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My partner “Matt” and I have been dating for four years. We got together in college and moved to a new state after we graduated. When we first got together, we were both fervently anti-marriage due to growing up in less than ideal households where we witnessed abusive relationships. We’ve both worked extremely hard with therapists and each other to keep from modeling the people who raised us, and both of us know that the work is a lifelong project.
Over Christmas, we were talking to Matt’s older sister about her upcoming wedding. She and her fiancé are going into major debt so that her massive extended family can come disrupt the ceremony and get drunk on their (bank’s) dime. (These are goals that her family members have explicitly stated in my presence.) Matt’s response, after we’d sympathized, was to sit down and write out the members of our parents’ immediate families. Then he told me “we can’t get under 150 people without offending someone, so we’ll just have to elope.”
It was a joke, but he’s made a ton of similar ones since then. I know that jokes are how he tests the water for stressful conversations, so I guess I’m trying to figure out if the water’s good. I like him, I love him, and I am completely in love with him, but I don’t know if that’s the best metric for marriage. We’re 24 (25 is rapidly approaching), and we’ve already gone through a lot of challenges, lessons, and character development together.
Financially and logistically, marriage would be great. I have no need for a wedding, and would be happy to elope. My company has exponentially better healthcare than Matt’s, so I’d worry about him a thousand times less. His credit is embarrassingly better than mine (I’m fixing it, but it’s going to take a few more years), so we’d get slammed with far fewer “risky customer” fees and maybe even be able to get a loan, if necessary. Emotionally, I have no freaking clue. Is being married dramatically different from being in a long-term relationship? I feel like I should be petrified that some switch will flip if/when he goes from partner to spouse, but I’m not. I would want to go to a counselor and a lawyer together before eloping, but that’s about it, and that’s something we’ll be doing this year anyway.
Am I being blasé about this – or too logical? Are we too young?
– Mulling over Matrimony
Your case for marriage sounds pretty great. You love, like, and want Matt, and getting married will help the two of you plan a life together. It’s a step toward growing your world as a couple.
That’s one of the best reasons to get married, in my opinion. You meet someone, have high hopes for all of these things you can do together (make a home, travel, have kids, etc.), and then realize that being together on paper might make all of that easier. A lot of it is about the finances (practicalities like health insurance). That doesn’t mean the romance isn’t there.
My only question is the “why now?” of it all. You’re not too young, and you’ve been thoughtful about your options. But is this a response to Matt’s sister’s plans? Is it about your ever growing to-do list for improvement? I don’t get that sense from your letter, but consider your timing.
As for that question about how marriage changes a relationship, well, I can’t say. Every couple is different. I should mention, though, that some people told me they were disappointed because a switch didn’t flip. Those people expected a new and better relationship after a wedding, and then found that they were with the same partner they had the day before.
In your case, that would be a good thing. That’s encouraging.
Readers? Any reason to hesitate?
Save the ‘overthink’ for deciding to have children or not. Having a pre-nuptial agreement makes marriage less risky.aunttiggywink
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