Freedom of Choice

There was a time when the gender divide was fairly well-defined in regard to settling down: Often the women waited for the men to “get their act together” and ask for their hand in marriage. That has changed; today, many women are joining the men in holding out and waiting longer to take that big next step.

According to a Pew Charitable Trust Foundation article, a large percentage of people want to get married eventually, but they are doing it later in life. Case in point: this past week, Hugh Grant married longtime girlfriend Anna Eberstein after years of being the perpetual Peter Pan figure, with  serious relationships but never tying the knot. The longtime bachelor has finally made the choice to put a ring on it, marking his very first marriage.

So much goes into the decision to choose a life partner. Sometimes it takes a long time to meet the right person, someone with whom you have chemistry, similar goals, and comparable values. Both people need to be in the right place in life. According to the Pew Foundation, there are many other factors people are thinking about today that can delay the choice—such as wanting to establish a career, wanting to first pay of student debts and be financially stable, and the wanting to find oneself and travel. All of these hopes and impulses are leading millennials to remain single longer. The question becomes, when do you know you are ready? What do you need to have in place before you can be sure you want to become a spouse?

One important thing to consider is whether the issues that are holding you back are practical ones or emotional ones. If , for example, they are logistical, such as wanting to pay off all credit card debt before taking on more financial responsibility together as a couple, that is a solid goal to work toward, a practical matter. Once it’s met, you might feel unquestionably ready. The same goes for wanting to see Peru or another part of the world. If it isn’t a trip you can take together because your significant other can’t get time off from work or some other reason, it is something that can be achieved and has a clear resolution. Along the same lines, if you are both working toward important careers in different cities, that is another obstacle that can cause a delay. The usual goal of marriage is to share a home base, which means that one or the other would have to move. Again, it’s is a practical issue that will undoubtedly require compromise, but is not an impossible hurdle as long as both partners are able to work together to find a solution.

If, on the other hand, your feelings are making you unsure, then it is important to take time to figure out what is going on that is keeping you hesitant. The real task is to be able to distinguish the nature of your ambivalence. Is it simply a matter of your own issues, whether you are scared to commit or the people around you are uncertain about your choice in partners, but in the end you know deep down this is the right person for you? Or does it have more to do with legitimate concerns about your significant other’s behavior, either currently if there are things they do that worry you, like being controlling, or a red flag from their past, perhaps at one time they betrayed an ex? Making this distinction can help you determine whether the concerns you have are ones that can be dealt with and worked through, or whether they are bigger problems you might not want to be saddled with for a lifetime.

For the millennial generation, all of these possibilities might be in play. The bottom line is, if your life is fulfilled only with this person, and if whatever changes you must make feel more exciting to you than they do a sacrifice – whether choosing to move or adopting your partner’s religion – you are probably ready to take the next step.

After all, marriage is about compromise and being on the same team, and that isn’t possible without each of you giving up something. A marriage is rarely a 50-50 proposition. If you are able to go into it thinking you will each have to give 90 percent to make it work, you can avoid keeping score and instead trust that any concessions will be matched by your partner.

It is impossible to know what path brought Hugh to the point of finally wanting to commit, but, whatever the case, here’s to many happy and healthy years together – for Hugh and Anna, and for you!


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