Age isn't just a number. Age brings wisdom.
I don't mean to shame anyone, nor do I want to blanket-judge married couples. But if you're under 30, married and reading this while secretly thinking, "Yeah, in retrospect, I guess I didn't HAVE to get married," this is likely for you.
I ask you – not out of pessimism but out of curiosity – why did you get married? Really, what would have been the difference? We're you ready? Do you honestly think your relationship will last?
Marriage is about love but it's also a social issue. It's about social expectation, location, family, fear of dying alone and, at times, possession. Sometimes it's also about doing what's easy.
Everyone says the two coasts are drastically different from the middle of the United States. As a New Yorker, I've heard the cliche: we city-dwellers delay nearly every life milestone (babies, buying houses, and getting married) to enjoy the pursuits of self: career, travel, sexual exploration and romantic freedom. The general idea is that it's the people back home (I'm from New Jersey, for example) who are married with children well before the age of 27. But that hasn't been my experience, actually. More and more people in NYC are getting married. It's not just a "burbs" thing. That's reductive.
Sure, the people I know from home are married with children but so are New Yorkers! The same ones who were swiping right on Tinder and actually breaking the glass ceiling by advocating for their rights or finding their first real job. Frankly, I'm genuinely confused by this.
Sometimes friends will call me up and say, "I'm engaged!" I'm happy for them, of course, but half the time I wonder, "Do you even know why?" because in (some) conversations it's apparent to me that they hadn't thought it through.
Over the past few years, I saw a few strange ones: marriages rushed because of anal-retentive planners who just want to get it over with, marriages because of obvious convenience, marriages because that's-what-you-do. The truth is, getting a year or two deep does not a marriage make. Marriage is not just a "next step." It's a decision with emotional consequences that weigh on you. You do not want to go to bed at night thinking, what did I do?
Marrying before 30, to me, is a surefire way of gambling with your future. People say age is but a number. I don't necessarily agree; I think age brings something we need: wisdom. You can have gone through a lot as a child and teen (as I did) and while that makes you "grow up faster," it doesn't mean you achieve a healthy sense of self or even recover from some of your childhood traumas. It doesn't mean you're 100% ready, whole, and you.
While I may have been street-smart, resilient and an old-soul by the time I was 17, that made me in no way "more adult." And when I think marriage, I think adult. Ready for life. Experienced.
As a new 30-year-old, I'm just now shaking off that which plagued my 20s. I'm learning who I am and what I need and what I don't need. I'm learning what makes me feel free. I also know what pressure feels like. Coming from an Italian family, I've gotten the question, "You're not pregnant? You're not engaged?!" several times. I'm used to this line of questioning. I'm also used to wine-honest chats that head the route of romance, including the inevitable, "You've been with your boyfriend for three years?! Are you getting married yet?"
Honestly? I'm not even thinking about it. If I came to work tomorrow with a ring on my finger, I wouldn't know what to say. I'd feel silly. I'm a baby. What's the point? I'm deeply, madly in love, but engagement and marriage seem trite at best.
I'm only now in the job I always dreamed of. I don't have a bunch of savings. I want to travel a LOT. I might leave the country. I want to be me, not someone's wife. And even if I were set for life, there's a lot more of me that I want to explore.
My partner and I know we want to get married. We're OK talking about that much, but the actual act of getting married before 30 (or before we're both fully-actualized human beings) seems rushed, antiquated and just depressing. I think it's smart to be aware of the ways society manipulates us away from self-growth; marriage says "I don't belong to me anymore," and I believe we all need more time belonging to ourselves.
Having been in a few long-term relationships, I can say with total honesty that they failed with good reason: We were all young, messy, too in love, not enough in love — all of it. We were just versions of ourselves; we hadn't come into our own yet.
What if my long-term boyfriend didn't fit into everything? I'd need to give it time to pan out (and to see what I want to tolerate or not) before I signed on the dotted line too soon. This is called logic and pragmatism, not negativity.
The issue is this: many married people I know cheat, get bored, fall prey to disillusionment, admit it was a hasty move, and, then they ultimately, divorce. They admit (when they admit it) that it's because they married young and thought they "had it all figured out." And that's almost every divorce I know.
One of my friends watched her then-charming party-goer boyfriend become a tried-and-true alcoholic. He always was one, and she didn't realize how much she wouldn't tolerate it. Still, she married him. And she did it because she didn't know her limits yet.
Sure, there may be something romantic to it all: deciding on being in love and making that everlasting commitment, picking out the flowers and sending the cards, feeling like you've reached some socially-constructed milestone. The reality, though, is that marriage doesn't make love any more real.
Marriage is a fiscal, deeply personal and long-term decision that isn't designed (these days, at least) to quench your need to be comforted or be the end result of habit. Sometimes, not rushing makes it even sweeter.
Judging by the divorce rate, there's a HUGE population of people who are either supremely naive romantics or too caught up in the idea of marriage to understand the act of it. I want to go into marriage knowing that it's the right time and for the right reasons — not so I can wear a ring or feel pretty or feel loved or close up a three-year stint of dating. I can dress up, love myself and do all of that with my partner right now.
There's something deeper that needs to click, and before you're 30, what really, actually clicks? I will still love who I'm with as deeply as if I said "I do."