How do you know you're ready for marriage? I'm in a committed r/s but never saw myself as a "wife."

I relate to this and it bothers me sometimes. Because everyone expects us to “move forward” - get married, have kids, and have this family life. But I want none of it. I am happy the way things are now, and I don’t want to “move forward.” I just ended a relationship for other reasons but underneath it all, I think it was this. He wanted to get married and live together and have kids, and I kept stalling.
I feel this. I’ve worked with a counselor identifying family patterns which helped a lot with this (and everything in life really). I’m also working with my partner to write what marriage means to us, while leaving out the misogynistic, sexist past of traditional marriage and the pattern of marriage in both of our families. I also recommend the book “It didn’t start with you” if you find interest in diving into family patterns and those “broken relationships”. Best wishes.
I got married in my late 20s and had a great deal of anxiety about it beforehand. Like MAJOR doubt just about getting married. I wanted to spend time doing my own thing. My parents also don’t have the most romantic marriage. The best advice I got was whether this person would enhance my life experiences or take away from them. From a purely selfish perspective I have gained so much from my relationship, knowledge, perspective, compassion, care, financial security. I even get to focus on my career, (with a toddler) while he pays the bills, does dishes, takes out trash, and then asks me if he can get takeout. I had no idea my life would turn out this way as a young 20 something year old. Don’t get me wrong, I still do a lot in our relationship, but I get a lot out of it as well. The selfish me thought I was going to miss out on so much if I got married. Looking back I gained so much, BUT we did know we would want to have children together. So there were some non-negotiables that we worked through. I would probably create a decision tree or apply some framework to understand the root cause of your concerns and go from there.
Is the issue with the term "wife" linked to social expectations of what that means? I'm in my late 20s, painfully single, don't want biological children - but would one day want to be married. I think your marriage can be whatever you define it to be, and the same with being a 'wife'. I know for some its a loaded term with patriarchal societal expectations, but for you, it could be having a party and getting some Mr and Mrs coffee cups. The not knowing how life will turn out is a commitment issue, but that is life - and being married or not won't make ending a relationship any easier - marriage is, after all, a social construct.
LucyN's profile thumbnail
My 'boyfriend' and I have been together for 24 years. After 8 years he proposed and I accepted but for various reasons we never got married (one being - hello cost of a wedding wtf). We've never fallen into the traditional 'path' of what is expected from us, and quite frankly, we are the black sheep of both of our families because of that. But you know what? I wasn't put here to please others who blackball me because I don't fit their mold of what's 'right' - I have plenty of friends and acquaintances who have all chosen the path less traveled, and I have those who are married with kids who are happy and I am happy for them. You do what works best for you, and not what others expect you to do. Otherwise one day, you may very well look back and have regrets (not saying you'll regret getting married, in a few years you may feel different, but make sure YOU are the one making decisions, and not feeling pressured to do so).
My parents divorced before I was born. My dad remarried (and got divorced again) and my mom never did. I had not grow up with a strong sense that I ever wanted to get married, similar to you. Similarly my partner stated early on that he never wanted to get married. We have been together now for 7 years, married for 1. What ultimately made us start thinking about it was when he was in treatment for cancer a few years into our relationship. We both live far from our families and when he was in the hospital, if something were to go worse than it did, I would have been powerless. There are ways around that for sure, like transferring power of attorney, but that experience made me realize that he was a person that I was committed to supporting and that I was open to the idea of making that commitment official. There isn't a "right" answer though. We were together for 5 years before we even started talking about it and were both in our 30s. We also found ways to make marriage mean what we wanted it to instead of what other people wanted it to. We picked a new last name together that described who we were and dropped both of our family names. I still refuse the Mrs moniker. We still prefer partner over husband or wife. We rarely wear our wedding bands and skipped the whole engagement ring nightmare. We got married at the courthouse and told our families afterward to avoid all of the expectations about a wedding. For me, getting married was about committing to support my partner and about my partner supporting me. All the rest was a distraction from that.
I had a somewhat similar experience to this one. I had a health scare, and there was this realization that my partner would ultimately not be able to make any medical decisions for me despite the fact that he knows what I want. I have a relatively good relationship with my parents, but the idea of them making my health decisions made me deeply uncomfortable. After the scare, we decided to get married. We did do the engagement ring situation, and we had a very, very small wedding. My partner and I spoke a lot about the expectations we had for each over prior to the marriage. We both agreed that nothing would change except for filing taxes. I prefer to think of us as partners and not necessarily husband and wife. I also decided against changing my last name, and I'm happy with my decision. I never wanted to get married, but my decisions around marriage actually made me feel empowered in a strange way.
katyharth's profile thumbnail
Everyone in my family (paternal grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousin) has been divorced at least once, so I was never crazy about the idea. At the end of the day, my partner and I got married because of the rights and protections it offers in the event of an accident, illness or death. We got married in a courthouse, and told everyone afterwards to avoid any opinions about what kind of marriage ceremony or wedding we should have. We even filed as spouse & spouse, not husband & wife. Though we considered creating our own name, we ultimately wanted to keep things as simple as possible and retained our family last names, as neither of us can swallow the idea of the Mrs. moniker either. We do have bands, largely because I wanted to avoid any unwanted attention - naïve though that may be - but they are very simple and were rather inexpensive. No engagement ring for us. And he got a vasectomy before we got married, so no kids, either ;)OP - First, I would ask that you challenge yourself to remove any of the preexisting notions of what marriage is, or what it obligates you to, outside of a government recognized contract that offers some rights and protections. And talk with your partner about it, if you haven't already - you should have a clear, mutual understanding, and your partner should be able to support you no matter what you decide is best for you. Second, there is no time limit on marriage, so I don't think you need to feel rushed to make this decision. And remember - you are allowed to change your mind - what you decide today doesn't have to be set in stone. Be kind to yourself, and trust yourself.
sophiefader's profile thumbnail
I appreciate all of the advice here to re-invent what marriage means to you within your relationship. However, we can't ignore that society at large does continue to regulate what marriage means more broadly, outside of our personal views. Hegemony is real. As a result, you will benefit if you conform to the hegemony. Demographically, If you get married, change your name, have kids etc. there are material benefits. Resisting hegemony has material downsides. Think about the difference between "I'm sorry I can't come I have an obligation for my boyfriend's job" and "I'm sorry I can come I have an obligation for my husband's job". People and institutions will view your relationship differently and treat you differently. If you don't want that, I think that is a totally valid reason to decide against it.
Tangentially, I have always hated how nobody blinks when a woman in my office leaves to attend to her husband/kids, but I get raised eyebrows for leaving a little earlier to go for yoga. Why is taking care of myself a lower priority?
sophiefader's profile thumbnail
I hear you. Taking care of yourself is a lower priority because you are a lower priority in our society. Two thumbs down.
maggiewolff's profile thumbnail
This is why I prefer the term "partner." It's vague but still conveys importance.
maggiewolff's profile thumbnail
I feel you! I married young (24) and started struggling with the labels when I was in my 30s. My struggle is that I don't want our relationship to become an obligation - that we're both still here because we took vows and not because this is what we both still want. I know my husband is fiercely loyal and I worry if he were unhappy in our marriage, he would stay out of loyalty instead of leaving to make himself happier. I'm a bit more vocal about such things and even suggested at one point that we separate because I was unhappy. (We're still together and long past that.) Also, there is a part of me that rejects the idea of conforming to anything traditional, especially a role that has traditionally made women subservient. What has helped me is remembering that no two marriages are the same. Our marriage is VERY different. For one thing, we're non-monogamous. We're also childfree. We are both very committed to our careers, neither wants the other to sacrifice their career for the relationship, so we've lived apart (for a few months at a time) and would do that again if necessary. For us, the legal protections of marriage make sense, and the fact that despite our individuality we're still building a life together is what matters to us. It might sound cheesy, but we look at our marriage as being a team, our little family, us against the world, navigating this life together. It's comforting. Sure you could do it without being legally married, but it is nice to have that "officialness" to it (especially since I took his last name - it's a really cool name otherwise I would have kept mine). However, everyone is different. What works for us obviously won't work for others. Do what feels authentic to you. I also spent some time talking to my therapist about this stuff, about some of my discomfort of labels like "marriage" and "wife" and unpacking that helped.
sarahgibson's profile thumbnail
I didn't get married till I was 37. All I can say is, when you know, you know. I wouldn't put any undue pressure on yourself to make a decision now if you don't need to. (Although, your post makes me wonder, did he propose? Is he trying to force the issue? Have you talked with each other openly about your respective ideas about marriage?)
Hi @Aurora103, I've been with my domestic partner for 30+ years and we have a daughter we both love to bits in college. The key decision in a long term, meant to be lifelong relationship is not whether to get married, it's how are child care and household work going to be split? Getting married most often sends the message implicitly that it will be the wife carrying out most of those duties unless (and maybe even if) you put the issue on the table ahead of time and negotiate an equal split.Once the babies are there and you're not sleeping at night is not the best time to think about it for the first time. Trust me, changing diapers is the easy part ;)Sadly if the wife ends up doing most of the housework as well as the child care as they do in the vast majority of marriages, you suddenly put yourself in a position of economic dependence as your own career prospects are going to be way more affected than your husband's. So now there's an economic imbalance in the relationship to contend with that can limit your options.I beg to differ with the opinion below re: conforming to the hegemony (granted I live in no cal, if you live in the bible belt my condolences). All those things are minor compared to the key decision above. Agreed 100% about the post below, when you now, you know, and whether you're married or not doesn't matter. Hope this helps. Best of luck!
laurensmithLLAP's profile thumbnail
I knew I was ready for marriage when I wanted to get married. For me it was really that simple. My husband and I talked very explicitly about what it meant to us, whether we wanted to do it, and what our expectations were. It always felt good to me, and it was important to me to make that declaration/commitment formally in front of friends and family in our own way. And we really did it our own way, for whatever reason for the most part I have never felt that the traditional expectations of what it means to be "a wife" should or do apply to me. A relationship (or marriage) are whatever the people in it decide it is.The people in my family have long term partners they aren't married to that are still part of the family just like my husband is, in fact my siblings are currently split down the middle with the two oldest (myself and my step brother) married and two others in very long term relationships, my step brother and his wife have kids and my brother and his partner (it feels weird to call her his "girlfriend" as this point) are about to have a child, whereas myself and my husband aren't going to at all and the other long term folks haven't yet. And my uncle has been with his partner forever, but I don't think they're ever getting married, whereas my Dad remarried really quickly. My point is -- families come in all kinds of configurations. Maybe marriage means something to you that you don't want to participate in -- then don't! It doesn't mean you're not serious about your relationship. You do you.