Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DEAR ESB: my boyfriend won't get married until EVERYONE can get married

i have been dating my lovely boyfriend for almost three years now. we have a happy, wonderful relationship and talk often of our future together. we are both 22 and now that we are out of college and living together we have started to discuss the idea of marriage. however, he doesn't want to get married until everyone in the US can marry the person of their choosing. i agree that it is incredibly backward and unfair that many people in our country cannot marry their partners simply because they happen to be of the same sex. but while his strong convictions are one of the reasons i love him so much, i feel kind of differently about it. i want to get married! not now, but i'm also not sure if i want to wait until our country wakes up and allows everyone to marry freely. so, what do i do? what do you think?



Obviously, every human person should have the right to marry whomever he or she chooses. But I don't think that's the issue at stake here.

You're twenty-two. Way too young to get married. You and your boyfriend should be traveling the world together, working your asses off in your respective jobs, breaking up and getting back together again* and figuring your shit out. What's the rush?

It sounds to me like your boyfriend is hiding behind his political convictions because he's afraid to tell you he's not ready. When he wants to marry you, he will marry you, whether we happen to be living in a democratic utopia or under a right-wing dictatorship. 

*Or not. My college boyfriend was an absolute doll, but I'm glad I'm not married to him.

(Photo of January Jones and Jon Hamm by Annie Leibovitz courtesy of Vanity Fair. EDIT: How stoked am I that Mad Men starts up again on Sunday? STOKED.**)

**Update: I am not that stoked for reruns. WHEN IS SEASON FOUR GONNA AIR?**


  1. I just about had a shitfit when I read your note about Mad Men starting again on Sunday, because my husband and I chucked the cable when we moved, with the specific intention of re-subscribing this summer when the 4th season starts. I thought I'd missed some massive announcement about it making an early return! But now I see what you're talking about: Season 3 encores!

  2. yesssssssssssss! on all accounts.

  3. Yay mad men. I have to agree with ESB on this one. 22? Way too young. With that being said, from how he sounds your boyfriend seems like a pretty good catch. Nothing wrong with hanging out for a few years, evolving, growing, and then seeing if you two still see eye to eye. Although I wish I had met my husband when I was younger, I am incredibly grateful that I waited until I did meet him. Just enjoy this time--it is awesome!
    Emily :)

  4. a: esb said what i was thinking as i read your email.

  5. ...except for the "too young" part. just the "hiding behind politics" part.

  6. as i was reading a's letter, i was thinking, "am i officially old because i think 22 is way too young to be worried about getting married?". thank god you agreed :)

    no rush a -- if it's meant to be... it will be.

    and... i had no idea mad men started again sunday!!! ah!

  7. I don't think it's that unbelieveable that someone wouldn't want to get married until that right has been extended to everyone. For a lot of people, the personal is political. It's certainly not unheard of for someone to boycott unjust institutions (like marriage). Maybe you are too young, but that's beside the point. Lots of people have privileges that they don't want to exploit - seems like your (compassionate and justice-loving) boyfriend is among them.

  8. thank you for this. some of us do indeed need to do that mid-twenties breaking up, getting back together, working out their shit thing.

  9. i really wish you hadnt totally disregarded his political views. hey, maybe they are a front for a lack of committment, and maybe she is too young to be married, but you dont know that - its just as reasonable that he really believes in equality (as so many people do) and that should be respected.

  10. i hate to tell anyone what the appropriate age is to get married, but if mas and i had done it at the not so ripe old age of 22 (after we had been together for nearly 5 years) i'm not sure we would be as happy. i was kind of a bitch/baby at the age of 22 and i don't think that would have made a good bride/wife. enjoy your early 20's with your BOYFRIEND. you have forever to get married.

  11. Hey there...have been a lurker on your site for a while but just had a gut reaction to this post, so I had to comment.

    Although I agree that the boy is probably hiding behind his political views instead of saying he isn't ready and would take this as a huge red flag (and in turn do some serious reflection, both about myself and the relationship), I disagree about the age thing.

    One of the joys of being married is knowing that you always have someone in your corner, someone who will back you up, encourage to take risks and act as a safe pair of arms to fall back into-the exact sort of thing that would be great to have when you are working your ass off at your job, figuring shit out and planning a future. Everyone needs that kind of unconditional support regardless of their age.

    Yes, tons of marriages fail if the couple are too young...but tons fail when the peeps are older too.

    My parents got married when they were 19 and they are madly in fiance's parents got married when they were in their 30s and they were divorced 5 years later. I think it has nothing to do with age.

  12. Trust me, A - take your time. You will absolutely thank yourself for putting this topic on ice for 3-5 years and revisting it after you and your boyfriend have taken some time to get to know your post-college selves.

  13. Keep discussing. You have plenty of time.

    And generally, a boycott of this sort is unproductive. Put money, energy, letter writing skills, etc towards the cause. But the political/personal statement you make by refusing to get married until we have marriage equality does not really impact marriage, as an institution. That doesn't mean it isn't a reasonable stance to take, as a show of support, it just means you aren't necessarily making a tangible contribution.

    So maybe ask if it's just a moral show of support or if he might be amenable to making bigger changes that have a bigger effect? i.e. When/if you do get married, select vendors that enthusiastically support all marriages, make purchases from corporations that treat LGBT workers equally (see the report here), join the white knots campaign as a visual reminder on your day.

    Dollars talk big, in my opinion.

  14. It's not that 22 is too young for everyone, just a lot of people. So say you're one of those couples that isn't too young to really know this is right and have worked through the ramifications of forever... it'll still be right in 3, 5 or however many years. Forever's a big scary thing full of compromises and late night hospital visits and finances and Big Decisions. I vote with enjoy each other now, give your boyfriend time to wrap his brain around forever, spend some time talking about it a few years down to road, and see if you're on the same page then. The "I refuse to get married" thing has mostly been an "I'm not ready" thing with my friends, who bend their principles for a commitment to right partner/right time.

  15. I agree with esb that the issue might be that he's not ready to be married at 22. BUT. Nobody works the same way, and I think that different people are ready to get married at different ages... just like everyone is ready for things on their own timeline. I was married at 21. But that was me.

  16. I just wanted to respond to Rachel's comment that "a boycott of this sort is unproductive."

    While I recognize that a straight couple's boycott of marriage isn't getting any bills passed in Congress, I don't think that hiring an lgbt-friendly florist gets any bills passed either. I know that my sister, whose consitutional right to get married is not recognized where we live, finds it wholly "productive" that many of her straight friends (and I) will elect not to get married until she can as well.

    "Productive" is a subjective concept. I'm not sure that supporting any particular lgbt-friendly photographer is exacting making a "tangible contribution" to anything (besides that particular photographer).

  17. I think the attack on how young she is is sort of un called for. I mean, I agree that there is no rush but one can travel the world and be married, no?
    She even says she doesn't want to get married right away, but I think the issue is more of how painfully long it could take our country to shape up. Which could be never. So should someone who wants to be married (one day) stay with someone who doesn't (ever)?

  18. PLEASE wait! For the sake of everyone attending our wedding.. no one wants to listen to the lame ass speeches your young friends come up with ' remember that one party that you two were wasted and hooked up? thats when i knew that you'd get married someday, the way he held your hair..' blah blah blah!!!

    and i really need to get on this mad men kick..

  19. I'm 22 and getting married this summer. That being said, I might be a little biased. I agree with what A Los Angeles Love said about it: 22 is too young for some people. Not all people.

    Also, my partner and I had the discussion about not getting married until everyone can, and it was an important one. I wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of getting married for that very reason, but we talked through it and worked it out in a way that suited us. Rather than shutting down the conversation or blaming it on something else, I would encourage this woman to ask questions and explore her boyfriend's point of view. That being said, I think it's also a good idea to explore the possibility that the boyfriend is hiding behind his political convictions. Maybe that's exactly what's going on. The more well-thought out his convictions, the less I would suspect that.

    And I think Roxanne raises a really good question.

    Thanks for prompting the conversation, ESB.

  20. Like many, I disagree that 22 is too young to get married. But by the sounds of it, your boyfriend isn't ready to get married. Whether that has to do with age, politics, or anything else, I say wait. If it's the right time for the two of you to get engaged, you shouldn't have to talk him into it. Like ESB said, when he wants to marry you, he will.

  21. The right out of college part is what caught me. For relationships, once you graduate from college the next logical step seams to be to get married. Don't fall into that trap. I think you guys are on the right track about talking about marriage. But don't get married because you think it is the next logical step. I agree with esb about enjoying your time together.

    Also, I like his passion for waiting for everyone to have the right to marry. But it does kind of seam like he just wants time. If he keeps this up I say keep dating him but move out.

  22. MAYBE, what your dear reader should do is ASK her boyfriend if it is because he is not ready. It doesn't seem like she's ready right now either and if she wants to marry this guy, she should be able to have open, honest, and frank conversations with him. With age does not come maturity. I know lots of 32 year olds who aren't ready to be married either.

    I'm 24 and will be married in 4 months...we've already done the "dick around and break up with eachother" thing and now we own a house so we're about as married as we'll ever be I just want to make it legal.

    @JOY- I am a bit offended by your generalizations of my peers. Not ONE of my friends would stand up and talk about drunken nights at anyones wedding...

    I think my whole point is that generalizations are NEVER OKAY and the "age argument" should be avoided at all costs. If you're 19 or if you're 30 and you know that you want to be with that person forever why not make that leap? I say f*ck the judges and do what you want because YOU'RE the one that has to pay the consequences, not them.

  23. Ok, so I have to admit that the mister and I were very ambivalent about marriage as an institution, and we both agreed that we would not have gotten married in a country where it was still so explicitly discriminatory. So I DO think that it is valid to have that opinion, and one is not necessarily being insincere when they say that.

    BUT I will also say that it's way easier to say stuff like that when it's hypothetical. When the mister and I got together, we were both staunchly anti-marriage in general. We have lots of friends like this too. Only when we somehow (unbeknowst to us!) became ready for marriage, did our feelings about it become considerably less black and white. What someone says their opinion is re: something hypothetical, vs. something very immediately relevant, can be totally different.

    All that to say: A., you say yourself that you don't need to get married right now, it's just bugging you that he is talking this way. My advice is: DON'T WORRY and enjoy your relationship. How he talks when this is far in the future and how he'll talk when you guys are more ready for that kind of commitment will be totally different. Neither the mister nor I EVER would have thought we'd warm towards the idea of marriage. It's really easy to hate it when it's an abstract concept.

    I can't tell you if you're "too young" but whatever you are--you're young! So don't worry that right now y'all are not ready!

  24. @anon - You're right - what we consider "productive" is subjective. But I do think that supporting vendors that believe in marriage equality can have a trickle down effect in your community, as can supporting businesses that provide equality in the workplace. I'm definitely not against the marriage boycott, if it's what you feel you need to do.

    Basically, what I was saying is that there are different ways of showing support for marriage equality and if one partner really wants to get married, it's worth discussing other ways (besides a marriage boycott) to show that support. Unless both people are on the same page with the boycott, there is going to have be some sort of compromise.

    And personally, I'll always choose to vote with my dollars (and do plenty of letter writing). It just makes sense to me that if you are going to spend money anyways (especially one something as big and personal as a wedding) you might as well be using it to support like minded people or business practices you approve of.

  25. the personally "productive" argument doesn't hold water for me, anon; i'm not sure how respecting gay loved ones' feelings necessitates avoiding marriage. how does your abstinence benefit them? it doesn't give them much credit, in fact, as one would assume they would be able to be happy on your behalf on your wedding day, what with loving you and all.

    marriage, as rachel pointed out, is a rather awkward thing to try to boycott: it's an institution in a sociological sense, not in a concrete, well-they-won't-get-MY-business-again sense. in many states gay couples now have a really miserable time with adoption; what would you say to someone who decided to abstain from adopting children until everyone could?

  26. i guess i'm curious as to why 'a' want's to get married so bad... what's the rush ? is she knocked up ? if not, does she want to be ? does she want his insurance or a tax break (totally legit, in my opinion... ) ? parental pressure ?

    'a', i'm not going to tell you that you are too young to get married, but i will say that for everything, there is a season. if your fella doesn't want to tie the knot, maybe it's time to reevaluate either your expectations or your relationship. marriage is a lifelong agreement between TWO parties, after all.

  27. by the way, 'a', my boyfriend an i have been together for quite a while ... ( *I* am the one dragging my heels about marriage !) and we find a reason to make it work every single day.

    this does not have to be a death knell for your relationship by any means.

  28. OMFG!

  29. I just totally freaked out about mad men thinking its season 4!!!!!! Woo hoo!!!!!!

    ah NO.

  30. Ok, I'm not sure I'm with ESB on the age thing (that really varies, I know someone who's initials are P&P that got married young and awesome) BUT. If he really feels that way you can still get married (Duh! Gay couples get married all the time!) but not sign your civil certificate. You lose out on rights and tax breaks, but he gets to stand by his convictions (if you're cool with that). I was really really sad when I signed my civil certificate in front of married lesbian friends who couldn't. Really sad.

    That said, I think that our marriage was a more powerful part of the fight than abstaining ever could have been. So. There is that.

  31. I'm falling in the wait camp on this one too. I can sympathize with your frustration (if that's what it is...?) of one side being more ready than another. But I think this will all be way less frustrating if/when you decide that the right time to get married is when you're both good and ready. It will mean so much more that way. Plus, trying to convince a guy that he's ready to get married when he's not doesn't sound like too much fun.

  32. Obviously each person and each couple is different and you need to marry only when both are ready and not before, but as others have said, I whole-heartedly disagree that 22 is inherently too young. Besides, she's already said she wants to wait so I'm not sure why the "too young" card is being played. Even if you plan to wait, there's no harm in "starting to discuss the idea of marriage." In fact, that sounds like a good and healthy plan.

    Admittedly, I'm from the south (Yeehaw, Texas) so getting married young is commonplace here, but it works for a lot of folks (and certainly doesn't work for many - just as getting married at any age doesn't work out in the end for many). My husband and I married when I was 20 and he was 28 and it works for us.

  33. I'm really frustrated with the age related "slams." I was married at 22 and, while it still remains to be seen if we're going to end up as a statistic, I can't really complain and neither can our nearest and dearest. Traveling the world together with you boyfriend sounds great, but so does having adventures with your f*ing husband. Please tell me, ESB, that you haven't failed to have adventures with your partner in crime just because you got hitched? Or did matrimony put the kabosh on it all and now you're old and boring and crusty? Come on, girl.

    I'd like to think that anyone bashing her for being 22 and wanting to get hitched actually remembers being 22 and getting irritated when people judged you for the choices you made. And you either replied or thought, "F* you, I'm old enough to make my own decisions." And dammit, you are.

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. i seriously almost just FREAKED OUT as well thinking that mad men started again this week. don't toy wtih me ESB! i can't wait.

    (i also just had to enlarge that photo so i could stare at jon hamm a little more closely. MMMM)

    and i think the age thing depends on the person and the couple and theyre relationship. some people get married right out of college - or hell, IN college - and everything is great. some people wait til their 30s and are divorced within a year. its totally dependent on the individual circumstance.

    i dated my fiance all thru college - from month #2. we're getting married in october, 3 yrs after graduating. so a grand total of 7 yrs. i didn't want to get married right after because i was figuring out my job situation, he was going to law school, etc. wanted to see how we did in the Real World, which is obviously a very different beast from the insulated fun of college life.

    but. to each his own!

  36. i was about to write, hells yes, and make a stupid joke about how at 22, i would have puked on my wedding dress and flirted shamelessly with the best man. but then i read all these passionate comments from 22-year-olds who really feel they're ready for marriage, and i realized i'm just really immature. (i also was really anti-marriage in my early 20s and didn't understand why people wanted to do it so badly, and most people i know don't get married until they hit 29 or 30 anyway, so this thread opened my mind a little bit.)
    that said, and i know people will hate me for this...if my now 22-year-old sister tried that shit, i'd slap her upside her head and tell her to go buy a eurorail pass.
    ps. wow - practical shmactical, you're like doogie howser. that's really cool.

  37. Season 4 will likely air in the late-summer, ESB. In seasons past, the premiere has been in July-August, if I remember correctly. Mad Men is a pretty big deal around our house. Glad you're a fan, too!

  38. The best support your boyfriend can give to the cause of gay marriage rights is to become politically active? Is he doing anything other than boycotting marriage to make an active change in the laws? Is he writing letters? Marching in rallies? Meeting with his local law makers? If all he's doing is this boycott then it's likely he's just making excuses (even if he believes them).

    I would say make sure your wishes are known by him. Make sure he knows you WANT to get married SOMEDAY....and that it's important to you. Stay together and enjoy each will all work out for the best as long as you both give constant updates about your needs and feelings.

  39. I think the most important part of ESB's advice was "when he wants to marry you, he will marry you." Whether his reasons are political, age related, or of the cold-footed variety, it sounds like A needs to tell her partner how important the possibility of marriage is to her

  40. i wouldnt say 22 is too young in general.
    everyone is different.
    but i totally agree in the following:
    THERE IS NO RUSH, (impatience kills everything)
    if your relationship feels great right now, just enjoy it!
    everything will come togethter and there is the right timing for
    and now: you heard esb: travel the world together!

  41. At 22, I was madly in love with my boyfriend, but so scared of commitment that I couldn't even fathom the idea of marriage. The summer I turned 25, I had a quarter-life crisis freak out and broke up with aforementioned boyfriend. We were split for 3 months, I realized what an idiot I was being and now we're engaged. I respect you for being able to know what you want at your age.

    Point being, everyone's relationships are different. You're the only one who knows what's right for you.
    And take it from a commitment-phobe. Don't rush the poor guy. But DO talk openly and honestly about your future.
    If for some reason you can't do this, then you probably shouldn't get married.

    And props to both of you for being so open-minded. A majority of my friends are gay and living in the deep south, I feel constantly on the defensive, trying to take up for my friends as much as possible.
    I was recently at a funeral where the preacher actually said "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," and then looked at me with my jaw dropped and told me to, "Get a life."
    Ignorance is everywhere. And this problem won't go away soon.

    Be proactive. Talk to your man about the future. Sorry I'm rambling, so much to say, can't seem to get it in order.

    Good luck.

  42. I can't actually remember who I was dating at 22.

    That said, were 22. Or 21?

  43. God.

    So. I don’t think anyone is “…brushing off someone for wanting to marry […] because of their age.” I think most people are suggesting she take her time. If he’s “the one” – there’s no rush.

    While it’s impressive that Practical, Shmactical has traveled the world, been out of high school for ten glorious years (ps. I did the math, and it didn’t add up – you graduated at 13?), finished college, founded a company, is searching for a home and is more than ready to get married…

    …I too had traveled the world, lived on my own since 16, been to college, founded a company, been with a partner for 6 years, and was looking to buy a home. None of that meant I was ready to get married at 22. I thought I was. But I wasn’t.

    Maybe a is. Maybe she isn't.

    Please... Live, grow, experience, explore… if he’s the one, there’s lots of time to get married.

  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

  45. Um, could we get back to asking the original question, rather than judging her age? If she were in her late twenties, or her thirties or forties, we would be talking about marriage and how we use it in society.

    I think that holding off on marriage until everyone is able to marry is a noble endeavour. I can't help but think, though, whether that means that that person should also wait until gay marriage is legal in all countries, until it is universally accepted. I guess, my feeling is where do you draw the line? If gay marriage isn't legal in your state, then do you become an activist about it? Or are you going to sit on your hands until the legislation passes, and then get married?

    An alternative, in my mind, is expressing your views about marriage as a civil right in your marriage. We read an excerpt from the ruling on same sex marriage in Mass. at our wedding, as a way of say, YES! We believe in this, and fuck, we are so proud to live in a country that believes in marriage as a civil right. (Even, if it doesn't believe in birth control as foreign aid).

    I don't think this is a cut and dry issue, and I'm not sure if it's one that will be resolved here.

  46. Just throwing this out there: my husband and I are both 22 and for us it works. I feel like we're a lot further along in life than all of our friends, actually we're quite a bit more stable than a lot of 30 year olds we know. Anyway, I agree, 22 is way too young for most people to get married. But I guess we're not "most people." I just want to echo what A Los Angeles Love said... make sure that before you make the decision to get married, you really think about Forever and all the commitments that entails. For us we knew it was the right decision, and the right time, and so far marriage has been exciting and fulfilling and so unlike anything else. It's been amazing. And by the way I don't think it's like you have to choose between marriage/family/home/stability and excitement/adventure/travel/spontaneity. We totally plan on exploring the world together.

  47. Wow, I am really surprised by the number of people who are able to come up with an opinion on whether someone should be thinking about marriage based on little more than their AGE. My partner and I are getting married young (after three years together). A lot of that decision has to do with our spirituality and the decision to not move in together, sleep together, etc. while we are "dating." In our relationship paradigm, dating is something that definitely has a limited shelf life.

    Besides, who really wants to do the whole break up and get back together thing if you don't have to? Not my idea of a good time.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that I think it is kindof foolish to make such uninformed blanket statements such as "22 is way too young." It has worked for countless people, and not worked for countless others. The reasons why people choose to get married AT ALL, nevermind when/how they choose to do it, are complex and deeply personal. A little friendly advice is fine, but judging a total stranger's relationship/maturity based on very limited info? ...not so much?

  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. Well, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Here are some statistics for you:


    [Taken from Barbara Whitehead and David Popenoe's The State of Our Unions (2004). Prepared at Rutgers University for the National Marriage Project. The full text of the study is available here.]

    By now almost everyone has heard that the national divorce rate is close to 50% of all marriages. This is true, but the rate must be interpreted with caution and several important caveats. For many people, the actual chances of divorce are far below 50/50.

    The background characteristics of people entering a marriage have major implications for their risk of divorce. Here are some percentage point decreases in the risk of divorce or separation during the first ten years of marriage, according to various personal and social factors: [a]

    Percent Decrease

    in Risk of Divorce
    Annual income over $50,000 (vs. under $25,000) -30

    Having a baby seven months or more after marriage (vs. before marriage) -24

    Marrying over 25 years of age (vs. under 18) -24

    Own family of origin intact (vs. divorced parents) -14

    Religious affiliation (vs. none) -14

    Some college (vs. high-school dropout) -13

    (full article found @

  50. hi everyone!

    first of all, thanks so much for everyone's input and thank you esb for posting my question.

    i really appreciate everyone's opinion on the matter and after reading your comments i realized that is kind of silly for me to be worrying about this when i personally don't want to be married for several more years.

    i was a little disheartened however, to read that so many people think that he is trying to make excuses for not being ready. we've already agreed that we are too young to get married now. he has very strong ideas about what he thinks is right and when he makes a decision he usually sticks to it (he was a vegetarian for 6 years and has been vegan for 2 years and counting). i guess i was just worried about what to do down the line...when we want to have kids and so on and so forth.

    BUT! what your comments have made me realize is that there is no reason for me to be worried about this now. maybe his ideas will change and maybe they won't (and maybe legislature will change) -we'll just have to see!

    also -it isn't so much a form of protest for my boyfriend -he just honestly doesn't feel right about having the privilege to get married just because he happens to be straight.

    but i appreciate your comments a lot -it is really nice to hear so many varying opinions!

    - a