Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I'm 25 and have a steady job, but am not so certain about my career future or about my life direction. I want to get married to the right person, but coming from a divorced (and dysfunctional) family I have some baggage. Besides for not having any savings, I have not finished paying off my loans, and don't really have any money to buy a house, a car, or even pay for the wedding.
Would you advise me to continue to figure things out about myself, improve my career prospects, and try to save money before dating seriously? Or, do you feel that with the right person, we can work together toward these goals?
You sound like a man who has a good perspective on his situation. That's very fortunate, both for you and for the woman who will someday be your wife. From our perspective, people who have to work to achieve their goals develop strengths that help them in life in general and in marriage in particular.
Even though you are concerned that you haven't achieved the level of material well-being and that you feel you need before getting married, we'd like to assure you that it isn't necessary for someone just starting out married life to have a comfortable salary, have paid off student loans, and have enough money to buy a house and a car. What's more important is that you have the desire to achieve all of this, and are taking realistic and positive steps to do so.
Most 25-year-olds are in a situation similar to yours. However, because our culture embraces the attitude of living for the moment and receiving instant gratification, too many young people who are at precisely this point in life think there is something wrong with their situation, and that it will be years before they can start building a life with someone else.
Frankly, we're dismayed at the high percentage of young adults who feel they have to be well on the road to career and financial success before thinking about marriage. This can often result in delaying marriage until their 30s, when both their life experience and demographics can make it more difficult to find the right person.
In addition, we've seen that financial comfort doesn't necessarily enable a couple to have a happier or more stable marriage. On the contrary, couples who work together to build their careers and finances often develop interpersonal skills that strengthen their relationship and their ability to productively deal with life's future challenges.
We agree with you that it is important to figure out your general direction in life and to have a realistic plan for moving forward in your career, repaying educational expenses, and saving for big-ticket items Someone who is not prepared to devote the time to figuring these items out doesn't have the maturity to get married.
Our book, Talking Tachlis, suggests a framework to help you sort out your personal goals. We suggest that you plan on devoting a number of hours to this process. The plan you ultimately develop should be flexible, to allow for changes along the way. Even if it takes you a few months to sort through your ideas, don't get discouraged -- it is time well spent.
Once you develop a plan, you'll need to put it into action. The small steps you take toward achieving your goals will encourage you further, and will make a favorable impression on your dating partners. In fact, one of the qualities to seek in a marriage partner is a willingness to work with you to achieve these goals -- and we're confident that you will find a number of lovely women with that quality.
We'd also like to address your concerns about your family background. Virtually everyone has some amount of baggage, and someone from a divorced and/or dysfunctional home may have a little more than other people. It is true that the baggage from your upbringing may hinder your ability to build and maintain a strong and healthy relationship. And it is very mature of you to want to address it at this point in your life.
There are many ways to lighten the load so that your baggage is manageable and doesn't interfere with your family life. Some ideas include: finding a well-functioning family to serve as a role model; taking a life skills course that can help you learn effective ways to communicate, show respect to a spouse, and resolve conflicts; and participating in group or individual therapy to help you address any bitterness or resentment you have over your upbringing.
Each of these suggestions have helped many people in similar situations. We hope this has been helpful, and wish you the best of success,
Rosie & Sherry