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 was quite surprised at where we received judgment during our engagement and where we didn’t. My husband’s family is full of people who have gone through nasty divorces and speak bitterly about marriage in general, so I was bracing myself for a whole host of judgment from them, but nope. They were totally supportive. I thought my feminist friends would judge me for taking my husband’s last name, but they said “you do you.” Some of my peers posted passive-aggressive statuses or articles on social media about how “people [our] age who get engaged are destined for failure in marriage,” but these people were whiny in general about their relationship status, so they took their frustration out on others. My husband was unemployed for the majority of our engagement, and no one batted an eye at that.

    In my experience, what’s worse than braving judgment with someone supportive by your side is chasing the moving target or “perfect” or even “okay.” Working on and showing how strong your relationship is from the inside, and it definitely sounds strong from the inside, will protect you from a lot of judgment from the outside.

  2. My heart breaks reading this. Dear author. Chronic illness takes SO MUCH from our lives, don’t let it take even more. Say yes, let the love and joy of that moment wash over you both (as well as your close friends and family). Savor it. It’s one of the greatest feelings out there.

    My husband was diagnosed with MS about six months after we moved in together. We knew we wanted to be together forever, but diagnosis with a chronic disease of that sort changes how one approaches marriage. He had a lot of unspoken, but understandable, insecurities. After a few months, I proposed to him. Because I knew being married to him was what I wanted and I wasn’t going to let MS take that from us. And we are so happy with where our life is…I know it was the right choice.

  3. Just say yes. You know you want to, you know it’s right, and I think deep down you know you don’t need to worry about other people’s opinions. I pretty much never comment on here but I had to comment now, because there’s never an “acceptable” time to get engaged, really. You just have to know that YOU feel ready and that your partner feels ready and that’s all that matters.

    I never really thought I’d get engaged or married, but I had always said that if I DID, I would wait until I had a stable career, income, etc. etc. Well, it didn’t end up happening that way. I met my now-husband when I was living abroad (I’m from the US but went to grad school in Australia) and by the time we officially got together, we pretty much knew that was “it” but my student visa was set to expire in a few months so we had to make a decision about what we were going to do. We both would have preferred to be in a much more stable place before getting married so we could at least save up enough to have a wedding that both of our families could attend, but what with the immigration situation looming for one or the other of us, we had to just do a courthouse wedding so we could have a legal basis for a visa application (he ended up deciding to move to the US with me, long story short). And by the way, we got officially engaged about three and a half months after we actually started dating. We were a little worried we’d get some negativity from people, but amazingly, all of our family and friends were 100% supportive, even though it may have seemed like a very rushed decision (and even though we were very close friends before we got into a relationship, we hadn’t actually even known each other that long, haha).

    Well, we’ve been married over three years now and neither of us regret it; getting married in a courthouse just meant that we both knew we wanted to be together so badly that we’d do whatever it took to be able to live in the same country together. Honestly, that felt more romantic than anything, and we’re both adults in our early 30s with plenty of previous experience so we felt that it was our decision to make, whatever happened. We’ve been through crazy amounts of moving and job-related turmoil and even now we’re only just starting to feel a bit more financially stable (screw you, job market) but I don’t regret any of it. Who cares if it’s not the traditional or expected path, just do whatever makes you happy. Life is short, don’t waste it worrying about what other people think! And if they try to give you and flak for it, tell them to mind their own beeswax and/or just be happy that you’re happy! Carpe diem and enjoy the love that you and your significant other are so lucky to have found together!

  4. You are an adult. Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for your decisions. Channel your inner Fuck Off Fairy and marry the man already!

  5. I have three things to say.

    1. Just like everyone else said, go ahead and get engaged! You really have no reason not to, and it sounds like the right thing to do, based on what you gave said. I think people will dissaprove less than you think, and even if they do, scew em.

    2. This may not be a popular opinion (it sure wasn’t when I thought about it), but if you are on disability or government assistance for your chronic illness, you may want to find out what “official” state- marriage will do to it. One of my best friends got married recently, and she is on disability, and her husband doesn’t make enough to support both of them- especially not her medical bills. However, if they had gotten married legally, she probably would have died because of lack of medical care (I am being quite literal). So, they ended up having a wedding with their friends and family, and just didn’t do the paperwork. Some people will say it’s mean or dishonest, or whatever, but what does it matter if you are married in your hearts, or religiously, if that is your thing?

    3. Honestly, I don’t think that getting married while going through something like this is a bad thing if you are sure you would be together otherwise. Marriage is wonderful for this, because it isn’t just you anymore; you can work on it together, and you would be a team. I don’t have a chronic illness, but I was laid off from my job not long after I got married, and have been having a really hard time finding a job since then. I am in my early 30’s and have a lot of experience that should be helping me, but it just isn’t, and it’s been really hard for me. However, having my husband around, being my chering section has helped me so much that I can’t really put it into words. I honestly don’t know what kind of emotional state I would be in if he weren’t with me, but I don’t think it would be good. But I also know that that doesn’t make me weak or dependent (I’ve always been so afraid of being these things), it’s just him helping in an awful situation. I feel like your significant other could help in your situation as well; you would be amazed. Obviously you shouldn’t get married just for the emotional support, but being in a situation where emotional support would be helpful shouldn’t be a hindrance either.

  6. My fiancé and I have been together for seven years (on Sunday!). We got engaged on our sixth anniversary.
    We started dating while living in the same town. A year and a half later, I moved to a city three hours away. A year and a half later, I moved home. Three months later we moved to a new city, 12 hours from my hometown. A year later, he moved 10 hours away for work. We’ve spent the past three years visiting as much as possible between my insane double-major (I’m a non-trad student) schedule and his work schedule.

    We’ve talked about getting married for years now – probably five, five and a half years. It was frustrating knowing we both wanted to get married, but also knowing it wasn’t the right time to get engaged.
    After we got engaged last year, we set a date for this upcoming summer. As we got closer to the end of last semester and I realized just how much work still needed to be done (especially knowing I had two junior projects to do the semester before we tied the knot), we decided to push the date back. We’re now going to get married in two years, on either the nine year anniversary of meeting or the anniversary of us starting to date.

    Neither of us wanted to date this long before getting engaged. Neither of us wanted a three year engagement. But we also did not anticipate how much long distance we’d be doing. And I’d rather us both feel really good about the planning of our wedding and be able to live together as a married couple immediately. We both hope long distance won’t follow us into married life.

    This really wasn’t relevant to this post, but it sort of falls into the category of wanting to be married but life not letting it happen yet.

  7. Marriage is an opportunity to work as a team and build a life together. You do not need to have anything “sorted” first. You and your partner together will sort life out and it will be an ongoing process for the rest of your lives.

  8. Life has so many things to throw at all of us. Remember the adage, “don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides?” While it sounds like you have an extra tough situation, having it all figured out, in the right order, is mythology as far as I’m concerned. We’re all struggling and figuring things out on the inside, no matter what order we do things in. And the truth is, we’re all still whole and complete people, being who we are. We just have to be willing to see that in ourselves.

    Furthermore, sometimes people’s lives hit the fan AFTER they’ve gotten engaged or married. You never know whats around the corner, you just might know who you want by your side while you face and survive it all.

    My father died suddenly in a tragic accident a few weeks before my now husband and I were to be married. Who the hell could have seen that coming? Did I consider delaying the wedding? Yes. But ultimately, getting married during a difficult time injected a much needed dose of joy, happiness, and togetherness into a horrible life situation. And I have been so grateful to have my husband by my side as we face grief, healing, supporting my mother, and having so many tough conversations that ultimately have brought us closer together, though there have been strains on the relationship that we have had to intentionally work hard at.

    After the trauma we experienced, I was terribly afraid of being a drain on my husband- emotionally, physically, financially. I felt that I would never be the same. And I won’t be. But ultimately I’ve been able to see that I can give him support and encouragement in his life, even as I need his support. And we’ve been able to learn to take care of ourselves with support outside the relationship (like therapy and other friends) when it gets to feel like too much. You have someone who wants to go through your tough times with you. Who has experienced your tough situation and has grown with you.That is an incredible gift that not everyone has, and I say, go for it.

  9. Ah there is no such thing as an “adequate adult”.. illness or not, if you’re waiting to “grow up” before taking this step, you could be waiting forever.

    I want to answer your last question first – how do I steel myself against the possible judgements of my peers? .. Consider that it’s not their judgements you are worried about. If those possible judgements didn’t resonate deeply with something inside of you, then we wouldn’t be talking about it. It’s your own self judgements that are the real opponent here. I say, go within. The “peers” are the distraction. Work compassionately with your own resistance, your own limiting beliefs.

    I have a chronic illness too. And what strikes me is how quickly I rushed to answer your question like this: “jump in! Get married! Follow your heart! Forget doing things in the “right order”, whatever that means!” And yet, in my own life, I have waited. Waited to get well. Before doing the Big Things. Funny how when it’s someone else, the answer is so plainly obvious. When it’s ourselves, we can not see clearly. At least, not at first.

    We all have a master plan in our heads, consciously or subconsciously. But then life happens. Illness happens. Loss happens. Unexpectedness happens. If it’s joy you’re after, then throw out your old Plan. You know what’s amazing? That makes room for something even better to happen.

  10. there can be many pragmatic reasons to wait to get married. legal marriage effects things like hospital visitation, power of attorney, taxes, gov’t benefits, etc, etc. there are also good emotional reasons to wait to get married, sometimes you just arent ready. but i cant imagine a scenario when its a good idea to wait based on other people’s opinions. also, life rarely happens in any kind of sequential order, i mean shit happens, so i also cant imagine a scenario when it would be a good idea to wait based on some real/imagined timeline that you have to follow. i think you should just take a very logical look at this problem -the emotional part is settled, i would say, you want to marry him emotionally- so pragmatically, are there problems? if so, form a plan and address those things. if not …. well, then go for it.

    i will tell you i used to be very scared of getting married. i come from a divorced religious home, and i had the “marriage for life” thing beaten into me from two different angles, the “divorce = failure” one and the “god will hate you/marriage forever” one. my boyfriend, now fiance, and i will have been together for 7 years when we get married in may. i cant tell you when it happened, but sometime during those 7 years, i went from OMG MARRIAGE THAT IS TERRIFYING WHAT IF WE FAIL, WHAT IF WE ARE WRONG ABOUT ALL THIS WE HAVE TO BE ENGAGED FOR YEARS TO FIT ALL THE PREMARITAL COUNSELING IN SO WE CAN DIVORCE PROOF OUR MARRIAGE to, eh, fuck it. so what if we divorce? like literally, so what? then you divorce, and life goes on, and on and on and on. now, like i said, there are practical implications for legal marriage. i have come to realize that is all that i find to be “real” about a marriage. everything else is emotional, and therefore not tangible or measurable. the only thing that matters in the real world are those legal issues. i am ok with the legal issues, i welcome them in many ways as we both live apart from our families now. so, marriage is something you do, and it is also something you can un-do. there is a comfort in that, for me. its also only one facet of a person’s life. you will still be you when you get married. its like losing your virginity, right, like that concept is so stupid because you are still you. the same person was the virgin as was the non-virgin. nothing really changes. so i feel you in a lot of ways. it seems like you are putting marriage up as a very, very, very Important and Special Thing. what freed me was shedding the importance and special-ness.

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