“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
I absolutely LOVE Robert Frost, and the above line is from one of his most famous poems. It also really speaks to me and my life at this point.
According to Facebook, I am behind my peers in the sense that I am not engaged, married or have a baby (or am currently pregnant). At age 26, I am one of few left in the single check box. I guess technically those engaged also still mark the single check box for official forms, but as I’ve gotten older I am starting to sense a “gap.”
The gap that starts to form in groups of friends and peers between single, dating, engaged, married and having babies. Suddenly, it is harder to find things in common and those of us single or dating do not understand the priorities of life. Suddenly someone like me, a straight A student through high school and college, the overachiever who works hard, but plays harder is irresponsible, reckless and simply could not understand what it is like to save up money for a wedding, a honeymoon, a baby or a child’s future. Having fun equals a meaningless, sad and lonely life because obviously you party and spend money to fill a void in your life. Having fun means you have no sense of finances or money. Having fun means you haven’t moved on from college life. Because come on GUYS you should definitely be married by now if you’re my age and being married automatically makes you a responsible person with morals!
Okay… some of these examples are a little extreme, but it all comes back to society and the way we view life through society’s eyes. At 18, most people in the United States are expected to go to a four-year university. Our parents only want the best for us, so continuing our education is the right path to success. By 22, we should have graduated if on the “correct” path and are expected to find a stable job in the degree we graduated with.
And somewhere between 22 and 26 we are supposed to settle down and start a family. Apparently? I don’t know where it is written down, but being in a serious relationship at 26 with a guy who is 28, I am constantly being asked when he is going to propose and when I am going to get married. Sometimes I get caught up in it and think, why aren’t we married yet? And then I come back to reality. I am perfectly happy right now, as am, in my relationship. I have a LOT of goals and dreams that I want to accomplish before even thinking of starting a family. And for all I know, my boyfriend could propose tomorrow, or in six months or in over a year, I just don’t know. And of course I care, we have talked about marriage and our future, but right now, we are living in the present. Happy with where we are at!
Anyway, back to my point… I feel like their is this judgment between people in different stages of life. That the single people are “irresponsible party animals,” that the engaged ones might be “getting married too soon,” that the married ones are “boring,” and that those with children “will never have fun again.” Why do we do this? Can’t we all be happy for each other regardless of what stage of life we are in? All I’m saying is that I don’t want people to judge me for where I am in life. If I’m happy, why does it matter?
I just get so sick of seeing people place societal pressure on others. Let’s allow people to discover who they are and help them only if they really need it. Being there for someone and being encouraging is a much better option than recommending where they should be in their life at this point.
Have you ever noticed this “gap” or been judged for where you are in your relationship status? What are your thoughts?
AlissaFebruary 24, 2014 at 12:24 PM
I am so glad that you wrote about this. I’m 23 and every assumes that all I want to do is plan a wedding within a year and then settle down and have kids. My friends are now having babies and getting married. I’ve been in a healthy relationship for four years and I’m not changing that quickly. I have so much to get done NOW before I even consider getting married. Why rush it all?
My friends who got married are stressed to the max and wonder why I’m not. I am. But just in different ways. I know I’m not ready to get married. It’s a different stress and if you get married you take on that stress. Right now I have a different stress role. Know what I mean?
RachelFebruary 24, 2014 at 12:26 PM
I definitely get that! And same here… I am very very VERY focused on my career right now. Yes love and marriage is important to me, but planning a wedding is not a part of the stress I want right now! I’m glad you can relate 🙂
RachelFebruary 24, 2014 at 12:39 PM
Great post, Rachel! I feel at 25 that people either judge me because I’m not married (since I’ve been with my bf for almost 3 years and have known him for 5) OR they say that we’re too young to be getting engaged at 24, 25, 26, etc. You can’t win! Either way, someone will judge you because of it.
I hate those articles saying “10 Things You Should do in Your 20’s Instead of Getting Married”- it’s just so pathetic and sad. At the same time, I don’t think that society should look down on women who are single in their 20’s, either.
My advice is to just do your own thing. Marriage and engagements should be for the right reasons- not who gets the ring first, who beats who, etc. 🙂
RachelFebruary 24, 2014 at 12:40 PM
Yes! Exactly! If you are ready for it and it is what you want GREAT if not, GREAT! Win win for everyone!!!!!!!!!
AmyFebruary 24, 2014 at 1:03 PM
Oh my goodness, I love this post. I can’t believe that you are already starting to feel the pressure at 26!! The “standard” age just keeps getting younger and younger.
Not that there is anything wrong with getting married at 26 (or younger) but I just never felt that I needed to find the right person and get married and settle down right away…and neither should you!
Life is too short to make decisions for the wrong reasons. What’s the rush? Just enjoy your current situation and things will happen when they are supposed to!
Shereen RedaFebruary 24, 2014 at 7:46 PM
gotta say, rachel – i've felt that way in the past, and definitely when i was 26 like you are now! here are some of my thoughts: what's considered "conventional" or "expected" is rapidly changing. the truth is that people are a) not getting married as much as they used to, and b) getting married in their later 20s and early or even later 30s. and why does being married somehow equate with being responsible, or even settling down? (personal note: when i get married later this year, we're planning to amp up in life, not settle down by any means! oh, and i'll be 31 and my fiance will be 33 – and we don't plan to have kids any time soon either). i think that women in particular experience this pressure you describe way more than men do – it's gender privilege. what's nice for you is that you're cognizant of where the pressure is coming from in your life and you're deciding what to do (or not do) about it. so there. THAT'S being responsible. THAT'S being an adult. THAT'S discovering who you are and where you (YOU) want to be in your life (okay, done with caps!). you or your readers may not have been looking for reassurance, but i gotta say, you're doing everything right because you're owning it and doing it with integrity. in conclusion: you're not alone in how you feel, but you are one of the rare ones to resist, rather than to follow a formula that was set out for us by a bad combo of media and privilege (and hey, if someone wants to follow the formula, more power to them – just own it!). throw the haters to the wind, be assured in yourself, and jump full force into your life. because it's yours – no one else's! the end. thanks for humouring my long message. 🙂
AmyFebruary 24, 2014 at 2:04 PM
great post. I married and don’t have kids. Almost everyone I went to high school has a least 1 to 2 kids.
Rachel's LookbookFebruary 24, 2014 at 8:31 PM
Thank you so much for your comment Shereen! I love this and yes, I can completely see how women may experience this pressure more than men. In fact, back in my freshman year of college I was asked if I was there for my MRS. degree. Uh WHAT?! And for anyone who attends college for the experience to meet someone, GREAT! But that was not my path or purpose of being there. And at the end of the day, I completely agree, to each their own and OWN IT. AND WHOOT WHOOT for you and your fiance wanting to ramp up once married – that's amazing! I'm sure, perhaps, you have been asked at this point when you guys want to start a family? Or if you want to start a family? And completey – my boyfriend and me making the decision to live together, to date and to be happy IS BEING responsible.
Thanks again! 🙂 Love to see you on here!
ashFebruary 24, 2014 at 3:49 PM
Awwww Rachel! I am 28. I have an EIGHT year old AND a SIX year old. Am I married? NO! We call each other Husband and Wife, but we’ve been engaged since 2007. for SIX YEARS. I even have a dress. We just keep putting it off. I say ENJOY being 26, successful, childless and in a loving relationship. Enjoy girls weekends in Vegas, splurging on restaurants, waking up to only your man. Enjoy weekends in and out, enjoy other people’s babies and weddings and do not feel pressured to have all that right now unless you want it. I love my kids. I love our life. But I feel the pressure of saving for their college educations ( I absolutely do not want them to take out loans!) and insurance deductibles when my son broke his arm, in addition to home owners insurance and did I remember to drop off the treats for class this week, turn in my paperwork at work, call my guy’s Grandma and talk about her health issues….
It’s a full plate. I love my life, but I never got to experience the things you do because I started being an “adult” way too early. Sure, we travel, but we do it with kids. If nothing else, appreciate the time you have now for your friend in Kentucky who is older and wishes she was as wise as you. You’re gorgeous, smart, funny, have a lovely home, beautiful fashion aesthetic, pretty puppy and lovely boyfriend. This is YOUR time. Everything else will come when you’re ready and you do not have to be ready now.
RachelleFebruary 24, 2014 at 5:07 PM
I turned 28 last year so imagine the pity looks I get when people find out that I’m single, but honestly I am just enjoying my life and my peace as I know it will not last forever. Being married and having kids is a beautiful thing, but it is also hard hard work but very few actually tells you that. Call me irresponsible but I love that I can splurge on things and not worry about making major life decisions as I said earlier I know this freedom will end some day lol. So enjoy your life, have fun with you boyfriend and don’t stress it.
Carlos FedericoFebruary 24, 2014 at 6:09 PM
Hey Rachelle, I liked it and I also agree with you on this…
“Having fun equals a meaningless, sad and lonely life because obviously you party and spend money to fill a void in your life. Having fun means you have no sense of finances or money. Having fun means you haven’t moved on from college life.”
I congratulate you to think this way, where it is definitely clear that women are more real and reflective than us men, and why we need a woman, so we pull the reins…
I like your way of thinking!
CatherineFebruary 24, 2014 at 7:58 PM
I love this post! I’m kind of in an opposite situation. I’ve been with my boyfriend for five years, and I constantly feel judged because I’m in college and this is the time where I should be single and experimenting blah blah blah. I’m happy, just leave me alone! I’m glad you stand up for yourself!
Emily @ More Than Just DessertFebruary 24, 2014 at 8:10 PM
Oh Rachel, I couldn’t agree more! Some of my very best friends are married (and my best friend is pregnant!) and I am very happy for them…I just have different timing in my life and chose to pursue another route. I think its important for everyone to realize that a “timeline” is individual to each person! For me, I am just now starting to figure who I am, and I feel like I cannot even be considering marriage or something along those lines until I really get to my best self. 🙂
RachelFebruary 25, 2014 at 11:41 AM
Yes exactly! We all have different timelines, just like we are all different and unique. I am totally okay with people asking me when I’m going to get engaged or married, I just can SENSE when certain people ask me with their own agenda! Like I’m asking you because you probably should be. It’s weird and I always want to say, I’m not judging your life choices! Anyway, thank you for your comment! Glad you can agree and I’m totally all about completely loving yourself first, and being your best self, before continuing on in life with a partner 🙂
JessicaFebruary 25, 2014 at 8:59 AM
Lady, love this post. I definitely see a gap. I am actually on the other side, all of my friends in Nashville are single, and I’m in the boring engaged couple. Ty and I try to be our pre-engaged selves, but we do just have more on our plate now, so it is hard to keep up with their going out schedules. For me, it was the culture in which I grew up telling me that if I wasn’t engaged by 25 then I was an old maid… while I don’t personally believe that it can really get inside the heads of young girls. I say, you do you, and you rock it! The only advice my mother gave me that I accepted without retort: Either have kids young in life and enjoy your old age, or have kids late in life and enjoy being young. Something to think about 🙂
two birdsFebruary 25, 2014 at 9:02 AM
i hear ya…but know that i would never judge. i had my first child at 31, and wasn’t married until 39…so i was all over the place. great post!
ElisabethFebruary 25, 2014 at 9:21 AM
Loved reading this perspective – I got married almost three years ago – when I was twenty. I got so much backlash for getting married too young that it took awhile to heal some of those friendships. I do admit, sometimes I find myself a little guilty of the “there are things I know because I’m married that you don’t because you’re not.” Its a poor attitude (although I believe its true, just in the way that there are things you know and have learned by being single for a few more years that I won’t ever know). I explained to so many of my friends though that being married this young was practically dating… with a life long commitment 🙂 We made it a point to still hang out with our single friends regularly and not becoming the boring married stereotype and Im really grateful for that 🙂
just found your blog and I’m excited to read more.
RachelFebruary 25, 2014 at 11:39 AM
Thank you for stopping by AND sharing your story Elisabeth! One of the best parts about writing this has been reading everyone else’s story and knowing that no matter what stage you are in, there always seems to be a bit of judgment in some way. I probably would have not been perfect if one of my friends had gotten married at 20… because to me, it does seem young, but only because I know at age 20 I would have in no way, shape or form been ready for it! But congrats to you! 🙂 I think that is exciting! And also great that you could mend your friendships and still be able to hang out with single friends!
And I’m also sure I could learn a heck of a lot from you and your experiences being married, but as you said, there is probably something we could all teach each other 🙂
Thanks again for stopping by!
LaurenFebruary 25, 2014 at 11:53 AM
I think it’s fairly normal to go through these gaps throughout your life. I was one of the first couples to get married in my group of friends, but that didn’t really change much in my opinion. I’m seeing it much more now being pregnant. I don’t judge my friends for going out and drinking and staying up late – I’d probably be doing it if I wasn’t pregnant, but it does cause a disconnect. I know we’ll have even less in common in another 5-6 months, but that’s just kind of how life goes. It sounds like you’re in the right mindset, but don’t let other’s opinions influence your happiness. I’m sure some of them are very well-meaning and wanting the best for you, but their vision of a perfect life path doesn’t have to be yours! 😉
AshleyFebruary 25, 2014 at 12:21 PM
You gotta do what’s best for you- if that’s getting engaged at 22, cool. If that’s not getting married until 35 (or ever), cool. Sometimes your path doesn’t coincide with the societal norm, and that’s OKAY.
My husband and I have decided (at this stage) that we don’t want children. We’ve been married for 2 years, we love/spoil rotten other people’s kids, but don’t want children of our own. Yet the weird looks/raised eyebrows/straight up judgmental comments we get when people discover this is unreal- even in 2014. And there is a definite gap between our friends who have babies/want babies and us; a gap I imagine will only get bigger. But you have to do what’s best for YOU, and trust in your own ability to make a decision and blaze your own trail. 🙂
RachelFebruary 25, 2014 at 12:31 PM
I feel like that would be SO frustrating! Like who said that getting married and being committed to each other automatically means popping out babies?! But it sounds like both of you are very sure of what you want 🙂 and that you are handling it well regardless of what others are telling you! And yes, I feel like having a baby really can make a gap, but my boyfriend’s two best guy friends are married with children and we still have just as much fun with them as we used to! There is just a little one there too haha!
Erica MarieFebruary 26, 2014 at 5:07 AM
Great article Rachel! It is so true…. I see a lot of people in long term relationships who feel like they need to get engaged/married asap and I start to wonder, why? Because all of their friends are? What will being married change about the relationship you have now? I definitely want to get married someday, but I feel like a lot of people just want the wedding and to be in the "marriage club," rather than an actual marriage. Marriages and families are hard work. I don't think there should be any certain "age" or "time" when you should be married or have children; it's dependent on the couple. Your article reminded me of that and that's awesome 🙂
futurelintFebruary 26, 2014 at 12:38 PM
Ugh, it I’d married my serious boyfriend from when I was 26 I’d be divorced! But I know friends who got married at 22 and are still happy 10 years later. I just got married at 32 and now it’s the inevitable “where’s the baby?” questions… you just gotta do what feels right for you.
AJMarch 2, 2014 at 2:48 PM
Its even worse when you’re 30 and single. I get “don’t worry, you’ll find someone” so often, its annoying! What if I’m ok being single? What if I don’t find someone? LOL…its honestly none of their business!! And the same with you. You are 26 and you have your WHOLE life ahead of you! If you and your boyfriend are meant to get married, you will when its right. And slow your roll on the kids…enjoy being young for a while!
fleuraniMarch 3, 2014 at 1:38 PM
Rachel, I feel that pressure all the time especially from family and work side because I am 32 and still not married. I think everybody should take their time and take that step when they feel ready. Plus does marriage really change a relationship? I konw so many that are happy in their relationship and dont need that step. My parent are not married and who cares? 🙂
I feel the people in the USA are getting married so early too, I dont know why, the average marriage here in germany is 32 🙂
Great article dear.
JenniferMarch 3, 2014 at 7:28 PM
BrynnMarch 9, 2014 at 11:46 AM
I really enjoy what you wrote here, Rachel. There are so many societal pressures placed on us. We’re “supposed” to do things in a certain way, and if you gravitate from that, you’re judged. My husband and I were married when we were 22, which I was kind of insecure about. Really, it was mostly because we couldn’t live together until we were married (my husband was a hall director at a religious college and they didn’t let us live there unless we were married), and we were in a long-distance relationship, which sucked. We ultimately decided that, since we knew we wanted to get married anyways, that we should just do it so we could continue our lives. People judged us SO much – even my best friends, who all abandoned me since I was “married and boring” while they were all single and partying – and it was REALLY hard being 22 and married. Only now are some of our friends starting to get married. Being on the other side of that pressure is really hard as well.
Additionally, since we’re 26 now and have been married for nearly 4 years, we are constantly asked when I’m finally going to get pregnant. We’re planning to have one child, and we’re planning to adopt. We have absolutely no plans to do this in the next couple of years, because we can’t afford it, we don’t feel ready to be parents, and we love the life we’ve created for the two of us with our dogs. The pressure has been laid on thick for us to begin having children by our families and friends, which is really difficult.
Why can’t people just respect the fact that people go through life at their own pace and with their own agenda? It’s so frustrating! I say, keep doing what makes you happy, Rachel. No matter what happens, unfortunately, I think people are going to judge our actions and question our decisions, so just make sure you’re doing what feels right for you!! 🙂 That’s what’s been helping me!!