I don’t care what age you are, someone will tell you when you need to do something according to what “they” say. “They” say you have to wait three months in a relationship before you have sex. “They” say you have to be married before 30 if you are a woman or something is wrong with you. “They” say if a man doesn’t propose to you within two years, he never will so dump him and don’t waste your time. “They” always have something to say. The funny thing is, “they” usually never followed any of that advice and are usually trying to Geppetto your situation.
I must admit, sometimes I’ve followed the relationship advice “they” gave intermittingly throughout my life. Often times, I’ve thought that relationships failed because I didn’t follow the rules. I remember reflecting that on my long term relationships and I found that in all of those, I actually followed that three month waiting period rule. It wasn’t like we’d be hot and heavy and I’d stop and look at the calendar and tell dude that he had a little longer to wait. No, it was nothing like that. Instead, we actually got to know each other during those months and when the time felt right, it just so happened to be months later. I also realized that the person’s true self didn’t show until after around three months, because you can only front for so long. In that reflection, I also noted that in relationships that didn’t have that three month period, those relationships usually ended within three months. Hmmm, maybe there is something to this waiting thing.
As a divorcee in her forties, life for me is very different than a single lady in her twenties. Whereas she may be looking for love to get married; I’m looking for love, trust, honesty, stability, responsibility, integrity, passion, respect, and leadership qualities in order to even think about being serious about you. She may be listening to the timelines that “they” told her, I’m looking at my remaining life phases like empty nesting and isolation.
Of course most of my friends are my age. However, we all are in different phases of life. Some are newlyweds and first time parents (bless their hearts), some have grandchildren in school (bless their hearts), some have never even had a serious mutual relationship (bless their whole life). In talking with my friends, everyone is in their own space of being with their own rules. Some still make their decisions based on what “they” say and others have learned not to give a damn. I decided to do a little survey to ask a few if they subscribe to the time lines of relationships that “they” have imposed on society and here’s the feedback I got:
Most said they don’t believe there should be a time requirement for sex in a relationship. The reasons varied based on their experiences. One friend in particular stated that sex should not be in the equation until the couple feels that they are in love. Another stated that sex should only occur when the couple has committed to each other. One friend said they prefer to get the sex part out of the way quickly. There is no need to hang on to a relationship and then find out that the couple is incompatible sexually. Another friend agreed with that and said that sex should definitely be tried before marriage. Sex is an important element in marriage and if it’s awful and you don’t find out until after you’ve signed those papers, you’re stuck with sucky sex and not the good suck.
One friend eloquently relayed that adhering to time lines, places unwanted pressure on couples. What if they are in a good relationship four years in, enjoying their separate lives and each other? Why do they HAVE to get married? Why does she HAVE to dump him because he hasn’t proposed? Is that fair? So this couple may feel the pressure of family and friends to hurry to marry and have babies, when in their hearts, that’s not what they want at that time. The pressure then turns to resentment and turns their relationship into something completely different from what it was or what it could’ve been.
Recently, I’ve been intrigued with the relationships of my friends who are in their second phase of seriousness – meaning they are single parents, divorcees, or widows who have fallen in love again. I’m genuinely happy for each of them and I await details like a little school girl as I listen with a big grin and my feet kicked up behind me swinging as I lay on my stomach, holding my face up with my hands.
What these women have shared is that they have learned not to care what others think about their situations and have begun to use their feelings as a guide. They may have weekly date nights, their children have met their new partners early on, and they are only concerned with how they (the individuals in the couple) feel. You go girls!
I’m a scaredy cat in a sense. I want weekly date nights, but I also worry that my children will be upset with my absence (although they’re teens and probably wish I’d leave). It took a year plus for me to even tell them that I had been seeing someone exclusively. My friends think I’m nuts. They are probably right, but I like that we are taking our time and doing what feels right for us. No need to rush according to what “they” say.
A couple of friends spoke of marriage timelines and how they don’t subscribe to them. One stated that they know a couple that married after a few weeks and are still happily married after 20 years, yet they know another couple who dated for 10 years and then split after a couple of years of marriage.
A couple of friends had some specifics about dating and marriage. They said that if a couple is under 25, they should date for a minimum of two years, but a max of 6 or then it’s a waste of time. If the couple is over 35, they should date for a minimum of 10 months, but only with a maximum of two years. Otherwise, again they would be wasting their time if at least one of them is seeking marriage as the end game.
Another friend articulately stated that they believe timelines are necessary for certain age groups. In the teens and twenties, they believe, timelines help couples avoid impulsivity and major regrets that can come from making permanent decisions without thoroughly evaluating the situations. Yet, in the forties and beyond, all those factors that come with mature should be on point, so timelines aren’t as necessary.
All in all, in life, you just never know how things will turn out. Neither does your Aunt Sue who claims they know what’s best and you better follow all their unsolicited advice. Maybe things will work out, maybe they won’t; but if you are the one making the decisions, then be comfortable enough with those decisions and whatever consequences come along with them.