Last night I went to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater with Kirk, his brother Erik and his girlfriend Kaia, and the Sherburne parents. This is the second time I've spent time with Kirk's parents and I am, in some ways, amazed by how easy it is to spend time with them. They are some of the most laid back, genuine, sweetest people I've ever met. I am just so thankful that Kirk and I get along so well with one another's family members. I am fairly confident that neither of us is going to experience the "dreaded in-laws" because both families have embraced us as individuals and as a couple. To be fair, I have to acknowledge that much of the ease of spending time with one another's family can be contributed directly to our families. Kirk and I have both been blessed with amazing parents who are supportive and loving. I guess the next step is having the parents meet. :)
Engagement, weddings, and marriage seem to be a common theme for me recently. In part because I was blessed to be a part of one my best friend's wedding recently. Also, a couple of my friends have been strong proponents of Kirk and I getting engaged soon which has prompted much discussion and even some preliminary "ring" shopping (which Kirk knows about...more so a fun girl bonding thing than anything else). Kirk and I have talked fairly extensively about our future. We've talked wedding details, the possibility of living together before we're married, and even talked about kids. So the fact that last night we saw "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is a bit ironic, since it just continues the current "wedding" theme.
This constant focus on engagement and marriage has really forced me to consider all the "players" that contribute to the timing of such events. On one hand society dictates the social norms regarding how long a couple should date before getting engaged. Lifecourse influences these social norms. For example, a couple who meet Freshman year of college are expected to date longer before becoming engaged due to where they are in their life course. Society encourages that they finish school before marrying and often people of this age are still developing their identity which will continue to change through these formative years. Whereas someone of Kirk and I's ages, he is 28 and I am 26, are in a different place in our lifecourse. We have established our identity and know what it is we are looking for in a life partner. Although I am technically still in school...being a graduate student it is more acceptable that I would be either already married or getting married in the near future. So while Kirk and I have only been dating 3 months, our relationship feels as though it is mature far beyond the actual time we have been together. While society may feel it is still entirely too early for us to be thinking about let alone talking engagement and marriage...my close friends (who have witnessed the progression of our relationship) are encouraging us to get engaged soon. In comparison to our parents, mine dated about 6 months before getting engaged and were engaged another 6 months before getting married. Kirk's parents were co-workers and long time friends and did not date at all before getting engaged (a really great story that I won't tell here). So I guess based on that, Kirk and I are at the midway point between what our parents did. Kirk and I have kind of established a timeline (he wants to be married before I finish my doctorate...which really doesn't narrow it down much because that is still at least three years away). We've decided we want a summer wedding (so that I will be on break from classes) and I would like to be engaged for 9 months to a year, again since I will be so busy during the semester with class. We've both agreed that it'll happen when we're at a place in our relationship where we are both ready for it.
We've also discussed living together and some of the pro's and con's. I consider things like the financial benefit (at least for me) if we are living together. As a graduate student it would be nice to share the "burden" of rent. Also, we have conflicting schedules right now as he works 3rd shift (10pm to 7 am) Sunday through Thursday and occasionally working weekends. Living together would make it much easier to spend time together. However, I also don't know if I'm ready to "give up" my independence, as in having my own space. Another potential "con" is the reaction of our parents. My brother currently lives with his girlfriend (he moved and she moved with him so they decided to live together partially for financial reasons and partially because she decided to go with him) so I feel it would be unjust for my parents to have an issue with Kirk and I living together. I do, however, understand I am the only girl so my dad may feel differently about me living with Kirk than he does about Josh living with Whitney. Kirk thinks his parents would have an issue with it. I absolutely adore his parents and would never want to do somethig to offend them but also recognize that we are in our mid to late 20's and are adults capable of making our own decisions. I know others have moved in with their significant other and just not told their parents. I just don't see Kirk and I being able to do this. We are both too close to our families and I would not be comfortable lying to them about that. Either way, I think this is something we will continue to talk about as our relationship progresses. Interestingly enough, research shows that couples who cohabitate with the intention of living together as a "trial marriage" have a higher divorce rate than couples who either do not cohabitate or cohabitate due to financial reasons, logistical reasons (location), etc. Fortunately neither Kirk nor I have considered living together for the purpose of a trial marriage. Afterall, you decide to marry someone because you love them and want to spend your life with them. As long as your relationship is healthy and you communicate well with one another...any issues that may surface initially as a result of living together will work themselves out. At least in my opinion.
Kirk and I will just continue to process the input from society, our families and friends, and of course from ourselves and eachother as a couple to determine how to progress in our relationship.