Ask Amy: Peer pressure to marry confounds young adult

June 3, 2014 

Dear Amy: Perhaps you can shed some light on the perplexing behavior I am witnessing among my group of friends.

We are all in our mid-20s. Within the past two years almost everyone in our group has gotten engaged and/or married.

Although I am very happy for my friends, I'm disappointed in their competitive behavior. From the moment the first couple announced their engagement, others became jealous. Everything from the size of the ring to who could throw the better wedding and who could buy a house first became very important to all my friends.

I have stayed out of this frenzy. I find it childish and ridiculous. However, frequent comments about why my boyfriend and I haven't gotten engaged yet have really gotten to me.

We are happy with our relationship and enjoy living with each other. Is this common or healthy behavior for this age group? What's the rush?

— Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: The cynic in me says you are witnessing the rush to get that first marriage out of the way. The need to marry among your friends provides the plot for everything from Edith Wharton novels to "How I Met Your Mother."

I think the heated competition occurs when people exit the cozy confines of college and face the gaping maw of "What's Next?"

Modern weddings are festivals of theme parties, showers and gifts — with the couple at the center. It's exciting. It feels grown-up. And it is a socially acceptable way to plunge yourself into debt, ask your folks for money and basically behave like you are still at the center of everything.

Some couples have an existential meltdown once the wedding is over. And so they transfer their social anxiety and competitive impulses into locking down that first baby.

Don't play this game. Take your own life at your own pace.

Dear Amy: I take exception to your comment to "Been There." You mention that a gay man being in a straight marriage was an "extreme breach."

This assumes that the man went into the marriage fully aware that he was gay and trying to fool his wife. It's not that easy. Sometimes it takes a person years to self-actualize while society says "it's wrong."

He was not living a lie all those years, but probably was not sure and trying to be "straight."

I have many friends in the same situation.

— Michael

Dear Michael: I see your point. Thank you.


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