A lot of women ask me about the “right time” to get married? I’ve shared the perspective a few times that most 40-somethings recommend waiting to get married until you are 30. They believe you should be free to explore yourself in your 20s without the pressure of “Should I marry him? When?” Now matter how grown up you feel, a new maturity evolves by the end of your 20s that’s worth waiting for before making that commitment or deciding if that’s what you want at all.
Their advice is to use your 20’s to date proactively and learn about different types of men. Learn what you want and what you don’t want. Get the bad boys out of your system, fall in love…but don’t marry the first person you fall in love with. Then by the time you get to your later 20’s you can be more aware of what is important to you and what you want. Plus, you’re probably better able to communicate what you want with your partner.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t think about what you want in terms of marriage …. and children before 30. The counterpoint is that a lot of women in their 40s today did date, have fun and cruise through their 20s. One woman related, “We were brought up to think that anything is possible…so we did anything”. Others talked about “floating though their 20s”. They got jobs. They had money. They traveled. They bought themselves nice things. They dated. They had fun no doubt about it. It was all great…but some regret not using that time to look inward and learn what they wanted. There’s a big difference between traveling to constantly party with your friends and using some of that travel to learn how other people live. There was a lot of cruising through relationships as well… maybe they were fun, maybe they thought things would change or maybe they just thought it’s what they should do. Here is a few perspectives on how to avoid spending too much time getting lost in the idea of a relationship.
“I was in a relationship from age 27 to 32. I should have gotten out of it sooner and been more cognizant of what I wanted. At that time I was doing well in my career. I started having a really good time …enjoying life with my friends and with my boyfriend, which is fine. But in hindsight, I want to get married and I wonder if that was my prime time. I probably wasn’t ready to get married then. I wasn’t until 33 I really thought about it. Not only that I want to be married but I want kids. Now I wish I wasn’t going to be an older mother. If you’re in that phase where you’re really focused on your career, it’s easy to get sidetracked. The years just go by and before you know it, ‘wow’, 5 or 6 more years go by. I was just coasting along in all aspects of my life except my career. I knew in the back of my mind for a while that he wasn’t the one for me. I couldn’t really see spending the rest of my life with him. There were things about a life with him that I did not want. I just stayed in it because we had a good time and it was easy. Why not? But that’s the one I would’ve walked away from sooner.
At the same time I’m very happy that I have a career. I love to travel. I’m very into culture and seeing the world and I want my kids to do that. I think without all the experiences that I’ve had, I wouldn’t be who I am today and I wouldn’t be able to give those experience to my children one day. So while part of me wishes I was married and had kids. I’m also very happy with where I am in my life now. I don’t feel unfulfilled.” – 40-something, New York, NY
“I dated someone for 5 years in my late 20s and early 30s. I stayed with him just because I didn’t want to not be with him… with someone. I came to realize I didn’t want to marry him. But I spent way too many hours, oo many years trying to change him. That was stupid. I thought I could make someone act differently but if you don’t have someone who’s willing to participate equally and meet you halfway, it’s not worth your time.” – 40-something, Chicago
“Don’t think that if you’ve dated 3 years eventually you should get married to this person. I stayed with something too long simply because I felt like it was my obligation to do so. I knew I was unhappy with relationship but I was unwilling to leave it. Why? I couldn’t tell you. I just felt like it was my obligation to stay in it and make everything work. But you can’t make it work. It was 10 years. I wouldn’t say it all was a waste but it made me realize I wasted too much time with someone because I thought I should be in a relationship and that if we’d been together for such and such a time we should get married. It was what I should do rather than what I wanted. I learned the old adage is true, it’s better to be happy by yourself, than unhappy in a relationship.” – 40-something, married, working mom, Brooklyn, NY
“I stayed with a gentleman that I was living with longer than I should. I loved him. I had so much fun with him. I loved his friends. We went to all these great parties and weddings. I would fantasize about what our life would be like. But I knew deep down that I wasn’t going to marry him. There was just a point where I knew I wanted to move and do other things and he was ever going to leave. And I didn’t necessarily want him to go with me. I guess I just knew that it wasn’t going to come to fruition.
Sadly, the relationship went on too long. He took it very hard. That was a life changing event for me. It made me realize that I’m never going to spend 5 years in any relationship. If I know that it’s not right, it’s not right. If I’m in it because I want a date, that’s fine, as long as the other person is on the same page as me. If they’re on a different page and think that this is going somewhere then I can’t be in the relationship. You will both be so much better off in the end”. – 40-something, married, working mom, Los Angeles, California