Maybe this past Valentine’s Day made one year, or it’s conveniently been three years, either way it is time to prepare the white turtledoves because he did in fact put a ring on it which means now you are walking that fine line between putting up or shutting up. At this stage you either have to start actually planning what is supposed to be a small-but-will-surely-snowball-into-an-expensive wedding (thanks, Beyonce!), or continue dragging your feet in hopes that no one notices (kudos, writers of the 5-year engagement).
So if you are anything like the “millennials” (the term used for the current generation of 20-30 something’s) who have widely been criticized as being slow to move when it comes to marriage then you certainly, probably need to spend more time considering the latter option.
After taking time to consider your mounting student loan debts, mandatory personal finances, a near stagnant job-market, a slow recovering housing-market, and the sheer pressures of committing a lifetime to one person (whew, that’s a mouthful!), the idea of marriage can quickly materialize itself as the ole’ “chain and bolt” even before you take your partner’s hand.
Quite frankly, it is scary.
Even for the most precocious “millenials”, who have read the best reassuring articles about why marriage is not a “when you are better off” type of commitment. And sure, to a certain extent that is true. It is no secret that marriage is, at the essence, about two hearts coming together to conquer the world as one. Having that special someone to hold your hand well into old age is ideal. And ideals are okay.
But it is also okay to love your partner enough to want to hold off on joining your world, with its staggering amount of unconsolidated student loans, to his/her near squeaky clean credit. Many of us do not want our debt to be tied to our partners, not because we are selfish (given the opportunity, I know each of you, in a heartbeat, would pass Sallie Mae off to someone) but when that someone is someone you truly love, admire and only want to see you as a responsible adult, then sharing certain aspects of your life becomes a little harder.
So, to make your decision a little easier, here is a comprehensive list of pros and cons to help you cope with and debunk some obstacles on the road from being engaged to being married.
(Pros): You have it, respect, and unlimited offers.
(Cons): You will not always have it, brings about fleeting interactions, stress, and falsities.
Money is one of the key issues many couples have difficulty addressing. “People often underestimate the commitment in merging two lives together. The reason we fight most about money is because it’s the most measurable,” according to Dr. Phil. The fear of not having enough money to cover your needs, and seeming financially inadequate to your partner and in social settings are two frequently visited apprehensions. The truth is money is not a guiding hand to delay your nuptials. Couples are able to achieve the wedding of their dreams and live reasonably comfortable by taking a closer look at, or creating a budget that suits their lifestyles. A budget does not mean shoe addictions, and chef-cooked meals have to permanently go bye-bye because discretionary income should cover those indulgences. It does, however, mean that you must start scaling back. And what better way to resist temptation than with a partner. Check out FeedThePig.org for some great tools and resources to help you along the way.
(Pros): You possess something expensive, gives you motivation.
(Cons): You have to pay up, credit is in jeopardy, limited needs are met.
Oh, debt. Why do you suck so much? (Sigh.) The world may never know. But what you should know is that there is a lot of embarrassment and anxiety tied to one’s debt (actually, that's why it sucks). Whether it is liability that comes from something honorable such as getting an education, or the ever discomfiting lapsed payments that have gone into collections. Couples, no matter how open and understanding, do not want to discuss their financial blemishes. However, the lack of discussing your debt leads to feelings of needing to harbor your debts, which has the ability to disconnect you from the partnership. Inevitably, you will have to address the issue, which means discussing the amount of debt you have. From there work on a plan. Lenders are always willing to work out repayment plans that, as a couple, you can write into your budget.
Also, having prior debts does not mean your soon-to-be husband/wife now obtains your debts. No matter if you live in a community property, or a common law state spouses do not share debt acquired until they actually become a spouse and then acquire the debt together. And in the case of common law states, which Illinois happens to be, the spouse that acquires the debt is responsible for it unless it proves to be a family necessity. Debt is common; it is past time we stop stigmatizing ourselves over it.
3. Social Connections
(Pros): Late nights, ability to mingle, gratification.
(Cons): Delayed maturation.
Being single is only fun when you are in a relationship, just as being in a relationship is only coveted when you are single. Relationships, or lack thereof are true examples of the adage “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Or so it seems. Many are afraid to commit their lives to another because they’re not entirely sure they’re able to provide that person lifelong happiness. Also there is apprehension surrounding the idea of giving up the late-nights of partying, or ability to attract another person. No one wants to seem like they are “out of the game.” And nothing says “Game Over” like a wedding ring.
This position is understandable. It ties itself to deep-rooted feelings one may have towards age. Everyone hates getting older, but everyone wants the opportunity to do so. The fact is, with age comes responsibility and there is no way a 37 year-old man should still be hitting the club scene, and getting dung-faced night after night with the same responsibilities and intentions he had at 21 years old. It is like eating peanut butter sandwiches and Ramen noodles night-in and night-out for sixteen years. Eventually, you are going to crave something different, something a little more complex in its preparation, for your palate. Marriage is that difference. There is a lot of work when two lives (or more) are involved but we simply must give up the idea that everything worth having is easy. Grass is only green where there is frequent care.
(Pros): A reflection of your skill and education, contributes to financial independence.
(Con): Inability to grasp, earning potential not met.
The idea of having the perfect career that will fit neatly into your life is ridiculous. Either you are going to love what you do, spend a lot of hours nourishing that love and experience inner turmoil for slacking off in your personal life. Or, you are going to feel like you are stuck in a crap-shoot job, spend more time escaping that reality and developing a very good personal/family life. A lack of a career, or for that matter, having the perfect career should not be reason enough for you to postpone marriage. Many people have found happiness with a “balancing act” where they manage to juggle love, family, and careers.
You make time for what you want so using the excuse that you would much rather prefer to have better footing in your career before you become someone’s husband/wife can be thwarting to your growth. Having a partner to serve, as a support system, can be invaluable in your climb to the top. It’s a lot of work chasing your financial dreams but the load can be lightened when you have someone that understands your goals, your drive, and needs. Of course, you will need to give the same level of support to your spouse so make this an opportunity for both of you to learn how to deal with outside stressors so that later in life they do not become deal-breakers. When the time comes take turns rubbing each others backs, discuss the challenges of your respective days, and bounce ideas off of each other. Communication really is key. Your partner should not be the reason you give up your career ambitions, nor should he/she want you to. It is deeply sexy for each party to come to the table with active goals and the ability to “foot their own bills.”
(Pros): Support system, love and honor.
(Cons): Practicing patience, unrealistic expectations, higher divorce rates.
A lot of “millenials” already have a family of their own. In fact, modern families consist of everything from single parenting, foster care, guardianship over an ill, elderly parent to housing family members who have been hit hard by the economy. The pressures to successfully blend these family dynamics can become overwhelming, prompting many to put the idea of marriage on the shelf. Not only do these, sometimes, complicating situations, cloud the picture perfect view of a happy couple, but also the picture itself can begin to feel like a disillusion. Focusonthefamily.com has some great tips that can aid in helping you manage your familial obstacles. These tips are meant as coping mechanisms for the already-married-individuals who find they are struggling to deal but in my opinion, it is more beneficial if you are exposed to great advice before jumping the broom. Be preemptive.
(Pros): It toughens you, showcases humanity.
(Cons): Brings forward vulnerability, pain, resentment, and distrust.
I have a saying, “the unavoidable is inevitable.” Just as water is wet, loss is something we are all going to have to deal with at some point in our lives, and is even better if it proves to be something we can look back on and say we dealt with before. The first time will always be the worse but it toughens you up. Whether you are dealing with a broken heart, a broken down car as a teenager, or that misplaced $20 bill you needed to get on the bus for the week, loss always feel like a violation of what once was. But you have to ask yourself, “Now what?”
Dealing with loss affects people in different ways but the one universal thing each of us should focus on is our motivation to go forward, to move past the loss. So you kissed a few frogs, they leapt off the lily pad and left you alone, that is no reason to believe your current love will do the same. Give people a chance to show you how exceptional they are, and if they show you anything otherwise, use your discretion to decide if it is something intolerable, or worth forgiving. Do not hold on to mistakes your partner makes because of your previous relationships. And if your partner is the one who has caused your distrust then remind yourself why exactly you chose to stick your hand back in that fire.
These tips are not the end-all answers to your decision on marriage, and no matter what, you should sit down with your partner and discuss some of the issues you are having with this type of commitment; any anxieties you may feel. If you are able to add additional cons to the pros offered, then you may need to sit down with your partner and have a serious discussion about the timeline, and maybe even write a pro/con list of your own.