“There is no way I’m getting married until I’m at least 30,” I declared to my two best friends during one of our weekly sleepovers in high school. At the time, I associated marriage with settling down, sacrificing personal goals and getting on with the business of having kids. Fast-forward just three short years and those two girls were standing beside me at my wedding.
In the course of those three years, I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted in a partner. It just so happened that I connected with my person a few years ahead of my planned timeline. Suddenly the thought of getting married young wasn’t so bizarre to me — but rather, it actually seemed to be the best option for us.
Now, nearly five years on, I am as certain as ever that we made the right decision and for the right reasons. It just took getting married at 20 for me to realize some stereotypes about young brides aren’t always true.
Recently, a friend from my hometown confessed a mutual acquaintance's first reaction to my engagement was, “Is she pregnant?” I can’t fault her for that assumption, as there wouldn’t be such a succinct term for “getting married because there is a baby on the way” if it didn’t happen with some regularity. Still, as the next nine months came and went, she must have realized we had other reasons to get married — such as, you know, love.
Now that I live in a city with an extremely large military presence, I’ve met quite a few people who had legitimate reasons to bump up their weddings. The common thread is that all these people would have gotten married regardless. Sure, certain benefits — either through the military or with standard tax breaks — are nice. But they are not the driving forces behind marriages.
Unless you find yourself at an Elvis-ordained wedding in Vegas, there is a considerable amount of consideration that goes into saying “I do” to marriage — regardless of age. Although, our wedding plans may have seemed to come out of the blue to many people, we actually spent months before our engagement talking with trusted friends and family members about the pros and cons. Based on all the conversations we had, I would dare say we even put more thought into it than the couples I know where the woman was blindsided by a proposal. (What I sacrificed in terms of the complete surprise factor, I gained with preparedness and communication skills.)
One reason the high school version of me was so opposed to getting married in my 20s was the theory I wouldn’t be able to pursue my professional goals. As I sit here doing what I always wanted — writing for a living — I can confirm that isn’t so. Yes, there were compromises my husband and I both had to make along the way. With a little creativity and perseverance, though, most career goals are still attainable.
I love experiencing life with my husband. I also love experiencing life with my friends and other family members. Getting married young doesn’t mean you are signing up for a life of staying inside and watching Netflix with your partner forever and ever. (As nice as those occasional nights are.) My husband and I have different interests — and our marriage is stronger when we encourage each other to pursue those.
This may very well be the biggest stereotype we ran into during our engagement. Yes, we were aware of the statistics that show people who get married before the age of 25 are more likely to end in divorce. But, digging deeper into the studies reveals something interesting: Twenty percent of people who marry between the ages of 20 and 24 will divorce within five years versus 15 percent of people in their upper 20s. That’s just a five percent difference, so can we stop it with those apocalyptic predictions? As we approach that five-year mark and continue to go strong, I feel confident saying this is another stereotype to retire.
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