“Get married in your 20s,” my cousin said to me. She leaned over to tell me this after I asked about how her husband was. “It’s harder when you get married in your 30s when you’ve been doing it on your own for so long.”
I didn’t follow my cousin’s advice. I think I was 27 when she first told me this and those last two years of being a twenty-something didn’t change my single status. I dated, but no one made the cut for life time partner. Once, when asked to let go of a dream I’d had to make way for new dreams, I told the group, a mix of acquaintances and strangers, that I was giving up getting married by 28. That was the number I’d chosen when I was 18, after I realized that my original number of 21 was coming up way too fast.
In my early thirties, I would occasionally remember my cousin’s advice. But, now at 36, those words haunt me a bit more because I know exactly what she meant.
My mother always impressed on my sister and I to live on our own, make a life by ourselves before we tried to make a life with a partner. It was something I wanted for myself and I got that in New York for almost a decade (though not living alone and instead with my sister), but I knew what it meant to determine my own way in the world without consulting a partner or a parent.
And the pleasure of not having to do that has only grown over the years, that I can spend my time as I choose, my money as I choose, and go and do as I choose are freedoms I relish. How then, when you’re so used to those freedoms, do you find a way to be okay with, if not giving them up, at least tempering them for the needs of someone else?
Get married in your 20s, I think my cousin was saying, because malleability comes easier to you then. You’re more able to give into the desires of someone else, sometimes because you’re less sure of what your own desires are. And maybe also because you’re afraid of being by yourself. Compromise is never a bad thing, but when you feel like you’re compromising what you really want, how do you deal with that?
So, if you don’t get married in your 20s and you end up in your 30s still single and overall happily so, what are the things you tell yourself to make the way to coupledom? Especially when coupledom doesn’t always look as exciting as the life you’re already living. It’s hard to trade that in for the unknown.