Why Marriage Is The Biggest Dating Barrier Of Your Late 20s

by Cazey Williams

It’s not news that our peers are getting married. You see it in Facebook announcements and Instagram posts. But, for the content and/or constantly single, it seems like a distant phenomenon. That is, until it’s the reason you can’t be with someone to whom you’re attracted, as was the case for me.

A few weeks before Christmas, I overdosed on caffeine and decided that in my life of no regrets, I actually have one.

Flashback to two summers ago: I lay by a pool, and a girl who shall remain nameless invites me to her hometown states away. I liked her (did you think this was going somewhere else?), but I liked my tan better, so I didn’t go.

The present: Me driving down the road cursing, "WHY DIDN’T YOU GO?”

History played out anticlimactically. Nameless Girl got a boyfriend, I stayed single, they broke up (on that day she texted me at 6 am to get breakfast, just saying), she moved away, got another boyfriend, I slaved away at a PhD, drunk texted her one night, they broke up temporarily (says the mutual friend) and now here I was, over-caffeinated in a car with regret.

She’s been with her current boyfriend for over a year, and from my social media stalking, he is boy-next-door perfect: educated, attractive, likes dogs and kids.

Crap, she deserves him *hits steering wheel*. And while I have never met him, I decided in the car that he, in his Gap sweater and khakis, looked like the type who would propose on Christmas Eve.

Cue the revulsion. In high school. we worried whether our crush's parents would let him or her date. In college, we might have worried that he or she had a boyfriend or girlfriend. But now, at 23, I have to worry about whether or not I need you to apply for a certificate of divorce.

Earlier this fall, I cultivated a crush on my cycling instructor. Now as a self-critical, self-doubting soul, I would never just go ask out my instructor because A.

I don’t want to make my sweat sessions more awkward than my already-gangly spinning legs and B. I have mixed feelings about courting those whose jobs center on interacting with you (even if said person declines your advances).

Read: Don’t do it unless you’re absolutely positive the other person is down. But, the instructor and I took up chatting after class a few times, so I thought maybe I should.

Then, one night I Facebook stalked her. She was married. A newlywed, too!

A few weeks later, I found myself meeting a friend for drinks. “Do you know what I realized today?” she said. “Three of my exes are married. One has a kid on the way.” Meanwhile, she didn't get out of bed until 1 pm and then binge-watched on Netflix until our date. I suggested she order a Long Island.

Later that night, she texted me because her dad commented on one of the ex’s Facebook wedding albums *gun emoji*.

It’s enough to wonder whether someone in whom I'm interested has a significant other, but married?! The only way to end that is to throw the ring into the fires of Mount Doom, which is no small feat (if "Lord of the Rings" has taught us anything).

Is she saying she’s done considering me forever? That’s a tad permanent, don’t you agree? And, I’m not sure I’m over you. And, when did I reach an age where I have to agonize about whether or not the girl I like is about to walk down the aisle?!?

My female friends seem to have already caught on to this trend. My roommate always looks for a ring, man or woman. Meanwhile, this is the last thing on my mind when I meet a person.

This trend affects more than dating availability (though, that would be enough; I really thought I had something going with my cycling instructor). New relationship prospects become riddled with, “Is this the last relationship I’ll ever be in (at least for the decade until we divorce)?”

This is dandy if it’s what you want, but I always said I wouldn’t get married until 28, which I pushed back to 30 when I hadn’t been in a serious relationship by 20.

I’m not against my “first serious relationship” being my “permanent serious relationship,” except I blanch when your OkCupid profile says you're interested in long-term dating because that translates to you would like a ring in the next two years.

I don’t say that because I’m hoping to bang out a series of flings until I’m 29; I just have life plans that don’t accommodate a marriage-bound relationship that starts now.

Oh, but you could be in love and travel the world with your partner and build memories that you  will someday share with your children? Or, you two could grow together and experience life’s unexpected twists?

I can play this game. Two plane tickets are not as cheap as one, and I would rather be a free-standing oak with an independent root system than two tangled vines.

So now, I not only can’t date the married woman (assuming my morals don’t become too dubious), but I also have to elude the woman looking to be married in the immediate future.

This hasn’t stopped me from pining for women who fall into the above category, of course. Convinced the basic boyfriend would propose to Nameless Girl and my drop-ins in her life may be correlated to her breakups, I contemplated visiting my former entanglement.

Ultimately, I decided this was not a 1997 Julia Roberts comedy. I wasn't going to sabotage a pre-engaged couple; though I'm not above writing about it.

But I’m afraid as I, and other Millennials, trudge further into our 20s, find out crushes are engaged or married, it will become an ever increasing snare.

But, that’s why weddings have open bars.