Coffee Talk is a monthly series that dives headfirst into real life territory. Consider it like a deep conversation with a friend where nothing is off limits. Take a seat, grab your mug and let’s chat.
I’m 26 and I’ve been dating the same amazing guy for eight years. We met in college, dated long-distance for three years after graduation, and just moved in together this past May. He is my partner in life, and something as simple as splitting dish duty with him, reinforces the fact that we are a team, through and through. I won’t bore you with my sappiness, but he really is the real deal.
We’re not married, though. We’re not engaged either. And for the past four years, I’ve been asked the same question from family members, friends, co-workers and random strangers at the grocery store. I’m convinced it’s the new form of small talk that goes something like this — “How’s your career? Are your parents doing okay? Oh, and by the way, when are you getting married? When’s he finally going to ‘put a ring on it?'” (key emphasis on “finally”). As if “putting a ring on it” validates that we are in a real, committed relationship.
I love my friends and family more than anything and I know when they ask this, it’s not coming from a malicious place. They’re generally curious about the happenings in my life, and for that I am truly thankful.
But, I wish I could tell them how these questions make me feel. Or, how their reactions imply that because we’re not engaged, it means we don’t love each other enough, we’re not serious enough or something is legitimately wrong with me for making the decision to cohabitate before saying “I do.”
I’ve had people tell me “it’s never going to happen” or “I hope it happens before I die.” I’ve even had someone tell me I’m “wasting my time” which is the most hurtful response I’ve received to-date.
When we do get engaged someday, I don’t want the reason to be, “I dragged her along for long enough and I guess it was just time,” like I’ve heard a few guys say after proposing to their girlfriends. I don’t believe that is a good enough reason. I don’t want to get married because society deemed it the big thing you’re supposed to do next. Societal norms are not one size fits all. And no one is dragging me against my will here.
Marriage is so much more than a wedding. It’s more than a Facebook post of a girl showing off her new sparkly diamond with the caption, “He asked, I said yes!!” It’s more than a $30,000 party. Marriage is a commitment to doing life — the wonderful, the less than wonderful and the downright ugly — with another person.
When I think about us getting married, I don’t think about the wedding (the thought of a big wedding makes my palms sweaty). Instead, I picture my life with him — a life that involves traveling the world and growing old together on a beach somewhere, as cliche as that sounds. A life that is less than perfect at times, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything. A life that is similar to what we have now, but instead, involves kids and grandkids and a mortgage.
But, before I check all of those items off of my list of to-do’s in life, there’s a few things I want to do first. I want to pursue a career that ignites my passion for creativity. I want to continue to surround myself with inspiring women entrepreneurs and business owners who encourage me to push myself every day. I want to venture to the Pacific Northwest. I want to gaze into the depths of the Grand Canyon. I want to see the Northern Lights.
Do I want to get married someday? Yes. But, I’m happy right now. We’re happy right now. And that should be okay.
No matter what stage of life you’re in, I’m sure you’ve been asked questions along the way. You know the ones (Are you dating anyone? Are you going to have kids? Are you two going to have another?). You probably know intrusive questions can be hurtful and just downright awkward, depending on who’s asking them (do you really want to know if someone is “trying” to have a baby? Or, do you really want to stand there with your foot in your mouth when they tell you they can’t?).
Instead of letting the questions and the anxiety over how to answer them get to you, it’s important to remember that everyone has a different life path, and just because your path doesn’t line up with your friend’s, that doesn’t mean your route is the wrong one. Do what makes you the happiest version of yourself.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Others are going to think what they want to think regardless. Let them.