Tuesday, February 2, 2010

so...what do I do now?

I've been mulling some ideas about marriage and relationships and youth around in my head for a while now and it's all got me thinking some very serious thoughts. I'm 25 and I feel like I'm at an age now where EVERYONE is getting married. As soon as I graduated college every girl I knew or know got engaged and married within a year or so of us leaving school. Every status on facebook changed to "engaged" and that is a very big act to follow and quite intimidating when I still have a lot of questions about this relationship and committment stuff.

I was reading one of my very favorite blogs yesterday, Jezebel and there was a post on there about Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) and her new book Committed. This book got bumped up to the top of my reading list and is sitting on my night stand ready to be opened as we speak. I like Gilbert and her attitude on life and I especially love when a smart woman who questions life and all the mixed messages in it, gets married and writes a book about it.

After watching the clip on there I had a lot to sit around and think about. The boy and I have talked about getting married, we've even looked at rings a little bit, but I have to wonder are we wanting to get married because we want to spend the rest of our lives together (I'm pretty sure we do) or are we wanting to get married because it's the next thing to do in the long line of societal expectations when it comes to relationships? Gilbert in her interview on the Bonnie Hunt show says that the women who are happiest in their relationships and in their own lives are the ones who waited the longest to get married. Yet I feel like every girl I have talked to talks about getting married or wanting to get married like right now...

When I was a senior in college my roommate, someone I had admired for her electrical engineering major and desire to make big things happen in the world, got engaged to a boy she'd been dating for a year (they're married now, she's a housewife, and baby #1 is on the way) and it started a long line of thoughts in me. I remember reading the school paper a few weeks before I graduated about girls who were about to graduate and were planning a wedding at the same time (how to balance finals and invitations at the same time sort of thing) and this is at the University of California not some southern conservative private school. The day of commencement I sat next to a girl I didn't know, waiting for our names to be called so we could walk up and receive our diplomas, we chatted casually about school and what our plans were, I told her I was taking the MCAT and applying to medical school, I asked what her plans were and she smiled and raised up her left hand to reveal a diamond ring. These were not isolated incidences they happen all the time (still do)...supposedly it's just the next step; you pay thousands of dollars for an education to better your life and make something of it and then you get married and have a baby.

I can't go on facebook without seeing new wedding photos and not a single one of these women is over 25. So what is it? Is it the wedding, or just the next step, the fear of being alone, making other people happy (like the parents) or the status symbol? Are we that impatient and don't want to enjoy the relationship first? I find myself thinking about marriage and getting married and then realize I need to focus more on the relationship for now and not be distracted by the allure of a wedding because after the wedding you still have to have a relationship, and now its for a loooooong time. This new book by Elizabeth Gilbert has got me thinking over some pretty serious things and I want to explore them on here. I want to get a good discussion going with women, both married, in relationships and single to talk about things I don't know much about just yet.

If I could talk to my 40 year old self, what would she say? Wait, don't wait, don't lose your independence, maintain goals for yourself, don't lose him...I don't know. All things I want to talk about. With you. So feel free to give me your two cents...or even the whole dollar. I want to get down to the nitty gritty of it all, I don't want to just buy into the pretty pictures without thinking about it first, it just aint my style.


  1. It is really refreshing to know some other girls out there are thinking about it, instead of just joining the crowd, running to the finish line [alter].

    All of my friends are acquiring rocks and changing fb stati as well. I am not engaged, am close to it though, and am a recent graduate. My number one priority right now is getting my foot in the door of sustainable Caribbean development. I think any career, for the right person, can be fulfilling if you're making some sort of difference to yourself and others. Marriage can do the same thing for you. But, I just DON'T GET how being married counts as a lifestyle or career [and really feel bad for girls (or guys) who end up as lifelong homemakers.] I know it is a conscious choice, but I think it is selfish and unintelligent. Aren't our minds worth more than that? I think everyone should truly know themselves before committing to someone else, and lets face it, most people aren't there in their late teens, early twenties.

  2. I am with you on its a conscious choice to be a homemaker but what about people like my old roommate who got job offers at sprint and sun microsystems and wanted to join the peace corps to a newly married, pregnant housewife? I wonder about those women and men who wake up one day and wonder how they got where they are while theyre flipping pancakes for the kiddies. Do we just follow expected societal roles and then end up regretting them, miserable and not really having ever thought of the consequences it has on someone until its too late? I agree on truly knowing oneself before jumping into huge committments like marriage, and I think that takes a long time.

  3. i got married at 31. all of my friends were getting married in their 20s and i wasn't. for a period of time, yes, it sucked. but i slowly realized that i wasn't ready to get married. my 20s were a time of exploration; both literally and figuratively. i am so glad that i used that time to iron out everything that i needed to because now i can be the type of women/wife/friend/sister/daughter that i always wanted to be. had i not used that time to figure things out, i wouldn't be the person that i am today. trust me, some of those girls who are married just want the pretty dress and the beautiful diamond ring. they don't think about reality and what being a partner to their husband truly entails. it's a wonderful and beautiful thing, but one that takes patience, empathy, and selflessness. follow your own path, not the one society says is right.

  4. ok i keep re-writing this comment. again...
    ive been married for almost 2 years - got married in my mid/late 20s.
    i think its every persons path for themselves (as the comment above said) and thats mine.

    I think about being 19, in college still dating my high school sweetheart, totally convinced we'd get married one day. looking back now at how much of a different person i was years and years later when i did get married (to someone else)- its scary in a way. that i couldve taken that path - and where i would be now.

    What i really relate to in this debate is the kids thing. i graduated and have been at my job for 5 years. Its rewarding and i love it and i realize thats not for everyone. But i see people around me having kids and they just seem to drop their jobs, social lives etc. The moms out there are reading this and laughing at me because i dont understand - and YOU'RE RIGHT! i will probably see this totally differently when i have kids of my own. but ill admit that in the meantime that scares me.

    sorry for the ramble - even re-writing it it doesnt make much more sense haha

  5. Oh honey, I felt the same way at your age. Not like I'm a wise old woman at age 31...but don't worry about marriage until you truly start feeling it pulling at your heartstrings...if it happens at all. I didn't start wanting marriage until age 30, so you have plenty of time to live your life until the time is right :) xoxo

  6. Oh man I really want to read this book!

    Great blog :)

  7. Alissa, I think having babies is the same thing as marriage when it comes to societal expectations. It's just the next thing to do, you're just one step ahead of me on the "to do list." I wonder why we're expected to "give up" everything when we decide to make such big commitments like marriage or parenthood. I have no problems with commitments like marriage I have a problem with the pressure to get married at a certain age (everyone else is doing it), the desire to have a wedding and forgetting about the relationship you have to nurture after, and the lack of men and women actually thinking about the meaning of these commitments before they take the leap. I feel like we're either wedding robots just wanting to settle down and pop out a couple of babies or old maids. What's the deal with that?

  8. I just stumbled onto your blog, and I am so glad I did. This is a very interesting discussion you've brought up here.

    For the record, I am engaged. We were together four years before we decided to get married, and we've been engaged almost a year now. The wedding is in October. I'm in my late twenties, and my fiance will be 30 next month.

    I don't feel like it was something I "had" to do, or that we decided to get married because it was the next natural step. We both come from divorced families and are skeptical about marriage in general. But I think after a while, and after years of talking about it, we decided yes, we do want to spend the rest of our lives together and we think we can have a better marriage than our parents because we're much older than they were when they married, we're not rushing into anything, and we have learned so much from their divorces.

    Is it going to be easy or fun all of the time? Hell no. I think some people get so wrapped up in the wedding they forget about everything that comes after the wedding: the marriage. Which is kind of crazy when you think about it, but I have seen so many people go through that. (wedding wedding wedding wedding ... ok, we're married, now what?) And then it's baby time... because that's the "next natural step." Ha. No thanks.

    I am excited to get married and I am enjoying planning my wedding because I'm a creative person, but marriage is not the end all, be all. We are still two independent people who happen to love each other, share a few common goals, and support each other. But we still have separate goals and dreams. The idea is that we'll nurture one another's dreams. I didn't work this hard for my career to lose it all in a cloud of confetti and diapers.

    I guess what I'm rambling on about is... I think it is totally and completely possible to keep your identity and be married. You don't magically unite into one person on your wedding day. And if you did, I wouldn't be getting married. Do some people lose their identities in marriage and children? Of course. But if you're even thinking about this stuff... I highly doubt you would be one of those people. You just have to work to maintain your own goals and dreams, and of course every marriage is full of compromise, but a good partner won't make you compromise on the really big stuff. I also think it's completely possible to have children without allowing them to take over your whole identity. I have good role models in that respect. You just can't let your kids call the shots and control you, I guess. I know people who do that, but I know a lot more people that don't.

    All our friends got married before us. We're one of the last ones to get married, and we look at the people that got married when they were 22, 23, 24... and we are just so happy we waited. I think we have a pretty good handle of who we are now... but when I was 23 or 24, I was honestly still figuring all that stuff out. You have to know who you are before you can enter into this kind of commitment, I think, because otherwise you might wake up one day and realize you're actually a completely different person and this wasn't what you wanted at all. And that would be really scary.

    Wow, sorry for rambling!! This topic is just very interesting to me. You should really check out the blog A Practical Wedding (http://www.apracticalwedding.com/) because the author is full of some amazing insights on marriage.

  9. Oh my gosh, my comment was almost as long as your post! Sorry about that! ha.

  10. Katie, the benefits of living in this day and age, is that we get to wait as long as we feel like before we get married. The societal pressure to settle down isn't as strong as it was when our parents were younger. Which is why I think its interesting that girls are still getting married so so young and not dating for very long. I love your confetti and diapers comment, that's exactly what I think a lot of people should feel or think about and I truly wonder if they do.

    I wonder if you're so strong minded in staying who you want to be because you've seen the other side of marriage i.e divorce? I know after my parents divorce thats what my mom taught me, to maintain my independence and who I am. I wonder if thats different for married couples when they raise they're children, teaching that they're one whole, not 2 wholes coming together?

    Thanks for stopping by and giving such great insight, keep in touch!

    PS, I love Meg from APW I read her blog all the time. Her attitude on relationships is right on target.

  11. So, first let me start with the precursor of the fact that I am 22 years old and married.I never wanted to get married. I am independent and outspoken. I was going to travel the world and live in my car and be a forever student. And then I found someone who thought the greatest thing about me was my dreams and my independence. And he encouraged me to do everything, to strive, to never give up. And then I dated him for 4 years and then I married him. And you know what, I'm still independent and I'm in grad school and we are traveling the world together, one country at a time. Sometimes being married doesn't mean being tied down, it means being tied with, and that can be a really great thing.

  12. PS: I am the only one of my friends that is married. I feel like such an outcast sometimes.

  13. Why do you feel like an outcast? I admire both of your gusto for life, and that you can share that with one another. Do you think if you could talk to yourself 20 years in the future, you might have something to say differently about your relationship than now? I hear that from a lot of women, that if they could talk to their 23 year old selves now (when they're now in their 40's and 50's) they would have a lot of different things to say about things. But that isn't specifically in regard to marriage.

  14. I'd like to think in 20 years from now I'll still be happily married. With that said, I know there are mistakes I will make in my life that looking back I will question my sanity and forethought. Hindsight is 20/20. I also think that in 20 years I'll be happy that I did something because it made me happy, even if it didn't work out because for a time it was bliss.

    Every decision is an adventure in and of itself. What I do know is every day, even when it sucks, I am happy to be able to roll over in the morning and know that no matter what happens I've got someone who is willing to fight for me and with me. We've been through a lot including a very rough and draining couple of years when my little brother was fighting cancer. I'm not sure I would have made it out alive without his constant love and support.

    Marriage is hard. Its all about compromise. Its about loving all the character flaws and there are fights and sometimes feelings get hurt. Its a lot of work but I also think that when its the right person its amazing. I was always afraid I would lose myself in the role of wife. That I would cease to be me and start being an thing, a title. It hasn't happened. I find that I am more willing to be myself, to try new things, see new places and be open with others because I know there is nothing in the world that would change how he feels about me. Getting married has been about growing wings instead of being the caged bird. You can't let fear stop you from letting yourself be happy.

    Marriage is an epic decision, not to be taken lightly. To have and to hold from this day forth is a big responsibility. Carrying someone's heart in your pocket is the greatest of all responsibilities. I understand the trepidation and respect it completely. I was engaged for over 2 years when we were married.

    PS: Sorry to ramble...