Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My girlfriend and I have been together for seven awesome years. We have a great life. We live together, we’re looking at buying a place, we have all kinds of fun vacations and adventures. I love her more than anything. She’s my best friend, she’s amazing. I know she feels the same.
Neither of us want to get married — ever. But we also plan to stay together forever. We are both completely happy with this approach to life. But we can’t get our families, and namely our parents, to understand.
Our parents constantly pressure us to get married. Even though we have told them many times we don’t want kids, they always ask about grandkids. They say things like we will “change our minds,” both about being married and having kids. Frankly, we won’t. We’re in our later 30s. We both know the life we want and we have found it.
It is repeatedly and increasingly frustrating that our parents push their values and ideas on us. What advice do you have for getting them to stop without creating confrontation or tension?
Well first off, congrats for finding a life partner who is on your same page. This in itself is something to celebrate, and by no means does one need a child or wedding to validate the sanctity of a commitment and connection.
Simply put, our society leans traditional: whether thinking about marriage, kids, or religion, the mainstream still favors the norms, and most people expect the lot of us to fall in line. Frankly, it’s unrealistic. Research and data annually shows people are delaying marriage and pregnancy until later and later ages. Reasons are based in economics, values, priorities, and even in the dating culture, which thanks to apps and online avenues, has vastly broadened options and opportunities for singles, and made it more enticing than ever to peruse options.
But your situation is different. You aren’t shirking commitment; you’ve found it, and embraced it. You just don’t want to get married. This is personal, and important, and it’s a decision between you and your partner, not a matter of debate, input, and negotiation for some ad-hoc extended committee of meddling family members. Your best route here is to be direct and firm: this is what makes you happy, this is your choice, and just as no one would have tried to talk your parents out of marriage, for example, no one should try to talk you into a more formal and legalized commitment.
Two words: Who cares? You’re happy, you both share a powerful partnership, you’re traveling the same amazing path together, aligned on all of the big life stuff. You’re in your late-30s, like full-on grownups, and you’ve been together forever. So, why do you even care what the parents or anyone else think about your relationship at this point? Because it really doesn’t matter. You’ve already got it all figured out, which is more than a lot of couples can say. You’re already winning.
Is the constant questioning and applied pressure annoying? Only if you allow it be. Can’t you just laugh it off, shrug it off or ignore it? For someone in a relationship as strong as yours’, that would seem easy enough. But if you’d like to exit the high road and pull into the parent parking lot to talk to them like teenagers, you can take Wanda’s wisdom and tell them and all other overly-concerned parties, “Look, we don’t care how you did it back in the day or what you think we should be doing. We’re happy, in love, going to be together forever, and perfectly pleased with all of that. And wedding and kiddos just ain’t happening. Ever. We aren’t doing it, even for you, as much as we love you.”
That should do the trick. If it doesn’t, just merge back onto the high road. And to you other kids all across the land, take it from me, parents just don’t understand.