Why The Key To Avoiding Marriage Anxiety Is To Focus On The Now
Congratulations! You've met the one. Finally. He's amazing. She's perfection. You're happy.
Life is practically a continuous loop of the "Friends" series finale. You have warm fuzzies all over! What could even attempt to mess this up?!
"So, when are you two getting married?"
Oh, you just had to go there, didn't you? Let the spiraling-out-of-control thoughts commence.
When ARE we getting married? Will he even ask? Will she say yes? Are we there yet? Do people think it's been too long? Are they judging us? Why isn't he asking me? Why isn't she bringing it up?
Marriage is such a brat, and it's not because we aren't ready for it (although, we may not be), or because we aren't quite sure if our beloved wants us, as well. It's not because we are completely against it, or totally obsessed with it, either. So, what is it?
The real reason the concept of marriage makes us so angry (aside from the fact that it's not even legal for everyone…yet) is because it completely consumes our thoughts when we know it shouldn't.
We need to be enjoying the moment, embracing our newfound love and living in the now. But, instead of focusing on the hundreds of gorgeous days surrounding us, we get tripped up on the one phantom day we aren't even sure we want.
So, instead of letting marriage ruin our relationships, we should probably let it go. For now, at least.
Here is how you do it:
Understand Your Expectations
We're Millennials; we don't play by the rules. So, why would we follow suit with marriage? Ha! Not a chance.
It's no longer required for young couples to be married in order to reap the benefits of a successful relationship. We're moving in together, getting cute puppies together and simply enjoying life together without a legal certificate.
And, we're fine with it. But, that doesn't mean we don't want to proclaim our love in front of family and friends one day. Plenty of us want that; we just tend to have expectations of what our lives are supposed to look like before we take the plunge.
It's a formal way of announcing to society, "Hey, we've grown up. Looky there."
Therefore, we need to understand the expectations surrounding marriage because, apparently, they're going to prompt us to realize it's finally time.
Do we want stable careers before making that jump? Some solid savings? Quarter-life crisis cured? Joint real estate procured? Perhaps, a trip together under the belt?
Whatever expectations you both have in your noggins, you need to be exploring them and understanding them.
It's no longer the norm to get married because we can legally drink, school is over, or so we can have sex. The timing is now personal.
So, honor this decision by truly understanding yourself, your partner and both of your expectations.
Reframe The Questions
One of the most aggravating things about being in a successful, yet not "legally official" relationship, is the annoying questions that pop up out of sheer curiosity.
People are so psyched to know when he's going to propose, which Vera Wang she's drooling over and what your entire relationship timeline looks like. It's kind of weird, and depending on how little you know the person, mildly offensive.
Not to mention, it makes you feel a bit anxious about your current non-rushed state of relationship bliss, eh?
The next time someone asks you the obvious question,"When are you guys getting married?" mentally translate it to, "When are you guys going to throw an exquisite reunion for all of your close friends with free food and nice booze?" Because that's what they're asking.
Cynical? Yes. True? Also yes.
Everyone likes being invited to weddings; it means they have friends and Saturday night plans. Which, given their poor habit of asking nosey questions, is probably a pretty big deal.
Don't get me wrong; most of the humans invited to your wedding will genuinely be ecstatic for you love birds. But, they're also going to be happy about the fact that the Grey Goose dirty martini they're nursing isn't costing them 15 bucks.
There's no reason why anyone would be happier for you this year than they would in three years. You're still the same people with the same love.
The only difference is you'll be a bit more mature with a few more Benjamins in the bank -- which is why you got the top-shelf liquor (nice touch).
So, unless you honestly believe there is some expiration date on a) the love you have for each other, or b) people being happy for you, getting married because other people keep asking is probably not a very good reason.
Please don't believe those things. Stick to your timeline and start reframing.
It's never a great idea to look over your shoulder and compare timelines with other couples. You know you've done it: "Oh my GOSH, they have only been dating for eight months and they're ENGAGED! We've been together for two years and I can't even fart in front of you! FML."
But, you can't help comparing, and the reason you can't help it is because marriage is staring you smack dab in the face every time you log onto any social media platform in existence.
The rings! The dresses! The bouquets! The pure glamor of it all! It's intoxicating to say the least. And, it can also unhinge us from our own happy existence.
But, what can we do about it? We can't delete our Facebook profiles simply because we feel a spike of anxiety every time we see a friend get engaged. We want to see those things. We're genuinely happy for others, promise!
So, we can't delete them, and we can't not look. So, what to do?
First, we catch ourselves. We notice we are comparing other people's lives to ours, and we call ourselves out. Then, we focus on our own life rhythm, our own ambitions and our own relationships.
We remind ourselves of the age-old, "If everyone else jumps off a bridge, does that mean you should, too?" bit, and remember we can't force our lives to look like everyone else's just because.
We remember other people's happiness doesn't affect our happiness in our relationships because the only people with that power are the two participating parties.
We breathe. We shell out love and flattery to our friends and family who have reached the marriage point of their lives, and happily attend the festivities.
And, lastly, we remind ourselves marriages last when people are completely ready, no matter what age.
Tell It Like It Is
As previously mentioned, one of the biggest culprits in this whole marriage anxiety fiasco are the comments made from perfectly innocent bystanders. They don't mean to piss us off, but oh, they do.
With every engagement, shower or wedding, there's always the "You're next, dear!" lurking around the corner, waiting to just bite you in the butt.
So, instead of blushing out of mortification, and saying some half-truth response like, "Maybe," set a boundary and be honest.
You can say something like, "I am tremendously happy for this couple, but I am also tremendously happy where things are in my life right now. So no, I am not next."
Ba-zinga. I mean, what can anybody say to that? Nothing. Because it's your truth, and it was so eloquently spoken, I might add! Great job!
Point is, the more we own our decisions, the less we need other people to approve of them. And, the more we share our positions, the less others will feel the need to change them.
People don't mean to put you on the spot, but that's pretty much what's happening. So don't be afraid to give an honest response.
Be proud of yourself, your relationship and your timeline -- it's yours.
Celebrate Your Relationship
Just because you are not ready for marriage does not mean you have to give up everything else. And, it definitely doesn't mean you need to rush down the aisle just so you can finally have the opportunity to celebrate your love.
It's almost like we think the ONLY way to celebrate a legitimate couple is at a wedding. But, that's not really fair.
You might want to wait a solid five years before saying your vows to get your ducks in a row. And, that right there is where the hot, steaming anxiety comes to a roaring boil.
All of a sudden, you feel like celebrating your relationship and how much it means to the both of you. But, five years?! You don't want to wait five years to have a legit relationship worth celebrating. So, does that mean you want to get married now, even though you're not ready???
You are absolutely allowed to celebrate your relationship exactly how you see fit, even if that does not include marriage. A wedding is not the only party couples can throw for themselves.
Plus, celebrating smaller milestones can help set the right pace for both of you, and you can party along the way. Sounds like a dream! So, the next time you are feeling the itch to celebrate your fabulous relationship, do it.
Hell, get creative with it. Throw a “We Just Opened a Joint Checking Account” party, or an “I'm Not Sick Of You Yet” dinner! Why not? You get to choose what parties you can and cannot throw, and if people aren't cool with it, they don't get free cake.
Above all, give yourself permission to enjoy your relationship just as it is. It doesn't need a label; it doesn't need a ceremony, and it doesn't need a designer gown.
It simply needs you and your buddy to make it worthwhile. When the time comes to seal the legal deal, you'll be ready.
Until then, have the time of your lives not giving a damn because you're perfectly happy basking in the moment of now.