But so long as those promises are 'implicit', I certainly don't think there's any sin in asking. Because as long as they are implicit, *someone* (most likely the man, but possibly the woman or both) is keeping their options open--because if they weren't, they would go ahead and make it 'explicit'
...in my circle of acquaintance is a couple who have been dating for 7 years. For at least the last 3, she has wanted to get married. He says he plans to marry her, he says when he pictures his future, it's always with them together--but right now's just not the right time because at first he was focussing on his career, and now he's focusing on his start-up business...
I know that this is probably very stupid of me to disagree with a married man old enough to be my father with years more knowledge and experience than me, but Mr Witega, I feel inclined to disagree with you on a couple of points here. Sometimes making their committment 'explicit' is much harder than some of these oldsters on here make it out to me because we come from different generations. Nowadays getting married for younger people is not as easy as the elders are making it out to be; you need money. You said yourself that a man should put his girlfriend/life/fiance higher than almost everything and take care of her as much as he can, and how is he supposed to do that if he does not have money yet? He needs to focus first on getting his job and cash flow coming in. And that is not as easy as it may have been for the oldsters. Nowadays college is almost essential for a decent job and finishing high-school is mandatory and college costs money as well, so it really is a hard process. If anything, it seems more immature to me to just marry a woman because you 'love her' relying solely on your emotional impulses and not reason, because even if you marry her, she is still going to struggle as the couple struggles economically. If he really loved her, then he would put off marriage for a while until he can get his money. I don't know if this is a wise decision or not, so your input would be appreciated, but I've sort of implicitely decided that I would not marry until I am economically stable.
James - God gave you a brain and you are using it to actually think about the things people are saying to you. That's not stupid at all. Uncritically accepting every piece of advice that comes your way is almost as bad as refusing to take any advice at all--and that goes triple because I'm just some random stranger on the internet.
Despite that, I'm going to give you some further advice now, which you can do whatever you want with:
First and foremost, avoid the trap of thinking your generation (which is the generation of my daughters and Punch's sons) is unique. Every generation since at least 1800 has thought that, and they've always been wrong. Technology makes some things go faster, specifics change here and there--but people are still people, and the world is still the world. It took money to support a family, and the more education and skill you had the easier it was to make that money, when I was in my 20s and starting my family. And the same was true when my parents were starting their family, and when my grandparents were trying to scrape their way of out the Great Depression. The fact that they did it is not evidence that it was 'easier'--its just evidence that when you accept something needs to be done, you do it and don't worry about the excuses.
Now, as to the main substance of your post: Honestly, the money is generally just an excuse. I'm not directing that at you. At 16, you still have years of figuring out who you are and what you want to try to do with your life before you should start worrying about who want to share the rest of that life with. And neither Punch nor I is saying 'COMMIT NOW'. What we've been saying is that if *don't* commit, then be prepared to live with the consequences. And at 16, (or 18 or 20) you should *want* to live with the consequences--life-long commitments are down the road for you. But in the case of my example couple--she's a professional with her own career that she has no plans to give up after marriage. He's an experienced and skilled computer programmer who I know for a fact has turned down well-paying jobs because he thinks he can eventually make more with his start-up (and he just likes being his own boss). Based on just her salary or the salary he could have if he took on of those job offers, they would be better off, more 'financially secure', than I was when my girls were little. He's making a choice, and its based on his priorities.
Which brings me to some comments about money, financial stability, and priorities.
First off, you are never *ever* going to have enough money to provide for your loved ones in the manner they deserve. This is kind of integral to the 'loved' part. For example, someday hopefully you will meet a fine upstanding Orthodox woman, the two of you will fall in love and get married. You will want to buy her a ring. And if all you can afford is a cubic zirconium, you will wish you could afford a real diamond. And if you can afford a half-carat, you will wish you could afford a full carat. And if you can afford a full carat, you will wish you could afford 5 carats. And if you can afford 5 carats, you'll wish you can afford to pay an artistic genius to create a unique work of jewelry just for her. And you will wish this even though as a fine upstanding Orthodox woman, she tells you she doesn't care about jewelry. You will wish it even if she tells you she wants you to halve your ring budget and give the other half to charity, and you will wish it even though, if she really is the right woman, she really will be happy with whatever you can afford. You will want this because if you love her, you will know that she deserves all the best things in life--and you are going to have to live with the fact that not even Bill Gates can provide *all* the best things in life. Second example: A five-year old can entertain himself for days with a cardboard box and a stick. But you will spend considerably more than the cost of a box and a stick every birthday and every Christmas. In fact, at some point, you'll talk yourself into going over budget to buy one particularly neat toy--only to have your child playing with it for 10 minutes, then wander off to spend the next couple of hours climbing in and out of the box it came in. Indeed with kids, the more money you have, the more careful you have to be about *not* spending everything you can on them so as to not ruin their developing sense of value and work ethic.
Second, 'financial stability' is an illusion (Luke 12:15-23). I knew a man who waited until his late 30s to get married because he was concentrating on building his business. And he was very successful at that. When I met him in his late 50s, he was a multi-millionaire with a mansion in the most expensive part of Dallas. Then, just as he was putting 3 kids through college, the commercial real estate bubble in Texas burst and he went from being worth tens of millions to owing millions. His kids went from Christmas vacations in Vale or Europe to working two jobs just to finish their degrees and his first grandchild was born on welfare. I'm not saying don't be sensible with your money or don't make plans--but if 'financial stability' is your priority, then it is one you will never set aside. Because when you get to a certain level of stability, you need more money to guarantee you can stay at that level--I'm doing fine now, and I have decent savings--but if I had lost my job in the recent downturn, my family could not have stayed at our current level for long on those saving. So to guarantee we could stay at our current level, I would need to make much more money than I have now--but once you're making much more money, the level has changed and you start looking at what you have to make on top of that to guarantee that new level. The more you feed your *need* for money (whether you couch the need as 'financial stability' or 'independence' or raw greed) the more it grows (like any other passion). So be responsibile with your money--but be aware that nothing in this world is ever certain and never prioritize it over more important things--
because (and this is a piece of advice I specifically give my daughters when considering guys): 'Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also'. People get into habits of mind. And once they do, those habits do not change just because you know they should. If you spend years prioritizing your job and financial stability over the woman in your life, then there is no magic about a wedding ring (to borrow from akimoro) that is going to change that when you do finally get married. That millionaire? He always struck me as one of the loneliest people I've ever met. He provided his family a much better life, in financial terms, than I've ever done for my family. But he barely knew them.