A reader writes in to ask if it is too early for him to propose to his girlfriend. I offer advice. It’s just that simple.
Please submit your queries by emailing me at alexsteed [at] gmail [dot] com. In case you are cautiously interested, I will be keeping the identities of those in search of answers quiet in the column.
Too Early asks:
I have been with my girlfriend for three months and I think that I want to ask her to marry me. Is that crazy?
Before I begin, there are a lot of ways that this conversation could go. We could discuss marriage as an institution, issues with gender and proposals (male privilege creates a situation where an early proposal might indicate the man is “mature,” while an early proposal from a woman might be perceived as “eager” and “crazy”), and a thousand other things before we even get to the advice. I am going to avoid those paths and assume that we all are generally enlightened, culturally sensitive individuals who have already taken much of this into account. Some people get married and that is cool, some people don’t get married and that is cool, some people are legally prohibited from getting married for stupid reasons and that is not cool. And we are aware that there are a number of issues related to the institution as we know and imagine it that are ripe for never-ending discussion.
I am also going to assume that you are not a teenager.
With that out of the way, I knew my wife briefly before we started dating, and I knew that I wanted for us to marry nearly a month after that. Beforehand, I never considered myself the marrying kind. I had written off the idea altogether but I met this woman and to reluctantly employ the old cliche, I just knew.
Nobody has any idea what will / should work for other folks in this department. The older the get, the more I appreciate how little I (or any of us) actually know. I had a gut feeling about the marriage thing, though, and I followed it. With regard to what you should do, or anyone else should do in your situation, I have no idea. Go with your gut, I guess?
If you ask around, most people will concoct some sort of wisdom around their anecdotal experiences but this is an area where the wisdom of crowds won’t really do anyone any good. The wisdom and experiences of others are worth considering and learning from, but don’t take it as gospel.
As I said, I knew when I knew. It could take someone a week, a year, or a decade to know, whatever “knowing” actually means. Some may never “know” because the marriage path isn’t for them. That’s cool too. It happens when it happens or it doesn’t happen at all. These decisions and experiences all occur within different contexts, cultural backgrounds, philosophies, religious views, chemical makeups, baggage. We only really know our own very unique experience.
This doesn’t stop people from being liberal with giving out advice, though. We often weigh in (inwardly, outwardly or both) with our own input based on our own experiences. You can’t know someone in such short time, or you are too young to make that decision, or how can you both make it work with that income? When we do this, I think what we mean to do is to encourage the people making the decision to be sure that they trust their guts. Sometimes, though, we are just so nervous and scarred by our own experiences that we accidentally impose our baggage onto the people we love.