The Quickest Way to Piss People Off Is to Not Get Married

In December, H. and I will have been together 7 years. And we are not married, a fact that every person I know reminds me of constantly.

I’m not saying we’re never going to get married. In fact, it will probably happen sooner rather than later. But people asking me when I’m going to get married bothers me, and it isn’t because I have problems with the institution of marriage itself (although that can be pretty problematic!) or the state of my relationship with my boyfriend (which is pretty swell!). Instead, my problem with people asking “When are you getting married?” is best summed up in two questions: “How is this your business?” and “Why do I have to get married?”

Growing up, I never dreamed of getting married. I assumed I would, because I grew up in a culture with a pretty traditional view of families, but it wasn’t something I daydreamed about. I never dressed up as a bride for Halloween. I didn’t “play house” much with other kids–mostly because because I rarely played with other children and preferred to hang out by myself, reading. Instead, I daydreamed about writing my first book (dorky but true).

Then, in high school, I became convinced I’d never get married. I simply could not imagine myself being happy as a married person. Let’s be real—I didn’t have any boyfriends (not even weird ones!) in high school, so it’s not like people were lining up to propose. But when I saw girls I knew getting married, like, right out of high school, I knew I would never do that. I saw myself as an adult living alone, being vaguely “artisitic,” probably wearing several jewel-toned scarves. I saw myself with a cat I named after a feminist writer, knowing things about wine, and entertaining many, many temperamental and volatile men who would inspire me to write the tempestuous prose and poetry I’d become known for. I saw myself being weird and alone and happy.

And then I met H. when I was 19, and we’ve been together ever since. You’d think this might be cause for celebration, and it is for me! But it’s not for almost literally every person I know, including but not limited to family, friends, and complete strangers.

I get asked what I’m waiting for, why I’m not married, why H. hasn’t proposed, why I haven’t forced him to propose, when I’m going to “just do it already,” and various other things. All of these questions are based around a few assumptions:

1. I have to get married.
2. I want to get married but H. will not ask me.
3. It’s normal for one person to force the other person to marry them.
4. Marriage is a box you need to check off your list.
5. If I’m not married it means I’m afraid of something.
6. I sit around all day and wait for H. to propose to me.
7. I am sad and pathetic.

Naturally, quite a few of these assumptions offend me, as a feminist and as a human being. For one, most of them put me in a passive role. Just sittin’ around waitin’ for the proposin’ to happen! Secondly, they assume that I need to complete this task in order to graduate to the next phase of my life. Simply put, this is people foisting their life values onto me, and I don’t appreciate it. A traditional life trajectory (marriage, house, babies) means a lot to some people, but it means very, very little to me. Do I want to have a house someday? Totally, but not anytime soon. Do I want kids? Yes, my biological clock reminds me of this every damn day, but not anytime even remotely soon. And do I want to get married? Sure, but it is not the end all, be all of my existence. There are a lot of things I want out of my life, and marriage is just one of the things on a long list that includes publishing a book, visiting a Scandinavian country, and finally successfully baking bread. And that’s where the assumption that offends me the most comes in. When people ask me these questions, what I hear from them is: Your achievements don’t matter to me. Your job, your friendships, your writing, your hopes, your dreams, your life that you’ve built yourself mean nothing, because you haven’t convinced someone to buy you jewelry and then spend many thousands of dollars on an expensive ceremony.

And as much as I’d like to be a super cool lady who can shrug off the narrow-mindedness of others, I’m just not that self-assured. It does not make me feel good when, unsolicited and on a regular basis, people let me know that my life is not measuring up to a standard I don’t even subscribe to. It’s weird, it’s patriarchal, it’s sexist, it’s dumb, and it’s just plain mean.

And you know what else it is? Really, really rude. In general, I think two questions should always be off limits except between very good friends: “When are you getting married?” and “When are you two having kids?” Both of those questions have the potential to be extremely upsetting! I mean, you guys, you don’t know if the couple you’re talking to had a fight that very morning about getting married. You don’t know if the couple you’re talking to recently found out they can’t have kids. You don’t know if they recently had a miscarriage—I mean, 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, you know? These are just rude, invasive, and nosy questions we should all stop asking.

Luckily for me, my close friends totally understand all of this. They’re a mix of married, single, engaged, and divorced people (divorced people are especially cool about not pressuring others to get married) who don’t see marriage as a just another box to check off on the list of life goals. That’s because my friends are awesome.

But, unfortunately, not everyone’s as cool, so I’ll just have to keep answering “So when are you getting married?” with a mixture of flip responses (“Whenever Drake asks me!”), frustrated answers (“When I feel like it.”), vague pleasantries (“Hahaha, someday!”), and subject changes (“Tell me more about your kids!”). It turns out that lecturing people about how their question offends me is not the best tactic to take when I’m talking to someone I’m probably going to have to see on a regular basis (like my grandma).

I love love. I love romance. I love romantic comedies, even (especially) the ones starring Katherine Heigl. I love reading the 50th anniversary announcements in the newspaper. I love seeing my friends get married! And, when I get married (someday!), you’d better believe I’m going to cry uncontrollably. But there’s a lot more to my life than that. I guess the good thing is that eventually, once I do get married, people will stop asking me about this. Then they’ll move on to asking me when I’m having kids. Something to look forward to!

12 Responses to “The Quickest Way to Piss People Off Is to Not Get Married”

  1. Mandy

    It’s amazing to me how angry people get over others’ life choices/situations. Since I’ve been 18, I’ve only really had one real long term relationship which lasted for about a year and a half. You know how angry people get about me spending the majority of my adult life single? SUPER ANGRY.

    “So why are you still single?”
    “You really don’t have a boyfriend?”
    “Don’t you want to get married one day?”

    Or smug.
    “Oh, don’t worry. It happens for everyone. Some day.”
    “You’re probably just really busy…I mean, it takes me a lot of time to be in my relationship.”

    Like you said, these are actually really personal things. When I had just broken up with my ex, a question like this would send me in to a spiral of tears, anxiety and questioning. The questioner obviously didn’t mean to do that, but man, it hurt. Even now, five months on, these questions don’t make me happy. I just get uncomfortable.

    Unless you’re one of my best friends, this is soooo not your business. Can’t we just be happy for everyone no matter what their relationship status is?

    • heykerryann

      Well said! Isn’t it weird to think that other people probably spend more time thinking about your relationship status than you do? Ha.

  2. Heather Miller

    You just totally nailed it. Unlike you, I am married, and have been for just over 3 years. But even now, I completely resent the implication that every female has to be married, and must just be waiting for their life to start by getting engaged/married. Sometimes I even feel self-conscious about choosing to get married because it irks me so much that this is the assumption in our culture, and didn’t I just get with the program nicely. So congrats to you and your happiness, whatever form it may take in your life. Enjoy it all! Non illegitmi carborundum.

    • heykerryann

      Thanks for your comment, Heather! I agree–it’s bananas that some people really do seem to think their life isn’t complete unless they’ve put a ring on it (to quote the great philosopher Beyonce). But I know lots of couples who really did choose to get married for the right reasons, not societal pressure, and I think that’s pretty cool too!

  3. Jayne

    This post needs to be carved in stone!! Like you, my relationship status is constantly being questioned by family and some friends (my closest friends NEVER ask.)

    I’ve said it before. It’s like family just can’t wrap their mind around me being single and choosing so. (Looking your way, Mandy! You said it perfectly.) I’ve met plenty of men who would like to court me but in the end I choose being single. I’m happy. I have my friends. Also, why does sexuality become a factor in my being single? No, I’m not gay. However, because I haven’t been in a relationship for so long most of my family thinks I’m gay. It’s frustrating and insulting.

    Thanks for giving ladies a voice of reason, Kerry!

    • heykerryann

      I know this wasn’t the point of your comment, but I’m stuck on the part where you said your family thinks you’re gay. I mean…is there anyone who’s MORE into men than you are??
      But for real. You do you, Jayne!

  4. Cat

    Everyone who knows you and Hollis knows you’re great together. You’re great together dating and you’ll be great together when you’re married. Why anyone needs dates put in place to be satisfied with your life choices is beyond me. When I got engaged someone who I barely knew told me “it’s about time!” I have no idea what that meant or why she would say it, other than in this culture if you’re not engaged within a year of dating people throw up their arms in exasperation around you. I’m just happy you’re happy, that’s all that matters!

    • heykerryann

      Thanks, girl! I’ve already thought about what I’ll do if someone says that to me when I (someday in the future!) get engaged. And the only response is I WILL PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE. I can’t believe someone said that to you! You and Isaac weren’t even dating that long! WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?!

      • Cat

        That’s the only acceptable response. And I know, right? Like, what a weird comment to make. I thought we got engaged kinda fast. Not fast enough, apparently!

  5. AmberJean

    I know I am a few years late on this post, but a friend sent it to me knowing I’ve been furious of late at this question. First off, my so and I have two children and are perfectly happy the way we are, been together several years, have a house and life but somehow, because we are uninterested in a ceremony and piece of paper, our relationship is invalid?
    I’ve taken to telling people we are married and didn’t invite them.


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