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?