I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of being “too young” when it comes to relationships. We seem to have reached the conclusion, as a society, that the longer we wait to find the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with, the better. Statistics seem to back it up, financial security is definitely a huge factor, and we live so much longer now than ever before — why rush things? I get it. But, perhaps just in a desperate desire to cling to the notion of romance, I’ve always felt that finding “the one” should be so much more based on who you’re with than your chronological age upon finding them.
It should be mentioned, of course, that I’ve seen both sides of the coin up close. My parents met at 23 years old and were married within nine months of meeting each other, and are deliriously happy today. However, I have three high-school acquaintances that were divorced by 21 (one of whom is re-married and already frequently complaining about her husband on her Facebook statuses). It is likely, of course, that my parents were just more compatible and determined to work through their marriage, but I’m not unaware of the fact that their situation is an exception, not the rule. The people I knew who were getting hitched at the age of 20-23 are generally not working out so well, and it’s far from surprising.
And the people who are getting married in that tender young age bracket seem, at least in my experience, to fall into two categories: Extremely Christian, or coming from a chaotic background and looking for some stability. Both of which seem to make sense, but neither reason to go into matrimony before you’ve attained a bachelor’s degree seems to be working out particularly well. It seems reasonable to assume that we’re just young, stupid, and inclined to make poor decisions around this age. I think about my decisions as an 18- to 22-year-old, and the thought of having to live with the consequences for life is horrifying, to say the least.
But on the other side of the spectrum, there is also the enormous risk of throwing a wonderful person away when you’re young, simply because you feel you have too much to do and see before you commit to that person. It’s all well and good if that decision leads you to Italy where you meet a sensitive, loving, generous multi-millionaire with whom you fall head over heels in love, but that likely won’t happen. And often, it seems to lead to being in your thirties and early forties, alone, and ready to marry anything that doesn’t throw up on its shirt on the first date. We can be optimistic as much as we want, but it doesn’t change the fact that dating gets more and more difficult as we age. And that’s natural, too. Most of us want someone to share our lives with, and as we get older, our choices naturally become more and more sparse. It is daunting, to say the least.
So when we’re young, and we have so many options and we’re all single (more or less), isn’t that the best time to meet someone who fits all of your criteria and with whom you have plenty of time to build a solid foundation before you commit for life? Shouldn’t we take advantage of a time when we can afford to be picky, when we’re constantly in social settings, and when we have the time and energy to risk a broken heart? Sure, of course. But at what point in that relationship, when we’re young, do we say to ourselves: “Even though I could leave you now and totally do a million other things with my life, I want to close those doors because you are incredible, and I know how unlikely it is I’ll ever find someone like you again.”?
What a hard thing to say, what a hard decision to make. Especially when we look around us and see the rough, often devastating ends that young love can meet when it commits too quickly, the idea of acknowledging you met your life partner at 22 is terrifying. Are we too young to even know what is really right for us? Perhaps, but the idea of giving up on something that is otherwise perfect for you because of some vague but persistent notion of “finding yourself” seems much more foolish than settling down early.
Maybe we’re now more inclined to believe that “finding ourselves,” experiencing things, and growing as a person cannot really happen in a couple. It seems, in this very “me”-oriented era, that we believe those emotional milestones must be met while we’re alone. But do we ever know when we’re “ready,” or have “found ourselves”? Is there a specific age — 25, 27, 32 — when we can close the chapter on our single selves and say, officially, that we are ready to settle down now? Even if there were a concrete list of things we wanted to accomplish before we chose a life partner, are we really foolish enough to believe that life (and all we want to accomplish in it) are going to happen in a neat little timeline, exactly how we envisioned them?
Perhaps there is such a thing as too young to pick someone. No money, no career, no general direction in life — maybe that requires some soul searching alone. But even if we wanted to strike an age bracket from the “marriage material” list, does that still justify us spending our twenties in a perpetual state of turning down commitment because we want to have “fun,” and can’t see ourselves really having it with someone else — even someone who loves us unconditionally?
It may be scary, but so are most big decisions in life. I want to embrace that person who is meant for me because of who they are, not how old I am on our first date. I never want to say to someone, “You’re perfect, but wait here for about 2.5 years. Don’t change a thing, I’ll be back soon — I promise.”