Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Is his list of goals more important than marriage?
Q: My boyfriend and I are both in our late 20s and have been together for three years. I'm ready to marry him, not in a particular rush, just ready to move forward. He has a list of about five goals he wants to meet before getting married. As I see it, that could take years.
I know that waiting a reasonable amount of time is necessary and the right thing to do. At what point does it become wasting my time?
Wasting vs. Biding Time
Carolyn: How does marriage stand in the way of his goals? Also, how hard is he currently working toward those goals? Are they realistic and clearly defined?
It's hard to answer completely without knowing these things, but I do suspect that if spending his life with you were a goal he valued, then that would supersede any arbitrary deals he made with himself.
Wasting vs. Biding Time, again: He would like to spend at least a year living in the city of his dreams (we have plans to move there in a few months), hold a certain job title and a higher salary, do some traveling on his own, etc.
It's not that he couldn't do these things with a wife, it's just that I think he envisioned extending his "single" life a bit longer. Also he believes our age is too young for anyone to get married, regardless of how long they've been together.
Carolyn: Hm. Is it even possible for him to be a single guy in a way that satisfies him?
Seems to me that one of the paths you need to discuss is breaking up so he can get out of his system whatever he feels he needs to. Live your life, and let him decide when he's sufficiently ripe. You can see how you feel about each other then.
Anonymous: She needs to figure out if she cares more about being married than about spending her life with this man. Way too many people focus on getting married without understanding what that really means. If being married means more than being with this man, then she should get the bridezilla train out and let the guy down easy.
Carolyn: Yeah, but this goes two ways. If the other person is postponing the decision about making a life commitment, and is hiding behind the "five goals" — and even minimizing his girlfriend's concern about commitment by scoffing at the "bridezilla train" — then who's the one who doesn't understand what it "really means"?
It would be useful to know how open both of them are being about the future. People who want to be together will find ways to be together, through marriage or some other means.
Likewise, people who are comfortable with the status quo but want to leave their options open will find ways to avoid committing — which is fine if they're honest about it. In my unscientific experience, that's quite rare.
Meanwhile, people who feel the pull of marriage would be well served to second-guess it, and ask themselves: "If I couldn't have the party and the 'wife' or 'husband' label and the societal imprimatur to have kids, would I still want the person? For life?"