Why I Married Young
Posted by Paul
October 23, 2014
Hello, my name is Paul. I’m a 22 year old college senior, and I’ve been married for 3 and a half years now. Yes, I married my high school sweetheart. We’ve been together since we were a sophomore and a junior, respectively, and we were engaged before I even graduated. After my first year in college (her second), we were married, and we’ve been together ever since.
Quick Disclaimer: This post is not an endorsement of young marriage or marriage in general. I only seek to promote respect for everyone’s relationship decisions. Also, this is dealing with my personal story, so there is only discussion of a cisgender, heterosexual experience. This is not everyone’s experience, and that is precisely why I say we should always respect everyone’s relationship choices. In fact, I write this while equal access to marriage has not yet made its way to Kansas.
As a young married couple, we face a good deal of stigma. We know the data says that we are at a higher risk of divorce statistically, but it also says that couples who marry young are happier. Granted, those experiences are different for everyone. People are surprised when they find out. It is difficult for people to accept the facts about our relationship. They make all sorts of assumptions about our relationship dynamics, about our future plans, about our religious beliefs, and about the circumstances surrounding our decision. Most of those assumptions are wrong, however.
One frequently incorrect assumption is that we must fight a lot, since a lot of young couples do. I think this stems from an assertion that we aren’t mature enough to handle the demands of a full-fledged commitment to each other without a great deal of fighting. That’s just not true. We approach our lives as a partnership, supporting each other through the many conflicting pressures placed on young adults, instead of letting those pressures pull us apart.
Another thing that surprises people is that we have roommates. I think it is a very strange concept for most people to think about a married couple living in a roommate situation. But we’re college students, and not very affluent ones at that, and having roommates makes sense for us. We have always had roommates, and in fact we’ve never actually lived alone together. Does that make our relationship any less legitimate? I don’t think it does. It’s no different in my mind than any person living with other people. We happen to be friends with our roommates, and the situation isn’t strange at all.
The biggest assumption we hear from nearly everyone is that we plan to have children. We get that all-important question at every family gathering, “So, when are you two going to have kids?” When we tell them, or anyone really, that we don’t plan on having children, we hear “Oh, well you’ll change your mind in a few years.” The thing that stands out here is first that people are intruding on our privacy, since it is none of anyone’s business what our reproductive plans are. But also, there comes this insinuation that we just aren’t old enough or mature enough, so we can’t possibly actually know what we want. I think this can be a form of stigma, toward youth in general, that we just can’t make real decisions because we don’t know what we want. In fact, we have made this decision after a lot of thought and discussion, because both of us genuinely don’t have any desire to have children. And we decided that if we ever do want to take care of another human, we can adopt a child.
Still others assume that we decided to get married young based on some sort of religious beliefs. Either we were both staying abstinent until marriage, or we had family pressures to get married in order to live together, or any other religious reason. But none of that is the case, and we are both not religious. They might also assume that we are traditionalists or conservatives, but that’s definitely not the case either. We decided to get married for entirely personal and secular reasons, and that shouldn’t be something that people look down upon, as if it’s a lesser reason.
A lot of people I talk to don’t seem to understand my motivation for wanting to get married young. After all, I am a man, and it is a societal expectation for men to fear commitment, and to seek out as many relationships in our youth as we can. And for those that truly want that, there is nothing wrong with it. But that was never something I strived for. Once I found the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, there was no reason to hold back from that because of my age.
Fifty years ago, people marrying at our age was a normal experience. If anything, we would have been married late by those standards. But society has changed since that time. People now see getting married before 25 as being irresponsible. We weren’t established enough, or independent enough to get married because we were still in school. We didn’t even have careers yet! But that’s ok. We have been able to go through those formative years together, helping each other grow into who we want to be.
The real reason that we decided to get married when we did is that we wanted to experience life as best friends. We want our relationship to be the cornerstone, not the capstone of our lives. That’s how we see each other, and how our relationship works. We are partners, and we share our challenges and our successes. Living life as a young person in our society is stressful. When you are trying to balance school, work, internships, and clubs, it is nice to have someone supporting you that is actively engaged in your life. It’s a good feeling to have someone share your goals and help work for them, especially as we balance our goals with each other. Relationships include a necessary element of sacrifice and compromise, but with a full commitment to each other, we find a way to make all of that work.
Is our path right for everyone? Certainly not. In fact, I believe these choices are for each of us to make for ourselves. But along with that, we need to make sure to respect others’ decisions and not to judge them for making decisions we may not understand. We should be not be shaming people for their relationship choices. A lot of people have not been able to understand why we would want to get married at 19 years old. But that’s what works for us, and that’s all anyone should care about.