“Can you believe it?”
“She’s so not ready.”
“But, she’s got so much life to live!”
“She’s like… barely old enough to drink.”
“Oh honey, I wish I would have waited.”
“There’s no rush, dear.”
Sound familiar? I’ve said it. You’ve probably said it. Or, maybe you’ve heard others say it. You’re creeping Facebook when you see a picture of a gorgeous ring some “girl” you know from high school or college has just posted. You realize she’s engaged and a few seconds later you’re texting whichever mutual “friends” you have to discuss the matter and exchange some of the aforementioned phrases… as if it really matters to you anyway. Let’s face it though, we all are guilty of loving a little gossip. I was engaged at twenty-one and married at twenty-two. For me, it wasn’t my friends or peers who had comments to make, but rather older women. I’m sure my peers had things to say, but they weren’t woman enough to actually say it. It was quite the trend though, at my college to tear down the women who were engaged before graduation. Certain girls saw it as a way to build themselves up, “I’m not looking for the MRS degree. I have a career to think about.” I thought, “Okay, and…? Because it is impossible in the 21st century for a woman to be a wife and a successful working woman?” ANYWAY, I digress.
It really hit me one day when I was getting my nails done. I’m not really the type to make conversation with strangers, but I will certainly reply to any questions asked of me. I was waiting for my technician to come over when a woman next to me, maybe maybe around 70 or so, commented, “Is that an engagement ring?” Feeling flattered (expecting her to say that is was nice, or something of the sort) I replied with a chipper, “Mhmmm” and a positive nod. Then she said, “…you don’t look old enough to be getting married.” (Side note: Awkward… what the heck do you say to that!?) Now, I really am not the confrontational type, so I had to rack my brain for something non-sassy to say back. I was student teaching at the time, and this was all I could think of, “Yeah, it’s funny. I’m teaching 12th grade right now and students who don’t know me sometimes mistake me for a student.” Cue awkward silence…She just replied, “Yeah, you look like you belong in high school.” And that was the end of it. Now, she was just a grouchy (I hate to say old… but…) old woman. That’s what I told myself. But, deep down, I knew she wasn’t the only one thinking it. Women my own age were thinking it too, they just weren’t as bold as this lady. Or, as outwardly rude, maybe.
So why are women like that? You don’t hear men going around judging their peers for getting married “young.” Maybe it is because we are jealous. Maybe it is because we are afraid we’re losing our friends. Maybe we just feel left out. Maybe we just like to gossip. Maybe it is because statistics supposedly say that marrying younger makes you more likely to end up divorced (which is an whole different subject). Anyway, everyone is different. I don’t believe you should get married young. I don’t believe you should wait until you’re 30 to increase your chances of success. Marriage is not a game. It is not about statistics. It is about you and your spouse. What would have been the point of waiting ‘til 30 to marry my partner? We were together for 4 years. We’re ready to get married. Waiting 8 more years, just to ensure that I was old enough to have a decent chance of staying married, according to statistics, would have been absolutely ridiculous. Anyway, I want you to know, not why you should marry young, but rather, why you shouldn’t be afraid of the statistics and why I am glad that I married when I did – that I married my husband, specifically. I wasn’t in a rush. It wasn’t my life goal to be married by 22; it just happened.
Most importantly, marriage is not a death sentence.
I hate to hear “But, you’ve got your whole life to live…” Yep. And I’m gonna live it. Married or not, I’m gonna live it. I am not killing myself by getting married. I am not preventing myself from opportunities. I am going to have entirely new, awesome opportunities with my husband. In addition to that, this is not 1950. I am not going to stay at home forever like June Cleaver. I’m young, I’m energetic, I work outside the home, and I am having a great life with my husband, because we are best friends and partners for life.
I married the man to whom I lost my virginity.
How many women who married at thirty can say that? In this day and age, hardly any. Maybe that’s not a big deal to you. But losing my virginity was a big deal to me, as I believe it should be, and I am so incredibly happy and proud to say that my husband is the only person who knows me that way, and he will be the only person who ever does. Now, I am not in any way advocating that you should have sex before marriage and then proceed to marry that person because you want to only ever sleep with one person. Please, for the love of God, don’t marry the first person you slept with just because. I’m just saying that I know many other happily married women (and men) who married “young,” and saved sex until marriage (or, like me, are still with their first partner). However, when you marry later, you have a higher chance of having several past sex partners, which, statistically speaking, leads to a less fulfilling marriage, and or a more strained relationship. Face the facts: sex is powerful. It is a strong emotional connection, and it affects your relationships. I am proud of myself, even if I didn’t wait until marriage, that I was able to make sure that my sexuality is for my husband and my husband only. It is a bond that I have only every shared with him.
Marriage helps us grow closer.
Marriage is sacred and special. It is a journey that has developed us as people, as Christians, as adults, as partners, and as future parents. Life is all about growing, improving yourself, and helping others to do the same. In our marriage, we have been able to do that in a way that we otherwise would now have. We know that it is our job, our calling, our duty to protect, support and love one another. We are faced with commitment to each other and to God. We are one together. And, we are not afraid. We are not afraid of losing each other, of losing our faith, of losing our bond. We are forced to work together in ways that we otherwise would not be. We view our life as one. Our finances are one. Our bed is one. Our life is one. We value ourselves as individuals, but we live together as one.
Starting from scratch, we are building our life together.
Because we married when we did, everything we have, we have gained and built together. We chose our first apartment together, we are buying our first house together. Neither of us had anything really, before we were married. I think there is something to be said for couples who start out with “nothing” – I use the phrase “nothing” lightly because, we did have college educations, gifts and help from our parents, etc. However, the majority of what he have, we gained as a couple. We worked hard individually, but made decisions as a team, and together, built our life. I think this type of journey helps a couple’s love for each other to grow deeper and deeper as time goes on. Being able to look back and see all that you did together can help you appreciate what you have as a couple, all you have done together, and all you have made it through.
We are a couple full of “firsts.”
As I said, my husband and I chose our first apartment together and we are buying our first house together, adopting our first pet together, and someday, we will have our first children together. My husband and I have a thing about experiencing “firsts” together. It builds a new connections for us. We were like this even when we first started dating. To us, it makes our relationship together more special. We would go somewhere new, or experience a new activity together and I would say, “I’m I the first girlfriend you’ve done this with?” I felt all the more special knowing that I was the one and only – no matter how trivial the experience or activity was. I’m the only one whom with my husband has lived. I’m the only one to whom he has proposed. He’s the only one with whom I have slept. He’s the only one whom I have taken on a family vacation. There are countless things we know about each other that nobody else knows. These are special things that we have shared together, and they have contributed to who we are as a couple.
I could go on all day about the reasons I am happy about the decision I made to marry when I did, but I think it all comes down to who I am and who I married. Who cares what the statistics say? The statistics don’t represent the individual. They represent the whole. The statistics don’t care what your individual situation is. They don’t care who you are. They don’t care what you want or what you are capable of. If you are ready to be married – whether you are twenty-one or thirty-five, you are ready. If you have chosen to love your partner for life, and you know what you want, make the decision without letting others tell you what you’re going to be missing. I’m not idealizing marriage here. It’s hard. It’s very REAL. It isn’t pretty all the time. But, it is also not a decision that you should let others make for you. Know yourself, know your partner, and make the call yourself. And, for goodness sake, don’t judge others for their decisions.
Photo Courtesy of jean lachat photography