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Long engagement not for others, but to make sure for yourself

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Q: Is there something to a long engagement? I've been with a guy for about eight months now and we're starting to talk marriage. I'd like to get married as soon as possible — partly because I'm getting older, don't want a big brouhaha, and want to be with this guy like now!

I know getting married inside a year will seem sudden to most people, but I've been through the relationship cycle many times and at this point in my life (mid 30s) feel I have a good grasp on what I want in someone I'm going to spend the rest of my life with.

But I know issues come up during wedding planning that can bring out differences that will damage a marriage. And I guess I'm just not looking forward to all the questions about my rushing into things. Thoughts?


A: Thoughts: Your letter toggles between sounding as if you know who you are and what you want, and sounding like you're 17. I mean, who considers using wedding plans as a compatibility test, what does getting older have to do with the soundness of a decision to marry, and who cares what other people think?

The concern I have about your let's-get-on-with-it marriage impulse is not that you don't know what you want; no doubt you do. It's that it can still take time to see whether someone is all the things you believe him to be. Time is also useful for seeing how each of you responds to each other's influence; you both want to bring out versions of each other that are close to your natural states.

At least give yourself time to outlast any wishful thinking — and, if applicable, the peak of in-love shmoopiness, which can make annoying traits seem cute, important differences seem trivial and a besotted state seem like a sustainable one.

Add that to the aforementioned concern that you're letting yourself get distracted by superficial things, and I think it makes sense to have a moderate-length engagement. Not so you can plan a complicated event you don't even want*, but so you can tame any sense of urgency and parse your own mixed message.

The pesky questions of people who want (or presume to know) what's best for you are so inconsequential in the scheme of things that your concern for them is a flag. Are you concerned you're rushing, and ascribing that view to others? Are there doubts you can't get your mind around, motivating you to focus on issues that are easier to brush off? Is your sense of urgency to get married at all rooted in mindfulness of how you appear to others? It's not a rarity at the mid-30s mark, and it can cloud one's judgment about someone as surely as pheromones can.

In other words, what is that flag marking? That's the question I suggest you put off your wedding long enough to tackle, even if it's just a matter of months.

* Trust your inclination to keep it simple, so you're able to focus on the quality of the man and the quality of your relationship.

Long engagement not for others, but to make sure for yourself 03/29/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 2:47pm]
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