Q. Besides the fact that my parents are divorced, many of my friends are divorced and I was raised in a household where my father constantly said things like, “Don’t say the ‘M’ word” (when referring to marriage) I have always believed that marriage is an honorable institution and should last a lifetime: My problem is that I can’t seem to make the commitment of “forever” — at least not yet. When my boyfriend proposed to me after 10 short months of dating, I told him I was not ready to get married; that was five years ago. He constantly asks me when I’m going to be ready, and my answer is always that I don’t know.

For some reason, so marry people think that because I’m in my late 2Os, I should have been reacdy to get married a long time ago. Instead, I focus on other areas of my life. We spend a lot of time together, basically any time we’re not at work. Part of me would rather be alone than be married right now. Is something wrong with me? _What do you recommend that I do to find out if and when I am ready?

A. I think Carly Simon had it right when she sang:

“Well , they say it’s time we got married,

.. we’ll have our sleepless nights, angry dawns.

… the couples cling and claw, and drown in love’s debris.”

In other words, getting married because someone thinks it’s time for you to get married is probably one of the worst reasons to get – married.

We are taught in our culture that we should get married when we feel like “we can’t five without” a person.

A much more mature approach, and one that bodes far better for a lasting commitment, is to get married not when you feel like you can’t live without someone, but to consider marriage and commitment when you could live without the person, but you would much rather live with them.

At the same time, marriage and commitment are words that can send many of us fleeing in terror, especially if we haven’t seen many marriages that work well.

Commitment is not a function of age

One important thing to remember is that commitment is not a function of age.

I’ve worked with people in their early 20s who were ready for commitment, and I’ve worked with people in their 50s who still were not ready.

That’s because commitment is more a function of maturity than of age, as well as finding the right person to whom to commit.