Ask Team Practical: Marrying Early

I’m not married nor engaged but “pre-engaged,” I guess you’d call it, because my boyfriend and I intend to get married at some point when we are ready. No question about it. I just feel that right now we are not ready for personal reasons (nor are our families ready for our marriage).

Except, my boyfriend has been offered an incredible job opportunity abroad! (YAY for him!) He has to make a decision in less than a month and would start in two or three months! We are adamant that we do not want to live apart at all—completely out of the question—but I am adamant that I will not live abroad with him unless we are married. (I don’t want to be the “pushy” girlfriend, but that’s just how I feel.) So we are faced with some tough decisions right now.

My question is: if we rush to get married in two to three months so we can live abroad together married (which is one option), would it devastate the process that we have set up for us working towards a life together? I know many couples have faced these sorts of tough decisions where marriage came fast because of approaching life changes. If it came down to getting married right away, I feel that my boyfriend and I will be able to work through our outstanding issues that need to be resolved. However, I fear that rushing into marriage may stress our relationship with our families, my parents especially, who do not seem ready to let us go mostly for the personal reasons that are holding us back from marriage. I imagined our wedding being for our parents to help them recognize our transition into a life together and realize the beauty of our relationship. I don’t know if this would be the case if we married quickly. I wonder how much will these issues affect the outcome of our marriage?

Afraid of Rocky Roads Going Headward


This is an easy one.

Don’t get married if you’re not ready.

I’m not being flippant or glib; it really is that black and white. If you aren’t ready to get married, there’s no reason in this world that is good enough for you to rush into it. In fact, that’s another word that worried me about your email. Not just “not ready,” but also “rush,” and while we’re at it, “unresolved issues.” Those are some scary words used individually, and terrifying when all clumped together.  Don’t rush into something like marriage when you aren’t ready. That’s the bottom line.

But, of course, I need to dig further. From your email, it almost sounds like by, “I’m not ready,” what you really mean is, “My parents aren’t ready,” and that, to me, is an entirely different ballgame. Your marriage is your marriage and, while family is important in the process and you want to be sure to maintain good relations without harming any feelings, there will always be some amount of familial transition (and usually, it’s going to be a little tough). Put another way, my dad would never have been ready for me to get married, no matter how awesome my husband is. (He still refuses to acknowledge how he came to have a grandson. Storks and magic and things, I guess.) Whether it’s because you’re moving out of their house for the first time, leaving the old neighborhood for one a bit farther away, or they’re reconciling the fact that they need to share their holidays, parents are sometimes reluctant to let go of their little babies. Sometimes they just need a gentle nudge toward understanding that you’ll be okay, they’ll be okay, and though things are changing out of their control, you’re not falling off the face of the earth. These growing pains happen (not just around weddings), but can help bring you closer as a couple while also helping you feel out your new footing as both “daughter” and “wife.” Your parents, too, are always learning how to understand their ever-evolving roles as parents, protecting without sheltering.

That says, after a big staff discussion (we do that for you ATP question askers!) Meg disagrees a little with me on the family issue. She argues that family issues are issues you’ll need to face for awhile. If your parents say they aren’t ready, and you proceed anyway, you may need to brace yourself for some possible bumpy roads (and hence, thinks if you’re going to do it, great, but you’d better feel personally ready). Keep in mind that when you marry your boyfriend, you’re essentially marrying his family too, and all of the lovely baggage they bring along for the ride. So, that is really something for you to decide. Are your parents being overprotective, unwilling to see their little girl grow-up and move on? Or is their concern something that will cause a problem later down the line, if ignored?

What concerns me a bit about your email is that you seem to pose the question in such a way that only leaves two options: marry early (as discussed, inadvisable if you’re truly not ready), or ask your boyfriend to forgo an amazing career opportunity in favor of a relationship to which neither of you are ready to commit.

So, let’s take a look at the options you’ve negated at the outset. I’m sure you probably have very good reason for crossing them off the list, but let’s revisit just for the sake of argument (and to make this blog post long enough for me to get paid, obviously).

The one option you nixed off the bat was moving abroad without having married first. I agree. Moving (and such a distance, too!) may seem like an entirely huge commitment without the whole marriage thing nailed down. But think about it. You’re asking him to make that same sort of huge commitment by skipping on a big opportunity to stay with you, despite there not being a wedding. I’m not saying that you should move with him, but I think it’s worth weighing why you would expect him to make a concession similar to one you’re unwilling to make yourself. Besides, of the two options, which is the most drastic? Rushing to move somewhere with the guy, or rushing to marry the guy? Both of them are big steps, but one of them comes with a bigger headache if you decide to undo it all.

You also completely threw out the idea of a long-distance relationship. Let’s not sugarcoat it, those are tough. I understand why you’d like to say “no” to that one. But, compared to “rush into marriage” or “ask him to give up his dream” or “break up,” Skype chats and Friday nights alone don’t seem like such a tall order. Bonus, those parents of yours that aren’t convinced you’re ready to be serious about this guy might consider things with a bit more weight when you two go the extra mile (Ha! Mile! Because it’s long distance… I’m here all night, folks!) to stay together while so very far apart.

The important thing here is the gut. If your gut says you’re not ready to be married, don’t do it. If deep down, you think your parents are making valid points, listen to them. And if that same gut still wants to be with this guy, try to find a way to make it work without rushing into something for which you’re not ready. I’m not saying it won’t be tough—it might. But as tough as a rushed, too-soon marriage? Unlikely.


Team Practical, do you have any advice for our frustrated pal ARRGH? Have you had to untangle some parental issues while planning to get married? How have you handled large decisions as a couple before you were ready to marry?

Photo: Leah and Mark Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!


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  • Moving in together/really far away IS a pretty huge commitment!

    Seriously, don’t get married if you’re not ready. Long distance isn’t THAT bad (well, as long as there’s some sort of endpoint).

    A few years ago, it seemed like all of our friends were buying houses and getting married. Good for them, but my (now) fiance and I really wanted to move to NYC from the midwest instead of setting down in the midwest. So we did that instead. It was crazy expensive and definitely a huge commitment for us. After living together a little over a year, we got engaged. When we were ready.

    • KB

      I totally agree, long distance relationships (LDRs, what!) are a great proving ground for relationships. Which, admittedly, may not be what you want to hear – you may not WANT to test it out with an LDR because, hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But I totally felt the way that you feel right now – I wasn’t willing to move for a guy until we were at least engaged and that was my line in the sand. Then my now-fiance and I started dating, I moved away and was absolutely miserable without him. But it took almost a year being apart to make me realize that I was being really silly and should just effing move in with him already. I realized that my “I must have a ring before I move” rule wasn’t what I needed – I needed to know that this thing was solid enough so that if I DID move, I wasn’t making a huge idiotic mistake. And I knew that I wasn’t making a huge idiotic mistake because our LDR actually strengthened us as a couple – we learned to talk to each other in a different way (hooray video gchat!) and I saw that he was willing to make time for me every night no matter what. And then – surprise, surprise – we got engaged after we moved in together.

      I’m not saying that my story is what’s going to happen to you, but there ARE other options here. Plus, it’s a great excuse to go abroad!!!

      • littleb

        I agree, KB. Two years ago, my BF asked me to move in with him…to the Caribbean…while he went to medical school. I know it sounds like “Hello, Caribbean!” would have been the no-brainer answer, but I was living with my parents, trying to save money AND my parent had serious issues with our relationship because my BF and I were not the same religion. I didn’t want to uproot, upset my family AND try to make things work in a new country while he was {presumably} going to be gone all the time. I wanted to make sure our foundation was strong enough.

        So, we did a {very} long distance relationship. And I’m not going to lie, it sucked. It sucked big time. At one time we even broke up for a month because I felt like I was tired of waiting and wanted to date someone who would BE THERE. Not so, what I wanted was my BF and I wanted to tackle the issues I had with my family. I was ready for a hard discusion with my family and my BF as we decided to move in together and start our new life. I needed that time apart so we could learn to communicate and grow and when I was ready, I knew it and went for it. Long Distance can be hard, but it can also help you grow stronger and give you the courage to make a leap!

        Plus, it is a pretty awesome new adventure to start together! :)

      • meg

        THIS. I had this line in the sand too, and then I ended up moving across the country anyway. I just realized we WERE solid enough (and I had perfect faith that we would get married). But we were also not ready to get married yet, and rushing things would damage the solidness.

        This is NOT a general rule for everyone, but it’s where I was at.

      • Yes. I hope this isn’t too reductive, but I’d say if you’re not ready to attempt a long distance relationship, you’re not ready to get married. And you already say you’re not ready to get married, so this may be a moot point. I echo KB’s statement that “LDRs are a great proving ground for relationships.” Oh, yes. My now husband and I did extreme LDR for years and yes, at times it completely sucked, but it did make us stronger, and it allowed both of us to do things in our schooling and careers that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

        • Liz

          I love what everyone is saying about long distance relationships! I’d just like to caution that being long distance (same as other tough times marriages face- finances, familial problems, job loss), long distance can either break you or make you stronger.

          Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing what your relationship can handle, even though other times it’s a matter of gritting your teeth and saying, “I won’t let this ruin us.”

        • There’s also a question about how long you’ll be long-distance. We were long-distance for 6 months after less than a year together, and at the end of that time we were either going to break up or I was going to move back. Three years later, we moved cross-country together because we weren’t willing to be long-distance for an entire Ph.D. program; we also thought about being long-distance for a year or two and then living in the same place once I was ABD.

          Even once you’re married, sometimes things come up that make long-distance the best option: one of you gets some kind of great temporary gig while the other needs to stay put, or you both get offered great experiences that will take you apart. It’s good to think about when and whether that works.

      • Rebecca

        I’ll echo the “proving ground” of an LDR… Or really just the benefits that can come from one, because while mine was hard, it wasn’t awful (I think a lot of that has to do with a fixed end point). My now-husband left for 5 months in Ukraine with super sketchy internet connections after we had been dating two weeks, and one week after I knew we would get married (he had the inkling even earlier). Obviously, we fell hard and fast, and all the letters and dropped Skype calls of those five months let us really get to know each other in a deep way that may not have happened (so well or quickly) if watching movies and cuddling were options… We went from talking about our individual goals for life and marriage around month two or three to using “when we…” by month five. All that to say, if you have things that need to be talked out and slept on, letters and long distance can help make that happen… But some days you will wish you could just watch movies and cuddle and not have to talk all the time :)

  • Meg

    Well- one don’t get married EVER if you aren’t ready. Also, having an expectation that your parents are somehow going to come around one day seems unrealistic. Being married and choosing your life partner is up to you and while I understand keeping the peace in some families is really important this is ultimately your life. From another angle – sometimes when others are concerned about you or decisions you are making it doesn’t hurt to listen. It can be hard- but sometimes they are right. Have you sat down and asked them why they want you to wait and considered their reasons?

    And here’s the kicker- is your boyfriend ready?!? No mention of what he would like you guys to do?

    • One More Sara

      While I mostly agree with this comment, sometimes parents DO come around. They might just know that you two really aren’t ready for such a big step and therefore are not supporting it. After my (now) fiancé and I had a child 3 years ago (at the ripe old age of 21), neither of us were anywhere near ready to get married. A few months of doing an LDR (with a baby! eek!), we decided that we needed to live in the same country and some sacrifices had to be made. We got engaged about a year after I moved here. My mom has said on many occasions how proud she was of us for waiting to get married. Funny thing those parents… they really do know stuff even when you don’t tell them.

  • Joycie Wags

    I’m with Liz. It’s all about your gut. If you feel deep down that you are ready to get married, then no other opinion really matters but your own. It’s kind of difficult to remember that sometimes, because we have people who care about us and people whose opinions matter to us, but for decisions such as these, the single most important thing to keep in mind is that IT IS YOUR LIFE. You do what you think is best for you, because you are the person who has to live with that decision.

    My husband and I got married far earlier than anyone in our family would have preferred or understood (they took issue with us having not dated for as long as is their accepted norm) but we both knew it was right for us. Is it hard to follow your own path when you worry about how others react? Yes, but it’s not their path. It’s yours.

    Alternately, if your fear of your parents’ reactions is strong and really really bothers you, it is time to examine whether it’s just them or if it has something to do with you being bothered about it too…

    Good luck! :)

  • Amanda

    I’m not sure of the logistics – ARRGH may not be allowed to move to/live in the new country with her boyfriend without a work/travel visa?? However, as his spouse, I think the rules can be quite different. Does this consideration come into play at all in ARRGH’s decision/ability to move abroad?

    Also, as Liz briefly touched on, it’s possibly your folks may never be ready for you to get married – be it within the next three months, or the next three decades. Either way, it is ultimately your life, and you need to make the decisions that will hurt you the least (priority) and hurt those around you the least (second priority). Sometimes one decision covers both. Best wishes and I hope you come to a decision that fills you with peace.

    • This. My knowledge of visas and everything is very limited, but my understanding is that it’s a lot easier for a spouse to get a work visa than a girlfriend/fiancee.

      Can you consider the marriage a marriage of convenience if you want to go with. Sign some paperwork but don’t tell anyone? And then, if/when you want to get married, then have a wedding?

      • Claire

        I don’t know, but I’d be cautious about starting a legal marriage without first addressing the issues that are holding you back. Making things legal when you are not ready to commit emotionally sounds like an extremely risky path to convenience. The OP repeatedly states they are not ready, mentions outstanding issues that need to be resolved and personal reasons that are holding them back from marriage. A secret marriage of convenience might ease the logistics on living or working abroad, but it also might cause many more headaches than it saves.

        No, you don’t have to wait until your family is enthusiastic, until you have all your ducks in a row, or until all your issues are resolved (hint: all couples have issues at some point). But, maybe don’t rush into a marriage (OP’s words, not mine) that you know you are not ready for, and that you fear will stress your relationship.The OP feels they will be able to work through their outstanding issues, so maybe get working on them right away and see if you can’t get to a place where you both feel good and ready. Listen to your intuition. If your gut is saying No! (or even Not Yet), don’t try to rationalize why you *should* be saying Yes Now.

        Best of luck!

        • meg

          Yes. Marriages of convenience freak me out. Because you may not tell anyone, but you still just signed one of the most binding documents you will ever sign in your life. Also, there are no divorces of convenience (that I know of).

    • Cassandra

      This certainly might be the issue – my partner moved to the US for school last year (from Canada) and while my daughter and I can go visit as much as we please (within time restrictions), we can’t get a visa until we’re legally married next year. I can’t live or work in the US without a marriage certificate to get our visas sorted, and this can certainly be the case in a lot of other countries as well.

    • Sarah

      And you should bear in mind that in some countries even if you can get a visa you may not be allowed to work. This is my situation – I’m in the US because my husband was offered a great job here, but I can’t work unless I can find an employer to sponsor me (which is tough). I think ARRGH needs to work out which options (even those which don’t seem attractive) are really possible and then assess them all.

    • Theodora

      Something else to consider. I don’t know which country her BF is moving to, but in some countries, couples living together outside of marriage is quite frowned upon. So there might be that to consider, in addition to the visa issues.

  • Jenny

    Something I saw in the letter/question that stood out to me was the statement that issues needed to be resolved before marriage. Firstly, there will ALWAYS be issues to be resolved. Fortunately/unfortunately that’s just part of being in a relationship with another person. However, that being said, if these are big issues then you guys definitely need to sit down and talk about them regardless of marital/engagement/relationship status. Could they be one reason your parents are hesitant?

    • Liz

      Right. Are we talking, “I want kids and he doesn’t” issues, or, “He always leaves his socks on the floor issues.” Difference!

    • LBD

      Yeah, this would be my concern about advising them to do the whole long distance thing. There are certainly some issues that can be much more difficult to work on from a distance. My advice would be find a therapist / marriage counselor ASAP and get them to help you all decide how major those issues are. That’s going to affect whether you can continue working on them at a distance or in a country where you’re now married and are separated from your normal support group. Solving them in the time you have I assume is tough from the letter, but I’d definitely recommend having some serious conversations about how big a deal they are before you start making some big decisions. I guess I like to have a full understanding of the extent of the problem facing me before I can begin to come up with a solution. The whole lay all your cards down on the table first kind-of-thang. You’re in a tough on here lady, all I can say is take a deep breath and take it slow.

  • Melissa

    First, echoing all the other comments: please do not get married if you are not 110% READY.

    Second, personally, I wouldn’t poo poo the idea of a long distance relationship. Sure, they are lonely at times, sure they require a lot of phone conversations and a lot of emails in place of a warm body, sure they can be tedious, but hey, they are way better than rushing. My now husband (we just got married a month ago) and I have been together almost 9 years, and the first 3 of those years were long distance. He was in the north, I was in the south. It was hard, don’t get me wrong, but it was also sort of great (in hindsight). We learned to really communicate because at times there was one of us who didn’t feel like talking on the phone, etc. but we HAD to in order to make our relationship work. If you are truly committed to him and your relationship, then you, too, can be totally committed to him while he’s abroad (and he to you). You just have to be tenacious about it, and open, and communicative, and positive. In a way, it’s a lot like marriage, yeah sometimes it stinks a little, but you two are in this together and it will work. That’s what you have to keep telling yourself and each other.

    Lastly, your boyfriend is in front of an amazing opportunity. I’m sure you want what is best for him, and opportunities like this don’t come every day. If you are not comfortable rushing into a quick engagement/marriage, then DON’T. Also, it wasn’t clear if your boyfriend would even be willing to do this. Take this from me, do not PUSH and do not RUSH. Neither will leave you better off. Take a deep breath, go with your gut and stay committed to each other.

    • ProjectWed

      “We learned to really communicate ”

      Yes, yes, yes! Mr. Project and I have a great relationship because of our past LDR. LDR CAN be an excellent opportunity for relationship growth. We had 7,000 miles between us for over 2 years (and it’s coming again 3 weeks after our wedding– sigh), but when you only have a few hours every weekend to be face-to-face via Skype, we learned how to talk to one another and how to LISTEN.

      We also had some pretty rad vacations to amazing places! I do not know your reasons for not wanting an LDR, but at least give it a try. No matter what, you will discover what is important to the two of you.

    • Erin

      I was in this same situation. I was north, my boyfriend was south, and we met online so we were long distance from the START. I was very hesitant every step of the way because of this distance – especially when we started looking less like friends and more like something else.

      And for the last year of the three, I hated it so much. We’d see each other every 3-4 months for a few days to a week, and then leave again. I cried. I missed him.

      But it was worth it. And we go through it. And I think our relationship is in many ways stronger for it. We learned to communicate very early, because communication was all we /had/. We Skyped, we called every night before bed, we chatted online.

      Long distance sucks. It does. But that doesn’t mean that it’s never worth doing. So if you feel strongly about this guy but your gut says ‘not yet’, what do you have to lose by trying it? If it breaks you, it breaks you, and that’s in some ways an important thing to find out, because distance is not the hardest thing you will ever face in a marriage. If it doesn’t, you’ll be stronger for it.

      • Us too! We meet when I visited his country, with our first 2 dates just before I went back home. So our relationship for 2 yrs and 9 months was long distance. (I moved to his country 6 weeks before the wedding.

        Long distance can be hard- really challenging- but for me it was so worth it to have that time to KNOW that you are ready to be married. And yes, someone above brought up a good point that you might not be able to work in the other country, even if you are married and get a visa. Immigration can be complicated. During my immigration process, I had a long stretch where I couldn’t work or go to school. It was hard, but again…very worth it to finally be living (and now working) in the same country as my husband. And the first long-distance years helped us develop a strong foundation.

  • I really appreciate when people giving advice bring out other options instead of just weighing the main two. Kudos to Liz for covering all bases on this one. Also for saying “I’m here all night, folks!” because that phrase makes me giggle every single time.

  • PA

    My response is twofold. First, something stuck out to me about the note. Caveats aside that this may be a longer email that was trimmed down, here is the quote:

    However, I fear that rushing into marriage may stress our relationship with our families, my parents especially, who do not seem ready to let us go mostly for the personal reasons that are holding us back from marriage.

    I would echo the advice of the group: this depends a lot on what those reasons are, on why you feel “held back” from marriage. At the risk of creating a firestorm in the comments, there is a very messy grey area between the, “I want to make sure I am mature enough to know my own mind and come to this relationship fully, striving to be my best self,” and, “I need to have all my ducks in a row.” I’m one of those people whose impending marriage has forced me up against my preconceived notions that I need to have everything figured out to be “ready” for marriage – established career, well-coifed hair, the whole nine yards. And unfortunately, my career is nowhere near where I thought it would be, and my hair will never be well-coifed. My fiance has had more luck coming to terms with this than I have. Your problems will be different, they may fall on the other side of the grey area. But I’m just pointing out that the grey area is there! (And a common theme on APW.)

    Also, as someone who has had the majority of her important relationships (friendships, family, and romantic) at long distance at various times, I just want to echo Liz when she says that Skype calls and long distance aren’t the end of the world. There are beautiful moments in my life that I would never have had if my fiance and I had not been long distance – and they were beautiful moments in our relationship. When it came down to it, there was simply nothing that compared to seeing his face and hearing his voice, and the distance really was only geographical, and not between us as people.

    In the end, this is for the two of you to sort out, and the decision-making will be a good process, I think. I am wishing you the best of luck!

    • Yes! I agree:
      “There are beautiful moments in my life that I would never have had if my fiance and I had not been long distance – and they were beautiful moments in our relationship. When it came down to it, there was simply nothing that compared to seeing his face and hearing his voice, and the distance really was only geographical, and not between us as people.”

  • secret reader

    as a fellow pre-engaged-er who’s pretty much ready to take the leap, I’ll add a “don’t get married” vote. big difference between thinking it in your head and going through the conversation with your partner of “maybe we should get engaged, like today.” and then watch the partner agree slowly, then panic and shake and tell you it’s not right yet. for serious, nothing more convincing than watching someone have a physically averse reaction. really drives home the idea that you *have* to wait until you’re both ready. not just, “it’s better if you’re both ready.” but, like, it actually will not happen unless you both are of the “let’s do this!” mindset. physically impossible.

    • Kat

      YUP! Seeing the partner say “Lets take that next step in our relationship!” and both of us getting excited about being engaged and looking at rings and then a few days later the partner, while I’m mid conversation about getting a guest list together, leaves the room to lie down on the couch and practice rhythmic deep breathing exercises to calm himself down because he’s overwhelmed will REALLY REALLY hammer home the “WE’RE NOT READY YET” message.

      If you’re not ready, you’re not ready and if your body and mind tell you so you HAVE to listen to it, even if the listening part makes it that much more hard.

  • Amy March

    Another option- get engaged now, and do ltr for six months/a year/ however long you need. Nothing to say you have to actually have the wedding in the next two months.

    I think for a couple fully committed to marriage right now, the family concerns aren’t insurmountable, but for a couple with doubts, they could become a major burden. Also obstinacy in the face of change is not really a great foundation for marriage.

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      Ah, this is what I was going to say. The Boy and I got engaged in the middle of a few years of very long distance. I was DEFINITELY NOT ready to be married then. But I was ready to be engaged, to formalize and publicize how serious we were (are) about our relationship and to feel like I wasn’t overreaching when talking about forever. It was an intermediate step for us.

      • Violet

        Me too! That’s almost exactly what we did. It can be a little weird when I mention my fiance and people get all excited and congratulate me and want to know when the wedding is, and I’m like “I’m not sure, maybe next summer?”

        For me, it goes back to what Meg said a while ago about wanting to get our ducks in a row. We didn’t wait to get engaged and make our commitment public, but we do want to get our ducks in a row a little more before we get married and make our commitment legal!

        And to the OP, long-distance isn’t all bad. We’ve been doing it for about three years now and it makes me feel like our relationship is stronger than it otherwise would have been. Independence and self-reliance are important to me, and being long-distance has really helped me cultivate those qualities and figure out how to fit them into a functional relationship (with another independent and self-reliant adult). It’s made us both stronger as individuals, which has made our relationship stronger. And it really is an embodiment of the idea that we are together because over and over, we choose to be together (not just because it’s convenient or easy).

  • Carrie

    I agree with everyone above. I’m currently in a multi-country long distance relationship. It’s difficult and definitely not my first choice, but it’s working for now. There’s another option to consider, though. If his job is for at least a few years, another option could be to try to find a job there and move there too, but not “with” him. I realize this will be, in many ways, way more difficult than a long distance relationship. You’d be moving to a new country after all. It’s possible that you wouldn’t like the new country. Maybe you don’t speak the language. Maybe it’d be impossible to find a job in your field. It would be a huge change. That said, if you think you’d want to be married in say 2 years and he could be there for 5, you’d have to move there at some point anyway. There are jobs like teaching English that with a CELTA are easy to get abroad. It’s just something else to think about.

  • I don’t know enough about your parents or situation but generally in my life, as much as I hate to admit it, whenever my parents feel really strongly that I shouldn’t do something my gut usually agrees with them, even if I try to pretend it doesn’t for a long time because it drives me crazy when they’re right all the time. Parents are actually wise.

    I did a long distance relationship with my fiance for 14.5 months recently. We were on opposite sides of the same country and got to see each other every 4-5 weeks because his company was awesome and paid for flights home for a weekend every once in a while, but it was still hard. But one thing it was awesome for was making us learn to appreciate time apart. For example, now if a work thing comes up or whatever and we don’t see each other for 2 weeks, it’s not the end of the world like it used to be. It was a good growing experience for our relationship. Everyone I know who’s done and survived a LDR says the same thing – not that I’d “recommend” doing one because yes, it does suck, but it forces you and your relationship to be very grown-up.

  • Abby J.

    Don’t let your parents’ lack of readiness for you to be married become entangled with your OWN lack of readiness to be married. Your marriage is your own life, and has to be a decision you and your partner make. Yes, your in-laws are your in-laws forever, but your marriage is your own.

    Try a thought exercise: How would you feel about the marriage if both sets of parents were 100% ready and on-board with it all? That’ll help you get closer to your answer.

    The other thing I can say to you is talk to your partner. Ad nauseum if necessary. You two really need to discuss all aspects of this thing together and get some clarity.

    • Claire

      “Don’t let your parents’ lack of readiness for you to be married become entangled with your OWN lack of readiness to be married.”


  • Andrea

    As hard as a long-distance relationship would be, it sounds like this may be a good “are we ready” test. If you can handle long-distance for a couple of years, you can handle almost anything. It really teaches you if the person is someone you care enough about, and maybe after six months you can move there with him.

    I just finished a year of long-distance (6 hour plane ride), we just got engaged, and next summer we’re getting married after we finish the end of our two year long-distance stint. It’s the perfect way to celebrate being done with long-distance and being together forever. I wasn’t sure if we could make the distance work and maintain a relationship, and it has actually made us a stronger couple. You learn a lot about a partner when all you can do is talk to them.

    • Erin

      And there is nothing quite like looking over at your spouse after a long distance relationship and having the realization that he doesn’t have to leave again – you’re really together! To stay! /Forever/!

      • YES! After just a little less than 3 years in the same country, this STILL doesn’t get old. Perhaps it never will…

      • Audrey

        Ooh, very true! My (now) husband and I were separated for only a year, and within a ~5 hour drive, and that was 6 years ago.

        We *still* have the “you don’t have to leave” moment every once in awhile!

  • Sarah

    Dear ARRGH,
    I feel like I know where you’re coming from on a number of levels.

    1. When I met my fiance I was working as a seasonal biologist (read: living more or less out of my car, working odd/long hours, and finding a new job in a new place every 6 months). After dating for 5 months I got a new job in a new state, and he asked if he could move with me. While I was nervous about this prospect, our situation was reasonably reversible if everything went sour. After all, we would only be moving 500 miles away (not out of the country). So we went for it. It was hard. Really hard. I should mention now that I was 22, he was only my second boyfriend EVER, and I’d only been out of college in and in the real world for a few months. He was definitely ready to get married a lot sooner than I was. We talked about it a lot, but I just couldn’t fathom getting married without being 100% certain that I wanted to spend my whole life together. That period of living together without being legally and spiritually committed allowed us to mature, learn to communicate, learn what was most important to us individually and as a couple. On the four year anniversary of the day we met, after three major moves and some challenging life circumstances, he proposed and I was able to say “yes” without a moment’s hesitation. I was ready. We were ready. For me, at least, this was crucial.

    2. Despite my own convictions and happiness my parents were not ready. They still aren’t. Although I know where some of their reservation stems from, I certainly can’t pin point it all. My parents and I are extremely close. It breaks my heart not to be able to excitedly talk about wedding events with my mom, or to feel awkward asking my dad his thoughts on a father-daughter dance. I cry about it, but I’m learning to take their feelings about my wedding and my marriage for what they are. This is almost harder than all the growing that my fiance and I did during our lives together thus far, but in a very different way.

    I would encourage you to really soul search about your reasons for not being ready. As team APW says, trust your gut. This is not something you should have doubts about. If it’s your parent’s hesitation that is holding you up, then be prepared for that to be hard, but to be OK in the end. If it’s your hesitation, or your boyfriend’s, then do some soul searching, consider all your options, and be completely honest with yourself about where your hesitations are coming from. Remember, there are lots of solutions to any problem. Wishing you luck, strength, and happiness.

    • HH

      “I’m learning to take their feelings about my wedding and my marriage for what they are. This is almost harder than all the growing that my fiance and I did during our lives together thus far, but in a very different way.”

      Holy crap EXACTLY.

      It totally is harder. TOTALLY.

  • Diane

    A few things to think about. First, are your parents’ reservations related to their own struggles to accept that you are a Grown Up Who Makes Her Own Decisions? Or are they, perhaps, the reflections of people who know you well, care about you deeply, and have legitimate concerns? If it’s the second, a quiet chat with them to really explore what they are seeing might be the best investment of an hour that you’ve made in a long time.

    Second, I couldn’t agree more that the commitment to moving overseas, while huge, is neither as permanent nor as weighty as the commitment to marry someone. It’s also less expensive to undo, should things go all pear-shaped. I know it’s unromantic to think about but anything legal gets more complicated overseas.

    Third, my soon-to-be MIL is a fan of saying “listen to your doubts.” If you’re having trouble figuring out your own feelings and reservations, can I strongly recommend seeing a counselor, even if it’s just once or twice, to help you clarify things to yourself? A good therapist is not so much a purveyor of advice as a guide in exploring your own thoughts, even the scary, politically incorrect, ungenerous, complicated ones.

    Best of luck as you make challenging decisions!

  • Jashshea

    You don’t say how old you are (and I’m not sure that’s entirely relevant), but that may be playing into your parents’ perception that you aren’t ready (or whatever word they chose to use). It also may play into how easy it would be for you to migrate overseas (depending, of course, on where you’re from, where you’re going, etc).

    You don’t specify what your personal reasons are for not wanting to marry yet, but I think you need to define them (not for us, just for you and your person) – are they ducks in a row type issues? If they’re more “i/we want me/them to be/act different/more mature/whatever” that’s a different story. I have a friend whose spouse wouldn’t marry her until she’d taken some time to investigate her anxiety issues – that’s on a different level than “I don’t want to get married until I have $x in the bank.”

    I had an opportunity last year to work abroad which is a huge life dream for both me and my partna’ (I hate the word partner, so I’m making it country). The opportunity ended up falling through but we had the same types of conversations. It was a little different because my company was going to take care of all the Moving Abroad Things for me, it had a soft stop date of 1-2 years, and while I didn’t love the idea, a mini-LDR was do-able (long visits, him working from there, negotiable travel budgets through work, were all options).

    Good luck. What it really came down to for me was I would have hated to move w/o him, but I would have done it and we would have made it work.

  • AnotherCourtney

    Liz, you handled this one so well! I always get a little nervous when people throw out phrases like “out of the question!” If your relationship–and the person you’re in a relationship with!–are really that important to you, nothing is completely out of the question.

    When I graduated from college, I was dating the guy I knew I would marry, but I also had a really awesome job offer in another state, and he still had a year left of school. We talked about it before hand, but deep down, I always knew I would take the job offer. My career is important to me, and if he had asked me to give it up to stay with him, I would have known that this wasn’t the relationship I thought I should be in.

    Anyway, he was wildly supportive, and I happily took the job. Not gonna lie, that first year was TOUGH. But now? We’re having the time of our lives, finally married and thankful to be living under the same roof, much less in the same city. And now we have a precedent that we support each other in our individual lives, rather than holding each other back. And that’s an amazing kind of freedom right there.

  • I had a sort of similar, yet different situation. My husband is from another country and we were living in said country (and still do) and I was just visiting and ended up staying. It was really hard not having legal residency. It’s makes just about everything impossible. So… We started talking marriage around 6 months (international relationships tend to move fast) but we just weren’t into it. We didn’t want to get married for immigration issues. And honestly we weren’t even ready to move in together. So we didn’t. We ended up getting married 2 years later because we wanted to. Not because of some annoying exterior threat (deportation? ha). And I’m so glad we had that time and were able to make the decisions ourselves (nothing feels more suffocating and fake than being forced to marry someone or else).

  • Abby


    I cant’ help but indentify with you. I felt the same way about not moving a distance with someone unless married (what happens if you break up and you hate where you’re living too? Has anyone else watched Sex and the City?! ) But at least for me, that was the wrong idea. I moved to a major city from my familys suburban house with my boyfriend after dating for several years. I wanted to be with him forever but I wasn’t ready for marriage. My career was important to me (especially after transfering)

    But living together in another exciting place was great for us. We found that living together full time brougt out the best in one another. We liked to cook together, didn’t mind doing chores when together, and found solace in each other in this new bustling city. It brought us closer in a way I never thought possible.

    He proposed 6 months in and I still believe that the confidence booster that we needed to get married was taking this adventure so well together. And now we are planning our wedding! Something that if we rushed to get married wouldn’t have been as well planned or beautiful becasue of the funding and time we would have lacked back then.

    If you think you can spend the rest of your life happily with him, I would ditch the outdated notion of marriage before moving, have a great adventure that you’ll spend the rest of your lives talking about, and THEN spend the time and money on a great wedding you deserve (and don’t feel apprehensive about!)

    Good luck!


  • Lauren

    Here’s a question on my mind lately — how do you KNOW you’re ready? Some days I’m sure I’m ready, but some days I think it’s all societal pressure and too much reading APW. Some days I’m ready for the ring on my finger, and then the next day I’m second-guessing myself for wanting a marriage so badly.

    Let’s be clear, it’s not the ring or the party, it’s the marriage I’m yearning for — yet I don’t know how to convince myself that THESE ARE ACTUALLY MY ACTUAL FEELINGS not some social construct impressing itself upon me.

    • Liz

      I’ve been bugging Meg to let me do an open forum asking just this question. ;) The problem is that it’s so different from person to person, isn’t it?

      • meg


        • One More Sara


        • Lauren


          • Rachel

            This is a constant dilemma for me!

            I want to get married …. but why?
            Is it a social construct that I have inherited combined with the fact that my oldest, bestest friend and my twin sister are both getting married and I want our life-growth steps to be in sync?

            Or is it the fact that I am madly in love and deeply committed with my boyfriend and want to spend the rest of my life with him as husband and wife?

            Or both?

            As I help my twin sister plan her wedding, I think of this constantly.

    • Umpteenth Sarah

      Ha, OMG you are totally in my brain except for in my case I have these questions about kids, not marriage (already married). Sometimes, I think “kids!” Sometimes, it’s, “Kids?!” I can identify the pressures, to some extent, from friends and society, but sometimes I’m not sure if my own feelings are my own, or if they’re just biology. Over-thinking, maybe… but I totally get where you’re coming from.

      (And, btw, anyone who says “Oh, you’ll just know when you’re ready”: is either lying or being deliberately unhelpful) In my opinion.

      • Liz

        They are. They’re lying.

        • meg

          Really? I just knew when I was ready. (Clearly don’t trust me I’m a lier.)

          That’s not always true though, I sure don’t feel that way about kids! Whatever, win some, loose some.

          • Umpteenth Sarah

            I think what I am actually thinking of is when people say “oh, you’ll just know” with a dreamy sigh, as though they’re recalling the moonlit evening of their proposal or some sort of post-conception high associated with child-creating, rather than saying useful things… like “Oh, I just realized that all of my visions for the future at that point included my partner,” or “I had a dream where I had a kid and I woke up really disappointed when it wasn’t true,” or “I stopped being terrified by the mere mention of labor and delivery.” All of which might result in a feeling of “just knowing,” for that person, but are real pieces of information that amount to more than “just knowing,” and would be things that I might be interested in hearing from someone who had gone through marriage before me or pregnancy before me. So. Not lying? Unsure of how to articulate their feelings? Depends?

          • Liz

            I “knew” Josh was for me, but then sometimes I didn’t. And then other times I was worried that those times that I wasn’t SURE, I was right.

            I think there’s a gamut of “knowing.”

        • ProjectWed

          As a wedding dropout the first time around, I had loads of doubts. There were doubts about myself, doubts from my parents, doubts about him, doubts about us, doubts about doubts, doubts of doubting my doubts…

          This time, no doubts. I know I’m ready. I know he is ready. I know this is right.

          You. Just. Know.

          • Liz

            I think it’s fair to say YOU just knew. And apparently Meg just knew. But I don’t think it’s fair to make that an across the board generalization or prediction.

            We’ve had posts from readers with cold feet and doubts who married and were fine, and we’ve had posts from readers who had doubts they ignored and they ended in divorce.

            “You’ll just know,” isn’t fair to that whole range of possible experience and emotion. It does a disservice to people everywhere when we assume how they’ll feel and then tell them.

          • Lauren

            I think doubts are totally different than “I’m not sure if I’m ready or not.” I have no doubts that my partner is wonderful and generous and friendly and ideal for me. His priorities and mine are perfectly aligned. I know that I want to marry him. But am I ready? Am I fake-ready? WHY DOES THIS EVEN MATTER SO MUCH RIGHT NOW?

            That sentiment =/= doubts.

      • Lauren

        THANK YOU for confirming I’m not a CRAZY PERSON! I just don’t know how long I should give these feelings to work themselves out inside of myself before I talk to others about them (my closest friends, my mom, my boyfriend, you know the drill). And how do I even know that they’re my feelings?! We’re back to the beginning in a vicious cycle.

        • H

          Oh hell. I’m still doing this, and I am engaged and planning the wedding. I think Ashley has it right below, when she says you have to choose every day.

          That said, I also think I agree with the people who say, “You just know”.
          That’s NOT in any way to say you can’t be in denial of the knowledge that your relationship is ready.

          For example, I knew that the relationship was ready when I was throwing a hissy fit (to myself) that we weren’t engaged, but at the same time, I was too scared to admit to myself what I wanted. Yes, you read that right. I was upset at myself for wanting to be engaged, and upset at him for not having proposed yet. And that was okay, because that was exactly where I was. I think there’s a spectrum.

          You don’t wake up one morning, and say I’m ready to get married today. There’s a couple of different steps. Both individuals have to be ready, and the relationship has to be ready, (and sometimes, the family has to be ready) and all 3 or 4 of those may happen at different times.

      • I would love to hear this answer…how you KNOW about having kid(s) or not. Sigh.

      • Anon

        I would *LOVE* to read about how people have made the decision that it’s the right time to have a child. I’m personally so torn on the timing – do you wait until all your ducks are in a row (financial, career, etc.)? Do you go for it anyway because you’re getting older and you are scared of infertility and why not? I know it’s different for everyone and may be too personal to write about… but if anyone is willing to write and Meg is willing to post… y’all would be my favorite people ever. :)

    • Oy. I know I’m ready, but I don’t really know if I could articulate how I knew I was ready!
      Like Liz said, it’s totally different from person to person. And like Umpteenth Sarah said, the cliched “you’ll just know” response isn’t actually true. For me, I knew when I’d thought long and hard about the whole committing to spend your life with someone thing (which I did not start thinking about for a good long while after I started thinking about the pretty dresses and having a fun party) and then things started clicking (in my head, not necessarily going smoothly in life.) It started to feel like it was the next, most logical step to take, and that it was a step we would take even if we didn’t wind up having the party or the pretty dress.
      Not sure any of that made sense. Like I said, not an easy thing to articulate.

    • MC

      This is a valid question for me too!! I’m on the brink of engagement and I LOVE my person to death. I often wish things with us were more perfect, and society has certainly thrown in their two cents about how much more perfect things should be. Sometimes, these ‘whispers’ find their way between my ears and I start second-guessing myself. Not the feelings I have for this person, but – wow, maybe we do need to consider xx, and boy, what if xx did happen? This all leaves me second-guessing my feelings, which I know I shouldn’t do.

      It’s a horrible mind game. Is there a moment when everything falls into place and you just KNOW? I’m not sure there is. All I want to know is that my partner loves me and will be with me come what may, and that I’ll do the same for him. And it’s my great hope that the whisperers will vanish to whence they came.

    • Kara

      I was in a a long-distance relationship for 2.5 years, we’ve been married for ALMOST 3 months. Wouldn’t trade the time for anything. I think it actually made our relationship work because we HAD to communicate, even if it was just about the basketball game we were both watching on tv.

      On the lines of your question though:

      For me, “ready” happened when walking past the jewelry store no longer made me sick to my stomach. My gut speaks pretty loudly. Walking INSIDE the jewelry store took place after we were actually engaged (he had purchased a “temporary” ring because a ring was really important to him). And like others say, who knows, really. But the way I knew was when I was really ready, was when I was ready to give up my own place/job/town/friends/well-established independent career to be with him–and when I was busy laying out my heart and plan, he told me he had always assumed HE would be the one to give them all up.

    • p.

      Great point, Lauren! I’m still working on figuring out how I know I’m ready for something, but one thing that has helped me is therapy. It helped me look at how I’ve made past decisions and understand my own particular decision-making process (I think we all have our own process). One thing I learned about my own process is that I often need a lot of time to sit with a decision before I’m ready to make it. My husband and I were together seven years before we got married. I think I knew I was ready because after all that time, I already *felt* married to him (and I think in some ways I needed to understand that commitment myself before I was ready to share it with everyone else in my life.) This leads to another thing I learned which is that although I like to think that I’m a very rational person who makes decisions based on a quantifiable reasons, I actually rely on an unquantifiable feeling to make a decision. I felt ready to get married in part because of the feeling that we were already married – not because we were at a certain age, or we’d been together a certain number of years, or because we’d had specific experiences together.

      • Lauren

        This is interesting to me, P., because my intended and I have been together two years and we’re so young (I’m 24, he’s 23). All the role models and messages in my life are telling me that that’s not long enough and we’re too young. My younger self always thought that I would be getting married at the ripe old age of 30-something, after establishing my badass career and kickass personal life. Because like my mom and all my feminist role models, who needs a man to be happy?!

        Well, I don’t NEED this man to be happy, but he undoubtedly MAKES ME SO HAPPY. It almost feels like a betrayal of my feminist upbringing to think that I’m “ready” at so young an age. I think that’s where a lot of my mental conflict comes from.

        Ugh, it feels so good to admit that.

        • Amanda


          You won’t be betraying your younger feminist self – being a feminist is about making the choices that are right for YOU. And they are allowed to change over time!

          And keep in mind – you can still establish your badass career and kickass personal life while married. In this case, you just have an awesome cheerleading squad (of one) at home supporting every. step. you. take. It’s so refreshing and freeing to know you can take risks, with a safety net at home to put on the bandages if you stumble.

    • Ashley

      For me, it’s not really about ready. It’s about choice. I’m on the brink (as someone else said) of engagement and I know that I’m ready, because I choose him. I’ve been choosing him over and over again for the 5 years we’ve been together. I recognize that there are some days he literally makes me a crazy person and those days are going to keep happening and sometimes there’s going to be a bunch of them in a row. I know that, but I also know, almost everyday when I am driving home from work I honestly can’t breathe because I’m so thankful for him and our life together. In the end everything in our lives is a choice we make. Marriage is a leap of faith and it’s a promise to keep choosing each other everyday, forever. It’s a big decision, but just like every other big life decision you’ve probably ever made, eventually you just have to jump. And I truly have APW to thank for this peace I have about the biggest choices in my life. ( I feel basically the same about the kids question.)

      • Lauren

        This is awesome Ashley. Thanks for sharing. It gives me a little bit of clarity.

  • rys

    I’ll echo others in affirming that if you’re not ready, it’s not the right time to get married. Moving far away — even abroad — is more easily reversible than marriage. Long-distance relationships, despite their challenges, are doable (and also reversible in their own way). Preventing your partner from taking this career opportunity could end the relationship too. (I’m not saying that to emphasize the negatives, but merely to point out that the 2 options stated as the only options are not guarantees of anything which is why I think it’s so critical that Liz laid out other possibilities.)

    But I wonder if perhaps the language of being “pre-engaged” (which I’d never encountered until APW but that may well be my own ignorance here) is creating an obstacle or a blind spot. Maybe it would be helpful to think simply of the situation as a committed relationship at a crossroads. There are lots of possible paths, some of them direct, some of the meandering, some short, some long. Any one of those paths can lead to engagement, followed by marriage. Likewise, some of them might lead away from engagement and marriage, but it’s impossible to know which paths lead where in what way. There’s no perfect path out of the forest to follow, but a compass, keen observation, honest communication, openness to the unexpected, and gut instincts will move the relationship along.

    • JT


      “There’s no perfect path out of the forest to follow, but a compass, keen observation, honest communication, openness to the unexpected, and gut instincts will move the relationship along.”

      I think, is excellent advice.

  • Jenni

    I had a less drastic but similar situation. My boyfriend (now fiance) got an incredible job offer — one he had been working this entire career towards — but it was going to take him to a different state for three months. I was terrified of what that would do to our relationship and offered to move with him, but he wouldn’t hear of it — he didn’t want me giving up my job and such for a temporary relocation.

    Well, three months turned into four, which turned into six — and ended up being ten. We were able to see each other a couple of times a month, but it was horrible. To be honest, it nearly broke me, and I’m ashamed at how long it took me to get over it … but we figured out our way through it.

    I know it’s not the same situation, but here’s what I can tell you:

    1) Asking your boyfriend to give up his amazing opportunity (or giving him an ultimatum that forces him to give it up) for you probably won’t turn out well. Wouldn’t you resent someone who, directly or indirectly, made you give up a dream?

    2) While I in no way subscribe to the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” line, I do think that long-distance relationships are a proving ground. My fiance recently told me that my willingness (ha ha) to let him go and pursue his dream is what really cemented our relationship for him and made him ready to move forward.

    I can’t say it always works out this way, of course, but it seems to me that making him give up the opportunity or getting married prematurely are both bad options. Like Liz said, revisiting moving or thinking about a long-distance relationship might be options to reconsider. Good luck!

  • alex

    To be honest, I really don’t understand why living abroad without being married is the line you won’t cross. I might be missing something, but living abroad is an amazing experience, a way to grow and learn and see new things. I would just go for it. You can always come back and do a long distance relationship if you don’t like it there, but in my experience it is always such a wonderful experience and really gives you broader and better worldview. I can’t understand why anyone would want to turn down that opportunity! Marriage is just a commitment, and it seems like you’re already committed to one another. If you’re solid together, I don’t think you need to impose kinda random rules like that on him and on yourself. Give yourself permission to do whatever you feel like doing without worrying about it. You haven’t mentioned if you have a kick ass job here or something like that, and if you do, then yeah I might think about a long distance relationship. But if there’s any way you can just go for it, just go for it! Whatever you feel like doing.

    • This. I mean, I know lots of people have religious or cultural reasons for not wanting to do X without being married (move in together, kiss, etc), but if it’s just that you don’t think it’s “the right way to do things” or something, I’d say just move, if that’s what you want to do, and don’t worry about rushing marriage.

      My partner and I weren’t ready to get married after university (well, we still aren’t!), but we were confident enough in our relationship and the path we were on as a couple to uproot, move to a new city together, and for him to commit to following my international career around. We didn’t want to force ourselves to get married, and yeah it was annoying for people to hear “boyfriend/girlfriend” and make the assumption that he wouldn’t follow me overseas, but we got over it.

      Obviously it’s a call only you and your partner can make, because only you know the details of your situation and your reasons for things, but I wouldn’t be so quick to discount living together.

    • MEI

      I don’t know. It’s possible ARRGH (fantastic name, btw!) is currently on a career path that she doesn’t want to give up to move to another country without the legal and attendant financial security of marriage. I’m also very much on team don’t-get-married-if-you’re-not-ready, but I think there are very valid practical reasons to draw the line at either marriage or not going with him. Getting divorced would suck bad, but in the long run, forgoing your earning potential to be left without the protections that a marriage contract gives you might suck way worse. I know that’s kind of a doom and gloomy and not very romantic view of marriage, but I think it’s worth thinking about, especially given the discriminatory forces at work in the US that treat a woman who has chosen to detour her career for whatever reason as a less valuable employee. I mean the risk might be worth it to some people, and that may not be ARRGH’s reservation at all, but I think it’s a valid one.

  • Another Meg

    I want to throw in a “don’t get married if you’re ready” vote. This comes from experience. When I was twenty-two, I got married for the wrong reasons. It also had to do with timing- we rushed it to fit a schedule that wasn’t our own, and unfortunately we really weren’t ready. It fell apart about two years later. I can’t speak to your exact situation because I don’t know you, but I can tell you this- I should have listened to my gut and my family. For me it was the wrong time and the wrong guy, but I’ll never know if our relationship could have gotten stronger if we’d given it a chance to grow at its own pace. I am engaged again, and you can be damn sure we waited until we were 100% ready. Divorce is painful, and this is something I will carry in a small room of my heart for the rest of my life. You can always get married later. Long distance can be a great exercise for a relationship, but I think that’s been well covered in the comments above. I just wanted to voice my experience with getting married too soon.
    Note: Our experiences are likely very different, as we are all special little snowflakes. But my particular path is not one I would wish anyone to take.

  • Flo

    I totally agree, long distance relationships are hard but they won’t kill you (or your relationship for that matter). And it can show your parents that 1) you’re both super serious about each other, and 2) you NEED each other, and that will make them want to do everything possible to make you happy, i.e. letting you two get married with their blessing.

  • I must just echo everyone’s response about long distance relationships….

    My situation was sort of similar…except I was living in the foreign country when I met him then I had to leave due to my job and we were left with the question of what would happen next. Would we do long distance? Would we break up? Would we try to hurry things and get it all figured out before I left (and then potentially not leave?)

    For me, the feeling that I was not ready (and neither was my community of people- most hadn’t had the chance to meet him yet) overpowered the panic of wondering what long distance would do to us. I needed the time, our community needed the time and ultimately, I think he needed the time too. And so if that time came in the form of long distance (which had a set end date of a year and a half down the line) then so be it. It was worth it to spend that time working on our relationship and finding peace for me in what the next big steps were going to be.

    On the other side of having survived the long distance and it being over (THANK GOODNESS), it was worth it. It was worth it for me to have that time to emotionally work through what I needed to process and honor and understand. Is everything perfect? No. Are there still parts of marriage that I am nervous about? Yes. Will our community ever be 100% ready for the changes that marriage means? No. But I got what I needed from the time (and so did my fiance) and that is invaluable to me.

    So I say, take the time. Don’t rush something just because logistically it might make sense (damn visa rules). There are other ways to make it work (Skype is awesome) and having that emotional peace anchor you in the midst of the waves of preparing to be married is so, so important.

  • BSB

    I too vote that if you consider long distance, do so with very solid plans/rules/expectations. Make sure everyone’s computer is Skype ready. Pay for “skype in” so you can call each other at local rates as often as you wish. And come up with a travel budget and general plan for how often you can visit each other and look into opportunities for extended visits (maybe up to the time limit the tourist visa allows).

    My fiance got a job offer in NYC after he finished his degree. We were not engaged yet (we are now) and at that point I was not about to uproot my job–esp. since I was not certain that we would get engaged. I decided to give it a year, then reconsider if I should move or he should or what. So he moved (and made sure to get a place in a neighborhood I would be comfortable in), we visited every six weeks, talked all the time, skyped, etc. Our visits were so nice because we really stopped to spend time together instead of regular life where we are always on the go, etc. I worked out of my company’s NYC office when I could, etc. It was hard, but it worked. Almost exactly a year after he moved we got engaged, and through some twists of fate he ended up moving back shortly after. This was obviously not international long distance, so it’s not the same. But I really do believe that as much as we have to compromise in life to be together, if you are looking at your whole lives, some time apart here and there to allow people to reach individual goals/dreams is probably a good idea. It’s an investment in a happy future if you get your careers on happy tracks.

    That’s my view anyway. Obviously it’s your life and ultimately your decision to live with but wanted to share my perspective. Best of luck!

  • Allie

    Although you’ve already received loads of fantastic advice, I would like to throw in my two cents. As someone who has been in a long distance relationship for three out of the past eight years I have been with my partner (engaged for the last 10 months of the long distance time), I would love to encourage you to take your time in your relationship. It seems like you have two great alternatives that involve neither forcing your partner to give up his dream or rushing into marriage – embark on an adventure abroad with your partner (sans engagement ring) or try out the long distance relationship thing.

    When my partner and I were making plans for graduate school, we came at the decision to go the long-distance route because we both felt that we needed to do what was best for each of us, education-wise, neither of us felt that it was fair to make the other person compromise on that matter, and neither of us wanted to leave the other feeling bitter for not being able to fully pursue their dream. And, we felt that our relationship was strong enough that we’d have many years in the same spot when all of this was done, so it was worth the mutual sacrifice (and mutual reward) of living apart to achieve our individual educational dreams. I have to say, being in a long-distance relationship has been a clarifying experience, as evidenced by the wedding we are currently planning. I think our relationship has deepened in a way that it might not have otherwise if we had lived in the same place. That said, it has gotten harder to say goodbye each time we have to do the dreaded airport drop-off. I will be incredibly relieved in a year when I graduate from school and my dog and I can join my husband-to-be in the city where he is studying.

    So, take my experience as you will. I am sure you and your partner will make the best decision you can – but remember, it is important to make sure you both feel that your needs as individuals are met, in addition to your needs as a couple. Good luck!

  • My friend went through the situation where her very serious boyfriend got a great job offer in a foreign country, and despite her desire not to be separated from him, she decided to support her boyfriend’s move to a foreign country. This was hard for her, but she told me that she realized that she never wanted to be the reason that he didn’t pursue this incredible opportunity. But the timing was not right for them for other options. Anyhow, long story short…the whole experience ended up really enriching their lives in ways they could have never imagined (and she ended up living there eventually for part of the time too).

    And when starting a long-distance relationship with my now-husband, I decided to approach it as a good test of whether we could survive marriage. I figured if it couldn’t then the relationship probably wasn’t right for marriage either, and I thought I’d rather know that before getting married.

    Things that helped: having a concrete next planned visit to look forward to and, of course, Skype for day-to-day survival.

  • Kat

    Lots of people have said that a long distance relationship, while sucky, can be a good proving ground for your realtionship and show (yourselves, other people) that your relationship is serious. I just want to say don’t feel that you have to be prepared to do long distance to be serious or committed. When some friends were considering long distance my husband and I talked (this was before we were married) and both felt we wouldn’t do long distance (for anything more than a few months). What we meant by that was we couldn’t think of a situation where the benefits of being apart (jobs etc) outweighed the benefits of being together. So chosing to be together (moving together, or staying together) can be just as serious/committed as chosing to long distance.

    Don’t get married if you are not ready. But don’t not get married because your parents/family are not ready for you to get married.

    • Jiggs

      Yes, seconded times a million. When my husband was my fiance, he worked two weeks on/two weeks off in another city. So there was constant upheaval in our routines and lots of phoning and emailing. And we were terrible at phone calls/internet communication. It wasn’t true long distance, but it was an awful, unhappy period in our relationship. We are just both the types of people who need to be in the same city as our person, sleeping in the same house, having some sense of routine. LD is not for everyone and isn’t a litmus test for how good your relationship is – even people with great relationships can be totally ill-suited for long distance.

  • Megan

    I relate with this on so many levels.

    One: unresolved issues/parental doubts. I was in a previous relationship where my parents had reservations about my then-fiancé. My gut knew they were right, but I refused to admit it. Luckily, I listened before it was too late. Parents usually want what’s best for you, and it’s important to be honest with yourself. Is their hesitation legitimate?

    Two: self-imposed rules. I relate to this in two ways. With my first engagement, I was allowing my self-imposed rules and societal fairy-tales to pressure me into getting married before I was ready. NOT GOOD. With my current marriage, I allowed a second self-imposed rule to become more flexible because I simply knew it was right. We got married a full year sooner than I was planning because we just knew it was time. We were ready. And I’m completely at peace with it. Know what’s actually important about your rule of being married before moving abroad. Why is that your line in the sand?

    Three: long distance. My husband and I were long distance for two+ years. If your relationship can handle distance, it can handle anything. You truly learn how to trust, communicate, and commit. It sucks like hell, but it’s certainly way better than either breaking it off or rushing into marriage.

    Four: moving abroad before marriage. My now-husband lived in Germany when our relationship took off. I knew I loved him, knew I wanted to be with him, but was no where near ready to marry him. So I lived with him for three months until my visiting visa expired. And then I got a student visa in the UK so I could at least be on the same continent as him. And then we both moved back to the States. It was a temporary solution, but it was wonderful because I felt no pressure to marry him before we were ready.

    Five: pressure to marry. My husband’s job offers about a million incentives to get married sooner rather than later. Financial compensation, health care, emotional support, spacial convenience, you name it. However, we knew despite the incentives that we wanted to do this on our own time. And we did. And it was so worth it.

  • Jiggs

    Setting aside your parental issues for a while, have you given any thought to why you feel like you can’t/won’t move with your boyfriend unless you’re married? I don’t mean to invalidate your feelings on the subject, I just notice in your letter you mention you a) see yourself marrying this person, so pretty serious relationship right? and b) you don’t want to live apart.

    Is it that you feel you can’t make big life changes without making it “official”? Do you maybe find the idea of moving really scary and need to be assured that you moved for a “good” reason or you need your bf to prove this is permanent to justify your move? Because marrying is not a guarantee of permanence. Is there a way you can reframe this for yourself (assuming that you are otherwise 100% pro-moving) as a cool adventure with your forever person – and sort out the actual forever paperwork later?

    You don’t mention if you already live together (or plan to) or if you’re against moving in together before marriage, so if this is way off base given your belief system forgive me.

  • Sarah

    My fiance and I started our relationship with a year and a half of long distance — on different continents. It was AWFUL but it gave us a lot of strength in the long run. I knew that if we could go through that together, we were obviously devoted to making the relationship work. When I moved across the world to be with him three and a half years ago, we got an apartment together, but there was no engagement for a long time. I know it was a massive leap, but I wanted to see if we worked together day to day — and not just when we were missing each other — before making the even bigger leap into a lifetime together.

  • Julia

    Let’s talk about the elephant in the room– being in an LDR takes sex off the table*. It forces you to figure out all the things you have in common that are not physical. And I see it as a good primer for marriage, because when you take someone “in sickness or in health, ’till death do us part” you’re basically saying, “I love you more than I love the sex we have. I love you enough that even when we can’t make love anymore, I will not leave.”

    Celibacy is no walk in the park, but when it’s worth it, it’s worth it. I was 3,000 miles away from my partner for our first three years together. We came through it knowing that, even though we both love sex, we wouldn’t fall apart without it. You might want to learn whether or not your relationship is worth it without the sex before you commit to lifelong monogamy.**

    *If you’re not having sex yet, then this post is irrelevant.
    **Unless you’re planning on a non-monagamous or monogamish marriage, which is cool! Go you! But it’s a whole different kettle of fish that I know nothing about.

  • Hannah

    In the last four years my now fiance and I have only lived close, within 100miles of each other, for a total of 8 months.
    With that being said. A LDR is hard, but in my opinion, totally worth it if you’re not ready to rush into marriage. We were engaged in Jan of 2011 and will finally get married in October of this year. One important thing to remember is that while you are still “dating” him, you still have to create a life separate from him. My fiance and I both had good friends, mine in KY and his in CA during our separation. You can’t expect him to call you each and every moment, but do expect and ask him to make time for you at least once a day! For us, it’s sometimes just a text or some days it’s a 3 hour phone call, but each day, we make time for each other.
    I wouldn’t change our years apart for anything. It’s made us so much stronger. Our communication skills have skyrocketed and when we finally see each other, that’s pretty epic too!
    Spending time apart, but together, lets you decide who you are, and get used to the idea of being married without actually committing so quickly.

    PS. If you chose to do a LDR, people will think you’re crazy. But really I think they’re just jealous that you guys are secure enough to love each other and trust each other from far away!

  • bellezyx

    I’m curious – why is it exactly that you don’t want to move without being married? Do you not want to alter or change your own life without a commitment from him that your lives and their paths are ‘officially’ entwined togeather? Or is it more of a functional thing – being unmarried in the Middle East for example is a total hassle?

    Maybe you can look at it from a different perspective – what if you went and lived with him abroad (I love that word – so old-wordly!) for a year. Give yourself that gap-year you always wanted. See if you can get a job there as well, or do volunteer work or just spend a year learning to play the kazoo or whatever it is you’ve always been meaning to do. After a year decide what you want to do. Go home and back to your job/cat/family and left him finish off his contact as a long distance relationship and continue on the path you’d previously envisaged or maybe stick around ‘abroad’ with him until he’s finished.

  • anbede

    I moved to Brazil with my now fiance after 6 months! I was 27 at the time so no parental issues keeping me home.(they didn’t think it was good idea of course, but they didn’t pay for any of it so I didn’t really give two hoots what they thought) I wasn’t ready to get married, but I also knew I wanted him in my life! We lived apart 3 months. I saved my money and got there as fast as I could. It was a hard six months, but I am so glad I did it. We are back in the U.S now and actually moving to Australia soon. My thought was the worst that can happen if we don’t work out, I go home after spending time in Brazil. Best thing…it works out:) I think you have to be really sure. I couldn’t see into the future that it would work out, but i also had no hesitation. The cliche “when you know, you know” worked for me. Follow your gut either way and don’t be scared to take a chance.

  • Beaula

    If you are not ready, thats it. A compromise has to be made somewhere if you the relationship wants to continue. However, I will say, do not move unless you are engaged/married. I recently moved with my boyfriend to England from Texas and it will test your relationship in whole new ways. Its like being in a pressure cooker, you are in a whole new environment, navigating grocery stores, driving, making friends, job applications etc and when you only have the other to rely on, you have to hope you are strong enough. I wanted to be engaged before we moved, it didnt happen and its my biggest regret. When you come to a foreign country, realize you may not be able to get a job in your career, have no friends, family, or money you start to doubt why you are even there with your partner. We have been preengaged for 2 1/2 years and taking a giant leap of faith in your relationship in another area just sort of compounds everything else.

    hope it works out.

  • Candice

    Just wanted to add that I live overseas and moving here with my husband of 10 years was a hard transition for our marriage. Culture shock just adds a whole other dimension of stress and pressure. I would caution you, that moving to a new culture right after getting married could be a pretty big stressor. Good luck!