Whether you're in a serious relationship or completely single, it's easy to fall victim to the pressures of society and those around you. By nature, we human beings are programmed to follow a trajectory in life—much of this is the result of societal expectations, but it also has to do without desire to achieve "the next best thing." This is true when it comes to engagements and marriages, for women especially, explains Mercedes Coffman, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "In the last century there's been a greater emphasis on women creating careers rather simply settling down, getting married, and having children, however, marriage is still a special thing that most women would like to experience in life."
Marriage is also an extremely big life decision, and one that should not be taken lightly. In other words, just because all of your friends are getting married doesn't mean that you should be, too. If you're feeling the pressure from all different directions as your friends line up to say "I do," here are some relationship expert-approved ways to deal.
Take the high road.
"When you're dying inside each time you hear that a friend got engaged because you desperately want marriage yourself, take the high road," says relationship and etiquette expert April Masini. She recommends showing your happiness for your friends by throwing bridal showers, toasting the newly-engaged couple, and showing up for weekly manicures with your engaged pal. "When you go big, some of the good news and good fortune will rub off on you—married people love to fix up their single friends, so just being in that milieu may serve you a lot more efficiently than going home and eating ice cream in the dark," she adds.
Be honest with yourself about why you want to get married.
"We live in an achiever society, so it can be easy to get caught up in the race to certain accomplishments in life," explains Antonia Hall is a psychologist, relationship expert and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. "This is especially true when friends around you are all marking off the same achievement." Hall urges non-married individuals to truly stop and consider where they are in life and why marriage is—or isn't—the right next step.
Refrain from comparing.
It's tempting to start pointing out all the ways in which someone else's life is better than yours, however doing so is not the road to happy and healthy living. "We must find our own happiness, and find gratitude in the timing of the circumstances in our lives," says Coffman. "If love or marriage has not yet crossed your path, it may be for a reason beneficial to you—or, in other words, what is meant for another may not yet be meant for you."
Know that it's never too late.
While it's natural to want to take the next step in life at the same time as all of your friends, Coffman reminds clients that it's never too late—there's no one right time to get married. "There have been unhappy marriages of couples who got married in young and happy marriages of partners who got married in their 50s," she says. "It is never too late to find love and to get married."
Give yourself a little extra TLC.
Give yourself extra loving care, and don't overindulge in online time, where engagement announcements will only add to your frustration. Before donning another bridesmaid's dress, take yourself out for some special "me time," which will help keep you grounded. Remind yourself that there's no end date by which you have to be married, and we all have our own paths to journey. That's part of the beauty of life.
Take pride in each chapter of your book.
"Enjoy the book written for your life, and enjoy each page of each chapter," says Coffman. "Many women rush into marriage and years later regret not having enjoyed their single years." Each chapter, although different in direction and nature from your friends, can be as wonderful as you choose to make it. The only timeline that matters, according to Coffman, is your own. "Don't get caught up in timelines dictated by others."