A Marriage Mindset, Overachieving Chicks, and the Patels

Marriage Mindsets, Determination, and More2018 update: We still stand by these thoughts on having a marriage mindset, but you may also want to check out our more recent discussions on love, including dating advice for career-driven women. Check out the latest discussion among readers about the marriage mindset here!  

I recently watched Meet The Patels on Netflix. (I recommend!) The romantic comedy documentary talks a lot about “marriage mindset,” and I thought it might make an interesting discussion over here. If you haven’t seen it, 30-year-old Indian-American actor Ravi Patel agrees to do everything he can for one year to find a wife the way his Indian parents want, including biodata, online dating, Indian weddings, and even attending an Indian marriage convention. His parents accuse him throughout the documentary of not having a “marriage mindset” — of going into the thing with doubts and hesitations and expectations that are too high. (Here’s a nice NPR article about it, and here’s the trailer on YouTube.)

Of course, in case it needs to be said: marriage is not essential to happiness or success, either in an “official document” kind of way or a long-term relationship (“LTR”) kind of way. In fact, for my own $.02, I’ve always had the mindset that I’d rather be by myself than with the wrong person.  In my teens and 20s this meant I didn’t date a lot and wasn’t in too many LTRs — I had other stuff to do, was happy with my life, and didn’t see any urgency to finding someone. Looking back, I think I saw a lot of girlfriends spend too much energy on the wrong guy (sometimes to the detriment of school and career), and unconsciously stepped back from the whole arena, with the idea that I would welcome love if it happened, but I wasn’t going to put myself out there and force something.

At some point in my mid 20s I assessed my life and realized that I really wanted biological kids as well as a partner in crime; because early menopause is a concern in my family this meant I needed to get a bit more serious about my search. (I also wanted as much time as possible to enjoy coupledom with my partner before we had kids!) So I definitely shifted into a “marriage mindset” by my late 20s, where I focused on dating a lot and going to a lot of social events, and read a lot of self-help books about dating and partnership.  Still, I called things off as soon as I realized I didn’t see long-term prospects — and I also cut guys loose pretty quick if they didn’t seem that into me. (I am a romantic as well as an introvert – it’s a tough combination!) What was crazy to me during that intense period of dating was that I could definitely tell when a guy had a “marriage mindset” as well because there was an intensity to the date(s) that wasn’t there on other ones — more conversational questions that I thought drove at kids, timelines, Big Lifestyle Qs — I even felt like some guys were trying to assess if I’d be a willing/good SAHM on the first date!

I’m happy to give more dating tips from what I learned in that period in a later post if you guys are interested — but right now I want to hear your thoughts! For those of you who are married/engaged, do you think you need/needed a marriage mindset? For those of you who consider yourself to have one and are currently dating/coupled, how quickly can you tell if your date has a marriage mindset as well? Does anyone have any tales to share of successfully shifting a boyfriend or girlfriend into a marriage mindset? For those of you who’ve been through an intense dating period like me or Patel, did you find it an empowering experience or a draining one (or both)? 


  1. I have been trying to shift myself into a marriage mindset for a while- I know I want to be married at some point, but I just hate dating, and I’m finding it really hard to “put myself out there” (as people who are married LOVE to say). I probably just need a little more time alone, but I’m almost 30, so I don’t have a ton of time left

    • “I probably just need a little more time alone, but I’m almost 30, so I don’t have a ton of time left”

      OMG NO. I wish people would stop with this. Believing that you’re running out of time assists no one in dating.

    • I have just visited a friend of mine who’s expecting her third baby (we’re both 30 years old). I am about to complete my PhD in IT and have no sound job option I can land afterwards, while my partner has a temporary position as a researcher. This visit has really got me thinking that I may be really “lagging behind”: I do not own a house, I do not envision getting married or having kids anytime soon since I do not feel I am financially secure enough, even though I’d really like it. My partner tells me that I should accept this is just a transitional period, and that I’ll be able to sort things out once my PhD is over, but sometimes I think he does not really feel time ticking as much as I do. I was wondering if others feel or have felt the same way and how you got over this.

  2. For me, it happened organically when I went met the right person. In my teens and early 20s I had no immediate interest in marriage and kids and one of the things that led to my breakup from my college BF was that he saw those things happening with us and I didn’t. I met my now-husband when I was 24 and pretty much immediately knew that I wanted to marry him, and also felt a desire to have children for the first time in my life. We dated very contentedly for about a year and a half with the mutual desire for marriage someday but no immediate hurry. As I approached my 26th birthday I started feeling a strong desire to get engaged and then married within about a year and I had to gently pressure him to speed up the timetable (mostly because he thought the engagement and marriage could be basically simultaneous and didn’t realize I wanted a year to plan a wedding – we were basically always in agreement about the wedding date). We got engaged a week before my 26th birthday and married a little over a year later.

  3. What an interesting topic. I was extremely lucky; I had basically never even given much thought to marrying when I met my would-be husband during my freshman year of college. I was interested in dating and having boyfriends, sure, but if you had asked me then when I expected/hoped to get married, I probably would have given you a blank stare. (And I didn’t want kids!) But when I met him, things just flowed so naturally that we never even really questioned it. So, I guess you could say that I don’t know much about this topic, but I always sort of wonder how it would have worked out had it not been for that (wonder out of curiosity, not wistfulness).

    • Yep, same here — I got lucky and met my now-H during undergrad, so I never had to think about whether or not I wanted to get married, and fortunately neither did he– we are one of those annoying couples that “just knew!”

  4. Senior Attorney :

    When I was in my 20s I definitely had a marriage mindset and it led to marrying somebody who was definitely unsuitable. And it happened again in my 30s. Ugh. I laughingly tell Dr. Shrink that my previous main requirement for a husband was “is willing to be in the same room with me for more than 10 minutes” and there is more truth to that than is comfortable. I focused way more on finding somebody who was willing to marry me than I did on really thinking about the qualities I wanted and needed in a partner, and both times that ended in tears.

    This time around I was convinced I was going to be single forever, and that was completely okay with me. I focused on being happy and building a life I loved, which included friends and my house and doing the things I wanted to do. It also included dating, but I vowed that I wasn’t going to chase boys or waste my time dating anybody who wasn’t crazy about me. And I also had a fairly short but important list of characteristics I was looking for in a gentleman friend. I started dating Lovely Fiance about 18 months after I left my former husband, and for the longest time it was just hanging out and enjoying one another and not really looking ahead beyond the next fun vacation.

    And then… boom! Once the idea of marriage came up, almost by accident, it seemed ridiculously obvious that we both really wanted to be married to each other. Andd now here we are buying wedding shoes and interviewing wedding planners. So for us, the marriage mindset wasn’t there until all of a sudden it was.

    • Anonymous :

      Can you expand on your list of required characteristics? The list, but also how you came to that list?

      Do you think you could have figured out your list earlier, or did you need your previous marriages to really know what you needed? I haven’t been married, but when I think of what characteristics I need, I draw a bit of a blank, other the obvious one like love me, respectful, etc.

      • Senior Attorney :

        I’m sure I’ve posted the list here before, but off the top of my head, it included (in no particular order, except the first one which is totally the most important):

        1. Kind
        2. Sense of humor
        3. Smart
        4. Reasonably age appropriate
        5. Reasonably financially appropriate
        6. Reasonably physically appropriate (active/attractive)
        7. Makes things happen
        8. Is crazy about me

        Lovely Fiance checks all these boxes and a couple of others I didn’t even know I had, including 9. Cooks, and 10. Has nice friends. The last one is really important. Having no friends is a giant red flag, in my experience. Oh, and 11. Doesn’t think I sparkle too much and, in fact, digs my sparkliness.

        I have done a lot of therapy over a lot of years, and that was really what helped me come up with the list. I was raised in a pretty crazy family where the main lesson I learned was “people who love you tell you you’re not good enough” and it took a long time to get over that.

        • Anonymous :

          I know you always say men can’t be changed, but my husband couldn’t turn on an oven when I met him and now makes me gourmet meals… I’m all fora checklist of qualities that indicate he’s a good person like kindness, a sense of humor and treating you well, but I’m very glad I didn’t have “cooks” on my list!

          • I understood the “can’t be changed” thing to be more character traits. You can learn a skill/gain a new hobby like cooking or take up a new responsibility around the house, but not if you’re a person who isn’t good about splitting up chores or whatever.

          • Anonymous :

            I might adjust this to ‘contributes to our common daily needs, like food’ but it definitely belongs on my list too. Fancy meals isn’t the point – the point is having a partner who regularly contributes to shared needs. I have ended up the person responsible for all meals in past relationships and since it literally affected every day, it definitely wore on me.

          • Senior Attorney :

            I meant to suggest that “cooks” was not on my list but is a lovely bonus. I always thought it would be amazing to have somebody cook a meal and put it down in front of me, and it turns out it’s even better than I thought it would be!

          • Anonymous Poser :

            FWIW, I don’t understand what Senior Attorney advises as “men can’t be changed”. Rather, it’s “Don’t go into a relationship expecting you are going to change things about the other person.”

            She’s talking about men only because that’s who she’s partnering with. IOW, if she were to have been dating a woman, I doubt her advice would have been different. I don’t see it as attached to gender/sex.

        • Anonymous :

          7. Makes things happen

          This is SO VERY important. Ten years and three kids later I’ve realized that DH does not and will not have this quality. I feel so exhausted realizing I will be responsible for ‘making things happen’ for the next 18 years at least.

          • Anonymous :

            On the other hand, this is a “know your personality” things. My DH is a wonderful person but he does not make things happen. But I’m a Type A planner and I love planning all our vacations, making dinner reservations, etc. I wouldn’t say I “love” handling some of the less fun logistical stuff like finances and kids’ schedules but I’m happy to do it and he does more than his fair of other stuff around the house. It works for us.

          • Anon at 1:46 :

            I think it’s vastly differently if DH can acknowledge this and divide tasks accordingly/show appreciation for me taking care of this stuff. Instead of ‘thanks for finding and booking vacation accommodation in his university city’, I get – ‘how come this accommodation costs so much – can’t we do something cheaper’.

          • Anonymous :

            Right there with you sister.

          • Amen!

        • Anonymous :

          I can relate so much to your post! I also came from a family that lived by the motto of “people who love you tell you you’re not good enough” and that “you need to dim your light, you’re shining too brightly and making others feel uncomfortable.”

          I was married at a very early age to someone very unsuitable. It took a couple years of therapy and a lot of self reflection before I was able to put my own “list” together. I also listed kindness as the most important quality of any future partner. I am now happily married to the kindest man I have ever met who is also an amazing cook =)

          Wishing you a lifetime of love and happiness!

          • Senior Attorney :

            Aw, thanks! High five for being raised by wolves and living to tell the tale!

        • Excellent list! Mine is all the above plus:

          -wants similar things out of life/ has compatible lifestyle goals
          -I have to like who I am around them. Just acknowledging that different people tend to draw out particular traits in me, and I have to be happy with those things that are more prominent. (This applies to communication styles, lifestyles, etc.)

          • Sydney Bristow :

            I’m concerned that one of my sisters doesn’t value your second point. I think it’s an excellent one.

          • Yes! Those are so important. I’ll add these to the note I made of Senior Attorney’s list!

  5. crazytown :

    How does this relate to achieving in the workplace?

    • Anonymous :

      I want success in all areas of my life- career, financial, friendships, romantic relationships, health/fitness, hobbies, etc.

      The pursuit of excellence is not limited to career. Or if it is, you probably need to expand your outside interests.

    • I admit I just skimmed “Lean In,” but wasn’t it a big topic that she picked a partner who supported her career goals? And helped make them happen?

      • Anonymous :

        Yes, I think that’s probably the #1 takeaway from Lean In: that who you marry might affect your career more than any other thing you do.

    • Whether you have a spouse/partner/relationship and who that person is and whether they are supportive can greatly affect your career. It is probably one of the most important decisions we can make. Particularly if you want to have children and a demanding career.

  6. Jaded Divorcee :

    I met a guy at age 21, married him at 26, and am finalizing a divorce after a year of separation now at age 34.
    Marriage had always been something I wanted. Now I don’t think it’s important to me; I want a relationship and commitment and I would marry the guy if he wanted that but I wouldn’t care if we are together and even had kids without getting married. I don’t know if I’m just jaded, I just feel like marriage doesn’t make a relationship.

    • That is basically my timeline as well. Met basically the day we turned 22, married at 25, and submitting the divorce papers now after a year of separation at age 35. I agree that I want the relationship and commitment, and the marriage isn’t as important. I definitely want kids, and am even thinking about being a single parent by choice in the next year (but I want to wait until I’m well through the divorce).

  7. For some reason, this topic rubs me the wrong way on a site for overachieving women. I know it should not, I just hate it.

    • double ugh :

      And your attitude that there’s something wrong with overachieving women admitting that marriage and families are important to them rubs ME the wrong way.

      • Anonymous :

        +1 – It’s possible to want a successful career and successful marriage!

      • I would say “acknowledge” rather than “admit.” Nothing to be ashamed of.

    • For me I think it’s because women’s groups (even when they’re professional ones) or things generally geared toward professional women always spend a lot of time discussing marriage and babies to an extent that’s not true of stuff geared towards professionals in general. I know women face particular difficulties balancing marriage and family, but a lot of times it comes across as women’s interests= babies + men + maybe some other stuff.

      • Anonymous :

        Maybe it’s an age and stage thing? When I was in my 20s, I was a guy at work, about work things. Then the guys got married and it was all “I have kids now; family time; you spend the rest of your youth plugging away while I golf and your eggs break down.” Hated that.

        My issues now may diverge further as my parents age and I have to help take care of them (only nearby kid, only sibling is female, too).

        So, yay career, but not at the expense of my life.

        • Yeah, that makes sense and is sort of what I meant by “I know women face particular difficulties balancing marriage/family and work.” I’d expect that work and family issues are more closely related for women than they are for men and I would therefore expect to hear more about family in professional type outlets. At some point though, it crosses into equating women with marriage and family with little room for much else. I’m not sure at what point exactly that seems to happen, but it’s something I’m wary of.

          • Yes, because many times when interacting in groups at work, the discussion quickly turns to focus on marriage and family in women’s groups, but my male coworkers will usually talk about a wider range of topics, marriage and family included.

      • Worrywort :

        Yeah, I remember going to women in law panels in law school and all the topics and conversations were about babies and balancing work &babies. I’m sitting here thinking, what about work-life balance so I can DATE or do stuff where I might find someone to date so I can even get to babyville?

    • Anonymous :

      Frankly, the site and commenters referring to themselves as overachieving women grosses me out – this kind of division (workers! Useless families!) sets feminism back again and again

  8. SmugMarried :

    I think there are two marriage mindsets. One is “I want to get married” and one is “I want to be married.” Sometimes they overlap and sometimes they’re incompatible, or at least difficult to reconcile if your desire to get married leads you to marry the wrong person.

    I certainly know people who wanted to get married/be in a relationship. Some of their relationships worked out and some didn’t. I think the ones that did benefitted from mutually shared expectations. Probably the most important thing in any relationship is just knowing how to be together and for some people that’s harder than others and it’s always going to be harder if you start off with different expectations, especially if they are unsaid or maybe even unrecognized.

    I’ve never much thought about getting married but I’ve always been pretty good about being in relationships and it’s served me well thus far in life. I basically went from long term relationship to long term relationship until my current husband came along, with some periods of dating and being alone. I’ve always enjoyed all three. I never thought about being married but always made sure that the person I chose for my life made me feel secure, good, valued, loved, and that I could feel those things in return. I’ve never been interested in changing someone or making someone not interested in a long term commitment make that commitment. I think all relationships take work but if it feels like it, especially from the beginning, it’s probably not going to work out.

    • Senior Attorney :

      Yep. I have aphorisms for everything, and two more of my relationship sayings are “people are not improvement projects,” and “relationships should be easy.”

  9. Anonymous :

    “Does anyone have any tales to share of successfully shifting a boyfriend or girlfriend into a marriage mindset?”

    lol wut.

    • ha — it shows how much I read here that my only example of this is Senior Attorney’s (Former) Gentleman Friend, Now Lovely Fiance.

      Everyone else I know who’s had this problem? Ended up broken up, but only some of the time before the wedding.

      • Anonymous :

        I have a ton of female friends that basically give guys ultimatums to propose. Some broke up, but most got married and seem happy. Who knows if they will end in divorce but I’m sure at least some will make it.

        • Anonymous :

          yeah, giving an ultimatum sounds like a stellar idea

          • Anonymous :

            Not saying it’s a good idea. I didn’t do it, although I did have to nudge my husband to propose. But many friends have done it with at least temporary success (that is, marriage).

      • Senior Attorney :

        Ahem. It is my position that he started it…


        • That’s what I meant :) Unclear phrasing on my part. I think the distinction is that it didn’t involve any nagging or ultimatums (ultimata?) — my friends that eventually broke up had all been wheedling for months.

    • Anonymous :

      . . . I put down my WSJ and brushed the Chee-to dust off of his arm, as I gently touched it. “Honey, I just don’t think I can see myself making out in your mom’s basement if I look forward five years. And I’m going to get drinks with my GMAT study group tomorrow. They don’t have cornhole or gaming at the bar we’re going to, but you can totally come if you want.”

      He steps up or you get to know Knut from the study group better. Win either way, no?

      • Wildkitten :


      • Wildkitten :

        Are you a writer? Seriously. You should be a writer. This was so compelling. I want you to write a book. I’d read it. Every word is perfect. I would love to read more about overachieving women and relationships.

        Maybe go to one of these? https://www.iowasummerwritingfestival.org/workshops/all

  10. Sydney Bristow :

    I wouldn’t call mine a marriage mindset but rather a relationship mindset. I was single for a decade for a variety of reasons. The later part of that time period was because I was perfectly happy alone, on a path, and didn’t really feel the need to seek out a relationship. That changed and I realized I might want a relationship and it all came together for me on New Year’s Eve one year. I made an active choice that I wanted to be in a relationship and signed up for online dating. I was seeking a serious relationship but marriage wasn’t necessarily my focus. Turns out I met my husband about 2 weeks later. The relationship was exactly what I was looking for and marriage just seemed right.

    I’m with Kat though. I’d rather be single than be with the wrong person. I was seeking the right relationship not just a relationship.

  11. I guess I was lucky, but I met my husband sophomore year of college and we just hit it off right away and honestly within weeks knew we wanted to marry each other. We dated for a year, then moved in together, then got engaged and then got married a year later. (So together almost three years before marriage.) Everyone thought we were too young, we would get divorced during law school, etc. But we have been married 10 years, have 3 children, and are still going strong. He has turned out to be a true partner in every single way. I know I can count on him for anything. He is kind, loyal, funny, hard working, dependable, the list goes on and on. I don’t think I even recognized all of these qualities initially. I just knew that he was smart, cute, and made me feel special. But over the years I have really realized what a wonderful man he is.

  12. I don’t love all the the caveats “and of course you don’t need a marriage to be happy.” It reminds me of that saying, you don’t need alcohol to have fun, but it !?/?ing helps. While I am happy single I think most people are happIER in a good relationship, and it minimizes how hard it can be to be the only single one of your friends at a certain age.

  13. I’d just also like to chime in and say that relationships/ marriage can’t always be easy, even really great ones. This issue has been on my mind a lot because my DH and I have been together for nearly a decade, and we fight bitterly and sometimes really poorly. But when I take a step back, even in the trenches, I’m very very happy.

    I think a lot of how “easy” a relationship will be depends on how “Easy” the participants are. I can be a difficult person– I have strong emotions and a ton of family of origin baggage that still rears its head, sometimes without my realizing it (and yes, TONS of therapy). My husband is the same way. It’s what makes us so well-matched, but it also can lead to some serious conflicts and challenges as a partnership.

    I bring this up because when I was dating, I was very worried that I would never find anyone who wasn’t intimidated or scared away by my family of origin intense stuff. The number of Dude-Bros who, when things got serious enough for me to disclose a bit of it, would get all tetchy and say, “whoa, that’s really intense. My mom just, you know, bakes cookies…” It made me feel like I was defective. When I met another person who was as kind, smart, funny, fun, and interesting as I am, who “got” the intense family stuff because he has it too, in a totally other set of issues, it was magic. Makes for a great relationship but NOT always an easy one, not at all. I’ve had to learn that, given our strong emotions and fighting style, I need to not put the relationship on the line, even in my own head. Just food for thought. Great topic!!

    • Anonymous :

      Thank you for posting this. I appreciate a lot of SA’s wisdom, but the “relationships are supposed to be easy” requirement is a bit simplistic and glosses over the very real issues some couples face, in my case – having a husband with depression and bipolar disorder. I love my husband very much, but I would never call our relationship easy. Whenever I read that comment, it makes me feel badly about my marriage – which I work very hard to keep together.

    • Thank you.

    • TO Lawyer :

      Thank you for saying this. I can be a difficult person too and I think part of the reason my last relationship didn’t work was because he couldn’t deal with strong emotions so I was constantly trying to be easy until I just couldn’t anymore. I have hopes that I’ll find someone who can deal with the emotions!

    • Senior Attorney :

      I’ve written and deleted several responses, but suffice to say (1) I feel bad that I’ve made anybody feel bad about her marriage, and (2) although not everybody has or wants an easy relationship, I absolutely believe they relationships exist and are possible, even long term, and (3) easy relationships do not require the people in them to be easy or easygoing at all times. I’m difficult but my relationship is still easy. Go figure.

      • Anonymous :

        My experience is line with Senior Attorney’s. I’ve been married for 5 years now and it’s still easy. I mean, dealing with external life things like career worries, family problems, buying real estate, etc. isn’t always easy, but my relationship itself is pretty easy, where it feels like the oasis in my life rather than another thing I have to worry about.

      • I feel like this is semantics — like, the OP in this thread says when she met someone who “got” where she was coming from with the intense family stuff, it was “magic” — to me, that’s what “relationships should be easy” means. Not it is literally sunshine and roses every minute.

      • So two friends of mine who are sisters really summed this up for me. Couple 1 ‘our kid is having a crisis, start pointing blaming fingers at each other’, couple 2 ‘our kid is having a crisis – how is our team going to play this one’. Being with my husband is not simple (I totally get why his ex-divorced him and made my peace with those qualities) but I see all that with blinkers off and he is still a highlight of my day. Our fights are ‘easy’ because we had a pretty honest appraisal of each other straight up so we aren’t dealing with unmet expectations. He is still the only person (other than sweet kids) able to jolly me out of certain moods. Other people start their marriages from different places and if it works fine for them that’s great but for me, easy matters.

        • OP here, chiming in to say, that both ways are true. I’m glad I said something, but I also agree with SA. There’s a huge difference between feeling like your relationship is a constant struggle and that there are certain times, situations, or dynamics that are very much not easy. If I measured our partnership by the standard of other people’s “easy” because they are more conflict-averse or easygoing generally, I”d think we should split up.

          But I also completely agree that your partner should feel like your oasis, and should be someone who you can be “alone together with.” That was huge for me– the fact that I had met someone who I didn’t get sick of, almost ever. I’d rather netflix and chill with my husband than go just about anywhere else, or do just about anything else (unless he was along for the ride). That’s easy, and amazing. The hard part is when I feel cut off from that oasis for some reason related to the difficulties of sustaining a long-term relationship with a kid and families and life. But is the oasis always there, and always where I want to be? Oh yeah.

  14. I had a Big Dumb Relationship blow up at 32 after living with a guy for 5 years who couldn’t commit, after ALWAYS having dated with what I’d THOUGHT was a “marriage mentality.” When that rship ended, I found myself at this crossroads where I realized I’d have to choose whether I wanted to be bitter, or whether I wanted to keep my heart open.

    I devised this list of requirements for my next bf, designed to capture bright lines for important characteristics, because I frankly don’t trust myself to be able to determine whether someone is ACTUALLY “kind,” “loving,” etc., or if I was seeing out of rose-colored glasses in those early parts of a relationship.

    So here’s the list:

    1- He has to have at least one friend dating from before college (i.e., does he value and nurture relationships, and can he compromise; also, does he keep in touch and hold himself to a standard, instead of just running away from situations if he falls behind or the usual things that strain relationships but ultimately make them stronger);

    2- He has to own SOMETHING that he saved his money for, and now cherishes (i.e., does he appreciate what he has, or is he always looking for fulfillment over the next rainbow);

    3- He has to get along with my brother (my brother and I are superclose, and he is a MUCH more objective judge of character than I am);

    4- He has to believe in SOMETHING–whether it’s church, yoga, the rule of law–I don’t care what, but he has to have some value that he holds higher than himself;

    5- He has to speak a foreign language or have been out of the country in the past two years (this one is just bc I’m addicted to adventure, and I need a partner who’s curious about the world, but this item is much less “character”-driven than the others);

    6- He has to have some reason why he’s single in his mid- to late-30s, besides just being a stringer. This was naturally my biggest fear at the time I devised this list, so I looked for guys who had either (1) gone to grad school (I’m a lawyer, so this is an easy thing to screen for); (2) been in the military; or (3) been married before (because any day of the week I’d take a guy who got married really young and realized it wouldn’t work over someone who just can’t lock anything down).

    Hmmmm–I think that was all–this was a project from 2 years ago, when I met the dude I’m going to wind up with. :) And he met 100% of those qualifications. I’m so glad I had a screening process that protected me from my instinct for jumping into things with both feet before I get a chance to think about what I’m doing. And I’m so glad it WORKED! <3

    • Just a caveat for number 1. I don’t keep in touch with anyone from high school. I mean, I’m FB friends with them and I’ll like their posts, but I haven’t kept in touch with any of them. And I only have 2 friends from college (but I’m fiercely loyal to both of them).

      I’ve seen lots of lists where not having longlasting friends is a sign of a defective partner, and it really hurts. I’m kind, patient, loving, but because of some family of origin stuff, I have a hard time making *social* friends, but not romantic partners. I’ve worked on this in the last 5 years, so most of my friends are recent.

      My point is that there’s a difference between someone being a loner or selfish and someone who didn’t blossom until later in life.

      • Anonymous :


      • Agreed. I have some friends I’ve had for well over two decades. But no one at all from “before college”.

      • Worrywort :

        Agreed! My significant other has no real local friends but plenty of great friends from college. He is a warm and loving guy who spends a lot of time with his family (he has two siblings close in age) and is otherwise introverted. I don’t think his lack of Local friends is a referendum on him.

  15. Oh man this is my main thing. I could write a book. I am emphatically not ever getting married (mid-30s).

    I believe that monogamous relationships are smart choices for fewer people than we want to believe. We are raised to believe in marriage and monogamous relationships, and society is based on this nuclear family set up, but I don’t believe it’s the best choice for most people (see, unhappy marriages, divorce rates, cheating, etc.). I don’t believe it’s realistic for one person to make you happy for decades.

    I think more people would be happier *overall* and at the end of the day being alone than having ups and downs with one person. And I believe because we are raised to believe in marriage/monogamy, most people are not actually thoughtful about whether it is a good fit for them. They do it b/c they think they’re supposed to/they want to prove something to themselves or the world/to make their parents happy/because it feels good in the moment. I wish we would all be more thoughtful about these alleged lifelong commitments. (I could rant more but I won’t).

    • Anonymous :


    • I agree, but it’s challenging to create your own social constructs and find others who are interested in the same.

      At this point, I’d like:
      shared resources
      shared chores and errands
      emotional support
      quality gardening
      an extra pair of hands to carry large objects
      to focus on the depth of relationships more than the number of them (platonic, family, etc. included)

  16. Hmm see I hate the way Kat phrased the whole “shifting your boyfriend into a marriage mindset”, but I can see how it can go both ways. I tend to think that ultimatums are a terrible idea (why would you try to force someone to marry you???). But my now-husband just didn’t care about being married. In his mind, we were permanently committed and getting married just seemed like a huge hassle. I brought it up a few times, told him I wanted to get married sooner rather than later, and then pushed him to set a date with me and start the ball rolling.

    So the difference is that he had zero reservations about being with me for life, but the whole getting married thing was not a ball that he would have started rolling on his own. Once he realized it was important to me though, he quickly got on board.

    • NewRecruit :

      This entire post and all you lovely ladies make me smile.

      I am 33, separated officially a year today, and headed for divorce. I married my husband way too fast and feel like I loved him way too hard. I’m doing everything I can not to be bitter or scorned. I refuse to give up on love or not believe that love isn’t out there for me- but it’s hard! When you’ve given what feels like the absolute best parts of yourself and tried with every ounce of your being to make a marriage work… it feels so hard to believe that you can start over with another person and it actually work.

      I wear shades and smile while I admire your sparkle SA. I look forward to the return of my own shine and just learn how to love myself in the meantime.

      • You totally have this! You’ve learned so much about yourself this year, onwards and upwards!

      • Senior Attorney :

        You are young! You are smart! You have shine and sparkle aplenty, even if it might be temporarily dimmed!

        Turns out life has many chapters and your next one will be better!

  17. Stephanie L :

    I’ve been married for 13 years. As a teen and after college graduation I took offense at the idea (from my old-world Italian grandparents) that my life was incomplete, and adulthood impossible, without marriage. I still think that’s ridiculous.

    I think a lot of being “marriage minded” involves identifying what you want from marriage. My poor hubs… it took me a while to realize that marriage didn’t have to fit the parts of the traditional mold I felt objectionable/sexist.

  18. This was interesting to read – I’m in my early 20s and in a semi marriage mindset. That is, I don’t see the point of dating someone I don’t think I could want to marry someday, but I’m also not out there searching (I haven’t met up with any online dating matches in months).

  19. Anon for this :

    Regular poster, going anon for this. I had never planned on settling down early, marrying early – exactly the opposite. My plan as a high schooler was that I would travel, have an awesome career, and then meet the right guy in my mid-30s and quickly get married/have kids. What happened instead was that I met the right guy at 19, married at 24, and we are still together 15 years later. There are times I regret not having more of a “wild youth”, but ultimately I am so happy that it worked out how it did – we travelled, we have great careers, and we get to do it together.

  20. Anonymous :

    Great discussion. As you know, marriage is not essential for success or happiness but… As I get more advanced in my career and find myself at more social events with executives who are all married, I realize it would be easier to have a partner!!

  21. Great discussion. As you know, marriage is not essential for success or happiness but… As I get more advanced in my career and find myself at more social events with executives who are all married, I realize it would be easier to have a partner!!

  22. I met my husband younger than I would have guessed, right out of college, although it took a year or two to start dating. We had been together, including moving across the country and living together, for 5+ years when I shifted and pushed marriage for two reasons. One, our friends were all getting married and we were functioning that way, and so over time, the omission became glaring and a question. Why not became harder to answer than why. Second, there were big family health issues that made me care more, and more urgently, about our formal status. He wasn’t anti-marriage but was never going to have any sense of urgency if I hadn’t injected it. Same dynamic arose w/ kids later–he wanted them but was perfectly happy to wait longer than was practical/feasible. In both instances, we spent a bunch of time talking through our respective reasons, concerns, discomforts, etc. and it worked out. It’s still working out 8 years of marriage and 2 kids later, although with plenty of work along the way.