Should I Dump My Parents So I Can Get Married?


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. 41

    I went with my heart many years ago.   Didn’t listen to my parents or anyone who thought I was out of my mind.  Big mistake.   I wish I could do it all over again.   Parents have experience and your best interest at heart.   Even though you sometimes don’t want to hear wha they have to  say.   They are right more often then not.

  2. 42

    And for  the  percentage of  marriages that don’t end in divorce, MOST of them ENDURE.   Which means, they are not happy, successful  unions.  

    I’m with Evan, no harm in waiting, there is nothing lost.

  3. 43

    I got married under 25, and am  still married over a decade later.

    I can’t believe I’m backing up Hadley Paige on a point (witness the scuffle we got into in the “Why don’t men like strong, smart, successful women?” post), but here it is.   When you find the right one, there is not much reason to wait.   The right one is one whose personality is compatible with yours AND is kind and willing to compromise.   Marry him.   Marry her.   Lest s/he slip away.

    Please allow me to give a dose of unromantic (or romantic, depending on how you look at it) reality.   I really do believe that a couple that isn’t married is more likely to break up than  the same  couple that is married.   When you’re married, you try harder to make the marriage work.   And sometimes it fails, as divorce statistics bear out – but other times, thank God, it succeeds.  

    Denise #45, you speak of “enduring” as though it were something bad.   It isn’t.   Sticking with your mate even when times are rough means that when you make it through those rough patches, you’re closer and more deeply committed than ever.   There is value in COMMITMENT in and of itself, separate from romantic feelings.   There is security, trust, friendship, shared memories and laughter and tears.

    So, when you find the right one, don’t wait.

  4. 44

    Maybe I just can’t wrap my brain around it, but I don’t know how you can have a 189% chance of getting a divorce…unless you  plan on getting divorced twice.

  5. 45

    “The right one is one whose personality is compatible with yours AND is kind and willing to compromise.”
    I agree in general. But, when this person is in his early 20’s, and you’re in your early 20’s, more likely than not his personality will still change, as will yours. You know that he, as he is right now, is the right one for you right now. But you cannot tell if you’re right for each other long term. Not only that, but most people in their late teens/early 20s do not have enough people skills, experience and judgment yet to accurately evaluate one another’s personality.
    Granted, some people are mature enough even at a young age to choose right, and to sustain a long term relationship. The LW, from her letter, does not come across as one of them.
    “I really do believe that a couple that isn’t married is more likely to break up than  the same  couple that is married. “
    I agree with you. That’s because, in a marriage, the stakes are higher. Separating is more time-consuming and more expensive that when you’re not married to each other. For the longest time, I thought I could not afford to get divorced.
    “Sticking with your mate even when times are rough means that when you make it through those rough patches, you’re closer and more deeply committed than ever. “
    Yah, either that or you come out on the other end hating each other’s guts, because one of you (or both) let the other person down when times got rough, and you know that if your partner did it once, he or she will do it again 🙁 I mean, there is compromise and teamwork and working through difficult times together, and then there’s the enduring that Denise is talking about, when people would give anything to get away from one another, but are stuck together for whatever reason (material, etc).
    Marriage is serious business, so why not ensure it has the best start possible. To me, jumping into it before you’re ready is like enrolling your child in an activity that he’s too young for, just because there’s an opening on the team now and there may not be one next year. Or like buying your dream house even though it’s ten times your current annual salary, because if you don’t snatch it, somebody else will. IMO it pays to wait. Worst case scenario, there will be other activities and other houses.

  6. 46

    #46 Helen

    Good for you for having such a great marriage!   You and your husband are lucky people, and I wish you nothing but the best for your future.     I too know people who were married before they were even legal to drink or just out of college and/or dated since they were 16.   From what I can see, they will never divorce.   I’m very happy for them as well, they are all friends of mine.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that it NEVER happens where couples who marry young survive and flourish.   We’re saying that statistically, long term, happy marriages are not the norm.

    I think if one has to get married so they don’t ‘get away’, that’s not a good place to start with either.   Why can’t the young couple date and get their lives established individually rather than as a married couple? Either living together or not?   If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.   Your marriage sounds like it’s strong AND was meant to be, so if you two waited a few extra years you’re saying there wouldn’t have been a marriage?   I think Goldie’s analogies are good, they point to a lack of patience (something I’ve struggled with in the past).

    Goldie mentioned the meaning behind ‘endure’ in her post.   Maybe it’s because you haven’t been single in a long time and haven’t been single as an older person, but believe me, there are plenty of marriages out there that ‘endure’.   Religious reasons, lack of confidence, financial reasons, staying for the kids, etc., etc.   None of these are BAD reasons for staying, but if the people in the relationship had a choice, they would not want to be with that other person.   They didn’t ‘choose wisely’ to begin with, me included.

    The point of endure in this  context is  that the statistics may say that 50% of people divorce, but that doesn’t mean the other 50% are happy marriages, many of them just endure.  

    You are so right about the ups and downs of marriage and life.   Any couple that can continue to stay in love and manage through them to come out stronger in the end, I admire them and that’s what I want for my life.   I bet those people would say their marriages are strong and happy and successful, I don’t think they say they ‘endure’.   I know it’s not the exact term, just taking some license with the definition.

  7. 47

    Goldie, we’ve discussed various topics in different posts, so I know you have a wise and an experienced view on these things.   Yet, I’d like to throw out a few contrary ideas and questions:
    1. I am not as doubtful as you about the ability of young 20-somethings to discern character, nor do I think people’s personalities change that much over time. Even in your early 20s, you know in your gut whether another person is a good person. If you DON’T have that basic level of discernment, then I don’t think that maturing another 5 years will necessarily give much more insight.
    2. People who wait too long often (not always, but often) get more desperate and are more willing to get married at any cost.   This, more than finding “the one” at a younger age, seems to me to be a greater risk factor in choosing the wrong person.   Lori Gottlieb’s messages do make a great deal of sense.
    3. I don’t think we readers can really be the judge of whether or not an anonymous 20-something is ready for marriage. “Worst case scenario, there will be other activities and other houses…” Not always, and not that easily.   Among my single or recently married girlfriends, the complaint is or was that they let someone go with whom they knew they could have been compatible, thinking someone better would come or that they should wait – and now they regret it.
    The problem is that it works both ways.   We can’t be overly cautious, nor should we be completely heedless of others’ warnings.   Look before you leap, but he who hesitates is lost. I would say, both apply here.

  8. 48

    I was really surprised recently to read divorce statistics for different marriages. 45% of first marriages end. 60%  for second marriages and 73% for third marriages. Presumably one is older (and has more life experience) by the time they enter a second or third marriage, yet it would appear that the chance of getting divorced may be greater than marrying for the first time in one’s 20’s.

    If  one marries  for a third time in middle age, the odds are much the same as marrying for the first time at 18.   Maybe the problem isn’t with age, maybe it’s with  the insitution of marriage itself.

  9. 49

    Denise #49, thanks for your viewpoints.   I have to say, after reading what both you and Goldie wrote, I can’t help wondering whether marriage isn’t the best institution, and whether we should all just have “bondings” that are separate from the state so as to avoid some of the worst tragedies  associated with  divorce.   Of course, it’s not just the state; it’s also the complications associated with having children.   You know, there just is no easy answer to any of this.

  10. 50

    I also don’t understand this “marry him before he gets away!” position. If he loves her why would he want to “get away” if she doesn’t marry him within the next year? And marriage isn’t ownership. If he wanted to get away at some point he would, married or not.

    The 20’s is the decade of greatest  change for many if not most people, but maintaining a happy marriage appears to be a crapshoot in any decade of life as well.

  11. 51

    There seems to be an unnatural bias here against marriage in one’s 20s. Lots of people want to get married young and start a large family, and why isn’t that okay?
    I do think one should be financially responsible and independent, but let’s take our (liberal) biases away. Plenty of people get married young and are happy.

    1. 51.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Actually, Amy, 75% of the people who get married young (before 25) to start their large families end up getting divorced. It’s perfectly okay and legal for you to get married when you’re just out of college. History shows that it’s usually not a wise idea.

  12. 52
    Sam P.


    “Lots of people want to get married young and start a large family, and why isn’t that okay?”

    What is okay isn’t always smart. There’s absolutely no moral criticism in saying “Don’t get married when you’re 22,” it’s only a concern about how long a marriage initiated  in youth  is going to last.  

  13. 53

    #54 Amy, actually this blog, of all places, would be most likely prone to “an unnatural bias here against marriage in one’s 20s” – just because a lot of people on here did get married in their early 20s, to young men or women that were also in their early 20s, and where did it get us? we’re here on this site, aren’t we? learning how to date in our 40s and 50s, trying to explain it to our teenage kids and not die of embarrassment in the process, instead of enjoying a happy, long marriage like we’d prefer to. (With a few commendable exceptions, I must add, Helen :))
    We just don’t want the next generation to screw up like we did. That’s all. Especially here and now, when there are so many alternate options available to them that weren’t available to some of us when we were that age. At the very least, they should give it a heck of a lot of thought and not rush into a major life change that a marriage is.

  14. 54

    #52 Goldie

    One of my favorite sayings “It’s not a perfect world” 🙂

    Ultimately, I do believe that marriage is the foundation and fabric of society–and the best thing for children.   I didn’t choose wisely Goldie, and I think a lot of people are in my same situation, no matter what their age by the way!   (I am NOT speaking about any kind of  abuse or neglect, that’s a whole separate thing.)   I married a good man, he just wasn’t the right man for me.   Some people decide that it’s best the two people go their own separate ways, regardless if there are children or not, and some choose to wait it out, sometimes forever.  

    There ARE people like you however that did choose correctly, maybe it was that you were more mature than many of us, maybe it was luck–who knows?   The end result though is that you are in a good place.   I’m sure not everything is 100% rosy all the time, but you have that underlying love that allows for a couple to decide that it’s better to stay together to work through it than to leave.   I would counsel anyone that if there any glimpse of love, to stay the course and work it out.  

    Honestly though, I think most people can say that who they were at 20 is not who they were at 30 or even 40.   Someone said that the father gave his blessing and that was an important fact, I agree with that!   No one is saying the young man isn’t a good man or the young woman isn’t a good woman–it’s just that the reality of the situation is most marriages of really   young people don’t work out too well.   What’s wrong with waiting a few years, saving money, putting yourself in a good financial positions to make life easier and give yourself choices (the generic ‘you’)?

    #57 Goldie

    Couldn’t have said it better Goldie!   And we remember when we were young, we knew ‘everything’.     We live longer today, women have more options and choices, women seem to be able to have babies at any age :), etc.–these are good things that are available, why not take advantage of them?

  15. 55

    Denise #14
    i agree with the thing about wanting to have a “real life”. It’s very short sighted.
    personally i think, i am going to have that “real life” all my life. And the busy life after a job+marriage+kids doesn’t leave that much time for friends, more so since they will have their own husbands, jobs and kids to take care of. Its much better to have fun now so that when you really want to marry you have experienced life.

  16. 56

    #59 Shalini

    Good point, I would also clarify that having a family is a wonderful experience, with our without children.   In my opinion, there is not one stage of life that is ‘better’ than another, they are just dramatically different.  

    Someone is 21, just out of college.   Why not experience the  early 20s being single and carefree, not worrying about  anyone but yourself (not considering any kind of sick relative or elderly parents).   Then perhaps marrying at 25, 26.   There is NOTHING like just being concerned about yourself and no one else.   Once marriage and/or kids come, that time is over, and really, that time is over  forever–there will always be another human to consider (unless there are no children and a divorce).

  17. 57

    Joe #47
    <<Maybe I just can’t wrap my brain around it, but I don’t know how you can have a 189% chance of getting a divorce…unless you  plan on getting divorced twice.>>
    I’m not a statistician, just copied this directly from the study. I did preface my comments with the old chestnut about statistics!
    Also from the same study: “the risk of divorce is far below fifty percent for educated people going into their first marriage, and lower still for people who wait to marry at least until their mid-twenties, haven’t lived with many different partners prior to marriage, or are strongly religious and marry someone of the same faith”.

    Selena #51

    Perhaps divorced people who re-marry are carrying the same unresolved issues into their new relationships?

  18. 58

    If these were my children I would advise them to wait until they’ve dated for at least  2 years before marriage.   But I think it would be okay for them to get engaged after the first year.  

    But my one caveat would be that they should not get married until after they’ve both graduated from college and found jobs.

  19. 59

    I’m with you Maggie16.

  20. 60

    I agree with Jane #9 & Lily 15.   I think this couple is waiting on marriage to have sex.   The rapid pace, the asking of the father’s blessing for the marriage, etc.   It also rings a lot of bells in terms of other relationships I’ve observed where people did not want to have premarital sex.
    As Maggie (#62) just said, waiting a full year before getting engaged is important.   Sometimes people have seasonal depression or other issues that develop.   At one point I had been seriously dating someone and had started talking about marriage 6-7 months into the relationship.   9 months in a serious issue arose that was a complete shocker and not in line with the previous time period.   We ended up working through that issue and are now married, but it would have been a very scary thing for that issue to have arisen after we were already married, or even engaged.
    So regardless of one’s age, there is a purpose in waiting, even if you don’t want to wait 5 years as many of the other posters have recommended.   But waiting long enough to find out what issues you are likely to face in your marriage and see if those are issues you’re willing to work on together, or if they’re dealbreakers.   And I’d recommend waiting on telling people you’re engaged, or at least wait to start actually planning your wedding.   Just as many people have a difficulty initiating a divorce because of cost issues, many people have a difficulty initiating a breakup when a lot of money has been shelled out for a wedding or when they’re afraid of not meeting others’ expectations.

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