The subject referenced in this post’s title is one that shouldn’t need any explanation. Love is love and, as a result, marriage should just be marriage – young or old – right? Well, maybe in a perfect world. But the one we live in is so polar opposite of perfect that that naturally wasn’t going to be the case.
I am 21-years-old. I can legally drink, drive, and hold a respectable full-time job. I graduated high school a couple of years ago and tried my hand at the whole “college” thing. I live comfortably on my own, paid off my debts, worked tirelessly to build up my credit, and have provided for myself for years now. I also happen to be married to my husband – my high school sweetheart, very best friend, and USMC recruit currently away at boot camp – who is also newly 20-years-old with about the same life experiences and countless others under his belt, too. And somehow, that fact alone is enough to discredit any and everything we’ve worked so hard to accomplish so far over the 4 years we’ve been together in one swift movement.
As with anything else I’m countered with, I often dissect and attempt to understand an ideology that differs my own. Believe it or not, prior to our lives taking on this sudden military shift, I was very much against marrying too early myself. That isn’t to say that it wasn’t right for others around me, of course; but for me, personally, I couldn’t imagine even thinking of marriage prior to the age of 25. I’ve always been an especially independent one, and the connection marriage has to family and child-bearing was just too much too fast for me to be thinking about anytime soon. Tim and I had even discussed it together and modeled most of our long-term plans around that pivotal first step, just years down the line. But, as life so often does, we were dealt a very different hand than what we anticipated, and here we are now!
The looks people give me when I share this tidbit of information, the condescending questions they ask, and the whispers that occur when I’m barely out of earshot make it more than clear that the plunge we’ve taken isn’t as understood or accepted to everyone across the board. And that’s okay – the same way children aren’t for me at this time in my life (or anytime soon), marriage isn’t going to be every person I meet’s cup of tea. I’m accepting of that fact as it doesn’t affect me in any way – and in that regard, my life choices should be honored with at least the same respect and courtesy, right?
So you’d think.
I get it; truly, I do. 20-something-year-old’s can barely be trusted to get themselves out of bed at a reasonable hour on their own, much less maintain a marriage for years to come. Young people are constantly growing and changing on a day-to-day basis – how can they be trusted to pledge themselves to another for the rest of their lives without resulting in complete failure? While the military aspect adds another facet not everyone encounters, the message at the root of it all remains the same: the only requirement two people truly “need” to get married is an unwavering dedication to each other and a refusal to give up on that love.
Now, I will be brutally honest when I say not every person taking that step in their late teens/early twenties knows exactly what it is and what it means when they take those vows. Hell, there are people in their thirties, forties, and even fifties who don’t and will never have “marriage” and all it entails figured out. That, I believe, has much to do with the outrageous divorce rate in this country in this day and age, and why that continues to be on the rise. Simply because teens have the ability to run up to the courthouse and get married the moment they turn 18 doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that they should, the same way you wouldn’t run off to enlist for a cause you had 0 understanding on or begin smoking solely because you can now legally pick up the habit. It is a decision that should be entered into very thoughtfully and carefully, but not one that should be disregarded based on age alone.
There are individuals who become pregnant as young as 13. You can drive at 16, graduate high school and enlist in the military at 18, and purchase alcohol at 21. Where, along the way, is the socially acceptable age to be bound for life to the one your heart loves and your soul finds peace with?
Just as a new baby, car, or home won’t repair a relationship that simply isn’t meant to work out, exchanging vows should not be an attempt to keep a “make up, break up” pairing together. Because after the initial excitement of the ceremony and going through the motions dies down, you are left with the bare, naked truth of what marriage truly is – promising the entirety of yourself and all you have to offer to another person for the rest of your days, and to receive nothing less than that in return, through the multitude of situations -good and bad – that life will undoubtedly throw your way. Marriage is messy, overwhelming, and will require work each and every day going forward. But it is also the most rewarding thing at the end of the day, and genuinely worth all that goes into it.
Life is unpredictable enough as it is. But life with a significant other in the military takes that to an entirely new level. Young marriage isn’t an uncommon thing in the military, and while all of those aren’t necessarily for the same reasons, the vast majority that signs up for this lifestyle know that more uncertainty than average comes with the territory. Choosing someone who is choosing to place their life on the line for complete strangers as a profession is choosing the possibility that you won’t see 5, 10, or 20 years together. It’s knowingly choosing them and your relationship now because when faced with the very real danger they’re placed in regularly, there’s no guarantee of the future whatsoever. It’s being faced yourself with the legitimate possibility of becoming a widow at 25 or 30 and still pledging your life to them anyways, because at least you have them right in this current moment. So you take the opportunities you’re given without so much as a second thought.
Marrying young did not “ruin” my life whatsoever, in any way, shape, or form. I still go out when I want to, barhop when I can, and embarrass myself in public on a semi-regular basis. I still enjoy traveling, shopping, sleeping in, and the liberty to come and go as I please. The only difference is that I now get to enjoy all of those things and more with my favorite person along for the ride. I get to finish each day knowing I always have my best friend in my back corner, can be confident in the fact that I will forever have a partner through the tough stuff, and get to spend the years I otherwise would have spent looking for my “person” loving him instead (which is a win in itself for someone as socially awkward as myself). I consider myself blessed and honored to have someone like Tim as my husband, and am more excited than I can put into words to see what the years to come have in store for us. And I would still choose him every time, no matter what.
2 months down, the rest of forever to go. Bring. It. On.