Is it possible to wait TOO LONG to get married?

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Andreas and I were together for over six years before we got married, and living together for five of those. We'd already survived several rounds of unemployment, interstate moves, college graduations, and holidays spent with each other's families.

At a certain point (maybe around four years in?), the questions from friends and family shifted from, “So, are you two getting married?” to “Why bother? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” That was the point at which I realized maybe we'd waited a little tooooo long.

Wait, did I just say we waited too long to get married? Is that even possible?

It may indeed be possible. At that four year point, it felt like people started assuming if we hadn't gotten married yet, it was because we didn't want to — not just that we hadn't gotten around to it. I've seen this with other long-term unmarried het couples, too: People start to assume maybe you're using your relationship to protest marriage inequality. Or they assume you're not interested in marriage at all.

I even had some friends assume we weren't married yet because we hated the idea of marriage — you know, like they did. Ah, yes. Projections! I had strange conversations that revealed a lot about people's fears of marriage: “Yeah, who needs to get married? You'll just stop having sex and bicker all the time! If it ain't broke, don't fix it!” Yikes.

I suppose these fears aren't completely unjustified. There is that weird phenomenon of long-standing relationships falling apart after making it legal. Is that evidence of people waiting too long?

How does all this relate to the phenomenon of the epic, half-decade engagements? You can definitely run into unique challenges if you have an engagement that stretches many years. I've seen it too many times to count on the Offbeat Bride Tribe: if the engagement is longer than three years, plans shift so many times en route to the wedding date that you might as well be getting a four-year bachelor's degree in Wedding Planning Purgatory And Hellish Studies. Brides purchase a dress, and then a different one a year later, and then a third a few months before the actual wedding. You put a deposit down on a caterer, and they go out of business the next year. You pick a theme. Then another one. Then a third. Then decided fuck it and just elope. I've definitely seen times when a four-month engagement has been easier on couples than a four-year engagement. Sometimes the challenges aren't based on how long you've been together — but how long you're planning the wedding.

But did we wait too long to get engaged? I'm going to go with no, we didn't wait too long — the slow-moving timeline we were on worked for both of us. It continues to work for both of us: we'd been together over ten years before we had a child (although half of that was not by choice). We only just combined our bank accounts last year. We're both pretty fiercely independent, and clearly, moving slowly has worked well for us as a couple. At this point, we've been married as long as we were unmarried — Dre's and my 2004 wedding marks the half-way point of our relationship. I have no regrets about not having been married sooner.

Really, the only true too long is if partners are mismatched in their timeline and expectations. Then, and only then, you've waited too long.

Then again, if you're sick of waiting — maybe it's time to propose.

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Comments on Is it possible to wait TOO LONG to get married?

  1. LOVE THIS! We were together 6 years before my partner proposed and are getting married on our 7 year anniversary. Although, I think a lot of people assumed we didn’t get married because we were broke as hell. I did, however, get more than one inquiry about whether I was pregnant or not. As if that’s the only reason for getting married.

    • Haha. As we were the first non-shotgun first wedding in my hubs family, we were pretty sure that EVERYONE thought I was pregnant at first. 🙂

      • When my fiance and I told everyone we were getting married, the first question asked was if I was pregnant… Like really??

    • My boyfriend and I have lived together for 10+years and I had all but given up on getting married. However, this Christmas he proposed to me. Some people are genuinely afraid that their relationship will end in divorce (like their parents did) and it takes them a little longer to come around. To note, my boyfriend proposed once the pressure was off. We have already stood the test of time (10 years) but making it official is so special. BTW we’re eloping…

      • my husband and I had been together for almost 5 years when he proposed, & we had been best friends for 2 years before we started dating. His parents got married very quickly after meeting and were miserable their entire 18 years of marriage (they stayed together until he graduated). This scared him off of the idea of being able to have a happy marriage (& those are his words, not mine!) we had a 15 month engagement, which was almost too long? We ended up having a different wedding than we had originally planned but i think that was due in part to having too much time to plan and change our (my) minds. We hit our “First” anniversary a few weeks ago (although we’ve been together for 7 years, living together for 6 & 1/2 of those) & i think we’re in a good place 🙂 everyone asked “how’s married life?” & my answer is always “The same as it was before, i just have a longer last name.” I think it depends on the couple- & if you’re in this boat, talk to your partner- if you are like me, & wanted to get married before the other was ready, it’s important to have an honest conversation with them: honesty kept us together & strong & will continue to do so!

        • My story is very similar, 5years till engagement. He was scared of marraige and i wanted to get married sooner but at 4 years i broke down as the future i saw for myself (Marraige, children and a house with him) was slipping further away.. Turns out he was planning on asking soon.. hehe I was honest and told him that its what i wanted from the beginning. Ours is a 3.5yr (42month) engagement with 23months to go.

      • Thank god ! Ur story Actually gives me hope. We have a 6 year ok who attends Christian academy and I soooo thought her father would have popped the question to me by now, but nope! He still hasn’t !!!! Kinda scared I’m just wasting time ….& just playing house :/

    • I decided to propose to my OH (and will do in two weeks! eeep!) and the one question people Ive told so far have asked is “Is it because your pregnant?”
      As you say that’s the only reason to get married…. 😉

    • We’ve been engaged 7 years and are happy as ever! Life shouldn’t be a plan or a set of tasks to achieve..at least for us it never as been. It should be as it comes, the good, the bad..day to day.

  2. We definitely had so many people go on “Why I don’t need to get married!” rants when we told them we were getting married. It’s a little weird, but I chalked it up to projection.

    We were together 5 years (almost exactly) when we got married and had lived together for 4. I can’t imagine getting married earlier in our relationship — by that time we had worked out a lot of stuff and gone through a bunch of things together that just proved to us that we made sense.

    • I got one of these diatribes a couple weeks after we tied the knot, which was a little obnoxious. “I mean, academics just don’t get married,” she said. Except, my husband is an academic (that’s how we met this other couple), and many of his other academic friends are … married. Um …?

  3. My partner and I have a long-term long distance relationship, and currently live 3 hours apart. We’re celebrating our 7th anniversary next week, and planning a September wedding. While no one (or very few) people were rushing us to get married, we’re both in graduate school and anticipate a few more years of living apart, given the current state of academic jobs. This is the part that our families just don’t understand. The wedding felt perfect timing-wise, we’ll just have to wait a little longer before the combining household part happens.

    • I get it, i thought i was the only one out there. we have been living together for 7 years and i’m in college, and i want to finish my chemical engineering degree in three years. my family thinks that our relationship is bad and something is wrong i’m not telling them but i’m happy and in love.

  4. We’re reaching 10 years in July. We’re still in our mid 20s but have 2 kids, house, etc. I would marry him if he asked (I won’t) but it’s become irrelevant. My own parents have been together 30 years and are not married.

  5. I can definitely appreciate this. My fiance an I have been together for about 8 years now, and I find that when I tell people we’re getting married, I don’t get much of the excitement or energy that I was hoping for.

    The funny bit is, we started dating as teenagers, and at that point in our relationship, if we brought up marriage, everybody would tell us we was far too young to think about it.

    Hahah, I’m just rolling with the punches. Since our familes aren’t super excited about the wedding, that means they’re not trying to force their plans into mine, so I get more freedom this way. And I know, come the day of, they’ll be happy for us.

    • Carolyn – I’ve experienced the exact same thing.

      When we got engaged (at my parents house), my parents asked us what we wanted for breakfast after we broke the news rather than saying congrats. lol

      Like you, I’m just going with it. I know they are happy for us but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t need their excitement to fuel my wedding energy.

    • I hear you! Me and mine started dating when we were 16/17 … nobody wanted us married, then. Then we did the college thing. Then graduate school. Actually, he’s still in school, but we’re getting married anyway — the day after our 10th anniversary (dating). I’ll be 26. Seems perfect to me!

      Then I only have to add ten to the weddingversary to figure out how long I’ve loved him.

    • I’m with you here (though a few years behind). We were 16 and 19 when we met, and everyone would have tried to stop us if we had said we were getting married then, and it wouldn’t have been good for us. I’m 21, he’s 24, and we’re approaching a point where it seems less crazy. We’ve been talking about getting married someday for years, and we’ve reached a point where emotionally, we both are ready to get married, but my parents are (generously) putting me through nursing school, 4 years of which I just started. So we’ll be 2-4 years away I think.
      That said, in the past year or so, it’s been a transition from “you are way to young to decide that you are getting married someday” to my mom keeps accidentally calling him my husband. (At first she would freak out about it, now she doesn’t). My step-dad keeps calling him his “son-in-law”.
      I feel like we’re gradually slipping into this point where people treat him like my common-law husband. Which is ok with me, since that’s how I view him. I want a wedding to celebrate with family and, even more importantly to me, to ritualize our marriage, but I’m good with being treated as common-law spouses for now.

  6. I’ve had a family that’s been harassing us about marriage since we graduated from college. (More than three years ago.) Cute at first, really annoying the last year and a half.

    We’ve been together seven years and finally got engaged a few months ago, but I did nearly get to the point in the few months before we got engaged of “is this really working” and “do we really want the same things.” I was honest with my now fiance about my feelings and told him I wasn’t sure if we were on the same page, however I also had a lot to think about because in general our relationship was otherwise great. I just knew I wanted to be married to him. Now we’re both happy with our timeline and our long engagement (we’re getting married Oct. 2012) and we’re excited.

    The problem now is my family. Again. They keep asking why we’re waiting so long. Are you paying for it grandma?! No. Neither are our parents, so we’ll have the wedding when we can afford it.

    Anyway, great post. This one really hits home for me.

    • Ugh, thank you!!! I’m tired of people asking us why we’re “waiting so long” to get married… He is in the midst of graduate school, and we are both still financially dependent on our parents. Marriage is not feasible for another 2 years, when we both have stable jobs- and, oh yeah, don’t live five thousand miles apart! Why can’t people just be happy that we’ve decided to make a commitment to each other, rather than why it isn’t happening OMG RIGHT NOW ASAP!

    • Wow. This comment is mine from two and a half years ago. So nutty. Nearly seven years together before getting engaged, two year engagement, now we’ve been married for one year. I still fully, absolutely believe that this worked for us and was right for us. We met 10 years ago in September and in March we will have been together for an official 10 years. I stand by this: do what works for you. Don’t let your family pressure you into anything. ANYTHING. (The children question keeps coming up these days. We don’t want any and we’ll stick to our guns.)

  7. My fiance and I have been together just over 4 years on Dec 18th, he proposed on Christmas eve. Everyone is now saying things like “it’s about time!” To us, four years doesn’t seem long at all though we’ve had several life changes along the way. We’re just as happy together now, if not more than we were four years ago. I’m still debating on whether or not to have a wedding or just elope.

    • We eloped after the stress of wedding planning got to us. We’re still having a wedding in April, but for now we’re “secret” husband and wife and it’s working well for us. A huge load of stress rolled off our backs. A lot of people assumed we’d never get married, so the fact that we finally are doing it is enough to appease the wedding gods 😛

      • OMG yes, my fiance and I have been engaged for 2.5 years now and although I know my family is just waiting for us to be married, I think if we just went and eloped, they wouldn’t be suprised. My fiance thinks that elopement won’t work, but we’re both decision-phobes and I think eventually when we eventually get around to planning an actual “wedding” he’ll realize that elopement is more our style anyways…

  8. I really enjoyed this post and often get the same questions as my partner and I have been together for over 8 years and are now getting around to the marriage part of our relationship. To be honest, any earlier could have broken our relationship. We’ve grown together and apart and back together and are stronger than ever. Having those 8 years to grow and learn about one another have prepared us for the long road ahead of us. Timing really varies from couple to couple and where they are in their lives. Some couples know from day one where they are headed… in my case I was taking it day by day until a year ago when we finally discussed the “future” and what we wanted 🙂

    Also, as a side note… I hope all the long-term couples out there don’t discredit their pre-marriage years. My to-be hubs and I will be at 9 years when we get married, so when we hit our “1 year anniversary” we will also be celebrating 10 years together.

    • Yes! We got married on our 7th Anniversary. So our anniversary party invitations tend to be along the lines of 9th/2nd Anniversary Party “Because two years ago we got married – and nine years ago we made out on a sofa.”

    • We don’t really celebrate our wedding anniversary — but our “hook-up-iversary” is a HUGE one for us. 🙂

  9. Oh thank you. We’ve considered pushing our wedding back a year to save more money, but I’m like, “Please don’t keep me in this hell of wedding planning any longer I’mgoingtogocrazyandshootsomething…..” at which point we back down from the ledge and work harder at planning the wedding.

  10. I agree that people can wait too long. I think the reason our long engagement doesn’t feel weird to people (it will be a two year engagement) is just because we’re in college. It would be really stupid for us to get married before we graduate, and then keep living in dorms! However, I do really like the fact that we have been together nearly 4 years and that our wedding will be our 5 year anniversary. I do think the long engagement is making people less excited about our wedding, though – when I try to talk to my parents about wedding planning, they don’t really seem interesting in actually going out and helping me do anything (like scope venues.) I can’t tell if it’s because our engagement is too long,they’re too busy, or they really think we’re stupid for getting married.

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