Decisions is a series dedicated to the choices we make in our lives and the factors that led us to our given resolutions. We welcome guest posts to this series to hear about how you’ve tackled a life decision. Email your story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In today’s post, guest contributor Emily Glover talks about why she got married as a college student.
Undergrad and newlywed
by Emily Glover
“Do you think they will still give us a bottle of champagne to pop?”
My husband-to-be assured me there likely would be — after all, he would be 21. Still, as if I didn’t already know it, the inclusion of a bottle of champagne in the wedding package was a big reminder that I was younger than the typical bride. But despite the barriers both big and small that we faced, the decision to get married when I was 20 was a deliberate one, which did come with a champagne toast.
Planning a wedding when I was 20 wasn’t a path I expected for myself. Even today, two of my best friends from high school like to remind me of a conversation where I predicted I wouldn’t marry until at least my 30s, which would give me ample opportunity to establish myself as a political correspondent. At the time, it was easier to envision myself on CNN than walking down the aisle — especially since a boyfriend wasn’t even in the picture then.
Sure, there were guys, who helped me see what dating was all about if not much more. There were also life experiences, from the good (studying abroad) to the not-so-good (struggling with an eating disorder). By the time I met my eventual husband at the ripe old age of 19, I had a pretty clear picture of what I wanted — and it was quickly apparent it was getting to experience life with him. Fortunately, the feelings were mutual.
That’s not so unusual, though. I don’t think many of us stay in relationships without the vision of a shared future. We just happened to change the conversation from hypothetical to “this is happening” during our junior years of college. Like most of our friends, we were looking ahead to where we would live the following year. Our dream scenario was rooming together, but our mutual desires to please our traditional parents meant neither of us felt comfortable shacking up before marriage.
Wait, marriage? As soon as the word was mentioned, we couldn’t shake the thought of it.
Despite what I may have imagined, the discussions that preceded his proposal weren’t very romantic. From talking about finances to how we wanted to raise (then-nonexistent) children, it seemed we were suddenly operating on a different plane than most of our peers. There were definitely moments of hesitation where we wondered if the time, situation, or moon alignment was right. Some friends were also vocal with their concerns, which were all rooted in the argument, “But you are so young.” In fact, people seemed to think our decision was much more open to communal discussion than it probably would have been five or 10 years down the road — which led to a few awkward situations with family and friends.
Yet, we moved forward. Even though we knew we would face unique challenges as undergrad newlyweds, we are both determined people and knew we could make it work. Besides, we were confident that we would marry one day. So, why not one day soon? So we did it. We got married before my senior year of college not because there was a baby, impending deployment, or any other of the standard assumptions thrown on people who wed young in the modern era. And on the big day, those we loved put their reservations aside and joined us for a celebration like any other wedding.
I won’t pretend that the nearly five years since then have been easy, partially because of the challenges that all married people face and partially because of the stress we accepted by marrying when we did. But even the trade-offs came with benefits: I learned how to be a pro at budgeting! When classmates were applying to jobs all around the country, I was learning about teamwork and sacrifice while my husband completed his doctoral degree. When friends were planning girls’ trips, I was developing my communication and compromise skills by accepting I couldn’t make certain spur of the moment decisions without consulting with my husband. And when we faced unexpected challenges, I realized the true meaning of commitment.
I wouldn’t say getting married young is right for everyone, as statistics confirm. I also wouldn’t say we’ve been successful because we are special in any particular way. It just worked when we chose to marry and continues to work now. Usually around the time of our anniversary, my husband or I will ask the other whether we would still make the same decision. Each time we’ve both answered yes. Each time my confidence in that answer has also increased.
Emily Glover writes about marriage, motherhood, and healthy living from Colorado. She is developing a collaborative blog about experiences related to getting married young. Find out when it launches by following her on Twitter (@emmcglover).