The subject of Dreadlocks has been discussed so many times before on this site:
All About Hair, Yogi Style
Meaning of dreadLocks
Natty dread on women
How To Wash Hair When Freeforming?
But to answer your specific questions:
I just stopped combing my hair, it freeformed, this was 10 years ago now and I have knee length dreads now. Of course it's a journey, growing dreadlocks does not happen overnight so of course it's always a journey for everyone. I've never had a single problem in society, people tell me all the time they love my headwrap, employers are always respectful which is required by law anyways. The only issue I've ever had is that I can get a headache from the weight and it being tied too tight.
My King has been dread up since.. probably 1998 or so.. I'm not sure exactly when. Long long before I knew him. He has a job in the county school district and no one ever trouble him about his hair, he's very well respected amongst his colleagues. He just wears a tam. He come to a point of bongo natty, he basically has 3 big bongos, some thinning at the top. I truly admire his departure from vanity with the way he let his hair be up to nature, no manicuring. What a relief compared to some men I knew who would even get fake locs attached, wear baseball caps even in bed to cover their thinning, and of course turn their insecurity toward me, criticize every little thing about my appearance and my hair. These experiences have taught me a lot. Natty dread is the only way to go for I, and it's great to have a partner who accepts his own natural self and therefore also accepts my natural self.
No judgement on your own hair choices though. Everyone has to choose for themselves whether they want to comb, trim, whatever it may be. At least it's natural and that's always a beautiful thing.
I always refer to my hair as DREADlocks in honor of Tafari, in Amharic meaning the Dread One, Ras Tafari the Head of Dread. People have their own take on it but no locs for I, it's dread, dread, dread, dreader than dread.