I know that right now the trend among Millennials is to put off marriage. Many men and women are waiting until their late twenties or even early thirties to tie the knot, remaining unattached in those initial years of adulthood. At one point, many people were married with a kid on the way by twenty-six, and now most of that demographic would scoff at the idea of having a family at this point in their lives.
That’s probably why, in my group of friends, I am the only one who is not only married, but has celebrated more than one anniversary already.
I’m not here to advocate for one side of the other, although I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made, but instead to shed light on what it means to marry young.
For instance, I found that a lot of speculation comes with having a wedding at twenty-one. Some of the assumptions surrounding an early marriage are accurate, while others are complete misconceptions.
When I was engaged, I had more than one person ask me if we were having a shotgun wedding. In fact, one of the people who implied that my marriage was a result of an unplanned pregnancy was my now father-in-law. I don’t blame him or anyone else for assuming that two recent college graduates just barely old enough to (legally) drink at their own ceremony might have other motives for marriage, but I can also promise that some young people still get married simply because they are in love and they want to.
However, our desire to get married didn’t necessarily mean we were fully prepared. Let me preface this by saying I have no regrets and that, in our case, marriage has been incredible thus far. But, looking back on that time in our lives, I’m not convinced our decision to get married immediately after graduation was made for all the right reasons.
By the time we got married, we had already dated for years, had our first (and second, and third) apartment together, traveled as a couple, spent holidays together, and basically experienced all those exciting firsts that everyone in a relationship anticipates. So, is it possible that our engagement was born out of the inevitable, perhaps even as a result of some boredom? Yes, definitely.
We were impetuous, young adults seeking a way to take our relationship of five years to the next level, and marriage was the predictable choice. The prospect of a new journey was appealing and distracted us from fully considering the severity of the commitment we were making. While we should have been determining whether or not we were completely prepared to spend our entire life together (something two children of divorce probably should have known), we were instead focusing on the excitement of something new.
That said, our (somewhat) impulsive decision yielded ideal results. After all, two twenty-year-olds are like blank slates, ready to be molded to make a marriage work.
Because my husband and I met and married at such a young age, we essentially grew up together. We dated during our primitive years, and then married just as we were taking on the professional world. For better or for worse, we each had a major influence over one another’s views of the world, opinions and goals for the future. I have no doubt in my mind that both of us turned out differently than we would have, had we not met and married when we did.
I’m sure a lot of people will view this as a negative, believing that everyone needs a chance to grow independently before committing to another human being. And, while I don’t actively disagree with that notion, I can’t regret my situation either. After all, I love the fact that I am married to someone who feels the way I do about major issues (religion, politics, etc.), and who enjoys the same hobbies as I do, and who wants what I want out of life. I’m not sure that every piece of that puzzle would have fallen into place so perfectly had we met at another point in our life, molded instead by the influence of friends, and family and media, rather than by each other.
That’s not to imply that two people who wait until they are fully cooked can’t come together in perfect unison. Of course they can, and perhaps they will be more prepared for marriage because of it. But I know that, in order for a marriage to last a lot needs to go right, and I won’t deny that it’s made easier by the proper amount of compatibility between two people.
It also takes communication, and maturity, and compromise – all qualities that few twenty-somethings possess, but that need to be adopted quickly for a successful marriage.
Because we were so young, I’m not sure we had fully honed those skills by the time we were married. However, I quickly noticed changes to our relationship that were a result of the monumental change we had made, as well as the fact that we were still learning together.
In our first earth-shattering argument after we were married, I questioned our decision out loud and more than once. It’s not something I am proud of and, thinking about it now, I would say it was directly related to my age. Young couples are petulant and hasty, and when they feel like they aren’t being heard they will lash out. It’s not the way two married adults should act, and divorce is obviously a lot more serious and complicated than a college break up, but when you get married at twenty-one it’s not a given that you will mature completely overnight.
Of course, that same youthful view of the world made our first few years of marriage more exciting, too. When you tie the knot at a young age, you’re not always thinking three steps ahead the way older adults tend to. So, every time you catch a glimpse of the future life with your spouse – first home, kids, old age – it’s like a wonderful revelation. I was reminded time and time again that, because we married young, we would get to celebrate more anniversaries and enjoy more major life events, all as dedicated partners and companions.
The truth is though, whether you are twenty-one or fifty-one, you can never be completely certain or ready.
I’ve watched marriages between two people who are seemingly perfect for one another crumble into pieces after twenty wonderful years. I’ve witnessed the marriage of two young people fail before it really got started, and I’ve watched high school sweethearts celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. Regardless of timing or age, no marriage is a guarantee and there is no equation for success.
I know that, in reality, the odds are against my husband and me. But that was a risk I was willing to take at twenty-one, and that I don’t regret three years later. I understand that it’s completely possible that in five, or ten, or twenty years I could change my tune, but I truly believe that any regret I might have later is worth the experience of being married to him now. Of course, I am young and, for all I know, that is a naïve thought. But that’s what it’s like when you marry young.