Should I Dump My Parents So I Can Get Married?

bride and groom running with joined hands on city park road

My boyfriend and I have been dating 7 months, and we’re now preparing to get engaged. I’m 21 and he’s 26. We’ve talked to both of our families about our intentions, and my boyfriend even asked my parents’ permission for my hand in marriage. We’ve made a special effort to get to know each other’s families, as we believe family intimacy is invaluable. We are both studying and have one year until we graduate so we can get full time work. However, my dad thinks that we’re not ready for marriage even though he gave us his blessing. He thinks we should wait, but we plan to get married in 6 months as our relationship is moving forward and to stop things would feel unnatural.

It’s a given we will struggle financially as students, but we’re determined and committed to each other. My boyfriend is my best friend. We share the same values and know where we are going in life. I couldn’t be happier when I am with him! My mum thinks that he isn’t handsome enough for me, which is upsetting – I think he is gorgeous. Am I caring too much about what others think? Do I need to ‘divorce my parents?’ I love them very much, but I fear I’m letting them intrude too much on our plans to get married. Yet I can’t let go of their opinions, and I feel it’s putting a strain on our relationship.


Aw, man. I’m already afraid of becoming a parent. The dichotomy of trying to protect your kids and allow them to make their own mistakes; I don’t know how people do it.

And as much as I believe that you’re in a healthy relationship and want to side with you, I think your parents are right, and that “divorcing” them would be a big mistake.

Here’s why:

“Divorcing” your parents would be a big mistake.

You’re 21 years old.

You’re still in college.

You don’t have independent sources of income.

And, most importantly, YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET MARRIED NOW.

That, to me, is the big blind spot here.

Everything you write sounds like a rational adult woman, except for this one line: “Our relationship is moving forward and to stop things would feel unnatural.”


Couldn’t someone say that at 15 years old? Couldn’t someone say that after 2 months?

Just because going to church, signing papers, and throwing a party seems like a “natural” extension of the love you feel for each other, I will make the bold prediction that if you can hold out for 5 more years, absolutely NOTHING will change in your relationship.

And THEN you can get married, just as you plan to do right now.

If waiting that long makes you feel uneasy, ask yourself why.

Is it possible that your relationship will NOT be the same in 5 years?

Is it possible that you’re going to change and develop into a different woman?

Is it possible that he’s going to change and discover that he hasn’t had enough experience with other women?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

It’s all very possible.

If your relationship is solid, then there’s no risk in NOT getting married in your 20’s.

75% of marriages where the bride is under the age of 25 end in divorce.

ALL of them thought that they were mature enough to be married.

 ¾ of them were WRONG.

The truth is, if your relationship is solid, then there’s no risk in NOT getting married. You can move in together, start your careers, go through the ups and downs of being young adults in your 20’s, and then, when things stabilize, start a family.

But if you get married now, have a baby in 2 years, and struggle financially, odds are that your relationship will not be able to take the strain.

And if all of this logic isn’t getting through to you, let’s try it this way:

Remember when you were 16, Sarah? What did you know about life then?

NOTHING. And it was only 5 years ago.

The EXACT same thing will happen to you when you look back on 21-year-old Sarah in 5 years. And when 31-year-old Sarah reflects on 26-year-old Sarah. And so on.

I’ve been writing this blog for the 3 ½ years that happens to coincide with my relationship with my wife. I can’t even remember who I was five years ago!

You don’t need a wedding ring. You don’t need to lock him in. You don’t need a baby. If you think you do, it’s all because you’re afraid you’re going to lose him.

But if your relationship is that strong, you won’t lose him, right?

So don’t divorce your parents. Don’t do anything except get your degree, get a job, and agree to love each other unconditionally. Marriage will be there later.

Because while you’ll change and he’ll change over the next five years, the one thing that definitely WON’T change is marriage.

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  1. 1
    E. Foley

    Ooof, I thought I wanted to marry the guy I was with from age 21-23. Then I grew up and realized that being in a long term relationship meant nothing if the person I was in it with was an a-hole. 🙂
    31 year old E looks back at 23 year old E and is like… damn, girl. What were you THINKING??
    I *have* divorced my parents, but because of years of emotional abuse by my mom. After years of therapy, I’ve come to peace about that. Don’t divorce your parents over something as silly as a boy.

  2. 2
    Kat Wilder

    Hmm, gotta agree with Evan here. First of all, seven months isn’t long enough to really know someone. And, 21 is young to be getting married. Sure, people of my parents’ generation did that, but they also tended to stay married (many times, miserably). If you love each other, that love won’t lessen in a year or two; why not continue to explore knowing each other and yourselves (and it would be great to live by yourself for a while to truly “get” being alone) before making such a commitment? Parents aren’t always right, but neither are 21-year-olds.
    There’s no rush; in fact, you have a lifetime together, right?

  3. 3

    Oh Evan, where were you when I was 21?… I mean, I know you were in junior high – it’s a rhetorical question 😀 I was, if you would believe it, tired of the dating scene and bored of living just for myself. Wanted to have someone else in my life to take care of. All good reasons… but, in hindsight, not good enough to get married just based on that.
    To Sarah, do you know how many times your values, and the idea of where you’re going in life, are going to change between now and when you’re 30?… probably too many to count. Same goes for your boyfriend. Ten years from now, you both may find yourselves living next to a complete stranger that bears no resemblance to the 20-something kid you once married. That complete stranger may or may not still be your best friend – it’s a crap shoot.
    And, pragmatically speaking, at least my ex and I had the excuse that, in those day’s and place’s realities (Eastern Europe, early 90s), if we hadn’t gotten married, we wouldn’t have even been able to have a place to live together and would’ve probably ended up relocating to different geographical spots and never seeing each other again. In this day and age, when a couple can just rent an apartment, move in together, give it a few years to see if it works… there’s no excuse IMO to rush into marriage.
    Also, I really do not understand how you can “divorce” your parents when it appears from your post that you still depend on them financially. Basically the whole “marriage in 6 months” thing doesn’t look realistic or necessary to me from what I’ve read here.

  4. 4
    Kat Wilder

    And more more thing (sorry) Make sure you have a long, hard, very real discussion about kids – do we want them, when do we want them, who (if anyone) will stay home with them, etc. Most couples are unhappy in the relationship for the first year of a baby’s life (wonderful research about that from the Gottman Institute). In my experience, people who are not on the same page about kids are doomed as a couple (and, thus, as an intact family)

  5. 5
    Hadley Paige

    As I see it there is very little downside for a woman (even a 21 yr old) to get married. In fact, there are substantial financial incentives for a woman to get married. So what if she gets divorced later on? She will get  ½ the assets and if she lives in a state like New York those assets will include the discounted present value of Husband’s lifetime future professional degree based income. Not insubstantial!
    I don’t agree with Evan who says “the truth is, if your relationship is solid, then there’s no risk in NOT getting married.” There is risk for her. This guy may be a real keeper. On track to being a high achieving, responsible, satisfying husband. AND he is willing to get married!–an increasingly rare state of affairs for a man. If she is married to him he will treat the relationship more seriously and view it as more long term. I believe this increases the likelihood of success of the LTR.
    If the guy is a keeper, she should move toward keeping him. One can always walk away from what one has, but the corollary is definitely not true. You cannot always grasp & keep what you want to have but do not.
    Evan cites the statistic “75% of women married under age 25 end up in divorce”. What is the statistic for women under the age of 25 having their non-marital live-in relationship break up               (probably much higher than 75%).
    The population of women married under age 25 might be not statistically representative of the population of women as a whole. For example, the under 25 married population may be skewed toward less education, more children, more smoking, more partying or a dozen other things that may have some negative correlation with marriage success. We have no idea how many of these and other factors may or may not apply to Sarah.
    In summary, for Sarah there could be much upside and little downside for her to get married (the issues of children not withstanding). Without additional facts I don’t think one can offer truly helpful particularized advice for her.
    And I say this will all due respect to Evan who in my opinion is a great dating coach who tells it like it is with humor and insight. Evan is not a marriage coach, he is a dating coach. I am not sure this posting is right on for this site.

  6. 6

    The comment that stood out to me in your letter is about the relationship “stopping.”   Why do you feel it would stop?   Why not a long engagement if you both feel that is the next step?   I hate to say this, but you are definitely not mature enough to marry if you are even thinking about “divorcing” your parents over this.   They are only looking out for you.   Your mom is wrong in feeling your boyfriend isn’t attractive enough for you; she of all people should be more concerned with how this man treats you!   I think you need slow it down and realize there is no rush for marriage.   You obviously value Evan’s advice (as I sure do!) or you wouldn’t have bothered to ask his opinion.   Listen to it with an open mind…..because I can guarantee if you don’t, one day you are really going to wish you did.   Good luck to you both!

  7. 7

    And if he insists on a prenup, Hadley?   What then?

    1. 7.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      A 21-year-old college kid who is madly in love and short-sighted enough to get married after 7 months is not insisting on a pre-nup.

  8. 8

    Hadley terrifies me! What an awful, cynical perspective! Marry him now and get half of his value later?!!? Is this the 19th century? How bitter, bitter, bitter!! Women as merceneries?? I know some divorcees with this attitude. They are nasty people.
    This girl is WAY too young and immature for marriage. She seems more in love with the idea of marriage than with her boyfriend. What is wrong with a long engagement? If he truly loves her, he won’t be going anywhere! Divorce her parents? How absurd!!
    I wonder if their is a sexual component to this. Very upsetting letter. Girls have not come very far, either in Sarah or Hadley’s case. So sad!

  9. 9

    I am just wondering if the relationship “moving forward” means toward a sexual relationship they may not be having yet because they are NOT married…..   sex is a powerful motivator and there is something about the email that makes me think this may be the case.   In which case, marriage has an entirely different motivation. And would require an entirely different analysis.   Did I miss something?
    just sayin’

  10. 10

    “In fact, there are substantial financial incentives for a woman to get married”

    Please explain what the substantial financial incentives are for a 21 year old who is still completing her degree and receiving assitance from her parents (and perhaps even financial aid) in marrying someone who is ALSO a student?   Any assets attained during that marriage would be joint assets and split should the couple divorce.   It is unlikely that there will be a substantial disparity in income between the two – enough to justify spousal support.   I’m not sure where this logic comes from.   Marrying at 21 sets the OP up to have NO assets of her own.   None.  

    I would be concerned that she will be short changing her education and ability to establish herself in a career, also.   Will her career become secondary to his?   Her education secondary to his?  

    “This guy may be a real keeper. On track to being a high achieving, responsible, satisfying husband. AND he is willing to get married!”

    If the guy is a “real keeper” who has the best of intentions towards the 21 year OP, he would respect her enough to finish school, establish himself in a career, save money, buy a house (or at least get a nice place for them to live), buy a proper ring and wait until her family was comfortable with her getting married.   If she states that she would like to finish school and begin a career prior to marriage…he would stand by her, not run away from the relationship.

    Unlike Evan…I disagree with moving in with the boyfriend.   I would suggest that the OP continue the dating relationship with her boyfriend, continue with her education and also maintain a healthy and active social life separate from the boyfriend.

    At 21, a new chapter of   life is just beginning for the OP…she should reach out and grasp it and all of the experiences she CAN,  NOT settle down with someone whom she has only dated 7 months.

    In fact, I would go one further step and suggest to the OP that perhaps she should evaluate whether or not she has any co-dependency issues that she needs to address.     Having a boyfriend of 7 months be her best friend,  rushing to marry in 6 months, contemplating “divorcing” her parents…all these  lead me to wonder if perhaps she may be putting more value in this young relationship than in herself and her education and her future.

  11. 11

    I was basically saying what Maria says in #8, EMK 🙂

  12. 12

    Um…the very fact you bring up “divorcing” your parents is a big indicator you are not mature enough to get married. You are 21. You don’t need their permission to get married. Why do you think you can’t maintain a relationship with your parents as a married woman?

    Most relationships don’t last. Period. 50% of marriages do not fulfill the “as long as we both shall live” vow. That’s higher the younger the people are when they take the vow. Should that stop you though? What do you think marriage is going to give you at age 21 that you don’t have now? Security? Uh, no. Romance? Maybe. For awhile. You’ve only been dating for 7 months – you are still in the infatuation/limerance stage of a new relationship. Why not date a year before getting engaged? Enough time for “the shine”,   the “newness” to wear down. Better yet, get an apartment together and see how that goes. BIG TRUTH: you never really know someone until you live with them. Try it and see before committing yourself legally.

    If you still want to get married after a year of living together, your parents will likely have less objections. 😉

  13. 13

    Great comments all around…

    #5 Hadley

    I guess one could look at it that way, although not a great way to start out a lifelong partnership and it is a cynical way of looking at things.

    What I would counter this is TIME and appropriateness.  

    I have told my children throughout their lives, and especially now that they are teenagers, to do the things they are supposed to do at the age they are at.   How many women out there who are 40 act like they   are 21?   They are doing that because at 21, when they were supposed to be out partying, hanging out with friends, making a living for themselves, gaining some maturity and insight into life, and dating a lot of different men, they were married and often having children right away.   Now at 40, they are trying to make up for lost time, and there is no way that can be done.   That time is gone, never to return.   Couldn’t buy it back with half the settlement either.

    I remember being this age (I know, I can’t believe it!)…being in school for so long, you just want to get on with it–having a real life, being an adult.   What a better way to do that than to get married?   Oh boy!   That’s such an important decision, and there’s no  frame of reference for a 21 year old make that kind of decision.  

    Listen to your parents, they love and care about you and are OLDER, wiser with a lot more life experience.   They’ve been through the ups and downs of marriage, and know the challenges.   You’re single for such a short time, and married and presumably raising children for such a LONG time.

  14. 14

    Haha I agree with Jane at No.9
    This has everything to do with sex. And in fact Evan says, what if the bf later  decides he hasn’t had enough experience with women.  Well I think she’s not putting out, he’s gonna marry her so she does, and then somewhere down the line he’ll be having his cake and eating it too. Sorry Sarah but you are a virgin and you’re thinking like a virgin, and your parents are right (ok maybe not your mum). But Daddy knows what 26 yr old boys want, and in an ideal world, it’s not a lifelong commitment.

  15. 15

    I had a roommate in college just like you. We were probably a couple years older, but still around the same age. She met a guy and after about 3 months they were already talking about marriage. Around 5-6 months they were engaged and she wanted to get married within a few months later which would have been around the time she graduated. Everyone told them to wait, parents and friends (me included!). She wasn’t happy about this, but guess what? She waited. They had a year long engagement… long distance at that! They had a beautiful wedding and now.. a few years later, they have their first baby boy. Don’t be afraid to wait! If he is a keeper and wants to be with you, he WILL be in the LTR without the marriage until you guys are really ready. They don’t regret at all waiting to get married.

  16. 16

    We are not your parents.     Your decision will matter to our lives either way.   We don’t have your parent’s emotional investments nor do we have their baggage.     We are your peers and I think most people here will give you the same advice as Evan.
    Making a marriage work is in part having the good judgment to choose a person who is the right fit for you.     For   FIFTY Y-E-A-R-S.     Thing is, at 21, you aren’t finished making yourself who you are yet, so it makes it harder to judge.
    Evan is right, if you two have something, it will still be there in 5 years.
    Enjoy school, enjoy being his GF and enjoy marrying him under better circumstances 5 years from now when both of you are well set up.

  17. 17

    @Hadley #9
    No disrespect whatsoever.       I have read many opinions I haven’t liked in this comment section.   Until your post I have never felt motivated to tell another comment author that I thought they were giving someone bad advice.   Almost reckless advice.
    At first I thought it was Gullivers Travels type of satire.
    Telling a 21 year old kid that ending up in a divorce with a steady alimony check is a not-so-bad plan b and that she should risk going through an unhappy marriage because out of 80 years of life left to her in country of 270 million people she may never fall in love again, so grab this dude now, after only 7 months?
    After reading your post I’m never going to let my friends call me cynical again.
    A piece of paper will not keep a couple together, it will just slow them down from breaking apart.     The only thing that keeps a couple together is if they have something.       If Sarah and her BF have something it will still be there 5 years from now.
    In the meantime they have their lives ahead of them with getting an education, enjoying their careers, trips, each other, etc etc.

  18. 18

    @ Steve #18

    “A piece of paper will not keep a couple together, it will just slow them down from breaking apart.”

    Well phrased. A marriage license is no guarantee of ‘security’.

  19. 19

    I’ll add to all the comments on Hadley’s post #5 – not only is suggesting that, worst case scenario, Sarah will benefit financially from the divorce, incredibly cynical, but, from what I know on the subject, it’s not even realistic. You probably have to marry rich and be really good at this whole golddigging thing to ever gain anything this way. Here’s what happens in real life. I have never met a man or a woman that did not lose substantial amounts of money upfront, and did not have their expenses go up substantially later, as a result of getting divorced. First of all, divorce lawyers aren’t cheap – even the most amicable divorce will cost you a few grand – and if you decide to fight in court over things like custody or money, the price tag is freakin huge. Second, more likely than not, a divorcing couple will have children. In this case, each of them needs to have a place to live that’s decent enough (several bedrooms, safe neighborhood, decent schools for at least the custodial parent) so the children can stay there. That’s two residences instead of one. Oh, and if the couple has a house that was enough for the whole family, but would be too big, or too expensive, for just one parent & kids? good luck selling it in today’s market. Most likely one of them will be stuck with it, or sell it at a huge loss. There are many good reasons to get divorced, but monetary gain just isn’t one of them. That stuff only happens in celebrity gossip mags. Not to mention that divorce is not exactly the happiest life experience, in fact it’s often placed in the same category as a major loss in the family.
    Not exactly a plan B to look forward to.

  20. 20

    @Lily, #15 – I met my boyfriend when we were 26 and he almost proposed to me after 7 months (he told me after 10 months about the exact night he almost proposed!).   But we decided to wait and everything’s still going great!   I don’t think being 26 means a guy’s not ready to commit, though I do think it doesn’t need to be marriage-level yet.

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