#349: The Controversial Engagement

Dear Captain –

I know that I shouldn’t really care too much what other people think, but I’m bothered anyway. I’ve had some good friends over the years. I’ve fallen out of contact with some of them, only nebulously connected through Facebook or through friends of friends. Nonetheless, I hear from them every once and a while and on three separate accounts this weekend different people reached out to me to tell me they cared about me and they were worried for me because they didn’t approve of my fiancee.

I have been living with my girlfriend for three years. I feel like I know her pretty well and I think we’re very compatible, so I threw a party this weekend and I proposed in front of a few really good friends. I told people about it before the event. Here was the response from some of my buddies:

Nebulous Mom: “You don’t have enough life experience yet. It’s STUPID [all caps] to get married before you’ve spent some time out on your own…”
Nebulous Friend 1: “You don’t have enough relationship experience. Move out and start over with her, taking it slow. You should have a traditional dating experience with her before you decide to get married…”
Nebulous Friend 2: “It’s clear that you love her. What isn’t clear is that she loves you back. I hate to say this, buddy, because I know it’s hurtful; but I hope you’ll think hard about what I say…”

Is this common? Are people’s engagements usually contested by nebulous people who think they know better? What’s going on here? I get that my friends care about me, but I feel like they don’t trust me and they’re saying hurtful things about someone I love very deeply. These people don’t spend as much time with my fiancee as I do. My fiancee and I are very good friends and I don’t expect to change their minds about her being an awesome human being. I really think that’s something that they need to come to on their own, just like you can’t force people to be friends. I mean, I don’t expect everybody to like everything I do, but I feel like this is kind of ridiculous.

I’m somewhat impressionable. I guess the reason that I’m writing is because I feel like they’ve put some doubt in my mind that I’m ready for marriage. I’m upset and I am hoping for some guidance.

Thanks for always being there,
T.

Dear T.,

I do not think this is common. While historically useful in the case of near-bigamy-due-to-mentally-ill-wife-held-prisoner-in-flammable-attic, nowadays the option to “speak now or forever hold your peace” is rhetorical.  People do not usually sayWhoa, you got engaged? Better rethink that, buddy” to their friends.

There are exceptions. Your friends might be legitimately worried about you because they’ve seen signs of abuse or other serious issues. Speaking up is pretty much guaranteed to ruin the friendship, and usually the friend marries Darth Vader anyway, which is why people shut up about it. But it’s possible. OR it’s possible that you happen to know some jerks and busybodies with huge boundary issues who need to be told off.

Before we figure out what’s going on, you said you told people about the proposal before the event. Was your intended spouse one of those people? If not, forgive me. You’ve stumbled unwittingly upon one of my giant personal biases against surprise public marriage proposals.

If Isaac & Amy  talked about marriage together and decided together that it was a logical next step and it was just a question of how/when and they are both really into stuff like this, then the video at the link is probably very sweet and cute. I hope that they will be very happy together, as I hope you and Mrs. T. will be.

But if it was a total ambush, as in “Do you want to marry me? You can see from the fact that all our friends are gathered here that you were literally the last to know that this would be happening today! No pressure or anything, though we are recording all of this for posterity/YouTube, and we did work really hard on it. Get ready for your close-up!”, then that video is not cool or romantic. I personally watched it the first time with growing dread and trepidation, thinking “Oh god, oh god, I hope she knew this was coming, otherwise it will be so very awkward, also, please no one ever do this to me ever.”

In Hollywood movies, marriage proposals come after great suspense as to outcome and are filled with drama and the potential for things to go wrong. They also all seem to reinforce the idea that it’s the man’s decision and that he must purchase expensive shiny things and put on some kind of weird show in front of everyone so that the camera will zoom in on that tearful closeup of love and gratitude as she says “Yes.” In real life, that can turn quickly into a manipulative, pressure-filled nightmare.

I’m sure you did it well and it was great and romantic and you know your fiancee well enough to know what she’d like! But, I just want to put it out there that maybe when your friends are saying that “It isn’t clear that she loves you back,” it’s because the party and the public nature of the proposal was uncomfortable and she felt put on the spot and they saw that in her reaction. If these are people who don’t know her well, that could be what they’re registering. Or they thought, whoa, dude, why put on a big show? Who is this show really for?

Three years sounds like enough time to know whether you want to marry somebody, and the decision about whether to get married is really, totally, 100% up to you and the future Mrs. T. So you’re within bounds to say “Thanks for your opinion, but we’re very happy” to the haters and go on to live your awesome happy life. You also can’t go back in time and undo the public marriage proposal, and if it worked out and she was excited and said yes I don’t want you to feel bad about it.

But if the proposal *was* a big surprise, even if she seemed excited said yes, it may be a good idea to give her some time for everything to sink in and check back in with her. “I realize I really put you on the spot there. I want to check in and see how you’re feeling about everything.” There’s so much pressure, especially on women, to see an engagement as a happy ending, and any ambivalence on our part feels shitty and somehow ungrateful. From the way you’re asking this question, especially the part where you describe yourself as “impressionable,”  it also sounds like you are still processing the decision yourself.

The fact that you’re hearing this from multiple people is interesting to me. I wonder what would happen if you said to close friends, or your Mom (if you generally trust her opinion and have a close relationship with her): “Wow. I’m really happy and excited about this decision, so I’m surprised and disappointed to hear that reaction from you. Since you brought it up, I’m curious. Would you be willing to share your specific worries or objections?” Then you could evaluate whether they are valid ones, and set a boundary with the people along the lines of “Well, I guess I appreciate your honesty, but I would also appreciate it if you would try to be happy for me, and definitely don’t say negative things about my relationship going forward.”

I hope you work it out and that she’s as excited and happy as you are. If the words of a few naysayers are undermining your confidence in your decision, talk it through with your fiancee and figure out where you both really stand now that the party flowers have wilted and the empty bottles are in the recycling bin. There’s a reason that an engagement isn’t actually a marriage – it’s an announcement of an intention and a time to plan how the marriage will be – so you’ve got the rest of your lives to figure it out.

143 comments
  1. CPALady said:

    I know Isaac and Amy!! (sort of) They’re a totally adorable couple and both professional performers, so the engagement worked or them. If your lady is less into choreographed expressions of love? Not appropriate!

    I’m going to finish reading the rest of your response now.

    P.S. Amy is a spectacular human being. I’m sure Isaac is too, but I know her better and luff her.

    • JenniferP said:

      Yay for Isaac & Amy, then! Phew, it’s a relief to know.

  2. sasha said:

    Ugh those nebulous friends and family! I’m with Janet Mackenzie Smith 100% – “speak now or forever hold your peace” is rhetorical.

    It does seem odd that 3 separate people approached you asking you to rethink your engagement. It could be coincidental, it could be – as the Captain said – that you just have some particularly nosy and boundary-crossing friends and family, or they could be onto something. But when it comes down to it, only you and your fiance really know what your relationship is like, and only you two can know whether these friends and family are right or not.

    On the (off?) chance that the nebulous friends are right, I would seriously consider what they’re saying. Think about it and weigh it against your understanding of your relationship. Try to look at it through their eyes. Is there something they’re seeing that you might not? Maybe it was just your fiance being unnerved by the public proposal. Or maybe the fiance has said or done things when you’re not around that gave your friends/family concern? Or maybe there are other red flags that they’re seeing, perhaps because they have more experience with them, and you’re not?

    I would also think about what you (and your fiance) would do and how you (and your fiance) would feel if they turned out to be right. If x years down the road it turns out they were right, and you and your fiance run into trouble, or maybe separated or divorced, would it be worth it? Would you be glad you got married despite the fact it didn’t work out? Or would you regret it and wish you’d taken their advice?

    In my case, I had two family members (my mother and aunt, both of whom regularly disregard boundaries and offer unwanted advice) and one friend advise me against getting married, even though they had never met my fiance and knew very little about our relationship. It was rushed and, admittedly, there were some causes for concern (I met him while living in a foreign country, wanted him to come back to home country with me, and because of his circumstances marriage was the only way to get him into my country). But I carefully weighed their advice, responded with 3000 word point-by-point deconstructions of their concerns, and decided to take the risk and get married anyway. In the end, the marriage didn’t work out. But I still don’t regret that I did it. However, I will say that my relationship with these nebulous friends and family was never the same again – especially with the aunt who persisted and got rather aggressive in her insistence that she knew best and I MUST do what she says. Even though she was right that we didn’t last (though for the wrong reasons), I was offended and hurt by her mistrust and lack of faith and me and my ability to make my own decisions as an adult, and we haven’t talked much in the years since. Take this example to heart, anyone thinking about criticizing your friend’s / relative’s engagement.

    • stardreamer said:

      If x years down the road it turns out they were right, and you and your fiance run into trouble, or maybe separated or divorced, would it be worth it? Would you be glad you got married despite the fact it didn’t work out? Or would you regret it and wish you’d taken their advice?

      Also, the length of time represented by X and whether or not you are happy together for the majority of that time makes a difference. A lot of people were dubious when I married my now-ex because I was 30 and he was only 23 (and note the double standard — nobody would have thought twice about it if our genders had been reversed). But we were together for 3 years before we married, and 10 years afterwards, and we didn’t start to have problems until the last couple of years, and then it had nothing to do with the age difference. (Short form: I got laid off, followed by depression and financial issues.) So yeah, it didn’t work out in the long run, but no, nobody gets to say “I told you so” because we did have a good marriage overall.

      I’m inclined to say that if the LW and his GF have been together for 3 years, they probably both know whether they want to get married or not. This isn’t a “whirlwind romance” by any reasonable definition. I do have the same caveat mentioned about the surprise proposal — if you’re not certain that the answer is going to be yes, then it’s not a good idea — but that’s a different issue from the ones LW is bringing up.

  3. ldubs said:

    I’m going to leave the proposal thing mostly alone because I think the Cap’n covered it well, but I do want to say that even if the semi-public thing wasn’t exactly what your fiancee wanted, forgive yourself a little – I think guys get a lot of pressure to put on a really “perfect” performative proposal and that can be a hard societal pressure to negotiate. At least you weren’t on a jumbotron. I can’t even imagine.

    I do wonder about these nebulous characters in your life. Do you trust their judgment in other areas? Do they generally give good advice? Do they know both you and your fiancee? If so, you might want to hear them out – not accept their criticisms, necessarily, but really listen and then go from there.

    Otherwise? Forget ’em, yanno? You might be making a huge mistake. Make it anyway, if it genuinely feels right. Trust your own gut and spend time with people who trust your gut as well.

    Good luck, and congrats.

    • Britt said:

      I’m a huge baseball fan and I live in terror that some future partner of mine might think a scoreboard proposal is cute. Thankfully I think I generally am better at communicating my opinion than that, but like you said, there’s so much weird pressure to do some huge performative grand gesture.

  4. Sarah said:

    One of my best friends started a relationship with a friend of hers (that I had never met) while he was overseas. They decided to get married very quickly and in the same breath telling me she was dating this guy she told me they were getting married. It was a bit of a shock to the system. After much serious thought I had a conversation with her where I expressed my concerns about them getting married so quickly when they’d never even had a relationship while in the same country. I then acknowledged that they knew each other well and I trusted her opinions on who was best for her. We agreed that my concerns were because I didn’t know him well so we spent a lot of time getting to know each other and now I couldn’t be happier that they are married – he is awesome!

    So, what I’m getting at, is that it is possible to express concerns about someone getting married without being a dick about it, and it is possible to change their minds if they are wrong. Good luck and I hope everything works out!

  5. MusicSheep said:

    I’m curious as to what your really good friends think of your relationship. And I’m curious if you and the “nebulous” friends fell out of contact around the time you started dating your fiance?

    In my experience, when good friends have concerns over someone’s relationship….they are usually right. Not always, for sure. But people who know you well and who care about you and can see your relationship from the outside often have a very good perspective on these things.

    It’s unclear from your story whether or not these people are close enough to the situation to have that kind of perspective. But they obviously feel that they do. Also, a person who says “I know you don’t want to hear this, but I really care about you and don’t want to see you hurt,” usually isn’t trying to be an asshole.

    I hope that these people have all misread some particular incident that soured them on your relationship with this girl, and that you can iron out any misunderstandings and get married and live happily ever after. However, it isn’t NOT a red flag that this is happening and is at least worth some serious consideration.

    • LadyTL said:

      Just as a note though, “a person who says “I know you don’t want to hear this, but I really care about you and don’t want to see you hurt,” usually isn’t trying to be an asshole” usually doesn’t care if they come across as an asshole either. “I know you don’t want to hear this but you should lose weight.” “I know you don’t want to hear this but I think your friends are bad” “I know you don’t want to hear this but I think your significant other is cheating on you.” All those things and what the OP is writing about happen regularly and doesn’t mean they are right in all cases. It just means the person saying them thinks they are right and doesn’t care how they express that they feel they are right.

  6. case-in-point said:

    How close are you to these nebulous folks? My only concern is that there are three of them and that always makes my spidey sense twitch a little. Even when there are three people who are wrong about the same thing, the sheer quantity of them makes me want to listen to the reasons why. So, I guess, if you haven’t already, try to get concrete reasons for the concern. I mean, they felt moved enough to speak up, so maybe hear them out a little. If the reasons don’t materialize or don’t sit right, then you should disregard them. But doing a little fact finding will either put your concerns to rest or put some things out there for you to consider.

  7. Traditional Married said:

    Yeeek, public proposal. I would literally die of shame if I were the girlfriend in that situation. Happily, Mr. Traditional knew that and we got engaged in secret, and changed our minds back and forth about five times before we decided we did actually want to be engaged and were going to tell everyone. And, we got some “you’re too young”, “you should go to grad school first or you’ll never go at all” (SPOILERS: we got married, I was 21, I’m now 25 and 3/5 of the way done with a Ph.D. still married.) But those things didn’t derail our plans because we talked everything over SO MANY TIMES. In private, no-pressure conversations. So make sure she and you are on the same page, and then go for it 🙂

  8. Sara said:

    I agree that this is not common and should be seen as a red flag. One friend, I could totally write off as something weird, but three? It’s at least something you should seriously consider in terms of finding out what their concerns are and thinking it over. It’s hard to understand why (multiple) people would consider 3 years jumping into something/not having enough experience with someone, so this sounds like to sort of thing where there is more to the situation than you may be sharing here.

  9. Sarah said:

    What I really wonder is how old you are. Reading between the lines, are you under the age of 25 and this is your only relationship? Three people is not a coincidence.

    • Jinx!

    • Exactly my question. “My friend thinks I’m too inexperienced” — well, how experienced are you?

      I mean, the fact that so many people are concerned is alarming. And if you’ve been together since high school, they may be right.

      Consider an impartial third party – pre-marital counseling from your church, therapist, or financial advisor (seriously, an hour spent with a certified financial advisor on “how to handle money as a couple and not fight over it” can save you a TON of heartache and is WAY cheaper than a divorce).

      • Traditional Married said:

        seconding the financial counseling. Mr. Traditional and I did that before we got married and it has been really helpful, especially as we are working on paying off student loans.

      • Virginia said:

        I think pre-marital counseling is a GREAT idea. It’s so easy to get caught up in the Stuff surrounding an engagement and forget to have some of the important conversations about the future that must be had before you make your entanglement legal.

        Going for counseling isn’t any kind of admission of danger: under the best circumstances, it will help you see just how solid a foundation your relationship rests on, so you can move forward with trust and joy.

    • caitie_didn't said:

      yes, I was coming here to say exactly this. Three years may be plenty when you are in your late 20’s or into your 30’s, but under the age of 25 it is not very long at all.

  10. You don’t say how old you are in your letter, letter writer, but I would guess based on the comments you are getting that you and your fiance are close to or under 25. Mostly because these sound exactly like the things that my under 25 friends got when they got married.

    If you are under 25 then people are saying this stuff to you because they think your 20s should be spent drinking and having anonymous sex with strangers. They may or may not be at all accurate about your fiance.

    If you are older then I think there are two possible reasons for this behavior 1. there are some nebulous people in your life who are real assholes, 2. there are people who have moved out of your life because your fiance has some real negative qualities, but they still care about you.

    You know better what the answer to that question is. Also, only you can answer as to whether your fiance’s negative qualities matter to you. But if you find yourself saying “What negative qualities?” then you should consider that a red flag.

    I love my partner very much, but I can tell you in detail all the ways he could piss someone else off so much that they would tell me not to be with him anymore. He could do the same for me. (You fell victim to one of the two classic blunders, the most famous is “Never get involved in a drinking war with Shinobi’s partner.” The second and only slightly less known is this “Never go in against Shinobi when discussing politics!”)

    What I’m hearing in your letter in response to the comments of other people is a lot of “But they don’t really KNOW her. ” And that’s true, they don’t know her like you do. More importantly they know her in a different way, they may see a different side of her, and that side may be awful. There may be things she does that you have learned to accept as the price of admission that other people see as unacceptable. And that’s okay, but you should go into marrying her being aware of her flaws. Everyone has flaws, people they don’t get along with, baggage, whatever, the key is just finding someone who accepts them.

    My philosophy about marriage is as follows: once you’ve decided you’re going to spend the rest of your life with someone, you have the rest of your life to get around to throwing a big party and signing a certificate. If you’re both sure that you want to spend your lives together, then everything else is just gravy. But that commitment should come before the wedding, not at it. The wedding is just the part where you notify everyone else of said commitment, and give them all a reason to get drunk.

    I have to say I 110% agree with the captain re: public proposals. Unless the answer is a foregone conclusion it is not a cool thing to do. So I would definetly think through how that proposal went down. Also, 3 years is one of those “milestone” years. Did you get engaged because it is “the thing you do after living together for 3 years” because that might also be something to consider.

    • caitie_didn't said:

      “If you are under 25 then people are saying this stuff to you because they think your 20s should be spent drinking and having anonymous sex with strangers. They may or may not be at all accurate about your fiance.”

      I take exception to this. In your early twenties, you are still becoming the person you’re going to be- fresh out of college, or still in school, or in a first “real job”. I’m not saying that young marriages never work out, but the stats clearly show that couples that get married after age 26 are less likely to get divorced. When people tell the LW that he doesn’t have enough experience, they may not be (probably aren’t) aren’t referring to sexual experience, just to life experience.

      • LadyTL said:

        My problem with that statistics is they don’t go into why the couples got divorced. If a couple doesn’t have good relationship it doesn’t matter how young or old they are they still will have problems. The problem is that alot of people assume young people can’t have good relationships.

        • minuteye said:

          And since all marriages end in either divorce or death, you should be more likely to get divorced if you marry young. A ten-year marriage when you’re twenty-five is a lot less likely to end in a heart-attack than a ten-year marriage when you’re forty-five. I’m not sure how you’d control with that in gathering data…

          • minuteye said:

            control *for that

          • This is a really good point. I never thought about it before, but it makes so much sense.

      • Yeah, that line annoyed me too. I give a side-eye to very young people getting married sometimes, because I feel like very young people are likely to change dramatically in the next few years. The chances of people changing in compatible ways are not as good as young marrieds would hope.

        I mean, come on. Drinking and anonymous sex? That’s like a field army of straw men.

        • It really was an intentional field army of straw men for the purpose of humor that clearly didn’t work.

          Interesting that it spawned so much discussion though. People here REALLY don’t think you should get married before 25. I am friends with several successfully married couples who married at 23, so I guess I have a more generous view of it.

          Like LadyTL says above, the couple is what determines their success, not necessarily their age.

      • SL said:

        Yes to the thing about people at that age still being very much a work in progress. At 44 I’m not very different than I was a thirty, but I’m wildly different than I was at twenty.

    • TR said:

      I take exception to the under 25 drinking/partying comment as well. My objection to marrying young isn’t that I think you should be getting wasted and sleeping with everything that moves; it’s that when you tie your life to another person’s you severely limit your options. You basically give up your autonomy and a good deal of independence – for significant rewards, yes. At the beginning of one’s adult life, that just doesn’t seem like a good deal for the majority of people – you’re simply not going to get to explore yourself and your options like you would if you were less seriously committed. I would rather see someone explore their options – work, location, school, travelling, lifestyles, whatever – pick one or several, and then settle down after they no longer need the autonomy being unmarried (or unseriously committed) gives them.

      • LadyTL said:

        You have a strange idea of marriage. Just because marriage is joked about being a ball and chain doesn’t actually make it that way. The good marriages I have seen still allow for alot of independence and autonomy including work, location school and all the things you mentioned. Just because you are with someone else doesn’t mean you can’t do anything new for the rest of your life.

        • JenniferP said:

          Agreed.

        • TR said:

          No, sorry, that wasn’t clearly phrased. It’s not that you can’t do any of those things – it’s just that none of those things are an independent decision anymore. They’re the decision of the couple – or at least they are what I picture as a healthy relationship. All of your major life decisions, and a lot of the small ones, have to become the life decisions of two people, which means you do give up a lot of autonomy. (“Limit your options” was a bad choice of words.)

          For example, I can imagine a healthy marriage where Spouse1 says, “I really want to go back to school – the good programs are out of state, though.” and Spouse2 says, “I love you and want to support you, let’s see how we can make this work” and a decision is eventually made that allows Spouse1 to go to a good grad program.

          I don’t necessarily see Spouse1 going, “I’m applying to grad schools; I want to live out of state so I’m only applying to out of state ones. We can expect to be moving next fall. Not sure where, yet.” as a healthy marriage move, but I would see that as completely normal and healthy from someone not seriously committed.

          I guess I don’t mean autonomy as “ability to do things” but as “ability to make independent decisions to do things.” And I think that having a period in your life where your decisions are as much yours as possible is important for a lot of reasons, some of which are about learning to function and some of which are about learning about yourself. (For however long this is – a year or two or all your life. I think it’s also completely normal/healthy to learn how to make “we” decisions as well; I just think it’s easier to have that autonomy when you’re young.)

          • Good clarification. My bestie is going through just that juggling act. She’s been single all of her 26 years until she met her fiance in Jan! Suddenly her single plans for her M.Div Internship-West Coast- have become Staying In State to be closer to her S.O., who for even more fun is in Cali at prestigious college to work on MATH for a few months, something he, as a single dude, dedicated himself too and can’t get out of.
            Whoo! that was a heck of a sentence! But you get my point. They’re planning their wedding and marriage over Skype while isolated from each other (and me). I’m shocked and impressed because as a single person leaving grad school for financial reasons, I’m having a hard enough time running my own life let alone coordinating with another sentient being.

          • Jillian said:

            It’s kind of a cost/benefit thing, though. It was worth it to me and my husband to get married when we were 23, even if we were losing some of that autonomy. We had explored options for our lives and we still are 3 years later. Marriage hasn’t changed that; We’re a good team with goals that were easily inclusive of each other. It may have been different if each of us was driven to do drastically different things that required drastically different lifestyles/incomes/locations but that wasn’t the case. For some people, it’s not worth sacrificing that level of autonomy for their relationship in their 20s or 30s or even EVER- they don’t want to be tied down. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But other people shouldn’t impose their view of “you should use your 20s to do x, y, z” on those who don’t.
            For the record, I do think that this 3 people commenting on the impending marriage is a red flag that should be explored. Maybe it’s valid and maybe it’s not, but it is certainly worth more thought.

          • Yeah, you’re absolutely right about a serious relationship making choices that would have been “yours”, “ours”. I’ve been partnered for 4 years now, since I was 22, and there are decisions I can’t just make myself now. If I were single, I’d be looking to move back to SoCal, where I grew up; my partner is not a fan. For him, he can’t decide to stay in Seattle, which he’s fallen in love with–it still feels strange and I kind of hate it for triggering my asthma and SAD and will not live here for more than a few more years.

            My partner and I are lucky that in many ways, we’ve grown in compatible directions, and we still love each other very much and want to grow old together. Still, we got together when we were 20 or so, and we’ve both done a lot of growing since then.

    • So, that was largely intended to be exaggerated for humor. (Obviously, failed humor.) I think it really depends on the couple as far as being ready for marriage before 25. (Though in my family even getting a cat is considered tying yourself down prematurely. “What if you want to stay out all night! Then you have to come home and feed the cat.” Actual conversation had with my father.)

      • Ace said:

        My husband used to use that *exact* reason for why he didn’t have a cat even though he’d always had cats in his family. Then his amazing cat breeder grandmother died and now we’ve got a cat. I think she (the cat) assumes he was just waiting for her. As cats do.

        Anyway, this was randomly meant to illustrate one of my best friend’s favorite John Lennon quotes, ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’. which sounded appropriate for this thread.

        • My cat climbed in through my basement apartment window when I was 23. That John Lennon quote is 100% true.

          • lol my sister bought a house and moved out of home, intending to get a cat “sometime” now that she could (our dad HATES them, he has no soul), and the next day she found an ex-stray eating her bread and saying, “yes, hello, I live here now.” At least she knew she wanted one, she’d just planned to wait a bit!

          • Ethyl said:

            The universe knows when people are looking for cats, I could swear. Every time we’ve decided we are ready for an(other) cat, a stray shows up.

      • stardreamer said:

        Oh FFS. That’s why you get a cat and not a dog! You have to come home and feed/walk a dog; with a cat, as long as there’s a bowl of crunchies, a water dish, and a recently-cleaned litterbox, it’s all good.

        • Exactly! That’s why I want to get a cat, even though I grew up with dogs and love them so much. Cats are so much lower-maintenance. You can feed them once a day and they’ll be happy.

        • Virginia said:

          You know what they call the crunchies in French? Croquettes. Now my cat is a super-fancy Francomange.

    • tcheasdfjkl said:

      “If you are under 25 then people are saying this stuff to you because they think your 20s should be spent drinking and having anonymous sex with strangers.”

      Ugh I wish the people around me (well, my family mostly) was like this. Not that I’m into drinking or anonymous sex, but I’m SO not ready to even think very much about eventual marriage (I’m 22, just out of college) and I’m hearing lots of questions and concerns on that topic from my family. My mom just keeps reminding me to be meeting lots of cool people (and only young, educated, intellectually emloyed, privileged STRAIGHT MEN count) so that EVENTUALLY I can have my pick of husbands – but my extended family (who live in Russia) seem to expect me to acquire a fiance any day. Now I want to print out this discussion and be like LOOK, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO WANT ME TO DRINK AND HAVE ANONYMOUS SEX WITH STRANGERS, WHY ARE YOU BRINGING UP MARRIAGE.

      • Now I want to print out this discussion and be like LOOK, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO WANT ME TO DRINK AND HAVE ANONYMOUS SEX WITH STRANGERS, WHY ARE YOU BRINGING UP MARRIAGE.

        LOL. I can so relate, OMG.

      • heathenbee said:

        Awesome : )

      • It’s so funny how families are so different about that sort of thing! Are you watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on you tube? It’s a Pride and Prejudice remake that has some amusing mocking of a Mom who’s really eager to marry off her daughters. It’s funny because it almost doesn’t work as a plot point for me, I find it so un-relatable in a modern setting, maybe you’ll relate to it more. 🙂

        • tcheasdfjkl said:

          I hadn’t heard of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but that sounds like something I might enjoy – thanks for the recommendation!

          I think in my family it’s mostly a cultural thing – in Russia, especially when my parents were growing up, my current age was exactly prime marriage age. (My parents actually got married at exactly my current age – which was during college for them! – and had me two years later.) It might be changing now, but still the one girl my age in Russia who I’m sort of in touch with is married with a baby.

        • Lucy said:

          Funnily enough, I find the Lizzie Bennet Diaries way more enjoyable and a lot more topical than the actual novel.

  11. Thank you for the views and discussion on spontaneous public proposals! I wish I had more comments for the LW’s situation, but I have to agree with what’s been discussed. Three people makes it a point worthy of discussion, either with spouse or with family dissenters. BOth are probably able to be worked out by LW, and both are worthy discussions; ultimately this can be a learning experience, either in attitudes of the family or truth about the relationship.

  12. I have no idea how old anyone is in this question, but if LW and fiancee are in their early 20s or somesuch, could it be that you seem numerically young to be getting married perhaps? Two of the comments seem to be about experience.

    • Oops, everyone else got there before me! So yeah, what they said.

  13. Esti said:

    LW, it’s hard for us to know whether your friends/mother are right about your fiancee or not. But there are a few questions that I think would make it a lot easier for you to evaluate how seriously you should take their concerns:

    -Have the two friends/your mother been good and reasonable judges of things unrelated to your fiancee? Have they tried to talk you out of other big life decisions, or been overbearing about other subjects, or is it only things having to do with your fiancee?

    -Do you know what specifically about your relationship with your fiancee they think is problematic? Two of the people who talked to you said that you don’t have enough “life experience” — do you know what they meant by that? If you do know what’s bothering them, then sit with it for a little while and try to consider it with an open mind — even though you love and want to be with your fiancee, do you think that their concerns are reasonable?

    -How many of these (or other people in your life) did you lose touch with after you moved in with your fiancee? Did anyone tell you that the reason you weren’t hearing from them as much was because of her? Did she encourage you to cut people out of your life or to be in touch with them less?

    -Do you feel ready for marriage? Do you feel ready for this marriage? I know you love your fiancee and feel that you two are compatible and have been living together for three years, but there isn’t a clock or a checklist that tells you when you’re ready for marriage. You said that these conversations had given you some doubts. Are they doubts like “why do all these people think this is a bad idea even though I’m super happy and sure about this” or are they doubts like “everyone keeps saying that they don’t think I’m ready for this and now I’m wondering if I do feel ready”?

    Unless the people who’ve expressed concern to you have a history of inappropriately butting into your life or criticizing your decisions, I think it’s worth giving what they’ve said some real thought. Is there anyone you’re really close to (a friend or family member) who isn’t particularly close to your fiancee who you could talk to about this? If there is, my advice would be to tell them what’s been going on and then ask them to tell you what they really, truly think about your engagement, with the promise that you will listen with an open mind and not hold it against them.

    But ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide whether there is reason to be concerned about marrying your fiancee (or marrying her right now). If you’re sure this is what you want, then you’ve got to be sure enough to ignore the doubters.

  14. kathleen said:

    Age is pretty relevant, if you are under 25, your odds of divorce are really high. See http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201105/lowering-the-odds-divorce-ways-boost-your-marital-longevity The relvant bit being “The probability of divorce for women decreases progressively across older age at first marriage. Brides under 18 years of age are twice as likely to divorce (through 15 years of marriage, at least) than brides who are 25 and older. As reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in late 2010, the median age of first marriage is 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women. These older ages of both partners should go a long way toward preserving young marriages”.

    Yes, I think this is all some kind of red flag.I’ve really only wanted to do this with one friend. ( I’m old, I have been to lots of weddings) It’s so very painful to watch someone you love marry someone who you are sure is bad for them. And no, I sure as hell didn’t get any satisfaction out of being right when they divorced years later either. It just sucked.

    There is nothing wrong with a long engagement. Get that life experince, Do some “traditional dating” with her ( not sure what that means, try dinner and a movie) Make sure you can tell she loves YOU, not she loves planning a big party with a giant cake and a big poufy dress.
    Take good care of yourself. ’cause no, that’s not normal.

    • You make a great point, but that statistic made me laugh. So brides that are barely legal are twice as likely to divorce as someone who marries when they’re a decade older? O RLY? The tricky ages to figure out if you want to marry are in that 8 year gap between 18 and 26. I’ve known people who’ve done it and rocked it. All the power to them. I do agree there is a lot of pressure to go and live your ‘wild 20s’ without being ‘tied down’ to a partner. If you’re young, I would put money on that being some of the pressure people are giving you.

    • JenniferP said:

      The thing about data on divorce rates & age is that it’s descriptive, not prescriptive. So if you’re one of the people for whom a young marriage has worked out beautifully, go you! May you grow together, and grow old together. There’s nothing to say that young married people can’t and don’t job-hop, travel, try out multiple careers, go to grad school, etc. One of the ways I think about the possibility of marriage for myself is…does this feel like an adventure that I want to be on with this person as my co-pilot? Or does it feel like opportunities closing off and giving up things I want from life? If the second thing, maybe don’t marry.

      But yes, if the LW is very young, say, just out of college, I can see people saying “Are you sure you want to get married right now?” with the best of intentions. And if they’re only just out of high school, I can REALLY picture it. And if they’re under 18, well, yeah, I am completely skeptical that that’s a good idea. I’m really not down with the whole child-bride thing.

      But the only people who can really decide are the LW and his fiancee, and they have a right to their choices and to tell naysayers to butt out if they want to. They would have that right even if it is a mistake. All relationships end eventually, it’s just, some of them end when death do you part and some do it sooner. That doesn’t mean they were a bad idea while they lasted.

      I like the advice from commenters that if the naysaying friends & family are otherwise supportive and not prone to crossing boundaries, then stop for a second and consider what they are saying seriously. The LW is an adult and can make whatever choices he wants – he’s not automatically doomed to divorce just because he is (maybe) young.

      • I married at 22 to my first boyfriend, got divorced at 26. Sure, seemed like a good idea at the time; not so much in retrospect (many lessons learned).

        I did it again shortly thereafter at 28 after getting a much better idea of who I am and who I need in my life (and this was all an embarrassingly short period of time). This one will last…*is* lasting.

        Anyway, my perspective is that sometimes we do dumb things in life! And that’s kind of okay* if you went in with the best of intentions and are happy to do it. Divorce isn’t the end of the world; it sucks, but you’ll be okay if it happens. Life has risk to it at the best of times. That’s me though: YMMV.

        *Barring abusive situations or you know, drunk driving, etc.

        • aliaras said:

          Picking nits: getting into an abusive situation (as the victim, not the abuser) is okay too. Darth Vader is rarely advertised as such — (s)he’s so nice, and caring, and attentive, and wants the best for you. And then the Vadery stuff starts coming out, and it can be hard to pull out of the relationship.

          I mean, people usually aren’t happier for it, but they usually at least went for it for what seemed like good reasons at the time even if in retrospect it fucking sucked.

    • Discombobulated said:

      “Age is pretty relevant, if you are under 25, your odds of divorce are really high.”

      That isn’t what the link says, though! It only says that brides under 18 have twice as high a divorce rate as brides over 25. It doesn’t say what either divorce rate actually is, or what the divorce rates are for couples where 18 < bride's age < 25. (I mean, presumably they're somewhere in between, but the numbers are not in evidence here!)

    • mustelid said:

      I have a lot of trouble taking this article without a big old grain of salt because of the statement on cohabitation:

      “People who live together before deciding to get married (i.e. before they get engaged) are more likely to divorce should they eventually marry. This probably flies in the face of all that seems logical. Wouldn’t a couple who live together before marriage know each other the best and therefore be least likely to divorce? There certainly can be exceptions to this general rule, but the reason for the cohabitation effect is that couples enter into these marriages more out of inertia than out of romantic love. Therefore, they lack the “sparkle” (as Carrie Bradshaw would call it) that can keep them going throughout the vicissitudes of married life.”

      I know that the statistics show that people who cohabit before marriage have a higher incidence of divorce, but suggesting it is causation rather than correlation is just sloppy. If people who live together before they get married eventually end up doing so out of inertia, wouldn’t that same inertia be just as likely to prevent them from getting divorced? Also, depending on the time frame, aren’t some of the “vicissitudes of married life” also experienced by committed couples who live together? I’d suggest that it’s a lot more likely that people who do not have a moral opposition to cohabitation are also likely to not have a moral opposition to divorce. Those who refuse to live together before they are married are probably more likely to see divorce as a moral failing to be avoided at all costs, and might stay in unhappy marriages because of that. It might be that even being open to the idea of cohabitation, regardless of whether or not you actually do it, could lead to a higher likelihood of divorce.

      The reason they give for this correlation doesn’t pass the sniff-test, so I’m wondering about the rest of the article too.

      All that said, I think waiting to get married is a good idea.

      • Those are some really good points. It’s always good to understand the differences between risk and rate, as well as looking at the social reasons for these phenomena.

        other reasons it doesn’t pass “the sniff test”:

        1. Psychology Today. A pop-fake-psych blog whose other notable contributions include the startling revelation that Cosmo’s sex tips might not actually lead to increased sexual pleasure OR instant pair-bonding. Truly a harbinger of incisive cultural analysis and razor-edge scientific research, mixed into a souffle of towering reputability!

        2. Citing Carrie Bradshaw as a relationship authority.

        3. “ the reason for the cohabitation effect is that couples enter into these marriages more out of inertia than out of romantic love. ” No sources cited, no data referenced – not even anecdata or lived experience – and no actual basis in reality, thus an unformed hypothesis rooted in author bias. Also, why is romantic love set up as the foundation of “good” (i.e. lasting) marriages? There are studies that demonstrate that shared values, solid communication, similar goals and mutual problem-solving abilities are better predictors of lasting relationships than romantic love. Those tricksy vicissitudes are far better weathered with communication than being blitzed out on the serotonin rush. Romantic love is an unstable drug – who serves it up better than a Darth Vader? – and it should be balanced in a relationship with other, equally important loves; setting it up as the Key to Success is pretty insidious and damaging.

        I can literally type “the reason for the cohabitation effect is that couples enter into these marriages based on the acquisition of energy-fusing gamma particles from their shared microwaves, which soulbond their auras at a less-optimal plane than separate microwaves in parent’s houses” and have it be just as correct. In fact, I just have. SCIENCE.

        4. But there is this: “They believe what they read or hear, and rarely have the resources or incentive to check the facts.” BEST LINE IN ARTICLE.

        5. “There will also invariably be social trends that will bring down the actual, if not perceived, divorce rate: later age of marriage, a poor economy (which forces couples to stay together), and shifts in gender roles, all of which should benefit the longevity of the average marriage.” This is actually a good analysis, despite the author’s best intentions. Like any other social/cultural phenomenon, marriage and divorce cannot readily be explained by waving a psychology degree at census data and gesturing vaguely at Carrie Bradshaw.

        Sorry it always seems like I’m yelling at you, Kathleen ❤

        • Ethyl said:

          I less-than-three your comments, elodie. Also wanted to add that Psychology Today also employed the delightful Satoshi Kanazawa, of “black women are objectively ugly” fame. Great publication, very science.

          • Oy. I knew Satoshi — we were in grad school together, before he switched fields. In defense of Satoshi (but not his article), he was actually a really nice guy. In defense of Psychology Today (for this one incident, anyway), they canned him for that blog post very soon after it went public. I still harbor hopes that Satoshi doesn’t actually think black women are objectively ugly.

            Anyway. Enthusiastic agreement to all the objections. I think the inertia hypothesis is an interesting one, and it’s not mutually exclusive with the alternative hypotheses, but it does need to be tested. (Unless it has already. I’m feeling too impatient to do an exhaustive search. 🙂 )

          • bibbibobby said:

            I’m not sure why Kanazawa needs to be defended or why “he’s actually a really nice guy” counts as a defence. He’s a really nice guy (apparently) who is also really racist. And considering that he wrote a whole article about black women being objectively ugly, I think the hope that he doesn’t actually think that black women are objectively ugly has been effectively quashed.

        • I also less-than-three your comments. This takedown of Psychology Today’s bullshittery was much needed!

        • Knights Who Say Knit said:

          Yeah, that quoted section reads like one of the passages they give on the GRE, where they give you an illogical argument and you’re supposed to write an essay explaining all the argument’s fails. Only it’s way easier to take down the logic in that paragraph than in the GRE ones, cause the GRE is hard.

      • EM said:

        I thought it might be because couples who don’t believe in living together before marriage might correlate more closely with couples who don’t believe in divorce, or experience other social pressures around marriage. Ie. lliving or not living together may not necessarily be causally connected to divorce, there may be other factors at play. Also, not being divorced does not equal happy marriage.

    • Jess said:

      Thing is, people talk about divorce like it’s evidence that the relationship was wrong wrongity wrong in the first place–but that isn’t necessarily the case. I was married at 22, divorced at 29, and you know what? The decision to pursue that relationship/marriage was one of the best I’ve ever made. Turned out we were not ideal for each other in the long run, and yes, part of that was because I was growing up and changing in a different direction from my (older) spouse, but it doesn’t mean I regret any part of that decision.

      That said, I agree that long engagements are perfectly great, if you don’t need to get married for pressing immigration/financial reasons or something.

      • irishup said:

        OH THIS!
        Divorce and Failure is NOT a tautology! The marriage can have been the absolutely RIGHT thing to have done at the time, and exist in the exact same universe/dimension/timeline on the DIVORCE being the absolutely right thing to have done (to do) at the time (now).

        • Snoops said:

          YES!! And outside of marriage, a breakup doesn’t “prove” that the relationship was wrong all along… Sometimes people grow and develop in different directions, sometimes even because of the influence they have had on each other.

      • unagi said:

        Sometimes, the divorce is the best part of a relationship :-).

  15. Gosh. LW, I think only you know the people who spoke out well enough to know what they are about. Are they habitual boundary crossers? Do they tend to treat you like you are still 12 and don’t know your own mind? I gotta say that it doesn’t sound like they gave you any reasons for their concerns.

    But if they are normally people who care for you and don’t usually get in your hair about things, you might want to sit down with them and find out why they sent up the red flags. It could even be something as simple as your fiancee reminds them of someone they don’t like.

    Relationships are complicated. Family-history wise, I’ve been told how I one of my aunts was once really infatuated by a guy who turned out to be an abuser. Family didn’t like him, but she turned her back on her family and stood by her man. Fortunately she was strong enough to pull herself out of that marriage. But my dad and other relatives learned not to speak out, for fear of driving the loved one away.

    And then my sister ended up engaged to/living with a guy who mistreated her. Sis had been brought up to believe that once you’ve made the decision to be with someone, it’s forever. Family had never liked him, but were afraid to say anything in case it drove her away like it did the aunt (and didn’t know about the abuse). Finally she got away and told family, only then to find out that they thought the relationship was a bad idea in the first place. She wishes someone had told her, so she knew she would have support in leaving.

    tl;dr: Things are complicated. But if family and close friends speak up, it’s probably worth hearing them out, unless they are habitual boundary-crossers who refuse to believe you’re a grown up.

    • unagi said:

      I totally agree that it can be heinous for family to either express their disapproval, or not to express it. You use really good examples. There is no one good solution. Likewise, I once lost 2 good friends in a month, from telling one that his wife was cheating on him, and not telling the other I thought her ex was abusive. Since you can’t win, I’ve decided I mostly have to suit my own conscience. If I merely don’t like a new partner, I’ll do my best to keep it to myself (chronic football on tv is not a crime). If I think there’s a shadow of abuse, I’ll speak up. Once. No matter what, I try to remember these are not my relationships, and that my opinion doesn’t ultimately matter. But I would feel bad if I didn’t tell someone that I think she’s slipping down the path to hell.

      • Daphne said:

        I had a friend who was engaged to a possible Darth Vader. My husband and I were extremely uncomfortable around him, and so was the woman’s other best friend. Phrases used to describe the fiancee were “aggressively boring” “black hole” “rude & inconsiderate” etc. I decided that I could live with it if he was just rude to me but treated her well, but I saw first-hand multiple instances of him treating her disrespectfully/taking advantage/etc. I and her other friend stopped inviting her to events because we’d have to have him along too and no one could stand to be in the same room with him (and we are patient, easy-going people).

        I consulted with my therapist, with a friend who was glad she had broken off her engagement, my divorced mother, and several times with the best friend to strategize: she would be good cop and be there afterwards if the friend wanted to hate me forever, I would fall on the sword of friendship and be the one to speak up. I had been advised that there’s actually very little I could say (fiancee-bashing gets you nowhere), so I took her out to lunch and told her that I thought she was super awesome, talented, smart, etc and that I didn’t think her fiancee was treating her well enough. This was about 6-12 months before the wedding. I expected her to flip out and yell and storm out. I think she internally knew on some level that I was right, because to my surprise she stayed and chatted for two hours until I had to cut it off to get back to work. Of course, we never spoke again. I politely declined the wedding invite with an “I can’t make it” (of course she knew privately the real reason).

        I felt way better for trying, a weight was really lifted off my shoulders. I just couldn’t keep pretending that I was ok with the situation. I couldn’t pretend to be a friend while essentially lying about the danger I saw her getting into. I grew up in an abusive household and in hindsight it’s amazing to me that no one ever called the cops on my dad or spoke to my Mom to encourage her not to stay (other than me & my siblings). When I talked to another friend who’d had a bad first marriage, she completely supported that I tried to warn my friend in a gentle manner, and said that she had one friend come to her in tears on the day of her wedding begging her not to marry the guy. At that point of course it was too late for my friend, and she wished someone had tried to warn her earlier about the guy. At the least, I hope my ex-friend will know that if she ever decides to leave the guy, there is at least one person out there (me) who supports her in that decision.

  16. LadyTL said:

    I got a ton of the same comments about experience and such because I married young and didn’t date a bunch of people. If you are under 30 you will get it from a ton of people (you may not be under 30 I don’t know). What I do know is that just because a bunch of people seeing a portion of the relationship and seeing doom and gloom does not make them right. My marriage has been going strong for 5 years now despite marrying at 20 (he was 19). Hasn’t stopped people before and after saying my relationship would fail over and over for years even after I got married. Don’t let doomsayers throw doubt into you if your relationship isn’t like in the movies or how things usually go. They aren’t always right just because some people’s relationships fail.

    • Beth said:

      I totally agree. We were 20 when we got married and despite being best of friends before then dating EVERYONE tried to stop us getting married. His father did his utmost to split us up and sulked through the whole wedding when it went ahead (literally. He refused to be part of the receiving line and glared at everyone from the top table whilst complaining about the food, etc.). My extended family who I live with (really not a hippy commune as much as it sounds like one) had a betting pool on how long we’d last. The longest was 11 months.
      On the other hand, our friends (who are the family we chose and are really really close to) have a betting pool on when I’ll get pregnant. The longest date is still a few years off. At least someone had hope we’d last!

      If these people really don’t know you very well then I’d look into what they say (3 is a bit of a trend) but take it with a pinch of salt. Pre-marriage counselling was the best thing we ever did and there have been times when I’d love a divorce but then my parents have been together for 35 years, my grandparents for 65 and I know they had times like that too. It’s the attitude you take to your marriage that makes it “work” not your age.

  17. the witching hour said:

    Have you shared any of these comments (anonymously or otherwise) with your fiancee? Have you shared any of your doubts with your fiancee? If I were her, facing such intense ambivalence from people who know you, it would be really important to feel actively included in the conversation and the response.

    I really like the comments about assessing these people and how good their judgment on your life usually is. And getting more specifics (if you don’t have them already) on what if any specific concerns they have. And then I would sit down with your fiancee and talk about it in a way that affirms your commitment to her, and makes it about essentially double-checking the locks before you leave the house. Think of the conversation as practice for the many thorny conversations you will have during your engagement/marriage.

    Also, when you’re in a doubtful/insecure space, just try to keep your reactions moderate. Don’t break off the engagement, extend it. Don’t elope, plan a romantic weekend.

    • irishup said:

      I very much like the idea of including the fiancee in the conversation, but there are two conditions under which I wouldn’t do so (or advise doing so):

      1. The objections are some form of ish or asshattery. I personally don’t feel that passing on the specifics of “I don’t like hir because zie’s an X” type arguments is helpful or constructive. I’d go back to my sig o with “Well, Mom/Friend objected on the bases of some of zir prejudices. That bullshit’s not worth going into. I love you” and move on from there.

      2. The objections are from concern regarding genuinely abusive/redflaggy behaviors. If these are valid concerns, that is just going to put LW in a really tough spot, to say no more.

  18. RodeoBob said:

    I know that I shouldn’t really care too much what other people think…
    Well, actually, that depends.

    When it comes to other people who you respect or admire, who you consider to be insightful, who have experience in matters relating to the one at hand, you probably should care what some of them think. If I mention that I want to build a deck on the back of my house, and my neighbor who freelances as a carpenter expresses concern, that’s someone I should pay attention to.

    I’ve fallen out of contact with some of them, only nebulously connected through Facebook or through friends of friends. Nonetheless, I hear from them every once and a while…

    A lot of comments have mentioned the lack of details, specifically the lack of ages. That’s another factor that makes a difference in the game of “do I care what they think or not?”

    The person I was at 18 wasn’t hugely different than the person I was at 21; at 25, there was more distance, and at 36, utterly unrecognizable. So one key question about these ‘nebulous’ friends is how long ago was the friendship, and just how far from that person are you now?

    on three separate accounts this weekend different people reached out to me to tell me they cared about me and they were worried for me because they didn’t approve of my fiancee.

    Umm…. I hate to be confrontational, but that’s not actually what they said, at least not according to your own letter:

    Nebulous Mom: “You don’t have enough life experience yet. It’s STUPID [all caps] to get married before you’ve spent some time out on your own…”

    That’s not a comment about your fiancee. That isn’t saying anything at all about your fiancee…

    Nebulous Friend 1: “You don’t have enough relationship experience. Move out and start over with her, taking it slow. You should have a traditional dating experience with her before you decide to get married…”

    There’s absolutely nothing in that remark that says “I do not approve of your fiancee”.

    Nebulous Friend 2: “It’s clear that you love her. What isn’t clear is that she loves you back. I hate to say this, buddy, because I know it’s hurtful; but I hope you’ll think hard about what I say…”

    If you try really hard, you could make this remark into “I don’t approve of your fiancee”, but it really isn’t. It’s a concern about the two of you together, not her. It’s about a possible gulf between what your relationship is versus what you want it to be. In any case, it’s not “I don’t like her!”

    I get that my friends care about me, but I feel like they don’t trust me…

    If you had been at a party, had been drinking, and your friends had told you that you should either stay the night or get a cab instead of driving home, it would probably feel to you like they didn’t trust you, right? But that’s not a situation of trust, is it? It’s about friends seeing a potential harm that you’re not seeing, and acting in your best interest in a situation where you may not be able to perceive things as they actually are.

    Now, is that really analogous to this situation? Maybe, maybe not. Your letter doesn’t give the necessary details to judge.

    …they’re saying hurtful things about someone I love very deeply.

    No, they’re not. Or at least, not according to what in the letter. It would be a lot easier to make this about her, to make this a case where you’re defending her against them, but based on what you’ve written, that’s not what’s happening. You could be engaged to Mary Poppins or Fergie (the princess or the popstar) and your friends and family would respond with the same concerns, because they’re concerned about you, LW.

    I’m somewhat impressionable. I guess the reason that I’m writing is because I feel like they’ve put some doubt in my mind that I’m ready for marriage. I’m upset and I am hoping for some guidance.

    Guidance, eh?

    1.) Don’t make this about your fiancee, because it’s not. It’s about your friends, your mother, and how they perceive you and your relationship.

    2.) Don’t make this adversarial. “the two of us versus the world” may feel romantic, but it’ll actually keep you from having good conversations with the folks who are expressing their concerns.

    3.) Here’s the neat thing about being engaged versus being married. You can have a long engagement; you don’t have to set a date and start planning right away. Don’t rush setting a date; spend some time talking with your partner about the details of marriage. Are you sharing money, or keeping separate bills and bank accounts? Will she be changing her name, will both of you change to a new last name, or are you both keeping your names?

    Don’t flee from your doubt; face it. Ask your doubters to share their doubts fully, in detail. Explore those doubts, some alone and some with your future partner. If you’re ready, if this is a real, solid thing, you’ll come through it all with your partner and be stronger together for it.

    • I like this response for the most part. I have a few things to add. First of all, I found it interesting that the LW said that the pushback was all coming from “nebulous Facebook people” and then described the first person to take issue with the engagement as his “Nebulous Mom.” I just… I don’t know. Is your mom really so nebulous? I feel like she probably has more of a starring role in your life than just a Facebook friend who photostalks you every few months, no? So maybe give her opinion a little more weight than that.

      I do take some issue with what Nebulous Friend #1 said though. I mean, move out and start over, take it slow? I think that sounds like a lovely plan if we lived in a world where you get second chances and do-overs. In reality, all you would get is a lot of hurt feelings and possibly the end of your relationship. Maybe your friend is giving you bad advice on purpose, hoping it ends that way… I don’t know. But if he actually thinks that you can just reverse time and erase years of relationship history and intimacy, then, uh… he should get his head checked.

      My experience: I have been through a broken engagement after a 4 year relationship with a man that most of my friends and family disliked. Some of them were honest about their concerns before the breakup happened (this was only people I was very close to). Some didn’t tell me that they were concerned until after the breakup. Some people could never give me a good reason for why they disapproved. But they were all right. I’m not saying your friends/family necessarily know what’s best for you, but if so many of them are expressing alarm, I would examine that carefully.

      Here’s the other thing I’ve learned: it’s really, really important to trust your intuition on stuff like this. Even – maybe even especially – if your intuition is telling you something you don’t want to hear or act on. In my engagement, I definitely had cold feet (more like frostbitten, hypothermic, amputation-required kinda cold feet), but I just didn’t trust my own judgment. I also just wanted to be married so badly… not to that dude in particular, just in general. And I would have felt like admitting a huge failure if I’d broken up with him, and basically I just couldn’t fathom actually going through with breaking it off. So I didn’t. And I wouldn’t have, but he did break up with me because he had those same feelings and he was braver than I was. So if you have serious doubts, if you proposed to her because you just thought it was what she wanted or it’s supposed to be the next step or something, please think very seriously about going through with a wedding. If you’re worried about being embarrassed… trust me, a divorce will be worse (and very expensive). But if you really truly adore her, want to spend the rest of your life with her, and your gut tells you that these people are wrong and that this girl is The One, then carry on! I wish you a lifetime of happiness either way.

      • Karin said:

        sparklytosingle: I think we should believe the LW when zie describes hir mother as “nebulous” and not question that. There are many, many examples on this very site where people don’t have the best relationship with their parents (to put it mildly) and their mother or father don’t have a “starring role in their life”.

        For example: I would describe my father as a nebulous Facebook contact. We haven’t seen each other in person in years; we chat once in a while. That’s it. He can’t really judge who I am and how I’ve changed and developed since we last saw each other. Therefore, I wouldn’t take his opinion of my relationship with a partner very seriously. But if my mother or sister, with whom I have a close relationship, voiced concern regarding my partner, I would listen closely.

        • Agreed. Also, “Nebulous Mom” might not actually be his mom–I read that as possibly referring to the mother of a friend.

          • bumblebeefooshnickens said:

            Um, you all realize that “nebulous” used in this context makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, right?

          • Um, no? His connections to the people in question are nebulous, so by shorthand, they’re nebulous people. Makes sense to me.

      • Ethyl said:

        I too had a hard time with Friend 1’s comment. Move out, start over? What? Why? That’s….that’s really weird advice, to me. It sounds like something that someone who was really invested in “traditional” relationship trajectories and styles? Does this person have other “traditional” ideas about gender and relationships? It’s just such a weird comment.

        • I found that really weird too. How is moving out after living together for three years supposed to help a relationship?!

          • elfabla said:

            I think there is a lot of important information left out of this letter. I am wondering if perhaps they were already living together when they started seeing each other. He doesn’t say how long they have been seeing each other but that he has lived with her for three years and then we have a friend speaking about them not getting to experience traditional dating and someone else mentioning that he has never been on his own. So perhaps she happened to live in the first place he moved into after leaving home and them living together pushed everything romantic along very quickly. Perhaps they have actually not been dating for very long, that is the only reason I could imagine for someone giving that advise, that for them to have a healthy boundared relationship maybe they need to slow down and get out of the bubble they were quickly forced into when developing a romantic relationship with someone they already lived with.

          • unagi said:

            Or maybe he’s still living with Nebulous Mom… In which case imho it’d be normal for many people to be concerned that he doesn’t have the minimum maturity for marriage.

          • I doubt he’s living with her, if he hardly ever talks with her and she’s just coming out of the woodwork now. Also, he has lived with the fiancee for 3 years, but the mom doesn’t know her well, which would seem to rule out the three of them living together.

      • gmg said:

        This stopped me too, and I considered several options similar to those sketched out by other commenters here:

        1) LW isn’t close to his mom. Fair enough, though see note below.
        2) LW is talking about the mom of a friend. Perhaps more likely because even if #1 were true, one would expect a brief side note explaining it (“My mom and I have never been close” etc).
        3) LW is in fact talking about his own mom, and he has decided that both she and these two friends are “nebulous” because he doesn’t want to hear what they have to say.

        I don’t necessarily think we can discount #3 without knowing more. People are not unknown to frame things in ways that reinforce what they want to believe. The fact that he starts out by hinting that these people WERE good friends at one time but that he’s fallen out of contact with them could just illustrate a natural life progression — OR it could be a red flag that he’s in a socially isolating relationship.

        • If the mom is the kind of person who would tell him that it’s “STUPID” to get married in his situation, I can see why he’d consider her nebulous, whether she’s his mom or someone else’s.

          • gmg said:

            Point taken … Nebulous Mom may be nebulous for a reason.

    • Knights Who Say Knit said:

      I really really want to highlight and second RodeoBob’s sentiment that these comments are NOT about disapproving of or disliking your fiancee (at least on their surface; they could of course be cover for that). They’re not even about disapproval of your relationship, not really. They’re about your engagement, and your future marriage, and if you talk about them as “disapproving of your fiancee,” that’s going to cloud the whole issue. ESPECIALLY if you summarize them that way in conversations with your fiancee (that’ll create divisiveness and conflict and bad blood between these people and your fiancee that may not actually be there) or with the people who made the comments (that’ll look like willful misinterpretation, and maybe convince them that you really are not mature enough to be getting married.

    • EM said:

      LW, it’s really unusual for so many people to coincidentally get together and comment on a relationship. The one time I said it to by best friend, I knew I was crossing a pretty big line and took it really seriously.

      I’ve also been on the receiving end of advice. One friend, and my mother, both commented on my last relationship and I wish I had understood what they were saying. Not so much to change my actions but to be aware of a dynamic I didn’t realize was building (probably a bit because i didn’t want to see it). Sadly, they were much much too subtle for me and I was so in love at the time – I didn’t get it.

      My friend said to me, very gently, “you seem to be putting a lot more effort in than he is” and what I heard was white noise. Then, after I had been complaining about some thing he had done to upset me, my mother said “what would you feel if the two of you broke up?”

      I reminisced about this with my mother the other day – about how misunderstandings happen when you’re not on the same wavelength. I can distinctly remember the conversation, and in hindsight understand she was trying to tell me was that my partner was rather selfish and would always tend put himself first. She was trying to warn me that we weren’t on an even keel. (Just as my friend was trying to say) But at the time I honestly – truly – believed that what she was saying was “stop criticizing the man you love, and be happy with what you have” and i resolved to never complain or fight with him again. I heard something on another planet from what she thought she was telling me – and I am normally smart and insightful person. These are already difficult conversations, but love means you have trouble hearing them too… because they feel so personal and are so skewed by what you already think about something.

      I hope your mother didn’t tell you that you are stupid [all caps] because that is a terrible way to broach this subject – but it does seem like (from your letter) you took what they were saying as criticism of your fiancée – which is probably not be what they meant.

      Though, of course, seconding # Esti . You are the only one who can decide what is right in this situation.

  19. Rachel said:

    I was another young-to-be-engaged person (I was 23), and I got some nebulous pushback similar to your friend #1 and mom (of a friend?), along the lines of “You’re really young, are you sure you want to do this?” And I said yes, and they spent some time with me and fiance (now husband), and they saw that he was as awesome as I said, and they stopped protesting. (Husband has confirmed that he did not receive any comments about being too young to get married, as he was over 25, but did receive some comments about the pace of the engagement, which was due to me being about to enter grad school.)

    (I also received a little bit of pushback like the piece in The Hairpin, where the person’s doubts were all about Not Wanting His Friend married, and he is not my friend anymore.)

    I did not receive any pushback like the pushback you got from friend #2. This, combined with some of the phrasing in the other pushback (how nontraditional is your relationship, anyway? Did the two of you meet while shipwrecked on an island for six months?), makes me think that there’s something not right here. For example, either Friend #2 isn’t as nebulous of a friend as you’re implying he is, having observed you and your fiancee together, or Friend #2 has a lot of boundary issues and assumptions gleaned from Facebook stalking. And this is strange.

    But, as has become evident from the comments, a lot of us have received some pushback when it comes to getting married, especially when we’re disturbing other’s expectations of How the Universe Should Go. I agree with the advice above to talk to your fiancee calmly about any doubts you’re having, and not to rush. Getting engaged starts no ticking clocks!

    • lizzieladie said:

      I was also wondering about the how-their-relationship-started thing. Maybe they weren’t dating for the whole three years that they lived together and the romantic stage of the relationship is actually quite young? Or this relationship overlapped significantly with another relationship and involved some sneaking around and lack of “public” dating at the beginning? Or both? Except for soap opera territory and boundary issues on the part of Friend #2 I can’t really think of anything else that would lead to that particular complaint.

      LW, even if one or both of those scenarios is accurate and the friend isn’t totally lacking boundaries, they wouldn’t necessarily be a reason to not get married. But especially if the romantic relationship is actually fair young, a long engagement might make sense, since living together as partners can be a totally different dynamic than living together as roommates.

      • Ethyl said:

        I totally refer to the beginning of my current relationship as “overlapping” the previous one 🙂 That was more than 15 years ago now, so it worked out for us!

        • HA, me too! Funny how our culture has this standard of HOMG CHEATING IS THE WORST EVER set up *right* next to the standard of EVERYTHING IS OK IF YOU DO IT FOR TWU WUV…

          • Ethyl said:

            I feel like we should get coffee sometime, lol!

  20. I’d like to chime in as someone celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary, who lost all their friends at the time of their engagement.

    My friends were very insular, hitchhiking under ground type folks when I was a late teen. My husband was not one of them, being a bit more straightlaced, full time job, “normal” person. When we dated, and then at the time of our engagement, I had one friend start a nasty rumor that my husband was beating me. Another decided to spread the rumor that as a D&D player, I was losing my mind. As in really really going schizophrenic. Remember, this was 20 years ago, when folks worried that gamers were going to go bonkers, worship satan, or kill each other.

    My family? They had money, and were already mad that I was homeless by choice. They saw my soon to be husband’s poverty as further proof that I was screwing with them. Despite my husband’s working, going to school, and doggedly pursuing his accounting degree.

    Turns out all those friends and my family were wrong. 20 years later, we are still together. We are still best friends. My friends that abandoned me over this? They aren’t my friends anymore. Haven’t been for a very long time, and I can honestly say I’m better off. My family? They had toxic red flags all over the place anyways. We don’t have contact, and what I lost financially doesn’t even hold a candle to what I gained with my husbands family in love, and actual relationships.

    So this kind of scenario can happen. It doesn’t mean they are right.

  21. dualityheart said:

    I met my husband when I was 17, going on 18. When he first met me, he gave me a bunch of AMV cds because he found out that I loved anime but I didn’t have internet access. I made him a friendship bracelet by hand in gratitude. He’s about a year and a half younger than I am. We were good friends for awhile, then we started a relationship thing (we never called it dating because it wasn’t like a formal dating situation), and we were each other’s first sex experience. We even wore rings together to signify our commitment to one another.

    We stayed together through junior college and when I went away to finish my last two years, we did the long distance thing and it sucked but we really were adamant about it and both of us went half way whenever we could until he transferred to finish college at the same place I did. We got engaged a year later (he made an anime music video proposal for me, which was so adorable and pretty damn appropriate considering how we met/first became friends, and then we designed the engagement ring together). We got married the August of 2006 in our very early 20’s. We’re still married today and have celebrated over 6 wedding anniversaries together, we have one 3 year old daughter and I am about to give birth to our second and final child. The thing is, we’re still very happy together. Sure, there is stress, and there are bad times (my husband suffers from bouts of depression), but we have always worked as a good team and we have always been certain to care for one another and not take each other for granted. And when we first got together, we got the same things. He was still in high school, I had just graduated high school. People thought we were weird for being together with such an age difference (we met in a summer junior college class, so I didn’t know his age when we met). For awhile, we kept our relationship quiet because of the fact that I was with someone else at the time, and even though the other person was ok with having a dual relationship, a lot of my family is kind of traditional so they wouldn’t have approved of a dual closed relationship. When we got engaged, people were surprised again- not because we weren’t good together, but because I had just graduated from college and he still had a year to go- we weren’t quite the “newlywed” types with established careers.

    We didn’t want a big frou frou wedding. I wanted to wear a red dress. My husband wore earrings (I have no piercings). We were kind of obsessive about the music for the ceremony and reception (we’re huge music geeks). We had two giant green princess cakes. We made our wedding a patchwork of things that meant a lot to us together, and we both worked as a team to make a meaningful ceremony (we wrote our vows together) that felt like a good expression of “us” without spending a ton of money. But that ended up being the biggest indicator that we were actually ready for marriage- the fact that we both worked together, planned and financially budgeted for it (even the stressful parts), that our wedding was something both of us really wanted, and it ended up being a fun time for all involved.

    So as far as I’m concerned, it’s quite possible to get married at a young age, be ready for that marriage, and really and truly feel compatible. I may not be married forever, but I do think that my husband and I are a good example of a couple that just happened to be ready for marriage earlier than the average couple. This does not make us better than other couples- it just happened earlier, and I am sure glad that I did. My husband was in a bad depressive slump when he met me and meeting me and getting him out of the house helped him to feel more social, which helped him deal with his depressive feelings better, and chemical reactions being the way they are, when we finally realized we had an INTENSE physical attraction to one another, it was further intensified by our friendship. You know the “limerence” part of a relationship that most couples only experience for a couple months to a year? That hormonal feel-good phase lasted for a full THREE YEARS in my relationship with my husband.

    Not all relationships *are* like this, though. And I can understand the stress of the very public proposal. My best friend was proposed to in that manner, and she’s very shy and submissive in personality. Even though she was really excited and happy, she *did* feel very pressured to say “yes” in front of everyone even though she really wanted to wait and give her (now husband) a real answer later on after really thinking things over. She has a good relationship with her husband (they just had a baby together, and are a great team), but that proposal was a situation where she felt quite overwhelmed and to the outside observer, she may have seemed less than enthusiastic.

    I know that everyone else is saying to talk to LW’s nebulous friends as well as close friends, but what about talking to the fiancee? My husband’s friends were (and still are) nowhere close to being in long-term relationships. To them, getting engaged was about as alien as waking up to find a second head resting on their shoulders. So obviously, they were curious and asked him if he “really” felt like he wanted to do it. And seeing as my husband is kind of well known for being a bit naive, it makes sense. But *I* actually encouraged him to think about what he *really* wanted. I think that any good potential spouse should encourage one’s partner to think about these things, because it’s much better to change one’s mind before getting legally tied to one another than afterwards.

    I think that LW needs to have a lot of heart-to-heart talks with his fiancee. He should talk to her about the proposal and get her take on how she felt by being proposed to in public. He should talk to her about their hopes, dreams and plans for the wedding and marriage. One of the things I think that I found most illuminating while my husband and I were planning our wedding was that instead of it being all about the bride and bride’s mom, it was all about US as a couple and we delegated and worked as a team. If either he or his fiancee is pulling most of the weight on the wedding, that’s often an indication of how the relationship in general tends to work (and sometimes this is a good thing!- but MORE TALKING about whether or not this is a GOOD THING is probably a good idea!). Ideally, these should be a series of serious, loving conversations that LW and LW’s fiancee have together over a series of weeks or months. Honestly? I think that will give him the answer he is looking for- not seeking outside meddlers/helpful but Nosy Nancies.

    In any good marriage, if you start asking people outside the relationship for validation or approval, it’s going to make your actual relationship more problematic. This doesn’t mean that you ought to never talk to other people about your relationship, it just ought not to be the first line of defense in a healthy relationship. If you’re more comfortable talking to other people about your relationship than your SO, it’s a big warning sign. And, LW, for what it’s worth, perhaps this is a good opportunity to just sit and do a bit of introspection. Perhaps it’s not that your fiancee isn’t ready- maybe YOU are not ready, but you felt, for whatever reason, that you *had* to commit. There is no harm in just sitting down with yourself and having a good think about the whole situation.

    I truly do hope that nebulous people are just projecting their own insecurities on you (Nebulous Mom is probably someone who got married too young and only learned later that she had made a mistake, and Nebulous Friends might be in a place where anything but casual dating just seems like a ridiculous prospect because they have different priorities). However, if you talk to your fiancee and you sit and have a think by yourself and realize that something else is wrong, I would highly recommend pre-marital counseling over consulting with friends because they’re actually trained to spot issues and help couples with them before they say “I do.”

    Just my (ridiculously long winded) two cents, for what it’s worth. Marriage is not the end, after all, it’s just the beginning of a long journey with your beloved partner. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure that both of you don’t mind the long trip, are ok with negotiating problems together, and most importantly, can carry on a good conversation to pass the time.

    • tcheasdfjkl said:

      Your story is the cutest. 🙂

  22. twomoogles said:

    If three of my close awesome friends came up to me and said something like this about my relationship, I would at least listen. That doesn’t mean I’d automatically go to Dumpsville, Population You, but I would try to figure out why three people all thought this way. What are they seeing about my relationship that I’m not? I think one’s friends can have a more objective perspective, which can be good in some cases. There can be some truth to ‘you don’t know him/her like I do!’

    But, it doesn’t sound like these are your close, awesome people. These seem like people who don’t know you very well anymore, and maybe barely know your girlfriend. So it’s very likely that what they are saying isn’t really all that applicable to your relationship, but rather their view of you.

    I would suggest talking to people who see your relationship more closely, and try to figure out what about it might be causing pushback. It might be that they see signs of potential Darth or abuse in her. Or, it might be she has a caustic type of personality that they aren’t big fans of, that totally works for you. Or, it could be they just don’t like to see their friends get married. But it’s really, really hard to tell which of those is the case from the inside of the relationship.

  23. Lym said:

    It seems as if many responders are focusing on age, and there’s a good reason for that. The years between 20 and 30 see the greatest changes in personality, attitude and maturity for any adult. You’ll never change so much again in any decade. You *cannot* predict at 20 the person you’ll be at 30. General outlines, hard-held moral choices, perhaps. But even those can shift and change.

    Even worse, you can’t predict how the person you evolve into will fit with the person you love right now. I got married at 20, and divorced at 32, and I know that same marriage would likely have survived if I’d waited and lived on my own even 5 years. The additional maturity, ability to compromise, and independence gained in that time would have helped me become a person who could sustain a loving relationship. My second marriage, now going on 16 years, is doing well because of all the above, AND because we spent considerable time in couples counseling, rasping off the rough edges.

    I won’t repeat all the good advice above, but I do recommend that you and your love commit to a substantial period of your own couples counseling BEFORE marriage. I mean like six months to a year. Talk through what you both think your “married” roles will be. You think a piece of paper won’t change things, but the permanent nature of it will. Talk through the money issues, the sex issues, the household-work balance, the “yours, mine, ours” of possessions, possible child issues, including what about accidental pregnancy, and even more important, learn HOW TO FIGHT. Or discuss, or whatever you want to call it. If you can’t both learn fair rules of discussing and resolving conflicts, you don’t belong together.

    Find a great therapist (or secular or religious counselor), and commit again to revisiting him/her whenever you need to, or hit a rough patch after marriage. You’ll save your sanity, and have a trusted, objective reality-check right to hand when you need one.

    • kristinmh said:

      THIS THIS THIS. All of this. No matter how old you are this is awesome advice. I did not do this, and while we are still married we’ve had a lot of problems that could have been avoided if we’d discussed things rationally from the get go.

      Just wanted to say also that the “you don’t have enough experience!” may be a fig leaf for “OMG GET AWAY FROM THIS PERSON NOW NOW NOW”. It’s much easier to say “You’re a bit young to get married! Why not date a little longer?” than it is to say “She belittles and controls you and it makes me feel ill to think of the two of you together”.

      I might be as out of line as the LW’s nebulous ones, of course. Just a thought.

  24. duck-billed placelot said:

    LW! Congratulations, first of all. Double for serious everything Captain said about surprise proposals; if you end up doing it again, ever, this is great information for you. Now, I, too, am guessing you’re a tad young, but there are another couple of possibilities here. Is your fiancee:

    1) a different race than you?
    2) a different religion than you?
    3) a different socio-economic background than you?

    These are all things that can cause people – people you think are just regular, normal people! – to get all shifty and weird. Because racism! Because bigotry! Because snobbery. It sucks, but may be true. If any of these issues are the case, you’ll need to think hard about how you’ll interact with those people going forward, as you’ll definitely have to protect your fiancee from their ‘help’.

    • unagi said:

      That is an excellent point placelot (says the child of the mixed-race couple who lost all friends and most family in the process).

    • Anon for This said:

      Yes! When I married my husband, I presented as mobility impaired and lived on disability benefits and he did not. His friends descended in hoards to warn him off me — and warn him of how grim his future would be with me “pulling the strings,” evil cripple style. They couched their objections in terms of discomfort with the length of our relationship, my lack of a public presence (at places that weren’t accessible to me), etc, etc, but when he’d listen for long enough it would come down to stuff like “Do you really want to take on this burden? Somebody who lives on welfare?” People have unexpected, ugly prejudices. It was horrible to find out, for both of us.

      • JenniferP said:

        Ugh, that is awful. I’m glad (I hope) he told them where to get off, but that must have been so painful.

  25. Leah Jaclyn said:

    I have been the friend that said something and the reasons behind me saying something were these:

    -They had started going out in high school and neither of them had ever dated anyone else
    – They had serious communication problems around consent and sex in general
    – He was nasty to her, he often spoke down to her, and all of her friends, this didn’t stop
    – I watch my friend change from a vibrant, outspoken person to a closed off, sepia toned shadow of her former self.

    I wasn’t the only one to speak to her about him, her mother and her other best friend also mentioned that they would have her back if she decided not to do this (this was on the day of the wedding, and not the first time this conversation had happened). My Friend did marry him, and as far as I know they are still together, but we have very little to do with each other anymore, somewhat because I don’t want to deal with her husband but mostly because it was easier that watching her become increasingly unhappy and refuse to do anything about it.

    • Ethyl said:

      I’m just saying, though, that reason 1 and the rest of your reasons are very very different, you know? I don’t think that the first reason implies or should imply the others. If the LW’s friends (at least the first two) are simply concerned that zie is young and/or inexperienced, that is maybe not their business nor an indication that the relationship is destined to fail.

      Full disclosure: my partner and I met when we were college freshmen (18 years old), got together as sophomores (more or less; see above re: overlapping). He dated one other person before me seriously and a handful casually, I had 3 serious boyfriends during high school and freshman year of college and loads of casual hookups of varying lengths. We are still together now (we’re 34). We just got engaged last year and are getting married next month, more or less as a matter of convenience. So, being young and inexperienced isn’t necessarily a predictor of anything.

      • Leah Jaclyn said:

        Oh for sure, they are definitely different levels of problems, but it did make a difference in their relationship, I am by no means knocking younger relationships, My parents married when they were 20 and 21 and they are still ridiculously happy in their relationship, but in this case it very much was a factor.

        I guess what I am trying to say is that that particular information point doesn’t happen to mean much on it’s own, but when paired with other problems it is something that people tend to think about.

        • Ethyl said:

          For sure, and maybe saying, as others have pointed out, that “you’re too young/inexperienced” is easier for some people than trying to articulate a general feeling of ick or red flaggyness. I just don’t think that “you’re too young/inexperienced” is necessarily a cause for concern in a relationship.

  26. notmyusualname said:

    A story here (that is only tangentially about me):

    One week before my wedding, a friend of my brother’s (a member of his gaming group) got married. While he was waiting for my brother to come down, the guy driving that particular carpool to the wedding went on a self-righteous rant about how horrible and controlling that woman was and how none of the guy’s friends approved of the wedding and how she was going to ruin his life and she was a horrible spouse etc. etc. etc. for about 20 minutes. Why? Because he didn’t hang around with them as much anymore (not not at all, just not most of the time anymore) and she wouldn’t let him go on last-minute stuff with his friends when the two of them already had plans to do things with her family. Aside from the ‘who says this kind of thing about one woman getting married to another RIGHT BEFORE her own wedding’ aspect, it really freaked me out and worried me that maybe my husband’s friends were thinking/saying the same thing about me. Then, of course, I realized that it’s possible (I would say, likely in this case, knowing the person talking) that what was actually going on was that the guy in question’s social life didn’t totally revolve around the gaming group anymore, and carpool-guy resented the hell out of that, and the girl in question probably hadn’t actually done anything more horrible or controlling than setting a couple of boundaries like “please don’t back out of holiday plans with me and my family at the last minute”. I still get that blasted guy’s voice in my head sometimes, though, because it came through to my brain as pre-wedding advice-to-brides of the ‘never ask your husband to prioritize you over his friends ever ever’ variety.

    Whoops, wall-o-text. tl;dr –sometimes it’s about friends resenting that they get less time with the person now that they’re in a relationship with someone outside the group. And being assholes about it.

    I’m not saying that it’s that in this case, but that was the cause of some warnings on the part of those ‘friends’ to slow down or was the guy sure she loved him/was the right one.

  27. Thanks for addressing the public proposal thing, Captain!

    I think I’ll drop my now-standard truthbomb of EMOTIONAL MATURITY IS DIFFERENT AT EVERY AGE here, because it clouds the issue. Your age honestly does not matter; it’s what you’ve done with it, and how you’ve grown from it. There are children younger than you who are larger people in my eyes, and adults whom I wouldn’t trust with an open packet of candy.

    I got engaged when I was….. balls, two Junes ago? 22, or 23, I think? and he was 30-ish. And a Greek Chorus of Nebulous Folk did indeed come out of the woodwork. Of course, at 22 I had been out of college for three years and was financially independent. Is that what matters? Perhaps it is.

    “You’re too young,” the voices said. Well, true. And?

    “DIVORCE,” people howled, “THINK OF DIVORCE STATISTICS.” Well, what of them? So what? Half of all marriages end in divorce, isn’t that how the song goes? I think we can all carry on with our lives regardless – 100% of all relationships end. We might get divorced! We very well might some day; who knows what people we will be when we’ve grown up? We are evolving creatures; life doesn’t stand still for golden rings, or for anyone. Somehow I doubt it will halt the planets in their tracks, or freeze the atoms in their spins. Everyone might get divorced. Everyone might die. Everyone might suddenly turn into birds, or attend graduate school.

    But the surprise marriage proposal does sound a bit immature. If you pulled it on me I would walk out, because I’m not actually a performing monkey, and because some people believe that Mawwaige is Sacwed, which is incompatible with surprise public marriage proposal parties. Although I do know some people for whom it’s worked rather well.
    .
    It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
    I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

    My recommendation is to Google this poem – “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. If everything in that reading is true of you, and true of her, and true of you two together, then you are ready to get married, in the face of all questionable marriage proposals and nebulous voices. Perhaps you will get divorced, or die, and/or/always be very happy together. I wish you every happiness in the process.

    Congratulations and good luck.

  28. Brightwanderer said:

    Oh god, times a million to the public marriage proposal. Trufax: at some ridiculously early point in my relationship with AwesomePartner, I said “Look, this is awkward and way too soon to be bringing up, but I need you to know that I have OPINIONS about engagement and marriage and surprise proposals and unilateral decisions on such things” and he was all “That sounds totally reasonable to me.” That was about the point I was sure I was going to keep him. 🙂

    • Virginia said:

      This echoes my experience too.

      And then when Mr. Dingo Jones asked me to marry him (IN PRIVATE), even though I had brought it up not only first but since then, my response was “WHAT??!?”

      Sigh! So romantic!

  29. Joan of Anon said:

    So these are the opinions of nebulous friends…what are the opinions of close friends? This has obviously given you pause and I understand why – whether I thought anyone saying those things to me were right or not, three people saying them would make me think maybe I was missing something. So it’s time to gather more information.

    I think you should try to talk to people who are close to you, and ask them what their genuine opinion on the marriage is, and if more people think it is a bad idea but just haven’t spoken up, find out why.

    Honestly, my concern is that in my friendship group two people have just got engaged, and it seems like a ridiculous mistake a lot of HUGE reasons, but still none of us have said anything, because it’s their decision and it’s not like their problems are going to be news to either of them. I think (unless your friends are just assholes), it would take something big to make someone criticise a decision like this. I don’t think you’re going to be able to relax about it until you find out what, precisely, their problem is.

  30. Ruth said:

    I’d ignore your Mom and friend 1 on this occasion. It’s likely to be more about them than you. Think about what friend 2 has said, but if it doesn’t ring true then it doesn’t ring true. I agree with what has been said about the party engagement.

    I despise the idea that you can only be called experienced in relationships if this experience was gained from more than one. Is it a backlash against the whole “save yourself” thing? It’s silly. If you’re intending to marry one person, and to have the marriage be monogamous, you only need to know how to live with two people: them and yourself. You only need to know how to have good sex with two people: them and yourself. Maybe experience with others gives you a leg up, but it’s not necessary. (Maybe it will come in handy later, but that doesn’t mean you have to get that experience now, before marrying. Besides, you can always learn with those people, too.)

    And you don’t need to know all of this, or maybe even any of this before you get married. You learn together. You’ll grow and change a lot in your 20s and so will she. You’ll grow and change a lot in your whole life, and so will she. Hopefully you will grow in the same direction, and you’ll always cherish each other the way you do now. But if you don’t, well, that puts you with half of all marriages, so it’s neither a personal failing nor the end of the world.

    Never starting things because everything ends, or never trying anything in case you fail, that’s no way to live life. Avoiding risks we feel too great is a choice we all make, but I don’t think marriage is that risk. I think it’s loving someone else, and that’s not something we control.

    Disclaimer for my sappiness (and cheering anecdote): I got engaged at 20 and married at 22. We moved in together when I was nearly 19. We first had sex when I was 18, it was both of our first times. Our relationship started when I was 17. It wasn’t the path I’d envisioned for myself at all, (well, mainly because he’s a man and I’m approximately 90% lesbian), but I wasn’t going to spite my present self to please my past self, if you see what I mean. (My father voiced doubts at one point, but I’m already halfway to beating his first marriage, and if you count cohabiting-as-married I’ve beat it twice…)

    I also don’t like the assumption that because you are young you don’t understand the value of communication, or that you know nothing about each other, despite living together three years. We talked about whether or not we wanted an exclusive relationship when we started dating. We talked about birth control and pregnancy before we started having sex. We talked about money and housework before we moved in. We talked about marriage before we got engaged (we pretty much got engaged to be engaged. I had a surprise proposal, but this made it a nice surprise, like a christmas present, not a horrible surprise!) Is this really so unusual? I don’t know where I got it from, either, I never had a good example of an adult relationship growing up (though my husband did). When I was a teenager, I used to think marriage was awful, and young marriage especially, because it made you dull and too sensible. But now I’m thinking maybe it’s the other way around, heh!

    Don’t be too disheartened by divorce statistics, either. Saying marriages under 26 are less likely to last means little. Yours isn’t just a marriage under 26, it’s a marriage after 3 years of living together, without any big stress like a baby, needing a visa, or another particular legal benefit (well, not mentioned in your letter, anyway). The reason for marriage seems perfectly sound to me and I doubt your chances are significantly worse than an otherwise identical couple getting married after 26. You’re not rushing into marriage because your parents are restraining you from otherwise having a sexual relationship, for example. Of course, this is no balm against divorce in and of itself, but it is good to not be building on shaky ground.

    Best of luck 🙂

  31. Suzy said:

    This is fab, because I found myself in a similar situation which was made of SUCK. I’m getting married next year to a wonderful man who has been one of my best friends and been a great source of support and love in my life, even before we embarked on a relationship. When I told my friends I was engaged, everyone was really happy for me. Or so I thought.

    I recently received an email from a “concerned friend” who believed that my fiance wasn’t treating me well and cited an example of him teasing me. I wrote back saying that we teased each other regularly, that this was fine and he replied with more of the same examples (some of which I didn’t even remember as they were a year ago) and made some very offensive comments about how my fiance appeared to be possessive and controlling in the way he put his arm around me, a long with a lot of very disturbing comments about how he had been “watching his behaviour to me for years.”

    This harassment continued over the course of two days where he wouldn’t actually let it go, and then finally came to a head in him
    1. emailing a link of signs of abuse and said that if I couldn’t tick one box he would respect my decision.
    2. this was followed by him deciding to then email my fiance behind my back about his “concerns”. (mainly because I think he didn’t like the fact that I was still disagreeing with him)

    We are no longer friends becuase of this. A close friend who I had known since 2003, all through college and the ups and downs of the Real World.

    Only you can know what your relationship is like and really no one else is qualified. If they’re concerned, then fair enough but if they respect you they should back off. If they can’t, well then they deserve to Eat a Bag of Dicks. (If i may coin a phrase from the good captain!)

    • a long with a lot of very disturbing comments about how he had been “watching his behaviour to me for years.”

      WELL.

      I’m – I’m really glad you’re not friends with this character any more, and I say this as someone who was also once friends with That Guy. It’s funny how the alarm bells/red flag parade shows up when you see it in someone else’s story, and you’re all OH GOD GET AWAY GET AWAY RUN RUN RUN, and yet in your own life it can be pretty difficult to close the book on a “close friend.”

      Congratulations and good luck ❤

    • Ethyl said:

      Wow. That’s scary and weird. I am glad you are getting past it.

    • “watching his behaviour to me for years.”

      deciding to then email my fiance behind my back about his “concerns”

      Yeesh. Talk about possessive and controlling.

  32. Mris said:

    I have to say I’m surprised. Nobody here is going, wait, what? When is it okay to call people, “STUPID” for their relationship choices? Nobody here is going, “since when does it work well to propose, de-propose, move out, and try to have a ‘traditional dating relationship'”? Everybody is focused on, “Well, how old are you”?

    LW, if you’re not ready, you’re not ready. Starting when I was about 11 so that it wasn’t talking about a specific guy, my mother always said that it was easier to cancel a reception hall and a cake than to go through a divorce. Give it a good think and be honest with yourself about your goals, your values, and how marriage to this person on the time frame you’re discussing ties in with them both.

    But. Generally when people cannot take the time to put their advice in non-insulting-all-caps terms, that’s not the best time to think, “What a rational person who has my best interests in mind. I will definitely shape major life decisions around their all-cappiness.” Friend1’s scenario also does not look like this is a person who is in touch with reality very well. I can’t imagine that very many of the other commenters would react well to receiving a marriage proposal, accepting that proposal, having the other person withdraw the proposal, and having the other person insist that one of the parties move out of the home they had shared for three years–so that they could fulfill their once-and-maybe-future fiance’s buddy’s notion of having a traditional dating relationship? Really? Under what circumstances is *that* reasonable?

    If *you* think this through and decide that what you need is blah blah whatever–to call off the engagement, to make it a long engagement, to break up completely, to move to Menomonee Falls and change your name to Sven–all the best to you. But just as the “you’re too young” thing was apparently sending up red flags for other people, “traditional dating relationship” started my klaxons going. There are times when a “traditional” dating relationship is a ship that has almost certainly sailed and is someone’s personal hobbyhorse (hello, mixed metaphor!), and three years into living together plus one engagement is one of the times when you really can’t rely on the other person to say, “Oh, let’s go have a traditional dating relationship for whatever that means to your buddy Clyde? Great, I’ll pack up my half of the towels!” It did *not* look to me like the “you should spend your twenties drinking and sleeping with random people” advice because it was a traditional dating relationship *with her*–which implied to me that the emphasis was on *traditional* in a very different way.

    So to me it looked like one insulting yeller, one person with a hobbyhorse to ride about what relationship patterns *should* look like, and one person with concerns. So you consider the concerns. Do you feel loved when you’re with your fiancee? Do you feel loved when you’re apart? Do the people who actually know both of you, not just you, seem to treat your relationship as solid? Do you like who you are as your fiancee’s partner, and do you like the side of her you bring out? Do you think you can help her be who she wants to be in the future, and do you think she will help you be who you want to be? And when I listed the above set of things, did breaking up completely make you think, “Well, *that’s* not what I want”–and if so, was it because you wanted to be with *her*, not because you were afraid of never meeting someone else or being alone? That’s a lot more to the point than whether one of your buddies has a thing about under what circumstances your living quarters and dating circumstances took place, or whether mom (your mom, right? not a friend’s mom?) went into Stupid Kid Mode. If your friends don’t have concrete objections (“I don’t think she loves you because she did x, y, and z that were not very loving and respectful things”), then their objections are as good as the questions they prompt you to ask yourself. And sometimes the answers you get from those questions add up to no, you don’t actually want to marry this person right now. Sometimes they add up to yes, you do. Sometimes they add up to keeping the engagement long. But you are where you are now, regardless of whether you’re 21, 31, 41, 81. You move forward from where you are now. You make the best decisions you can from where you are now. That’s all we ever do, at any age.

    • RodeoBob said:

      When is it okay to call people, “STUPID” for their relationship choices?

      There is a whole world of difference between saying “you are stupid for this relationship choice” and “this decision is a stupid one”.
      Reading what the LW wrote, it’s the latter and not the former.

      Nobody here is going, “since when does it work well to propose, de-propose, move out, and try to have a ‘traditional dating relationship’”?

      You know what? Nobody’s saying “Hey, that sounds like a great idea!” either. Find me anyone in this thread saying “gee whiz, yeah, break off the engagement!”

      What folks are saying is “your friends are expressing concerns”. They’re expressing their concerns badly, but rather than attack the suggestions, we’re trying to address the underlying sentiment.

      The lack of detail in the letter means we don’t know enough to dismiss these folks out-of-hand; without context or detail, it’s hard to tell the difference between a boundary-crossing jerk and a compassionate friend acting in your best interests.

      Everybody is focused on, “Well, how old are you”?

      The LW didn’t tell us their age, but they did say that two of the people who objected to the engagement mentioned the LW experience. Experience is largely (but not exclusively) a function of age, and if the LW is old (and thus, presumably, experienced) than those objections are more easily dismissed as boundary-crossing busybodies. If the LW is young and/or inexperienced, then there may be something more than co-incidence to multiple objections all along the same lines.

      Friend1′s scenario also does not look like this is a person who is in touch with reality very well.

      Woah! Easy on the arm-chair diagnosis. Remember, we do not know much about the situation. The LW says they’ve been “living with” their girlfriend for three years, but we don’t know if that means “with roommates” or “paying rent” or “in someone else’s home” or “at the same Bible College dormitories”.

      • Woah! Easy on the arm-chair diagnosis.
        Meh, I don’t think that’s necessarily armchair diagnosing. No matter what the circumstances are, the LW and his fiancee have lived together for three years. You can’t just erase three years of intimacy and committment, and suggesting that someone do so is…well, not the most reality-based suggestion.

        Also, the mom’s advice may not have directly called the LW stupid, but it was INCREDIBLY condescending: “You don’t have enough life experience yet. It’s STUPID [all caps] to get married before you’ve spent some time out on your own…” She’s not raising a concern–she’s saying that she knows better than he does about his own life. Which is immature, disrespectful, and barely worthy of consideration.

        The only concern that sounds potentially reasonable is the third one (friend #2). That one’s worrisome, and it would be worth a gut-check for the LW to decide whether there’s a grain of truth to it.

    • Mris said:

      (Please note the timing of this. It got caught in moderation for awhile. By the time it actually posted, more people were saying things other than, “Well, if you’re really young….” I was relieved.)

  33. I have expressed concerns a few times.

    In one case, I identified a problem and asked them to take Action A before the wedding. They chose not to. That problem has been a real and persistent problem, although they are generally happily married. You can listen to someone’s concerns and act to mitigate them while still going through with the wedding!

    In another case, the engagement came very quickly after the first date, and the wedding pretty quick after that. I expressed deep misgivings. I am still worried about them; it’s not a year yet, and it’s too soon to tell how it will be. I hope for the best.

    I have other friends who have thought they were mutually head-over-heels and then were divorced within a year or two. Cheating, failure to honestly communicate or negotiate about dealbreakers, failure to understand selves, blinded by expectations, etc…. Some of these people were very young, and some weren’t. I know all kinds of young people who were certain they would be together forever who broke up by 25, due to all kinds of things.

    I also know people who were high school sweethearts and are happily married years and decades later. So, you see the value of anecdata.

    But the important thing is that you’ve got to really know yourself. You’ve got to understand your sexuality, if you can. You’ve got to learn coping skills for handling your most glaring flaws. You’ve got to know how to communicate, for real, about hard stuff. LW, have you talked with your fiance about money? and kids? And where you want to live and what you want to do? And what kinds of vacations you like and what you do when you’re pissed off? Do you know if you want to buy a house or always rent? Have you talked about if either of you wants to stay at home while the other earns the money? Or will you be double incomes? Do you share a religion? Do you share other values? Can you talk about politics? What do you do when you disagree about something very important? Can you have the conversation about “You have pissed me off” and end up in a loving place, even if you’re still pissed off? When you ask each other to make a change, do you each do it? Who’s gonna do the laundry and who’s gonna go grocery shopping? Can you talk to each other about sex, and stuff like enthusiastic consent, and what kind of birth control?

    You can have a wonderful marriage without having good answers for all this stuff, but I believe your odds are better when you’ve considered these things and can communicate freely about them.

    Premarital counselling is a wonderful thing.

  34. karinacinerina said:

    I would think by the time a guy feels ready to propose that he already has a pretty good idea about how his intended feels about marrying him. So the cute-public-showmanship proposals delight me because he’s not going in Hollywood blind “oh god will she actually marry me?” You probably shouldn’t ask someone to marry if you’re not pretty sure you’re already on the same page about that. Maybe LW and fiancee discussed the idea of marriage beforehand as well. I went to a fantastic Harry Potter party where the host proposed to the hostess and it was really special to be a part of that and it wasn’t “oh god he proposed this is a huge decisions” – they had been together for years and sound like this LW and his new bride.

    I wouldn’t think a huge proposal would be a massive amount of pressure on the woman, in that situation. If my fella pulled out some creative stops I would be touched by the effort and the friends’ complicit involvement and implicit shared excitement at being part of our Next Step. This LW sounded like a small intimate party of friends who would love to be part of that moment. I was “part of” a friend’s surprise proposal via Tumblr – she was Tumbling their day at the zoo, he Tumblr’d the ring in his pocket. We all knew they were going to be married after they were together 6 months, so it was hardly a public awkward coercion!

    LW, I definitely think asking the Nebulous Doubters (best emo band name ever) what their specific concerns are would be a good place to start. You don’t say how old you are, but if you have been living together for 3 years you’re probably not 18. I am surprised at ND#2’s “move out and start over with her” since clearly you have functioned fine as cohabitating adults all this time. Plenty of people think they know how things “should” go and you are the one living your life. If you have niggling doubts in the back of your head, look into the comments. If these people aren’t even around you guys as a couple, I would ignore it.

    If your gut says yes, it knows better than Facebook strangers, or WordPress strangers. If your gut is worried, look into it. I wish you both much happiness!

  35. duaecat said:

    One thing I thought of, can you think of any good reason these people wouldn’t want you getting married?

    For example, my own mother told everyone how horrible and abusive and evil my guy was when we moved in together. How he was controlling me because I wasn’t spending as much time with my family, and he was always there with me. (It certainly wasn’t because my mother was emotionally abusive and my sister physically abusive and he was doing his best to allow me to have safe interactions on my terms)

    Are your friends happily married? Or single? Are they of the type to be attracted to you or her? There’s a big difference between a single/dating friend, and a Married Friend. They could worry that when the ring goes on you’ll go from being the friend they can hang around with and fart, to having a house, worrying about the yard, and potentially having a herd of kids that eat your brain and turn you into someone who’s more interested in diaper rash than the hobbies you used to share with them.

    I think the most important thing is to ignore the naysayers and focus on your fiancee. Communicate. You two know each other best. And when you get right down to it, on a personal level, marriage is just dating with more paperwork.You’re already living together, what’s really going to change? I was visiting some friends once and they asked me “Mind going with us to the courthouse?” “Uh, don’t mind, why?” “It’s getting closer to tax season, so we’re getting married today.” “Oh, ok, cool” So I hopped in their car, we picked up his sister, went to the courthouse, signed the paperwork, went back to their place and continued the visit like nothing had happened. Just because marriage is portrayed as this Huge Lifechanging Event, doesn’t mean it has to be!

  36. I also have a huge hatred of the Surprise! Proposal. Especially the Public Surprise! Proposal. Ugh ugh ugh.

    My girlfriend and I talked for months about getting married, and were agreed that we would. I had said that I wanted to be the one to propose, and then I asked her lots of questions about what she wanted that to look like. Did she want anyone in particular around? No, in fact, she wanted nobody at all there, for us to be alone. Did she want me to go down on one knee and be all traditionally romantic? She very shyly said that maybe she did. What was important to her? And on and on and on. And I put together a proposal plan that was incredibly us, and very romantic, and she was very happy, and I still managed to surprise her (pleasantly). (She had figured out early on what I was planning, and I managed to convince her that that wasn’t at all what I was doing, basically.) I didn’t force the time we did it, even though I had a specific day picked out, and almost had to move it because it was a bad day (but she said she’d still like to go do it).

    Putting someone on the spot with a surprise proposal, especially in front of friends, is a horrible and manipulative thing to do. It makes it almost impossible for the person being proposed to to say anything BUT “yes.” Ew.

  37. Crass said:

    Eh, it’s hard to know from the letter whether there’s any true cause for concern. My parents married young and split before I was 5 years old. I married at 21 (my husband was 27) and it will be our 25th wedding anniversary in January 2013. He’s away working in Darwin at present and I miss him every day, and we call each other just to say “I love you – can’t wait until we’re together again.” He’s been the greatest source of happiness in my life with only my children coming close. So it depends on the people. All of my family hated him (for no good reason apart from the fact he made me feel good about myself, when they liked nothing more than to undermine my self-esteem). A number of them expressed faux-concern when we got engaged and only my father and one of my sisters attended my wedding. So, I don’t have contact with them any more.

  38. Loro said:

    LW, you need to give more information. Information about your relationship and whether YOU think is healthy, and what your fiancee thinks of the engagement and the surprise proposal, and whether you are close to your mum and these friends, or not.

    It’s impossible for us to know otherwise. All the best, I wish you happiness whatever you do 🙂

  39. unagi said:

    Lots of excellent advice here which I won’t repeat. Just a small cautionary tale. A friend of mine was recently ripped off, very badly, of all the materials needed for her trade. This is very painful, very disruptive to her life, and I feel for her.

    BUT!! I had to tell her afterwards that I know of at least 3 other friends of hers, good friends who she knows love her truly, who expressed strong disapproval of this person, who said they did not want to see them together so as not to have any contact with her at all. In fact I myself had gone to some length to be very specific about behavior that made me feel unsafe. On further investigation, my friend found out that the perpetrator had done the exact same thing to several others she knew, including 2 close to some of the other resisting friends. Easily verifiable facts, if one was in a mood to verify anything. But she decided that we were wrong, being narrow-minded, being unfair, and that Perp needed her help to overcome that, poor lonely thing. She would not Listen To Gossip. She would be a Good Kind Person (which she is, truly, don’t get me wrong). In so doing, she deprived herself of the protective benefits of a circle of friends.

    A friend is many good things. But a really good friend is the one who’ll occasionally take the risk to tell you when they think you’re on the wrong path (as tactfully as possible :-)). To me 3 people explicitly objecting to a wedding is 3 times more than you’d ever, ever expect. That does sound a warning bell. I’m not saying they’re right, and you don’t know better, and you may not be happy with this girl for the rest of your life, statistics are 100% wrong when they don’t apply to you. I’m just saying that you should take heed, and carefully investigate what your friends think is wrong, taking care not to be defensive so they can be articulate. Think it over, as everyone has pointed out a broken engagement is a mess but a divorce is a real waste.

  40. Julie said:

    On the public proposal thing: When I was a grad student and teaching, I had one of my students (who worked as the school mascot) propose to another of my students (head cheerleader!) during the halftime show at Homecoming. She said yes on the Jumbotron, and the story ran in the paper, and she later very quietly said no. It was a graceful response to a very uncool situation.

    I also have a dear friend whose boyfriend proposed to her in the Mall of America, with all of their family looking on. He was dressed as a knight, and his best friend was dressed as a dragon, and the knight slew the dragon and got down on one knee for the princess. I wish I was making this up.

    Interestingly, she did ask me if she should marry him, and I told her the truth as I saw it (no, because she’d already been cheating on him and he didn’t make her sparkle). She didn’t speak to me for a week, but I was still a bridesmaid and we stayed close. It probably helped that I answered her direct question but didn’t bring it up again. We did talk about that after the divorce.

    • unagi said:

      Really, I don’t like to be so prejudiced, but if Princess Charming in person pulled a surprise public proposal on me I’d just say no, no thinking needed. That says so much about what is deeply wrong with a relationship, and how it can only go more wrong..

  41. absinthe_robette said:

    Hi LW congrats on your engagement! I’m sorry you have this annoyance in your way of enjoying the moment.

    I apologise if this has already been mentioned, but I wonder if your family and friends may suffer from a problem that is common in my family, which I don’t have a good name for but is like compulsive-pointing-out-the-alternative. The person seems to have a big anxiety that ‘what if they pursue Y and I didn’t tell them about X… then I will be responsible for all that happens to them because I didn’t warn them…’ And this worry seems to carry on whether on not X is very likely or very rare; and whether the potential problems of X are blatantly obvious, or very well hidden.

    So, what are the ways around this annoying and unhelpful behaviour? Sometimes you can jolt someone out of it by asking ‘what is the worst that could happen’ and then they realise they are getting worried about nothing. Or sometimes you just have to go ahead with what you believe is right, resting assured that in time they will realise that your life turned out fine, and they can relax.

    Good luck!

  42. Agnes said:

    Relevant to the Captain’s distrust of public proposals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtPkxzHKLpk

    It is exactly as awful as turning down a public proposal would be. (Apparently this really stuck with me, because I think I saw it YEARS ago.)

    • JenniferP said:

      BRUTAL. Especially when the mascot walks the guy off with its arm around his shoulder.

    • Oh that’s just awful. That poor girl! The whole place was booing her! Like it’s her job to be all happy about it?

      I hate hate hate surprise proposals. Gah.

  43. Christine said:

    Whilst discussing engagement with my friends I have had conflicting opinions; from one side I get the “you’ve been dating for 4 years, we expected you guys to be hitched by now so do it already!” from my ex-school friends and the “you realise marriage is a legal obligation etc. if you get divorced you guys have to split half of everything.” from mentor-role friends/family, possibly to do with the fact that I will be earning more money than my partner.

    You have to sort of see where they’re coming from.
    Most of the people who seem to be against it in my situation are ones who are considering any repercussions of getting married in general, not really to whom I’m getting married too.

  44. Commander Banana said:

    So, about six months ago I got LASIK. I’ve had horrible vision my entire life and was super excited about getting it. Because I had to wear glasses the month before surgery (normally I wore contacts), a lot of people who had never seen me wear glasses before asked me what the deal was, and when I told them I was getting LASIK, the first thing out of their mouth was something like “oh, I knew a guy who got that, AND WENT BLIND” or “wow, I wouldn’t want lasers IN MY EYE” or “god, that sounds so RISKY.”

    Which put me in the really irritating place of having to 1) defend my decision (about which I was, justifiably, nervous) and 2) explain how the one random friend-of-a-friend-of-whomever going blind wasn’t enough to dissuade me from getting surgery I really wanted at a center that had treated approximately fifty bazillion people with very low rates of complication.

    My point being, sometimes people can’t resist the urge to shit all over stuff. I don’t know why. There may be Reasons these people are expressing doubt about the LW getting engaged, but the LW hasn’t said that there are any warning flags in his relationship.

    My surgery went fine, BTW. I’d advise the LW to ask himself if there are any red flags (and I think if there were any issues he’d have mentioned them) and if not, just tell those folks thanks ever so much for their opinion, but you’ll be ignoring it.

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