2 Ways To Confront Criticism Over Your Relationship Timeline

When you're in a relationship, it can sometimes feel like it's not just the two of you, but everyone you know and their mother. People just love to offer their unsolicited advice on the relationships of others, especially when it comes to milestones like marriage and when you choose to have kids. When they're not offering their advice, such people sometimes take the judgment route instead, as we often see with celebrity relationships.

A perfect example of this is the recent engagement of Millie Bobby Brown and Jake Bongiovi. Despite being in a relationship since 2021, when the two announced their engagement it was immediately met with criticism due to Brown's age — she's 19. When the Internet isn't shaming a 19-year-old woman for getting engaged to her 21-year-old partner, it likes to shame people in the other direction too. For years, Jennifer Aniston faced speculation and criticism over when she would have kids, then ultimately why she never did despite being married twice. Although it's no one's business what Aniston does or doesn't do with her body or her life in general, the actress put to bed years of rumors in November 2022 when she sat down with Allure and talked about her IVF journey that ultimately didn't work in her favor.

But you don't have to be a celebrity to have people in your life constantly questioning your relationship status. Whether you marry someone you just met three months ago or have been married for 10 years and don't have kids, here's how to confront that criticism over your relationship timeline.

Put yourself in their shoes

As much as you may want to fly off the handle when someone questions your relationship timeline or gives you advice you didn't ask for, it's better if you take a deep breath and ask yourself why they're asking. While in some cases, it might be just straight-up judgment. In other cases, especially when it's coming from family and close friends, their concerns might be legitimate but maybe you're just too blinded by love to be truly pragmatic.

"Most parents want the best for their child, and I promise you, their attitude is related to a fear," relationship coach and attachment specialist Wendy Walsh, Ph.D. tells Brides. "Perhaps they are worried about your future because they think you are marrying too young, without resources, or are in a relationship that they fear might turn abusive ... Talking about their fears honestly and reassuring your parents — or even considering the validity of their fears — can bring you all to a greater understanding of each other."

People are naturally protective of those whom they love, so whether it's getting married too soon, too young, or not getting married or having kids soon enough (in the eyes of your family and friends, of course), it comes down to them being afraid for you. Granted, they don't need to share their commentary, but it's rare to go through life without ever meeting at least someone who's going to butt in on your relationships. So when it happens, stay calm and try to understand where they're coming from and what stake they might have in it, if there's any stake at all. 

Communicate your priorities

Everyone has a different personal timeline for when they want to accomplish goals and reach milestones. Some people want to be married by 25 and have kids at 27. Some want to build a career, skip marriage, then have kids at 42. Others might not have an interest in marriage, kids, or even a serious relationship because their life is fulfilled with other things, like a fantastic job and dog named Charlie. We only come around this way once and how we choose to live our life and on what timeline we want to reach things is no one's business but our own. 

As Dr. Walsh pointed out, criticism over your relationship timeline, or other aspects of your life, stems from fear. But if you communicate your priorities and your loved ones can find it in themselves to respect those priorities, you just might be able to limit the barrage of "life advice" that comes your way. If it occasionally comes up, do your best to not let it ruminate in your brain and cause you to get defensive. Once you've communicated your priorities, you've taken a stance — and sometimes that's all you can do. There's no sense in potentially damaging your relationship with these well-intentioned (if nosey) family members and friends. Eventually, they'll learn to accept your decisions because they'll have to. You're living your life for you, not for them.