The Lower Brain: “Will You Marry Me?” Opens Up More Questions

Photo: Emilija Manevska [Getty Images]

I want to marry my girlfriend of ten months, and I asked her father’s permission. He refused because he says I don’t have enough money. I don’t know what to do about it. I make enough to pay my bills and my girlfriend has a job of her own. Her parents are so old-school that we don’t even live together, though she often spends the night at my apartment (I have a roommate) or I spend the night at hers (she has a roommate too.) Should I just go ahead and ask her anyway? I have the ring and everything.

– Trying to Wife Up

Photo: Tay Rees [Getty Images]

Dear TTWU:
Kudos to you for respecting her Amish parents’ attitudes and going to their farm to probably churn butter as a favor for an hour before talking to her shitty dad. Now sit down and think on this decision a bit more. Ten months ain’t a long time. Here are a few questions to guide you.
Do you want to marry into a family with these views?
Remember, when you marry a person, you also marry their people. You’re not going to make beautiful babies with her dad, but you are going to have to deal with his ass until he croaks. How often are you going to have to deal with these people? They may relax around you over time, or stop being so critical, but they may not. I’ve seen it go both ways so I have no predictions for you. Take into account the folks you’ll likely see the most. Dad may be a pain in the ass, but Aunt Sparky may be chill. Her one brother may suck but her other brother may be really kind. Of course your love and affection for her are more important than anything else, but do consider the family dynamic.

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Do you have a financial and strategic plan for how the engagement and wedding would unfold?
Do you have a timeline in terms of when you’d like to marry her? Weddings cost as little or as much as you want, depending on how big an event you plan. If you want to do a courthouse thing within a couple weeks and you’re positive she does too, cool. If not, be prepared for an engagement that will last as long as necessary to save the money for the event. If Pops doesn’t think you’ve got the cash to marry her, I doubt he’s going to throw in any money for this event. So don’t count on that. He may come through after she talks to him; he may not. I can say my parents were proud to pay for their wedding themselves when they were 21. I can also say that shit was cheaper back then, even adjusting for inflation. You don’t have to know an exact budget right now – just be realistic. If you’re willing to save for two years to have your dream wedding, cool. I do not suggest going into tons of debt.
Do you know if you two are on the same page about kids?
This isn’t a small thing. If you both want kids, great. If you both don’t want kids, great. If one of you is “eh” and the other is “I want my baby now!” that is a problem.
Where will you live?
Do you plan to move in together once you are engaged? What is the timeline there? When do you get out of your lease? When does she get out of her lease? There’s no need to rush moving in together, but many couples find it to be useful so that they can learn each other’s habits. Plus, setting up a home together can be a lot of fun.

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How will you handle joint finances?
Don’t get a joint checking account. Just don’t. She needs her money; you need yours. You can set up a shareable spreadsheet to track expenditures and dates. Are you positive she will wish to continue to work and that the two of you will both contribute financially to an eventual household?
These are just a few things for you to think on for a bit. If you decide that yes, you still want to marry her, go ahead and ask her. Once she’s done presumably being happy and freaking out, let her know that you spoke to her father out of respect for his traditional ways, and he did not approve. However, you’ve made a financial plan and a workable timeline, and once she’s ready you’d like to get her input so that it become a joint effort. And if you decide you’re not ready to get engaged yet, that’s cool too. In a few months or years, you may find it’s exactly the right time. Good luck.