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26 August 2012

Dealing with the constant "when are you getting married questions." So the bf and I have been together five and a half years and change. He is not ready to get married, which means WE are not ready to get married. But more and more lately there is the constant barrage of questions from people who have no right to ask. Complications after the [More:]

So the guy approving my loan at the bank notice we had a joint account for household expenses and asked if he had popped the question (and offered a line on a deal on a ring when he did). The lady who sold us a suit for his post PhD interviews assumed he was marrying me in the suit. The lady who does my nails and waxing asks regularly.

Complications are that I'm 37 and he's 28 and I have a jobby job and he's still in grad school and looking for a job this year. I've also been married before, 4 years married after 8 years together. I don't want a repeat of the 8 years waiting.

That's relevant cause I'm worried I'm giving off "I want to be married" vibes, and that's why people out of the frigging blue keep asking. If so, what do I do, cause it's distressing me and him both that people keep asking about a "sensitive" subject?

People always ask dumb questions -- I think it's a coincidence that you happen to be hitting a wave of that particular dumb question right now. When you were married, didn't people ask the dumb question of when you were gonna have kids? Just pick a stock answer to use every time: "I'm not old enough yet." "His bigamy case hasn't come to trial yet." whatever. (I'm sure you'll get some good suggestions here.) Just say it over and over, no matter how many times the same person asks, and chalk it up to what we all have to go through in our interactions with others. People may sound like they're interested when they ask this stuff, but really they're not.
posted by JanetLand 26 August | 07:04
It's just natural, at least in the US, for people to assume that after close to 6 years of dating you're planning to get married. That doesn't make the questions any less annoying, especially if it's an issue you're sensitive about. You just have to try to stop caring about the questions and, if you dont mind being a little tough with people, you can try to shut them down with snide comments like "you'll be the first to know!"

People are always going to jump to their own conclusions and there's not a whole lot you can do. I got pregnant then got engaged, and 95% of people assume that the engagement was because I had a "whoops!" pregnancy. We got a lot of comments about it. In actuality, the baby was planned an so was the engagement, in that order, but I just had to stop caring about people's assumptions.
posted by amro 26 August | 07:20
Wow. You've got a lot of angst going on there.

You can't stop people from asking. People ask all sorts of stupid questions, all the time. About everything. They ask parents of twins if they used fertility treatments and parents of adopted kids, "Where'd you get her?". They ask people of different nationalities "What are you?" and on and on. You can't keep other people from being dumb jerks. But I don't think these questions are the problem.

From what you've written, it seems very clear to me that he doesn't want to get married and you do. You're not really being fair or true to yourself by saying that because he's not ready, WE'RE not ready. Your wants and needs are not subservient to or lesser than his are. So you don't have to just accept that because HE doesn't want something, then you can't want it either. You may not be able to have it but you're entitled to want it, and to own that desire. I mean, nowhere did you say "I don't want to get married either." You said, "I don't want a repeat of 8 years waiting".

We've never met and I don't know anything about you other than what I see on this site. But I like you and admire your spirit and creativity and way of expressing ideas so I'm saying this from a place of caring and compassion, as I would say something to a close friend.

It's OK to want to get married. It's OK to want to get married to this guy. But it sounds like that isn't going to happen in the near future or maybe ever. You know what you don't want which is an 8 year wait. (You're more than halfway there). Somehow you have to reconcile those two things. Ask yourself these questions:

1) If things go on indefinitely like this and nothing changes, are you OK with that?

2) Is he comfortable with the status quo but wanting to leave his options about the future open? If so are you truly OK with that?

3) Does marriage stand in the way of his goals somehow? Is he committed to you and a future together or still unsure? If he's still unsure, how much more time are you willing to give him?

4) Are you afraid of ending this and walking away because you've already invested 5 years?

When I was 16 I went to NYC alone to visit a friend and my dad said to me, "Never put yourself in a situation where you're not in control". It's good advice that has really stuck with me. You sound really anxious about things and maybe it's because you feel you're not in control of your destiny. Don't give anyone so much decision making power over you. You get to decide what you want. Not him. It seriously pained me to read what you wrote, that because he isn't ready, we aren't ready. It's fine to want to be married. You are entitled to want what you want and if he doesn't want it too, and is content to continue with the status quo while you twist unhappily in the wind, well, is this really who you want to marry?

I'm an outsider looking in through the small window you provided. So, apologies if all this is way off base or if it offends you in some way. I do wish you well and hope that you find some resolution.

posted by Kangaroo 26 August | 07:51
Sounds like a new nail/wax lady is in order, for starters. Beyond that, I'll agree that people aren't trying to be cruel; they just don't know another person's soft spots when trying to make (what they consider) casual conversation. It bothered me when people asked me if the baby was planned, because it bothered me that anyone would even entertain the notion I'd have an unplanned baby. That's my baggage about life, money, etc., not theirs; it's me being too worried about what other people think. Now it winds me up when people ask when we're having the baby baptized, because it's a controversial topic in our house- but they don't know that; they're just being nice. Don't focus on making all these random people happy; focus on working through whatever the issue is that's making you ultra upset when they ask. Once you feel confident (or close enough), the questions won't bother you so much.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 26 August | 08:17
People asking nosy questions that are none of their business have the right to a smart alec response (much like people asking "when are you going to have kids?"). You can say it in a way that makes it obvious that it's not true, or you can leave them guessing as to whether or not you're serious.

You can say things that are clearly invented, even factually, obviously untrue, like:
* Oh, we're waiting for the next time all the planets are aligned with Andromeda.

* The astrologist suggested that my aura needed some time to cool down its chakras before I get married.

* We think getting married would make it feel like the sex was church-approved and therefore less satisfying. (Or a slightly less racy version, "But then how would we live in sin?")

* Our imaginary OCD keeps us from merging our possessions entirely. Everything is labeled "his" or "hers" in invisible ink, you know. If we got married we'd have to relabel everything.

* The ghosts wouldn't approve.

* My great-great-great-great-grandfather doesn't approve of him, so we're waiting until he dies.

* My family has a history of dying at age 30 of unexpected heart attacks. We're waiting to make sure I live past 30.

* He's got this whole fantastic proposal planned out--he won't tell me about it, just that we can't do it until the sky is the perfect shade of aqua pink.

* Marriage is a tool of the proletariat! The workers should control the means of production!

* Marriage? Oh, marriage. Right, uh-huh. I didn't know anybody did that anymore?

* Neither of us wants to plan a wedding, so we just keep putting it off until someone in one of our families offers to handle the whole thing for us. (Careful! Don't say this to a family member; they might take you up on it. Use this one for non-family only.)

If people are asking rude questions, you have every right to be rude back. You can even do it in a way that leaves them guessing as to whether you were really rude or not, and you can still take satisfaction from knowing that you were.

(I am, however, still holding a grudge against a near-stranger who asked me if I planned to "replace" my beloved dog when she died two years ago, right after it happened. It wasn't a situation where I was able to be outright rude, and I was still too distraught to come up with a snarky answer, and the idea that one can REPLACE a much-loved dog was so upsetting that I couldn't come up with anything at all to say. People don't know they're asking touchy questions...but dammit, they should. They should think before they talk, and not talk just to hear their lips flap.)
posted by galadriel 26 August | 09:28
You should have a "stupid question" jar. Like, for every person who asks the "stupid question," you put a dollar in. Eventually, you'll have enough money in there that you'll be able to decide together what to do with it.
posted by TrishaLynn 26 August | 11:22
Tell them flatly "That's really none of your business"

It was my response to the unctuous young men working for the places where I have mutual funds who called me after 9 11 thinking they could make a nice fat comission off of me.
posted by brujita 26 August | 12:20
I can't mate in captivity. - Gloria Steinem on why she never married - quote her.
We'll get married when (your favorite gay couple) can get married.
"When are you getting married?" "Why aren't you married?" Married? Hey, that's an idea. We should discuss that same time.
What a very personal question.
Oh, it's far too personal to share. Hey, what about ... teevee show, news, sports, whatever you can think of to change the subject. Some people just need a conversation starter, and haven't the wit to think of something polite and interesting.
posted by theora55 26 August | 14:10
GS eventually married Christan Bales' father.
posted by brujita 26 August | 18:10
I met a woman at a party about 14 years ago and found her interesting and attractive. I was inclined to see if she was available. I was invited to her place for a Mardi Gras party and there I met her live-in boyfriend. I, of course, gauged whether or not it was worth waiting their relationship out. In a few minutes of talking with him, I concluded that he was a better man than I in many ways. A few minutes later, I met the woman I later married.

The thing is, 14 years later, they're still living together. They bought a house and have moved forward in their careers nicely. They're never getting married. In the first year I knew them I inquired and concluded that they were NEVER getting married and that is absolutely just fine.
posted by plinth 26 August | 19:38
Oh, make it a joke, say how he's younger and you want to make sure he's not going to be an idiot when he grows up, so you're going to wait just a little longer.

Own up to something cool about yourself. I hate smalltalk and understand the urge to become a featureless sphere, in hopes the person doing it will get the hint and fuck off and never talk to me again. Wait, so probably I shouldn't be giving any advice.
posted by fleacircus 27 August | 00:36
15 years together for me and the misses. I am her husband and she is my wife. Anyone asks otherwise gets a "it's not something we want to talk about" Anything beyond that gets a "FUCK YOU" including two former co-workers and a boss.
posted by arse_hat 27 August | 00:56
You are entitled to want what you want and if he doesn't want it too, and is content to continue with the status quo while you twist unhappily in the wind, well, is this really who you want to marry?

That's so insightful, Kangaroo. Or, maybe obvious :)

Twiggy, I urge you to consider this, as like Kangaroo, I didn't see a clear declaration of what you want. Otherwise, I'd say you should feel free to treat nosy people however you like. Maybe you could rotate responses: first one who asks gets a blank stare, second one gets an outrageous answer, etc.
posted by halonine 27 August | 23:41
There really is a lot of good going on here and a ton of good advice. I sort of mulled this over as I'm your age, I waited 9 years to get married and I know what I felt like towards the end of that. I'm going to try and add something different, although heartfelt, I'm not sure I can top the list here. I think getting your nails done is probably the best thing around for taking a breath and is always advisable.

People's questions are easily slacked off unless they hit a nail somewhere. You might be over sensitive because it's become an important issue to you so it's likely you have to deal with that. If it wasn't important, if it was just a minor annoyance, then you could easily shake those questions off with a flippant, "Goodness! I like a man in my house but I don't want to share my record collection!" or something similiar. There are plenty of reasons these days for not getting married.

The real issue is: Do you want to get married **to him** or do you **just want to get married** and he is there? That was a difficult question for me when I forced the issue.

I know from experience that a partner's apathy towards marriage after so long a time may end up being a general apathy towards you and apathy towards couple "life building" achievements in the end. I am your age so of course I also think about how scary being a nearly 40 year old woman is, dating, and if I'm too tired to even think about being on my own... even if I also feel mentally 28. But physically 28 is just a different place in life, it's young, but definitely not too young for settling down with someone after 5 years. If he's not enthusiastic after five and a half years, then you need to decide if something is broken ... and will it continue? Can you possibly stand general apathy your whole life on an assortment of growing issues of life building (finances, property, kids maybe)?

He hasn't even broken the 30 year mark and I have observed that many guys are still 'fratting' around for another decade before they feel the pressure of "growing up." I just felt at 31 a hell of a lot more pressure to "get on with adulthood" than I think my husband or male family members ever did. His lack of interest may, in a couple of years grow to your resentment on an assortment of things, and resentment is the killer of all relationships. You sincerely deserve way better than a lifetime of that.

Then again, maybe he's just being misread. Maybe if you really talk about it, you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Is there a "bucket list" he feels the need to do before embarking on legal dualship? Only you really know what your relationship is about.

It can be like a pit in the stomach the overwhelming pressure of moving in or moving on, I know. I wish you a lot of peace and sending you a huge hug.
posted by eatdonuts 28 August | 13:45
I feel like there are two points in your question.

That's relevant cause I'm worried I'm giving off "I want to be married" vibes, and that's why people out of the frigging blue keep asking.

That seems like point 1. My own experience is that other people's dumb or invasive questions only occasionally overlap with my own concerns or preoccupations.

When The Fella and I got engaged, I got a wave of "where's the diamond?" questions. Since neither of us likes diamonds (aesthetically or politically), those questions only came from people who didn't know us well --- including one complete stranger who told me "without a diamond, you're not really engaged." (Thanks for the unrequested judgment on my engagement, random salesperson! Guess I'll buy my wedding dress somewhere else! Too bad for your commission and word-of-mouth business!)

People are all kinds of foolish; it doesn't reflect on you.

On the same principle, I get a lot of questions, remarks, or intended compliments from extended family or acquaintances presupposing that I want to lose weight; they cannot fathom that I might be happily fat and feel sorry for people preoccupied with weight.

So don't assume that when-are-you-getting-married questions necessarily mean you're vibing want-to-get-married, any more than the expectation that I must want to lose weight means I actually want to lose weight. Unless it's coming from people who know you reasonably well, it's more e reflection of societal expectations of your desires than anything you're beaming out.

But that leaves point 2: what you actually want and how you feel about it. do you want to get married? To this person? (I'm not asking you for an answer, just suggesting you answer this question for yourself.)

If the questions and preoccupations of other people happen to coincide with your own concerns, that's worth examining. It's healthy to know what you want, even if that knowing is spurred by the pestering of people you don't know or care much about. And once you know what you want, you can figure out how to go about getting it in the long term.

If so, what do I do, cause it's distressing me and him both that people keep asking about a "sensitive" subject?

I'm pretty fast at shutting down personal or boundary-crossing questions. Some stock phrases that can be deployed in a friendly or not-so-friendly tone: "That's personal." "I don't want to talk about that." "That's not relevant right now." "Let's not get into that." Sometimes it's not even sensitive, just something that is not pertinent to the conversation.

For reasons I can't really figure out, an "Oh" before any of these seems to soften it a bit: "Oh, let's not talk about that!" Softening isn't always desirable, but it's handy to know how to do it.
posted by Elsa 28 August | 14:47
As others have said, people ask irritating and personal questions all the time. People are probably asking you other out of bounds things too but you just aren't noticing them as much since they arent touchy subjects.

Sounds like some of the people asking you have been trying to sell you something, so whatever thy say should just go right in one ear and out the other.
Your nail person sounds like a typical busybody who thinks he can talk to you ith more familiarity than you are comfortable with. My tailor was the same way and would give me unsolicited skin advice if I walked in with a blemish. It got so annoying that I have stopped going to her. It's ok to avoid people ho don't make you feel good.

As to the underlying problem of you feeling like you want to get married and him not being ready, that is a problem old as time and you will figure it out together. I hope you end up satisfied.

If you feel like being generous when people ask and sharing with them, you can say "oh, he is younger gee, we will see" ( not that you have to explain at all ). If you just want people to shut up, you can tell them that it is none of their business.
posted by rmless2 28 August | 18:41
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