Yes, getting married young meant sacrificing opportunities

May 5, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Image: Rafael Elias/Moment/Getty Images

When I got married at 20, I pridefully recited the saying, “You don’t have to be married to be an adult, but you have to be an adult to be married.” Nearly five years on, I would like to revise that from my own experience: “You don’t have to be married to be an adult, but you have to figure out how to be an adult really quickly to have a successful marriage.”

With a retrospective view of how much I’ve matured since our wedding, I’m less sure of my adulthood at the time of our vows — but I do know that getting married sped up the rest of the process. Along the way, one of the biggest and ultimately most rewarding lessons has been the importance of occasional sacrifice.

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When my husband and I married, I was going into my senior year of college while he faced three more years of school to complete his doctoral degree. I knew that meant my post-graduation job prospects would be pretty geographically limited. However, knowing that and dealing with the reality of it were two different things.

I prided myself on my independence and adventurous spirit. So, as my peers were accepting exciting jobs all around the country while I was left searching in a limited market, I will admit to some moments where I felt a bit sorry for myself.

As I found a job and life went on, though, I had a realization. Marriage is a partnership, so what benefits your spouse also benefits you — even if the situation doesn’t seem ideal at first. In other words, the sacrifice I made with my job prospects were worth the opportunities that would come when my husband completed his degree.

That isn’t to say it was always easy to make compromises from there on out. There were many times when I wished I could join my girlfriends for spontaneous trips or could carelessly splurge on a new dress or could even just turn on whatever movie I wanted without thinking about the tastes of someone else. I’m sure my husband has a dozen examples of his own.

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But it was worth it because I believe the optimist’s word for sacrifice is “team-building” — and the single biggest key to reframing it like that is communicating with your spouse. By having honest conversations about how we’re feeling and why we’re making the decisions we are, we both buy into the same goals. That way, neither of us feel like our actions go unappreciated.

The truth is that life in a partnership is going to require compromises, especially when you get married young and have more major life decisions ahead. We are two different people with many personal goals that bound to conflict at various points. Feeling resentful about it when it happens doesn’t do any good. Rather, knowing that we are working together and supporting each other helps us overcome those situations and strengthens our marriage in the process.

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