Love and Marriage

On the radio today, this guy called in and had a problem he wanted advice on. Seems he’s been dating his girlfriend for three years, and one year for Christmas they spent it with her family, and one year they spent it with his family. She told him a few weeks ago that she had made plans to spend Christmas with her family, and he could go ahead and make his own plans. Then, more recently, she said that, because of the economy, she thinks they should not buy each other gifts this year. They both have jobs, and have enough money that they can afford a little something, at the very least. He thinks she’s going to break up with him after the holidays, and he’s wondering if he should preemptively break up with her before then.

This blog post is NOT about this guys issues. Yes, she probably does want to break up with him, she’s doing it in a crappy way, but preemptively breaking up with her, just so you don’t get broken up with, is stupid. Sit down with her, talk about it.

HERE is what this post is about. The radio jockey asked if maybe she told him not to buy a gift because she’s worried he’s going to give her an engagement ring, and maybe she’s not ready for that and this is her way of telling him. When asked, “Do you think she might think you’re going to propose, have you guys talked about that?” he answered with a very emphatic “NO. NOOOO. No I’m not ready for that.”

One guy ended up calling in and saying, essentially, “Hey, dumbass, yes she’s breaking up with you, because it’s been three years and you haven’t even talked about getting married. If you haven’t proposed after three years, you deserve to be dumped.”

I’m always fascinated with the timing of a marriage proposal. Some people only date for six months. Some date for ten years. Who’s to say what the right timing is? No one, I think. Although, I will say that personally, I could never see myself accepting a proposal after six months, and I could never see myself waiting for ten years. But I think by three years, it should be discussed.

I had friends a long time ago who had been dating (and living together) for (I think) five years. She wanted to get married. He “wasn’t ready.” She kept saying she was going to give him until X date and then she was through. At the time (at the tender age of 22) I asked her how, if she loved him, she could just cut and run, simply because he wasn’t ready to propose. She looked at me and said, “Just wait until you’re older, you’ll understand.”

And I do kind of get it. I go back and forth on the whole thing. If I was with a guy for five years, would I give him an ultimatum? I mean, if he isn’t ready in five years, when will he be ready? But if I love him, shouldn’t I want to be with him, regardless?

Then there are the couples who never get married. What is marriage, but a piece of paper and a ring? Again, I go back and forth on this one, too. Because I agree with that argument – if I love you and you love me, why do we need to stand in front of a preacher and sign a piece of paper? Does that make us love each other more? But, alternately, if it’s never legal, it’s a lot easier to get out with no obligation. I think making it legal makes it harder to split up – you actually have to work through things, instead of just throwing in the towel.

What do you think? Is there an “appropriate length of time” to be dating before getting engaged? And is marriage necessary?

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7 responses to “Love and Marriage

  1. 1) If getting married was so important to the girl, she *did* have the option of proposing marriage, herself, rather than insisting that *he* had to propose to *her* by an arbitrary deadline that *she* set. If the time is right for her, let her by the ring!

    2) Is there an appropriate length of time to be dating before getting engaged? Yes. But, it varies from couple to couple.

    3) Is marriage necessary? Yes. And so is divorce. We are social creatures, and we necessarily contrive social customs and rules of conduct surrounding sex and food and clothing and all that other good survival-of-the-species stuff. But since none of these customs have proven to be perfect, we keep modifying them, with varying results. Clothing is necessary, but that doesn’t mean bathing suits in particular are. Marriage is necessary, but that doesn’t mean monogamous, heterosexual, pairing-for-life in particular is. Your mileage may vary, of course.

    (My, I’m feeling snappy tonight. Love your blog, btw. It’s so… eccentric. 🙂

    • delightfuleccentric

      I guess I’m an old-fashioned sort of girl. Yes, she could have asked (and I beleive she asked, “are you going to ask?”), but I still think the boy should do the asking.

      And, boy, you are feeling awfully sassy, aren’t you? 😉

  2. Oh, and I meant to say “buy the ring”, not “by the ring.”

  3. I think it depends on the couple. Jon and I dated for 4 months and then were engaged. 8 weeks later, we were married. Would I recommend that for everyone? Absolutely not. But it works for us because from the day we met, we have been openly communicating about everything.
    My best friend met her boyfriend coming home from my wedding 6 1/2 years ago. He told her from day one that he didn’t believe in marriage. She decided that she loved him enough that she didn’t care and they have been absolutely happy for over 6 years.
    As long as you communicate and are up front about your expectations, there shouldn’t be any problems.

  4. It’s not the marriage, per se, (and lawdy it sure as hell ain’t the WEDDING), it’s the sense of binding connection.

    People express that binding connection in different ways– some need the certificate, some don’t. (And some thought they had a certificate, find out they kinda really aren’t as legal as they thought, and still don’t really care because the connection is true. But I digress….)

    In the end, it seems to me that it really comes down to the emotional connection, and how dedicated it is. That’s it.

    YMMV.

    • delightfuleccentric

      Jen and geauxgirl had very insightful things to say, as I knew they would! 🙂 That really is the whole point – it varies person to person, relationship to relationship. I don’t really think there is a specific right or wrong – I just know what I think I would do. I think 1-3 years seems about right when it comes to getting engaged. If it was less than a year, I think I would freak out. If it was more than 3 years, I would be getting kind of pissy. But I don’t know, as I’ve never been there. I won’t know until (or unless) I’m actually in that situation. Ditto for marriage – I won’t know until I’m in that situation what is important to ME. And even then I may not!!! 🙂

  5. i agree with Jen and geauxgirl. Every couple is different.

    The imperative thing to remember is that when both parties are on the same page, there is no worrying. End of story.