Life is filled with shoulds. You should do this. You should be doing that. It feels like they are the most active in the thirties years of life. This is a time when many lives shift from an immature, present focused mindset of achieving and having fun, centered around the self to a more mature, future focused mindset of building a life and family, which inevitably centers around the kids and spouse. I think the should’s for men and women moving into their thirties are very different from one another. For men, it seems more focused on financial and career, like buying a home and achieving that glorified job title. For women, our shoulds tend to hover around the marriage and kids category. Of course, this is a generalization. There are tons of people I know, including myself, who are doing it different but even if one of my girlfriends is focused on achieving a career title and buying a home, she’s still getting pressure from everyone around her on when she’s going to settle down, marry and start a family. So, while we may choose to be different, shoulds are still snapping at our ankles along the life path.
So when I told my dad that my boyfriend and I started engagement ring shopping and are planning on getting engaged in the next couple of months–a decision that surprised me even–his reaction reminded me of these shoulds I’ve been hearing for years. Mind you, I’m the oldest of all my cousins and siblings. All of them either are married, have children or both.
“Oh wow! I was beginning to wonder when this was going to happen. You know, when you enter your thirties it’s time to start thinking about that. I was going to start putting some pressure on you,” he said.
I responded with shock and laughter. He continued to explain his thought on how this should be happening in my thirties for many valid reasons: having kids, etc. It is a fact that if I wanted to have children of my own, then having them earlier than later in my thirties reduces the health risks associated. Managing the facts against the shoulds are definitely important. One for dad.
He then approached another engagement should. “Wait, I don’t know if I should congratulate you or not. So, is this an engagement or a talk about engagement? Shouldn’t he just buy a ring and surprise you with a proposal? And, shouldn’t he be talking to me about this?” So many shoulds my head was spinning.
I answered him, “Yes, this is an engagement. Would you rather us jump into something blindly based on emotions, rather than talk it through like mature adults and make a smart decision?” Also I said, “You know me. I have my own thoughts about things. The ring being one of them because I always envisioned using grandma’s emerald.” I continued to explain, “Once the ring is finished, I’m stepping out of the process to give him the space to decide how and when he wants to propose.”
He responded, “Oh, of course I wouldn’t want you to do that. Is this like a new modern way of doing it? I’ve never heard of this. I just surprised your mom with a ring. But okay. So when are you guys moving in and setting a wedding date?” Ay dios mio!
I mean, I get it. This is a departure from how engagements traditionally happen but more and more I’m seeing friends and family doing it this way. It has more purposeful intention and careful thought involved, which was important for me if I were to ever move into this next phase of life. Coming from divorce, marriage always seemed like an unsustainable thing without a roadmap on how to do it long-term. So for me to actually get married, I needed to know that divorce is off the options table for us, unless there are extenuating circumstances like abuse.
Based on family history, previous relationships and my modern woman mentality that developed, I began to wonder if this path really was a fit for me. My mentality has definitely always shaken up my dad with how I do things. Over the years, starting in high school, he’s always tried to push my extremely independent and self-sufficient personality more toward the traditional dependency on men idea because that’s what he comes from. Which now looking back on it in this moment, I see why my dad and extremely independent and opinionated mom didn’t work out. Go figure!
In the end, I saw values in each style that seemed important to possess and have been able to find a nice balance between the two: independent, modern woman in business and a more give-and-take traditional woman in romantic relationships, who lets my man be the man, without sacrificing my independence and opinions. I’ve been lucky to find a man that values my intelligence and independence, while also loving my thoughtful, caring side. When I asked him what attracted him to me the most, he answered “Your brain. It’s amazing how it works.”
So, very soon, I will embarking on a road very heavily traveled by many others that I wasn’t always sure would happen for me. One thing I know for certain, I will be pushing all the should’s of weddings and marriage out the window in true Tiffany fashion.
What about you? Tell me about the should’s people tell you or you feel you should be doing in the comments below. How do you handle the pressure? Do you agree or disagree with the shoulds?
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