it is probably a bad idea. Maybe not because of anything rational, but because something about it just isn't quite right, and in the long run it could lead to unhappiness. On the other hand the voice might say "I love her and I can deal with the small stuff." You're the only one who can hear it. The voice is telling you things that you already know, deep down, but can't really consciously process because of the layers of complexity (cultural expectations, impact from past relationships, and all the stuff that makes you the person you are) in the way.

Try to picture yourself ad husband and wife and imagine the life you head. Are you happy? Be honest. What is your gut reaction? Or here's another way to do it, which I stole from Frasier. Flip a coin. Heads, you propose. Tails, you have a long chat about the future, or maybe break up, or something. Flip it, catch it, put on your hand and cover it up. Before you look at it, pause. Now examine your reaction. Are you gunning for heads or tails?
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:02 PM on May 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

er, 'as' husband and wife, the life you 'lead'.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:03 PM on May 29, 2006

sexual incompatibility (she's less interested), religious differences (she's more interested), and her excessive sense of entitlement which causes problems in all areas of life ...

As a great movie once said, "Iceberg! Right ahead!"

You're done with this relationship. The fact that you're asking these questions at all means you shouldn't go any further. The fact that you're asking these questions at all means there are serious underlying issues (i.e. see the aforementioned iceberg analogy, with all the ice below the surface).

I feel I need to make a decision soon

Yes. You should decide to leave.

I don't mean to sound foppish and glib, but this is a great big warning sign. Don't ignore it or try to figure out a way to "live with it." Move on. Quickly. Before it starts to really hurt.
posted by frogan at 9:14 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Um, you're right, Tabulem -- you do need to make a decision soon.

You may indeed have plenty of time, but she does not, if having babies is important to her. The "pressure to marry" that women are said to exert on their hapless boyfriends has a very practical explanation, at least for women over thirty. I get the feeling that you understand this, and that is why you feel a need to make the call now, after a year of dating.

If you didn't love her, you wouldn't mind stringing her along. Since you do, and if babies are something she wants, you need to talk honestly with her about your reluctance to get married at this point and let her decide how she feels about that.

Don't forget to play up your sincere desire not to waste her time despite your happiness with the way things are. It has the advantage of being true, and sounds better than "you are this, and do that, and while it's OK for now I can't see spending my whole life with it."
posted by Methylviolet at 9:54 PM on May 29, 2006

Annoyances bother you for a second, make you laugh or smile and don't bother you at all a few minutes later. Deal breakers are things you know you can't or don't want to live with.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:56 PM on May 29, 2006

My husband is generally less interested in sex, and definitely less interested in religion than I am. These have never even been remote issues in our relationship.

What have we nearly broken up over? Kids. I want to have them, always have. He decided a year after we were married that he doesn't want children in his life. We're working this one out over time (we're both young), but it is a painful subject.

Wait it out. With time, you'll either resolve your differences or you'll discover that what you consider to be a deal-breaker really is, well, breaking the deal. It's different for everyone.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:59 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: when it's right, you'll know. there won't be questions like these.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

There will always be questions like these, even in seemingly perfect relationships. What's important is to find somebody you love, somebody you also like, somebody who is not only your best friend, but who will not drive you nuts.

There are always going to be things that other people that drive you nuts. Hell, there are things that you do that drive you nuts. What's important is to do what you're doing: take the time to analyze things a little, to try to determine what's important.

From my experience, each of these things is a potential problem, but the degree to which each will hinder a potential marriage is contingent upon a lot of variables. How sexually incompatible are you? It sounds as if you believe some of your girlfriend's inhibition may go away when you're married. Have you had a frank conversation about this?

For some people, religious compatibility is huge. I know a woman who has threatened to divorce her husband if his religious ideas change. I know another woman who is a religious nutcase even though her husband does not regularly attend church or participate in religious activities. Both have happy marriages. I know people who have nearly identical religious beliefs who have divorced over other things. Religious compatibility is certainly a factor, but the importance depends on the couple.

To me, the most worrisome complaint you've listed is the sense of entitlement. Now this is something that might pass as your girlfriend matures. Except that, theoretically, she already has matured. A sense of entitlement is never never a pretty thing, and it can grow into a burden in any relationship, a marriage most of all. That's not to say that it has to be a dealbreaker (it's just a pet peeve of mine so I would be very wary of anyone like this), but that it's certainly something to watch.

You're getting lots of good advice here, and you're doing the smart thing by thinking things through and taking your time. Continue working on your relationship and see if your concerns resolve themselves or if they get worse...
posted by jdroth at 11:10 PM on May 29, 2006

I think one reason my marriage (imho) is doing so well in comparison to many of my peers is that we have similar values (say left-atheist) and a similar background (working class poor). If we didn't believe similar things (for example in terms of raising children), we would have had (more) huge fights. Sexually, I have a higher libido than him but it hasn't been a deal-breaker because the worth of the everything else is so high.

I guess that the sense of entitlement would be a deal breaker for me, if i were considering marrying your partner, but of course, that's because it's anathema to me. I wouldn't socialise with a person with that sort of attitude if i could help it. I also wonder if it might not translate into expectations of you - that you should be earning this much now, and this much later, and you should buy a house in this vicinity and your children should go to this school. It might be worth discussing hypothetical future plans to see if you like where she's going.

Good luck.
posted by b33j at 12:53 AM on May 30, 2006

Best answer: Great thread. I'm also going through a similar "where do we go from here" stage in a relationship and can't yet offer an answer from the married perspective, but I can throw in a couple of things that I thought about.

Temperment: For people who are used to getting their way, even minor differences will lean toward being dealbreakers. At the other extreme, there are those who don't mind giving a lot more than they receive and can be quite happy in a situation that most others would consider a dealbreaker. Most of us are somewhere in between, leaning a bit one way or another. How about you? Her? (You mention that you aren't Mr. Perfect... could there be something about your own personality that's coloring your perception of the GF? Does her "sense of entitlement" to things always take priority over your needs?)

Age: I honestly think it takes more "work" and/or more time to see if a relationship works the older you are, so don't worry that you don't have an answer yet. Not that you become inflexible or intolerant as you age, but it's not as easy to compromise on things as when you were younger. This brings to mind something I remember from Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being. (Let me google for the quote... ah, here it is.)

"While people are fairly young and the musical composition of their lives is still in its opening bars, they can go about writing it together and exchange motifs... but if they meet when they are older... their musical compositions are more or less complete, and every motif, every object, every word means something different to each of them."

So as others have already said, your concerns are completely normal. Take your time and don't feel pressured to make a decision now. And be honest. Methylviolet is spot on.

All that said, if you find that the sense of entitlement thing is more than an exaggeration or misunderestanding, think again. Good luck.
posted by QueSeraSera at 1:39 AM on May 30, 2006

"Personally I think one should look on marriage as an adventure - not a joint venture."

This was none other than my lawyer speaking to me. His point was that legally you can try to protect yourself in marriage with pre-nups, etc - but no matter what you do marriage is always a bit of a risky leap into the unknown. Where the vows read "For Better And Worse For Richer, For Poorer In Sickness And In Health" they are not kidding. These days any decision to marry is always a little bit crazy, impulsive, romantic - never 100% rational.

My point is that I doubt you will ever get to the bottom of a list of potential deal breakers - or even annoyances when considering a marriage. Even if you think you have others will come up over time. The real question is how well will you be able to resolve these together. More than anything else I would say beware of marrying somebody if you think this will be a problem.

What is not fair for either of you is to stand wavering at this decision point for too long - particularly if either of you are contemplating having children. I would say that you should either be deciding to go your own separate ways soon - or you should be getting engaged. Your engagement shows that you are very likely to want to go ahead but gives (both of) you a get out.
posted by rongorongo at 3:08 AM on May 30, 2006

How's the old saying go? Something about how you shouldn't marry the person you can live with; you should marry the person you can't live without.
posted by justonegirl at 5:29 AM on May 30, 2006

Oh, and I meant to add that I believe if the person isn't someone you can't live without (i.e. absolutely essential to your life), even minor annoyances can become deal-breakers over time.
posted by justonegirl at 5:31 AM on May 30, 2006

As someone who has been married twice -- once spectacularly unsuccessfully, currently very successfully (10 years together this summer) -- let me offer the following perspective.

No relationship is effortless, but the right one will be fairly easy. Not effortless, but easy.

If it seems like way too much work, or you perceive "dealbreaker" issues, this ain't the right one.
posted by enrevanche at 6:26 AM on May 30, 2006

we are in our early 30s, so I feel I need to make a decision soon.

I can't speak to her possible baby issues, but from your point of view this doesn't make sense. I married in my 30s, it turned out to be the wrong thing and led to divorce, and I married again at almost 50 and it's been wonderful. (She already had a couple of kids, so I got the benefit of their adult goodness without having to go through the diaper-changing!) It's never too late to make a good marriage; a bad one is bad at any age. And while I think it's ridiculous to say "if you're asking these questions, you shouldn't get married," you do sound like you have serious reservations. Whatever you do, don't get married because she feels the clock ticking—get married because you can't live without her.
posted by languagehat at 6:35 AM on May 30, 2006

I stopped wanting to have sex with my husband due to problems in the marriage unrelated to sex. Make sure your girlfriend merely has a lower libido.

Religious differences would seriously bug me, but then I grew up around extremely religious people.

Are you compatible in mundane things? How long have your previous relationships lasted? When does your romantic phase tend to end? A year? Two years? How do you enjoy your unromantic time together? Is she your friend? Do you have a lot to talk about?
posted by bleary at 6:37 AM on May 30, 2006

I'm concerned about your opening statement, "I love my girlfriend for her many wonderful qualities". Really? Is it really the way she treats small dogs and children and her taste in abstract art that you love? When I look at successful marriages, what I see is people that love being together and are pained at being apart.

My wife and I (coming up on 25 years together) are very different people, with different interests, but from the moment we met, we've simply wanted to be together. We've found things we want in common and we've learned to deal with each other's eccentricities. But we need to be together.

Imagine yourself without her. If you can see yourself happy without her, then move on.
posted by cptnrandy at 6:40 AM on May 30, 2006

The good news is that with each passing year, sex become less important in our marriage

Yeah, I will probably get called out for this, but we spend 90 percent of our time running the household, doing things with our kids, and talking about money.
posted by craniac at 7:10 AM on May 30, 2006

I've been married 30+ years and we have only agreed on two things.

1. The relationship comes first, and
2. Unless you have children, then THEY come first (with the relationship a clsoe second).

I think if those two things are true, almost any problem will work itself out naturally. To this day we disagree on major things like sex, religion, how to handle money, etc., but we are together and we continue to discuss, argue, rant, etc. until each specific issue gets hammered out. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes it never happens. But we love each other, so we continue to work on things as they arise.
posted by RussHy at 7:52 AM on May 30, 2006

Its very hard to predict how someone will act (or change in the future). You also can't predict how someone will act based on the past. The only thing you can do is look at the present and from that you can see what is most likely to happen. For example I had a boyfriend who had cheated on his (ex) wife. Of course that made me uncomfortable. But I had to look at his present (at the time) to see my future with him: He was lying to her about having cheated on her and had gotten all their mutual friends to lie to her too. Because she was becoming part of my social circle (through him), he wanted me to lie too. I wasn't comfortable about the whole situation and opted to bow out.

So, look to your present with your girlfriend. You mention entitlement. When you bring it to her attention, does she listen to you? Or does she dismiss your concerns? What about discussing the incompatibility about sex? What is her response?

Its not those things, but her response to your concerns that are your present and therefore your future.

On marriage: I don't think anything is ever perfect or anyone is ever 100% sure about getting married. Its less about being certain and more about being comfortable about being not certain. If you look back at previous relationships, what did you learn about someone that was different between the first year of the relationship and second? or between the first and the third. From talking with my friends, it isn't (as is commonly suggested) that you get to know the other person better. Its that you get more comfortable with what you know; more comfortable with yourself.

So IMHO what you have to ask yourself first is do you like her present? Not her past, not who you either hope or fear she could become, but who she is right now? And you should also ask yourself how comfortable am I right now with both the certain things and the uncertain things?
posted by zia at 8:00 AM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

In order of importance, in my opinion: Entitlement, Religion, Sex.

Sex things can be worked out IF both parties are willing to talk about it. It shouldn't be a deal breaker unless one party is just being selfish and won't talk it through.

Religion could be a deal breaker if she's very committed to her beliefs. Some people base their whole worldview and decision-making process on their religious beliefs, and if you don't share those, that would be a deal breaker in my opinion. If it's not a deal breaker it will make for a LOT of conflict (should we buy recycled toilet paper because my religion says to protect the earth, or should we buy comfy tp because hubby wants it all the way up to how to raise kids, etc.).

Entitlement is a bad one because people who think they're entitled aren't in reality. That's a problem that will touch every part of your relationship. Reality has to reign or you'll both go downhill fast.

Definitely bring these things up, and as the Mefites always say, when in doubt, see a counselor. Professional help cannot be replaced.
posted by orangemiles at 9:46 AM on May 30, 2006

we are in our early 30s, so I feel I need to make a decision soon

Nah. What's the worst that could happen? You'll end up single -- but you already are. You might not have kids -- but you already don't. In other words, the "worst" that can happen is no change at all. You can deal with your life the way it is now, so you can deal with a future life that is basically the same as it is now, no? Unless you are unhappy being single and truly believe marriage will improve your life, there's no rush. Wait until you're reasonably sure marriage will be an improvement, not merely a change. If she isn't willing to wait, there will be others.
posted by kindall at 10:49 AM on May 30, 2006

Marrying quickly because you're in your thirties is how you end up as a twice-divorced loser in your forties. You would do well to ponder this.
posted by reklaw at 11:03 AM on May 30, 2006

How much do you care about what religion your children are raised in? How much will it matter if she is less interested in sex than she is now? If she feels "entitled" to spend joint savings on something that you don't think is needed?

Questions I wished I'd asked: How committed is s/he to making the relationship work? Is s/he mentally healthy? Is s/he nice to me(you)?

There was a study done that pretty accurately predicted whether couples would stay together. It was a series of questions, and therapists watched videos of couples. I'll be darned if I can find details right now. But it looked at how respectful people were to each other. If one person uses sarcastic or "just kidding" putdowns, it was a strong indicator of divorce.

I think you're smart to be asking, and I don't think the question, per se, is a bad indicator. It's okay to wait, and really okay to start over. Truly, you've got time.
posted by theora55 at 12:44 PM on May 30, 2006

Best answer: What does marriage mean to you?

I knew I was ready to marry my wife when I thought about whether I would want to stick with her if she was in an accident and became a quadriplegic. That would mean me turning into a full-time caregiver and -- presumably -- no more sex. But I knew the answer was "yes." And not due to guilt. I would want to stay with her because she is my best friend.

To me, marriage was putting that into a contractual form. I have not promised to stay with her "in sickness and in health", and I've thought about what that promise means. And I'm fine with it.

It means that whatever happens, I make it work. Now, I'm not saying there's no getting out under ANY circumstances. If she started beating me or poisoning my food, I'd leave. But it does mean that my default assumption is that I'm in this for life, and if/when it's less-than-perfect, I work to improve it or I live with it. I love my wife and I honor the contract.

Before meeting my wife, my attitude with other women was, "well, it's good now, so I'll stick with it for a while." To me, that's not good enough. The deal-MAKER was, "I know I will stick with it when it's NOT good."

Naturally, my definition of marriage is my own, and there's no reason you should adopt it. But you might want to do a thought experiment as follows: what if your girlfriend never "improves"? Assume she'll always feel entitled, will always be religious, and will always go light on the sex. Is she still worth marrying?

As for your age. I got married when I was 30, but I would have waited until 40 or 50 for the right girl. It's never too late (though I DO take the children/biological timeclock thing seriously -- that's a whole other issue).

Having been married to my best friend for 10 years (July 13th!), it's great to know I'll have someone to grow old with.

Good luck!
posted by grumblebee at 2:48 PM on May 30, 2006 [4 favorites]

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