Getting married young gets a bum rap in certain parts of this country. It makes sense. If you make a lifelong, massive decision like that before you are old enough to really understand the consequences, it is easy to imagine disaster. But the thing about young marriage no one tells you is this: When it is right, it is so, so right.
It’s not that getting married older is a bad thing. For most of us, the decision about when we marry is made more by circumstance and luck than anything we can control. And certainly getting married at 30 or 35 has its benefits. You know yourself better. You are more financially secure. You are probably more independent and have lived on your own a bit.
Those are all wonderful things. But I’d still choose my young marriage again any day.
My husband and I were 24 when we got engaged and 25 when we walked down the aisle. That is just a bit under the national average for women and quite a bit under for men. But for the people who we were surrounded by when we got married in our urban, Northeastern enclave, we were veritable babies. Our friends a decade our senior were still going out every night, dating, and having a lot of fun. We were having fun, too. We just were having it together. Very often alone in our home. If that sounds sad, it isn’t. We were building something important. That kind of trust lasts a lifetime if you’re lucky.
The other day, my stepmother told me she has noticed a difference during her life between the couples she knows who marry older and the ones who marry younger. There is a co-dependency (my word, not hers) in which the two younger partners who sort of grew up together become so intertwined, there are certain things they simply cannot do without the other. Older couples are more independent from one another. They became adults alone, after all.
This is the truth. But this co-dependency also means something else. It means a deep friendship. No I can’t imagine wanting to spend extended time away from my husband, but that is also because he’s really the person I most want to be around. I love ending my days on the couch with him watching silly movies, eating ice cream, laughing and talking about our day. Sure, that’s not necessarily a function of having married young, but sometimes it feels like it is. I remember him at 23. I remember that silly boy with no cares or responsibilities. And while a whole lot has changed, I still see glimpses of him now and then. And vice versa.
My husband and I grew up together. Almost all of our firsts were with each other. Buying our first house. Selling our first house. Having our first child. Buying our first brand new car. Investing and saving a portion of our income rather than spending it all. All those mortgages and paperwork and meetings with attorneys and accountants, we navigated together. There is something beautiful and trust building in that. Everything we have we built together.
It’s not that there are no downsides.
In a memoir I recently read, the writer spent two years traveling in South America. She was 27 and 28. When I was that age, I had been married a couple years, owned a house, and was pregnant toward the end of 28. Do I regret not having freedom and using it to travel? Maybe a little. But I grew up traveling. I lived in both Florence, Italy and London during my college career. And once my husband and I were married, we went together to Morocco and Paris and Iceland and so many other places. Many couples who marry young do move abroad together, too. Sometimes I wish we had. But we had other things we wanted to do and that’s OK. We still travel now even if it’s not quite as adventurous.
There is also the matter of sex, of course.
Getting married young often means limiting your partners and sexual experiences and sometimes that bothers me. But what I got instead was years of practice with a man who knows my needs as much as he knows his own. We have the kind of trust and knowledge of each other’s likes and preferences that can only come from years of experience together.
But even with these downsides, I’d do it again.
We have been married almost 13 years now. We have three children. My husband is my best friend in the world. Certainly, we are very lucky. Young marriage can be a disaster when it is wrong and many marriages that are formed before two people are full-fledged “adults” themselves are destined to fail. But we’ve rolled with the changes. We’ve watched each other change from near-adolescent, young adults to full fledged grown ups.
When it is is right, it is so right.
The biggest miracle, though, is time. If we live until 100 (and I hope we do), then almost 80 years of that would have been together. That is everything. I never could have known at 25 how time would fly and how quickly we would go from young to old. But I know now. And every moment we have is precious. “Grateful” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
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