I’m ready to get married… but my life situation isn’t

Guest post by Vermilion

My partner and I are crazy about each other, and have known since about six weeks after becoming an item that we should be life-partners (we've been close friends for a long time, so this is less dramatically ill-judged and imprudent than it sounds). We're both in our late twenties/early thirties, with more than a decade of relationship experience — both short and long-term — behind each of us. And neither of us was ever really looking for what we have found in each other, but then… there it was, to our mutual astonishment and delight.

He's been proposing to me, almost as a game, on the semi-regular since we both realised that we were “it” for each other. I want to say yes with every fiber of my being. The problem is, I'm sick — the sort where you don't get completely better. And it's unclear when I'll be able to re-enter the workforce.

I had this whole timeline of me finding work, then us living together, and then getting engaged after a publicly “respectable” period of time has elapsed… but as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that there is no way to know when I will be able to work again.

He is patient, but recently he's started gently questioning where the sense of legitimacy that timeline would give me stems from. And I have to confess, it's other people's opinions.

After the loss of physical and financial independence, and subsequent self-esteem, that came with my deteriorating physical condition, some part of me now desperately wants to be legitimized as an “adequate adult,” doing things in the appropriate order. But, insofar as “the appropriate order” mandates my return to full employment before I can do anything else, it's uncertain whether it's a practical standard for me to set my plans by.

So he keeps proposing (playfully, and joyously, and without any pressure), and I desperately want to say, “Yes,” so much that it aches. I feel like my attachment to, what I am increasingly suspecting to actually be some arbitrary and impractical ideal, is the only thing standing in the way. There is no doubt in my soul that he is the person for me; if I were whole and employed, I'd already have married him months ago in some tiny courthouse ceremony — not even waiting to save up for anything bigger — with my head held high and a gigantic smile on my face.

But I worry that, as I am, my peer group would not respect me for getting engaged and starting to plan a wedding, before getting the rest of my life in order.

I have a dream partner who deeply and immediately wants to marry me, and it's very much what I want, too… How do I make it okay in my own mind to let myself move forward when my life circumstances are “wrong”? And how do I steel myself against the possible judgements of my peer group?

Anyone is the same “I'm ready, but my lifestyle isn't” boat? How are you dealing?

Comments on I’m ready to get married… but my life situation isn’t

  1. I say screw it – go ahead and marry your life partner if that’s what you want to do. As long as you two don’t put yourselves in debt thowing a wedding everyone else and their judgement can go to hell! I bet people will be much more supportive than you think. Good luck!

    • annnd you might get a little outside counseling to figure out why you are hesitant to do this at this point in your life. I agree- screw what others think…judgements are bad form!

  2. Stop worrying about how others will feel about THE WEDDING and worry about how you will feel about THE MARRIAGE. Whether your peer group throws confetti or tomatoes, you’re the one committing to this person for a lifetime. That’s where your focus should be.

    Plus, in the end, whether it’s confetti or tomatoes – any judgement made will be based much less on one day of your life than all the years that follow (and the quality of the marriage you work on in those years).

  3. My husband and I got married when our life situation was arguably “wrong”. We were both unemployed, facing bankruptcy, and he was on the verge of depression (which post-marriage turned into severe clinical depression — and although he’s doing better now, he still hasn’t rejoined the workforce). We got married rather suddenly at city hall mostly for his immigration paperwork, before announcing an engagement. My traditional parents were NOT impressed, so we called that date our “engagement”, then got weddinged 10 months later. I did it at the time to please everyone, but now I’m really open about the fact we got married at city hall first, because to us, that’s our anniversary.

    It’s been over 5 years, and I can honestly say that in all the turmoil, getting married was the best choice we made, despite the feeling like it was all out of order. I know my situation isn’t the same, but that feeling of expectation and order was huge for me, especially considering the very traditional background my family holds. But we did what felt right, and still today I have people in my life who just can’t understand why I have a husband who doesn’t work, and they don’t understand why we made the decisions we’ve made, but you know what? It’s not their life!!!! So who cares? I don’t need them to approve or understand, I just need them to acknowledge that we’re doing what’s right for us.

    If getting married feels right to you, there is no order of events that will make it more or less right. All that matters is your relationship with each other, life circumstances be damned! And you may even find that reaching your life goals becomes easier doing it “out of order” 🙂

  4. i’m in a similar situation, not with the illness (sending spoons!), but with general life circumstances being less-than-ideal. he’s not working steady, i’m nearing the end of my grad program, a move might be in our near future–basically a lot of instability. but here’s the thing: part of why you get married is to tackle those challenges TOGETHER. you commit to each other so you can weather the storm side-by-side, not just to enjoy the calm when it passes. and that’s IF it passes…. life is always going to throw you some new challenge. if you’ve found the person you know is the right partner for you, what more is there to wait for?

  5. I can empathize a lot with what you are talking about. You are not alone, stay Strong!
    I few years ago I met my partner. At that same time I was questioning if I should go back to school or not. After months of deliberation, conversations with friends and family, and a long talk with my partner (we were ready to move in together, but I was planning to move back home to save money for school), I went back to school… full time, and moved in with my partner.
    I am normally a very independent person, I would always pay for my side of the date (I would even sneak the waiter my card at the beginning just so there would be no argument) and had an aversion to anyone helping me with anything. Becoming financially dependent on my parents and partner was soul crushing for me, and there were many self-conscious tears and much self-doubt during the first year of my schooling. The situation got worse when my mother was diagnosed with cancer just a month after a death in the family, and I had a complete breakdown due to stress.
    The important thing that I came out of all if it realizing was that my partner was there the whole time. And he didn’t run away screaming.
    We all like to think we can do everything on our own. And for the most part we can, but should we? Just because we can climb a mountain bare foot and fight off a grizzly bear with small stick, doesn’t mean we should do it just to prove we can.
    When people ask me “When did you know you wanted to marry Andrew(my partner)?” I love to tell my favorite story about him, and my least favorite about myself.
    I was in the middle of a panic attack (for most of the above reasons) and Andrew had been sitting quietly in the corner reading a book. He heard me hyperventilating from the other room and came running. He tried to ask me what was wrong, but words failed me. (fyi, this is the first time he’d seen me even cry, much less this much). He then ran into the other room and grabbed my cat. Yes, my cat. He pushed her at me and said “Kitty?” with a desperate look on his face and worry in his voice. All I could do was cry and shake my head. He ran out of the room and returned a moment later still holding my cat, but with a hot cup of tea in the other hand, “Tea?” More crying.
    By the end I wore myself out and laid down on the bed wheezing, Andrew came up to me and put all the comfort items he had collected down (I later realized they included a season of my favorite tv show, some chocolate I had told him to hide from me, and a stuffed unicorn I had never seen before). I cried and slept for another few hours and when I was able to talk we discussed what had just happened. I had broken down and needed help.
    This wasn’t a bad thing in the end. I still feel pangs of guilt/shame/regret or whatever you want to call it about wanting to be the bada** no-nonsense I-can-do-it kind of gal, but sometimes you need to count on someone else.
    It sounds like your partner has been there through the thick and the thin (forgive the pun, but: “through sickness and in health”) And he seems ready to make it official.
    Your true friends will understand. I know mine have.
    Regardless of what you end up deciding, be sure to talk to your partner and let them know the reason behind your hesitation. Not just the physics, but the deep down reasoning. You are an independent person who can take care of yourself, and you want to hold onto that feeling.
    It’s a tough choice, and there is no right or wrong, but only what you are happy with.
    Good Luck! xoxo

  6. from your post, it certainly seems you should forge ahead with your marriage, but perhaps it would give you more peace of mind to discuss this one-on-one with a qualified therapist to help you sort out what matters and why it matters to you. don’t ignore your feelings, sort them out and understand them. to me it sounds like the uncertainty of your health issues is a real sticking point. maybe you need help to “shift gears” and accept your life, and yourself, as is. it sounds like your partner has and loves you, and that is spectacular. just my thoughts ~ wishing you all the best <3

  7. Getting engaged doesn’t mean you have to rush to the altar. If you and your partner are ready to get engaged then maybe that’s the appropriate first step. From there you can re-evaluate. When I got engaged I knew I wouldn’t be ready to get married for 2 plus years because there were other things I wanted to accomplish first. But taking that step with my partner (engagement) really helped our relationship.

  8. I cannot tell you how much this rings true for me and my own personal situation. I am no expert, and you, gentle internet stranger, are just that, but I have discovered four universal truths that you may find helpful.

    1. There is no correct way to love and be loved. Our stories are all our own, and all unique. What is the right timing for one couple is just as wrong for another.

    2. The Grown-Up Police will not show up at your door demanding you turn over your Grown-Up papers if you choose to follow your own happiness. If your peer group is filled with members of the grown-up police, it may be time for you to reassess your peer group. However, often the best people in our lives are disguised as members of the Grown Up Police, but when faced with the honest truth that the situation you find yourself in is what will give you the most happiness, most members of the Grown-Up Police will grudgingly admit that they are, in fact, quite happy for you, wish you all the best, and buy you something from your Amazon wishlist as a symbol of goodwill (since that’s what Grown Ups do at weddings).

    3. There will be no mob of people in pantsuits with well-balanced checkbooks protesting your improperly-time-lined wedding. Proper timelines and life milestones are great, but they aren’t *real*. You can have an idea of where you’re going, but even regardless of your new health situation, you never know if your car is going to break down or if your goldfish is going to pass solemnly into that long goodnight or if your boyfriend’s nose is going to fall off due to an ill-timed case of frostbite. No one plans the crap things in life. There is no “getting a terminal illness” milestone that people want to hit before they are 30. Our lives are, against all of our wills, intermittently strewn with obstacles. And you have, with you, wanting to stand by your side, a man who wants to take the car wrecks and dead goldfish and lost noses along side of you, with you, together.

    4. You are loved. You are so very, very loved. You have found a partner who is aware of your situation and asks you, with joy and with love, to be his partner and life companion. Your soul aches to say yes to this man. If you suddenly found yourself in a alternate universe where everything else was the same, (except, we will say, you now have antennae) and your alternate-universe self forgot, somewhere along the timeline, to place these arbitrary rules on yourself, would you keep turning him down? Or would you say yes, lock antennas and live happily ever after?

    Say yes. Forget the rules, they’re made up anyway. Say yes.

    Do the thing, internet stranger. Do the thing.

  9. I hate to be the one to say this, but you perhaps need to consider NOT getting married.

    Please keep reading why, as I’m in the same boat.

    I’m chronically ill. I recently had to go on SSI, due to my inability to work. Now, SSI has been lifesaver in a shitty situation, but here’s the thing. I’m allowed $2000 of assets. That’s it. If I were to legally marry my partner, then that would increase to $3000. This means there’s no saving for a rainy day, or for retirement, or anything like that.

    If you think there’s a chance that you’ll end up on SSI/SSDI then you need to do some research into what the laws are in your state; I have no idea if the assets laws are federal or by state.

    I’m so, SO sorry to have to bring up a reason why it might not be a good idea to get married right now. I wish I could say screw everyone else, and throw confetti for you. I wish you health and happiness.

    • I was going to point this out as well. Since we don’t know what kind of illness the OP has, these are very real concerns. Additionally, if the condition is degenerative, many Social Security programs will cover a caregiver UNLESS you’re married. If you’re married the assumption is that your spouse can be your full time caregiver (you know, in addition to being the only one of you capable of holding down a full time job or taking care of any children).

      Now, these concerns only apply to a legally recognized marriage. You can still stand before G-d and your community, declare your vows, and happily move in together with out the government getting involved at all (unless your state has Common Law marriages in which case you might run into some trouble down the road).

      If you have a chronic illness, it may be time to face the harsh reality of planning for your future with that illness, rather than continuing to try to reestablish the plan you had before you were diagnosed. Once you’ve figured out your *general* long term life-with-this-illness plan, seeing how and when marriage fits into that should be a lot easier.

      • I was in a very similar situation. I am very sick with an illness I will live the rest of my life with, cannot work, and my fiance and I don’t have the perfect living situation. However, one thing I have found is that when you live with a lifelong illness, there is no such thing as a “normal” or “perfect” timeline. I had to reassess what “normal” was for me, not only for my marriage but for my education and what I want to do with the rest of my life. Then I had to confront my own fears and judgements about what other people thought of our relationship, my worries that he wouldn’t be able to handle a sick wife for the rest of his life and would eventually leave for a “less damaged model”. In the end I realized that he has seen some of my very worst episodes and stayed. Because we make each other happy. Neither one of us are perfect, but my broken and shattered pieces are the glue that holds him together, and vise versa. Now, that’s me. I decided to marry him despite the distinct lack of a perfect or normal timeline. But you need to look at logistically if marriage is right for you. I don’t know what illness you live with, but marriage can effect social security income, insurance, , and a slew of other things. But if you are with the right person, that love can heal you. It has for me. I would ask yourself, are you holding yourself back because of what other people will think, because of your own fears revolving around your illness, or because of financial /logistical reasons. An honest answer to these questions could enlighten the path you should take. Remember, you have but one life to live. Do not waste it because of the opinions of others. Live it for yourself. You are the only one who can, and life is to short to be anything but happy.

    • This is something I’ve been thinking about. I’m not sick, but I will be having a baby in the next few months. Right now *I* make enough on my own that I don’t qualify for any sort of social services, but my boyfriend makes significantly less. I wonder if it’s better for us to stay unmarried.

      However, if benefits aren’t an issue, I might say that maybe she should marry her person. Marriage does confer some rights and access that simply ‘being together’ does not.

      • I’m a welfare worker, so I’m going to hop in & comment on this. I’m hoping you have enough income between the 2 of you, for you to be OK economically when you are off work on maternity leave. Otherwise, depending on the laws of your county/state/province/territory/country, a few things could happen. If you feel you must apply for social services when your child is born, then often you have to disclose the name/location/work details etc of your child’s parent, so that social services can help you go after them for child support. And that is usually a pretty strict requirement; it’s not optional. Or, if you are residing together & are the parents of a child, then your relationship’s “legal” status won’t matter – you will usually be seen as spouses, & then his assets & income are taken into account when they decide how much they will give you in benefits (if anything). I’ve seen people try to fudge around the facts, saying “X is just my room-mate”, or “I don’t know where Y is” – and then, things tend to get awful. You’d be surprised who SS will talk to, try & track down, etc, or they will order blood tests, talk to your employer, neighbours, etc. Not being 100% honest with them, can equal a fraud charge down the road.
        All that being said, well, like I said – I hope your situation is economically sound, life is good, and I wish you congratulations on the impending arrival.

        • I wasn’t so much thinking about just social services for the baby, but more for him. Alone, even with the baby, I qualify for NOTHING! Though I feel like I make no money :-/

          But he does qualify for a few things, and for things like lowered student loan payments. Those are the things that I am more worried about screwing up with marriage. I don’t know if him marrying me would screw him up…for me I don’t think it would be that big of a deal

  10. I say ask yourself these two questions:

    1) If you never get well enough to rejoin the workforce, and thus never marry him, will you regret making that decision in 5, 10, 20 years?

    2) If you get married now, and then get well enough to rejoin the workforce in 2 years, will you regret not waiting?

    Mu hunch your answers will be 1) yes and 2) no.

    Just some food for thought.

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