Stop Getting Married Straight Out Of College

When did people decide that the perfect time to get married was a year after graduating college? I don’t understand it. You have your whole life ahead of you, what is the rush? More importantly, however, you have no job, no skills and no savings. How can you possibly think about getting married at a time like this?

Don’t get me wrong — I used to fantasize about my dream wedding too. I even went as far as to consider getting hitched at an early age. I think it was because I knew so many people who, the day after graduation, suddenly got engaged. Weddings are kind of like drugs — you want to have one because everyone else is having one. It feels good at first, but if you aren’t prepared for the future, marriage can totally destroy you.

I think sometimes young people get married because they feel it is the next appropriate step in their “life plan.” What else can you fill that post-graduate void with, to make your life feel validated and exciting? Your job sucks, you’re still living at home, and student loans are draining your bank account. But a whole day just about you, oh boy! What other opportunity will there be to feel like King of the Castle? When else can you have everyone coo and coddle over besides your Disney Princess cake topper? How could you NOT justify spending $2,000 on customized golf ball wedding favors (that no one will ever use because what 22-year-old actually plays golf)?

Weddings are a nice ego boost, but this feeling of euphoria will only last about a week. After that, everyone stops caring about your “big day” because they are to busy forging ahead with their own lives.

Shockingly, not enough young people think of marriage as a financial contract (thanks Disney, for embedding into my brain the idea that marriage should be based on love alone). So here is my gripe: people should only get married if they are financially stable. Love does not pay the bills. Trying to support yourself on a minimum wage job is hard enough, think about how much harder it will be to support someone else. Marriage is money, and I don’t just mean the cost of your “big day” — I’m talking filing for joint taxes. Merging bank accounts. Taking on the other person’s debts. And who better to have debt than a freshly-graduated college kid?

And don’t forget those pesky credit cards — because we all know how terrible 20-somethings are at managing money. But I guess our generation doesn’t consider those factors when you (think you) want to spend the rest of your life with someone special. A spouse’s debt can ruin your own credit forever. That spoils your dreams of owning a nice house (assuming you can afford a mortgage), putting your kids through college (that’s a whole other financial burden in and of itself) and (I know it’s super far in the future, but it is always good to think about) retirement.

I’m dating a great guy. And I know he’s the one. But we don’t need a piece of paper legally changing my last name to know it. We are going to get married eventually, but we can’t afford to get married right now — I’m still in grad school, and he just started working full-time. Instead of blowing $20,000 on an over-glorified senior prom, we’ve decided to focus on building up our savings. Even though we’ve been dating for two years, we both know it’s going to be a while before we can put down a deposit for a catering hall.

So why does such a practical concept seem to be so hard for young people to understand?

Whenever I start getting “wedding fever,” I stop and ask myself this: What would change if I got married tomorrow? The answer is always “nothing” — absolutely nothing would change. Sure, we’d probably start sharing our assets, and but as far as our lifestyle and relationship is concerned, absolutely nothing would change if we got married. I’d still cook chicken stir fry every Friday night. He’d still clean the bathroom when it got dirty. We’d still celebrate Thanksgiving with his folks, kiss each other good night and good morning, indulge in Happy Hour with our besties, and he’d still carry me home when I got too drunk to walk.

But I think people do think something changes once you are married. They think their relationship is secure because they wear a wedding ring (it’s not; married people cheat more than unmarried people). They think their relationship will thrive on everlasting love (it doesn’t; if anything, partners tend to grow bored of each other, and cheat). They think the sex will get better, the support will grow stronger, and their monotonous lives will become more exciting. They get distracted by the glitz and the glamour of dress shopping, flower picking, cake tasting and photo taking, never stopping to realize that maybe, just maybe, they really aren’t ready for this huge milestone.

I’m not the authority on who can get married and who can’t, but I will say this — marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. You can get lucky and win with a short run, but you need training for something longer and more meaningful, catch my drift? Twenty-somethings need to start exhibiting some pragmatism when it comes to their futures. Whether you are married or not, that man or woman should still wake up next to you every day with the same amount of love they had for you the night before.

If that’s not the case, then why the f-ck are you getting married in the first place? TC mark

image – Ruurd Dankloff

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  • K

    Agree that people shouldn’t get married until they’re financially stable. My husband and I got engaged during law school but didn’t get married until we graduated and took the bar. Now we luckily both have stable jobs. Two of our friends got married a year after college and still live with roommates. Yes. That really is happening.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ashleyannstephens Ashley Slye Stephens

      I’m sorry, how does their living situation make their marriage less valid than your marriage? Financial status has nothing to do with how good or bad a marriage is. Why is it so horrible that they are living within their means? I’m not entirely sure how that proves they were not ‘ready’ for marriage. There is more to a marriage than your address.

      • K

        There’s obviously more about the situation than I’ll get into here for privacy, but basically they have some marital problems because of the financial stuff.

  • Grace

    Stop giving people judgemental realtionship advice, when all relationships are incredibly complex and wholly unique.

    • John

      brb gonna make some poor relationship decisions and then justify it by calling it complex and wholly unique

  • xb

    . . . sorry?

  • http://gravatar.com/nishantjn nishantjn

    Before this post also gets flooded with the routine comments like “Oh so this SOOOO me!” or “Thank you, you’re totally living my life and this is like me RIGHT NOW”, let me just point out that although you make several good points, you’re making a mistake by letting this become two thoughts – getting married straight out of college, and getting married. Even other than the financial reasons, there are MANY reasons to not get married straight out of college which you could have focussed on, I feel.

    • Lee

      Agreed…such as not even knowing who you are. I am almost 27, and I can say that out of the past 5 years since I graduated college, I have drastically changed as a person (for the better, i think). I can’t imagine that working out well in a marriage.

      • kmm

        And won’t you be drastically different in another 5 years? And another 5 years? Guess you’d better never get married.

      • Joe

        When you’re young, you’re still changing and evolving constantly. Older people tend to have a more solid idea of who they are and what they want in life.

  • Carrie

    Thank you. My bf and I have been together for over 5 years and each still have a few years left of college. I’m always itching to take his last name, but your reasons listed are exactly why he hasn’t even bought me an engagement ring!

  • http://www.facebook.com/spanishforeagle Roman P. Aguila

    bold but on point.

  • H

    Although this is fantastic, it will get so much shit from twenty-somethings who are ‘sooo happily married’ but will definitely be divorced by 30.

  • http://gravatar.com/michaelkohhh michael koh

    Let’s wait a year and get married, Rosie, I’m sorry I proposed to you during graduation; it was too soon.

  • http://brittanythehealthylush.blogspot.com thelastglance

    I got married at 22. I am 27 now and still going strong. We have never been financially stable, but we make the best of it. We didn’t have a big wedding. Neither of us wanted a huge wedding, we just wanted to be married. So, we opted for a courthouse wedding. True, we could have just not gotten married, things wouldn’t have changed in any way. But, we had been together already for years and it just started sounding so wrong that we would still be introducing each other as our “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. It began to sound so childish. I don’t know to each his/her own. But, my husband and I decided that marriage was the right thing to do. We don’t regret it.

    • kmm

      Yeah, titles ARE pretty important in relationships. Don’t want to have anyone getting wrong ideas.

  • Kath

    OR it’s better to get the financial grief of the wedding itself out of the way before embarking on the life you’re going to spend together?? I don’t see the point in saving for 5+ years just to spend it on one day.

  • lola

    FINALLY. A-Fuggin-Men to this

  • http://aliceuncensored.tumblr.com alicejay

    speaking my mind exactly. one of my best friends just got married (we both graduated not 4 weeks ago) and she had to buy things on lay away and i (as a bridesmaid) had to buy my own dress and help her pay for a lot of things. it was a beautiful wedding, and i know they’re mature enough for marriage, and they are very much in love and i could never see them falling apart; they are both very genuine, nice, down-to-earth, lovely people. like you said, though, i don’t think it would have made a difference if they got married, say, 3 years from now when she’s out of grad school and he’s saved up more money (he has a full time job as a cop)…

    i think it’s difficult for young people to grasp this concept because of the instant-gratification mindset that they’ve been raised with.

    • Lady

      Bridesmaids usually buy their own dresses. That’s standard wedding etiquette. It’s part of the responsibility that comes with being a bridesmaid.

  • http://beenthere-readthat.com/ Kimberly

    Love this post. My thoughts EXACTLY!

  • Kal

    A lot of people I know get married because of financial reasons like a better health insurance plan, dual income which usually means a bigger/nicer apartment etc. One does not have to have a big traditional wedding either.
    This is pretty preachy and I would bet it would offend my married friends who had small weddings and are enjoying embarking on the next step in life with a partner by their side to learn to do finances as a team, support career changes and ultimately build a life together.

    • kmm

      How is dual income a reason to get married? Last time I checked, my boyfriend and I had a dual income…no marriage needed! FYI: Marriage isn’t needed for a dual income.

  • Kate

    I don’t even know where to begin with this.

    One thing that really pisses me off about our generation is how judgmental we all are about marriage… everyone wants to act so superior because “I could just never get married that young,” or “I need to have a career first,” or whatever.

    Marriage is what you make it. My marriage will not be my parents’ marriage, or your parents’ marriage, or the marriage with the white picket fence and a dog. One thing the author gets right is that marriage IS a contract with obligations… but that is it. It is a piece of paper… YOU are responsible for filling in all the details. You make your own life.

    This author projects so many of her own fears and insecurities and fantasies onto other peoples’ lives. Do you think the people you know who are married didn’t think about any of these things? Do you think you’re really just SO much smarter than they are for pausing to think about what marriage really means?

    We all need to be better about saying, “Congratulations! I truly wish you all the best.”
    Several of my friends were recently engaged and everyone in our group of friends started freaking out… “Oh, its only because he’s older.” “Its only because her parents married young.” “Its only because he’s in the military.”

    Can we all just stop? Maybe, just maybe, the reason for someone else’s major life decision is none of your goddamn business.

    • Kal

      I think she’s talking more about the wedding than the actual finances.

      • Kal

        wow, I’m sorry I did that quick without proofing. I meant the wedding not the MARRIAGE. Derr. Which kind of drives me insane. You’re right though, it’s what you and your partner make it.

    • ABS

      Another problem about our generation is its tendency to make overbroad pronouncements like “the reason for someone else’s major life decision is none of your goddamn business.” Guess having well-reasoned opinions is out of vogue!

  • diesoz

    While I fully believe that every one is entitled to their own beliefs on nearly every subject, I think you’re neglecting a part of the population who put an emphasis on religion and factor it into their relationships. A number of them don’t live together until they are married. Life for them would change drastically if they got married tomorrow. Should they be financially stable before taking the leap? Sure, but it’s not the only factor.

    • Lauren

      so happy someone else noticed this too!

    • KT

      So true!

  • http://twitter.com/Carrgregator Cathleen Carr (@Carrgregator)

    Statistically, people who marry young are more likely to get divorced – http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/divorce.htm
    But I need to point out that weddings are not required to be $20,000. There are many mature and reasonable people out there having small/affordable weddings. Additionally, I do believe that things change once you’re married. There are shifts (both mentally and logistically) that occur. Suddenly you’re taking out life insurance plans, you’re doing taxes together, you’re reviewing retirement savings options, etc. Also, you’re apart of bigger family conversations – elder care for aging parents, dividing assets with in-laws, etc. Yes, the day to day remains the same – it’s a loving relationship – you still do all the relationshipy stuff per usual but that little piece of paper has nothing to do with proving you love someone. It’s a public declaration that you intend to live out your dying days with your partner. It’s not about love, it’s about access. That piece of paper protects whatever you build with that person over a lifetime. Basically, once you get married, shit gets real. Either you’re ready for it or your not.

    • http://www.facebook.com/christina.naylor Christina Carroll

      Seriously. If I had $20,000 laying around I would NOT blow it all on a one day event. It’s crazy that this is considered normal.

  • Evan

    I feel like a lot of religious couples get married right away for sex.

    • Ames

      Truth! I live in the south and no one wants to say it but everyone knows that many of the religous couples have gotten married right away because they can’t wait any longer to have sex. While I don’t see anything wrong with waiting until marriage to have sex, I do have a problem with that being the reason you’re getting married.

      • SH

        Ames,
        I agree with your statement in saying that this is a problem for being the reason you’re getting married. However, you are making a very big assumption when you state that “many of the religious couples have gotten married right away because they can’t wait any longer to have sex.” As a Christian, I can tell you that this is not the most important thing about marriage to me. Marriage is a symbol of unity, a symbol of our relationship with God. It is forever, it is a public commitment, and it is pure. I, unfortunately, am not able to say that I saved sex for marriage. However, I also believe it narrow-minded to assume that this is the predominant reason for marriage among any religious community. Please think about the validity of generalizations you make with such statements. I doubt you would appreciate such generalizations being made about your life choices.

  • Anon

    EXACTLY. So many of my friends need to read this, though it won’t change a thing until 5 years down the road when everyone else is better off than they are and the green monster strikes.

  • http://gravatar.com/mboschen Lynn

    I really see the good points in this article. My now husband and I have been together nearly 10 years – we are just about 26 – and we got married last fall. Both of us went our own ways for college. Neither followed the other to college and we made sure that we could both stand on our own two feet when we went weeks or months without seeing one another. That experience made us strong as individuals and as a couple. So, when we both graduated college (me a semester ahead) we agreed that as badly as we wanted to start our lives together we needed to wait until a) he could buy a ring without putting us in debt (aka no credit card, no financing) and b) we were both steady in full time jobs and had a financial plan (complete transparency included). We did that, and once we finally tied the knot we both felt comfortable with our situations to start a new life together.

    I do think, though, that an ‘acceptable’ waiting period should not be assumed for every young couple before marriage comes along. Every relationship is different, but there are two big things I learned in making the decision to be married at 24: 1) Ignore everyone who asks why you aren’t already married after being together for so long (not their business), or everyone who says you’re too young – 2) AS LONG AS you have had an adult discussion about what happens after the honeymoon with jobs, finances, living situations, budget control, family time, etc. etc.

    OH, and don’t think those are the hardest things you will have to deal with as a team when you’re married. Lots of little set backs happen along the way to test you (car accidents, layoffs, family crises, last minute grad school decisions…). But know that you are in it together, no matter what, and don’t bend to the pressure.

    Another point to make is that weddings do NOT have to cost anywhere near 20K. Ours was a little over 10K – including EVERYTHING and almost 200 guests – and we were told by many people that they had an amazing time and everything was beautiful. Although, I was lucky enough to have my parents help with most of the cost which is rare these days.

    Good lord that was a long post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/blackpaperbag Faith Chung

    “Weddings are a nice ego boost, but this feeling of euphoria will only last about a week. After that, everyone stops caring about your “big day” because they are to busy forging ahead with their own lives.”

    You’re assuming that everyone who gets married does so for the wedding and the attention, not the marriage.

    “but as far as our lifestyle and relationship is concerned, absolutely nothing would change if we got married.”

    If you don’t don’t believe in living/sleeping together unless you’re married, absolutely a lot would change. If you already know you’re the ones for each other, and would rather be living on toast and cereal together than feasting at your parents’ dinner tables in different houses, that could be a perfectly logical reason for a couple to get married sooner than later. Also, please don’t assume (throwing this in just in case) that if someone is living at home, they aren’t capable of financial independence. Maybe they just like living with their family.

    Now, I’m not saying to ignore financial practicalities or that you have zero good points, since being able to support yourselves should definitely be a consideration (though not everyone has student loans to repay either, or are bad at budgeting just because they are young)… just answering the “why?” question you asked.

    Perhaps it would be good if you recognized and respected the fact that not everyone chooses to develop their relationship the way you do, because your one-sided perspective comes across as rather… one-sided, and a tad judgmental.

  • Margaret Thatcher

    “Married people cheat more than unmarried people”

    Source, please? Seems not only unlikely, but also like something that would be almost impossible to measure reliably.

    • Branden

      how can that be? she said marriage doesn’t change a thing!
      s/

      • Margaret Thatcher

        Well, there is that, but I am more concerned with the whole “opinions masquerading as facts” and “statistics seemingly pulled out of the clear blue sky” thing. It’s very poor journalism, even though I agree with her basic premise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashleyannstephens Ashley Slye Stephens

    It wasn’t about being ready. It was about being right.

    We had two choices – marry that weekend in June or wait if/until Army gave us another opportunity. That would mean months or even years of trainings and deployment without spousal benefits. We knew we wanted to spend our lives together. We also knew we wanted what we had to be protected by law. I had a budding career, his future was planned out.

    Five years ago, we chose to get married just seven days after he graduated from West Point, and we never looked back. It’s not about being 100% financially secure – it’s about knowing when it’s right. For us, marriage was the prudent decision. It was never about the glitz and glam of the wedding (not that it wasn’t fabulous) it was about building a life together in the face of a very serious commitment to country. Nothing screams romance and glamor life filing power of attorney papers and writing out wills days before your wedding. It’s a sexy life, I know. That’s what you do when you love someone. We were wed, we honeymooned, we loaded up the moving van and started our great adventure.

    Things don’t always go as planned. He was injured, in the first year. Major surgery followed. Had we not had spousal protections, I may not have been able to be there. In the months that followed, he was discharged from the army, ending what was a life-long dream for him. We went through a very difficult year, our lives spun out of control – he was faced with civie life, I was pregnant. We held on to each other, pulled each other up and dealt with it.

    Today we are more in love than ever. We have a beautiful home, wonderful careers and a handsome son that we have raised together. Everything may not have changed on our wedding day, but the fact that we were married has changed everything. Our marriage isn’t secure because we wear rings. We wear rings because our marriage is secure. Our marriage does thrive on love – the part that makes people cheat, that’s lust and it’s different. (But no worries, we still lust after each other, too). And guess what – the sex is better, the support is stronger and we’re still learning stuff about each other.

    The point is, ready is irrelevant. Marriage isn’t about a false sense of stability – financial situations, health, your entire world can change in a second. Marriage isn’t about having “enough” money, being out of school for “enough” time or the “perfect” career path. Marital success isn’t based on how much preparation you did before the big day because it doesn’t matter.

    It’s about instinct.
    You know. You commit. You live.
    It’s just right.

  • Christina

    This is such an over-generalized article. There is never a RIGHT time to get married. Even people who are 32, instead of 22 getting married run into financial problems, job problems, and sometimes get divorced. You get married when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, and when you figure that out, you usually want to start the rest of your life right then. You’re missing the biggest reason that most people get married, at any age. and that’s love. I’m not one to be mushy, but its a truth your article is missing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/blackpaperbag Faith Chung

      so true

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