young marriage: thoughts from an 18 year old bride
Marriage gets handed to us as one of life’s big goals. Especially as an evangelically-raised young girl it seems to be hyped up as life’s biggest goal - tied for first place with raising children.
I, and many other girls like me, grew up dreaming about love, marriage, and weddings since the age of 5. We dreamed of romance, of joy, of hearts bursting with love. We were told about the beauty of marriage, the sacredness of marriage, the calling of marriage.
Maybe we get a little brain-washed into believing this is the path we must take, and soon.
For the most part, it’s not bad. Good intentions are behind the emphasis on marriage, on finding your partner for life. Because it is beautiful when you find it. Having a person, a best friend, that you are committed to and can trust with your life is amazing. I get why people love it, talk about it, make movies about it, write about it. I get it. I really do.
Why so young?
We got married when I was 18 and Mitch was 20.
A common question we got before and after the wedding was “Why?” and at the time, I thought the question was “why get married?” but I no longer think that’s the case. I think the question was, “Why now?”
We know why people get married. They love one another. They want to spend their life together. But why now is a fair question for a pair of teens.
And here’s why then: because the next step for our relationship was sex and living together. And the only way we could do that “properly” was to get married.
So, do Christians get married so they can have sex? Absolutely. Is it the only reason? No, but I can tell you it’s a contributing factor for why some of us choose to get married so young. I don’t think we’re the only ones.
It’s not what we expected.
Being married is not what I expected. It’s not what we expected.
When I try to think back to what I thought marriage would look like, I can’t remember what I thought before we were married. All I know is it wasn’t this.
And it’s hard to even explain how it’s different from what I pictured. I knew we would really begin to know each other, but not like this. I knew there would be intimacy, but not like this. I knew there would be love, but not like this. I knew that we would be building a life together, but not like this. It’s better and weirder and creates a crazier bond than I ever imaged.
You “know” a lot about marriage and what it’ll look like without knowing anything. You don’t know until you’re in it yourself - no longer looking to the marriages of others but simply building your own into what works best for you.
Every marriage is different, and that’s okay. Here’s how I’d describe ours: the absolute best friends who live together, with the additional perk of sleeping together. Some marriages might be more romantic than ours and some might be more passionate and expressive, and that’s okay. I like what we have going on.
We’re not married to the same people we married 4 years ago.
I’ve joked to Mitch many times that I’m not sure if our vows count anymore because we said them as very different people to very different people. I’m a very different Jen from the one he married over four years ago. He’s a very different Mitch.
It may not be so visible from the outside, but we know how much has changed. Our marriage is different from what we anticipated for 4 years ago. Our beliefs and desires about a lot/everything have changed dramatically. We have grown and shifted dramatically.
This might be true for the rest of life as well, but I think it’s especially a danger if you get married in your late teens or early 20s like we did. No matter how much you think you have yourself figured out, you don’t. We didn’t. We’ve experienced changes that we never anticipated.
By some miracle, all our shifts in desires and attitudes and beliefs have aligned with each other. Seriously, a miracle.
I see now how much “room for error” there is in committing to someone for life at such a young age. In a season when you’re working through the traumas of your childhood, figuring out what you want to do with your life, discovering who you are beneath the expectations of your community, and just finding yourself in general - there’s a lot of room for your desires and attitudes and dreams to stop lining up with each other. There really is. And we’re only 4 years in so I’m curious to see the changes that occur in the next 4 and where we end up.
Young marriages end in divorce all the time because of this wild shifting that can occur.
Now, don’t hear me saying that you shouldn’t get married because you and your partner will change. Then there would never be a reason to get married because we are all always changing! There’s always a chance that things will shift in a way that no longer works for you. I simply think there is a greater risk of this when you get married so young while you’re in the middle of figuring yourself out, let alone someone else.
(And don’t even get me started on the loneliness of young marriage/marriage in general. But you can read more about my thoughts on it here.
I get to grow up with my partner.
No, getting married young isn’t all risky or bad and it’s not doomed to end in separation. But don’t count on my experience, we’re only four years in. ;)
One of my favourite things is that in the middle of all this change and growth, I get to do it all with my best friend. I get to walk through all these seasons with my closest confidante. I get to wrestle with the hard stuff of this life with my partner. I get to walk through the good times and bad times with my husband. I get to be comforted through the tears and heartbreak by my person. I get to be cheered on by my biggest supporter.
That’s a pretty beautiful and special thing and I’m so grateful for it.
Like I said, there is room for “error”. These changes to who we are and what we think could rock us in the wrong direction, but they’ve also tied us closer to each other than we imagined. To walk through every hurt, doubt, accomplishment, fear, and change together is an incredible experience. A unifying experience to be so fully understood and loved by one person.
Yes, there are miscommunications, there are mistakes, there are disagreements and misunderstandings. Walking so closely with someone won’t always be perfect. We aren’t perfect people after all.
But we get to do it together.
And I wouldn’t change that for anything.