Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On Marrying Young: The Unsettled Life

Although marriage is often referred to as “settling down”, for young couples, early married life may not be all that settled.  Young married people are in many of the same circumstances as their unmarried peers: they are students, just starting their careers, and moving from place to place.  Although I have known young couples who married just out of college, both spouses found stable jobs in their desired fields, and they were able to purchase a condo or starter home within the first year of marriage, this is by far the exception and not the rule.

When my husband and I married, I knew that I was sacrificing the ability to plan out my future.  I had just graduated from college but I didn’t know if I would be able to find a teaching job if I moved to Indiana to join my husband (I wasn’t).  As the wife of a grad student, I don’t know where (and if) my husband will find a job when he graduates in May.  And since he is looking for postdoctoral positions, the job he does get will only be for one to three years, thus pushing back buying a house and planting roots in a permanent place even further out.  While our specific circumstances are unique to us, I know many other young married couples that feel the same sense of living a transitory, unsettled life.

Lacking the “stability” that is often assumed to accompany married life can add unneeded pressure to a young marriage.  Starting a career is difficult enough for any young person (especially with the current unemployment rate) without the added stress of knowing you need to help support a spouse or a family.  It also can be quite difficult for two people to start a career at the same time without being able to move for a job.  I would have had a much better opportunity to find a teaching job had I stayed in Colorado where I had connections in the local school districts or if I had been able to move anywhere the jobs were.  But marrying my husband meant that I needed to move to where he was completing school, so my dream of getting a teaching job was replaced by the simple desire to get any job that would help my husband pay the bills.  I never thought I would be so excited to get a job at Starbucks, yet this is only one example of how marriage has changed my whole perspective. 

Since we don’t know where we are going, we have to rely on each other all the more.  I am not by nature an adventurous person, but I’ve been able to approach our future and each new opportunity or hurdle as a new venture that will bring us closer together.  Moving first to Indiana and then to North Carolina only a year later, we’ve been able to start a new life together just the two of us, without the outside pressure of our families and friends.  Marrying young means that I get to be there for my husband at the beginning of his career to support him; and I will never take for granted the work he does to support our family because I’ve seen from the beginning just how much he has sacrificed and how hard he has worked just to get to this point. 

While I still wish we could put roots down somewhere and I’m anxious to have a home of my own where I can actually paint the walls, especially with a little one on the way, I wouldn’t trade this unsettled life with my husband for a more stable life on my own.  It has been difficult not knowing where our lives are headed, but it is a great comfort to know that wherever we end up, we’ll be there together.

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my On Marrying Young series.  


  1. Hi! Kaylene from Letters from Momma sent me over to you. My husband and I got married when he was in the Marine Corps right before my junior year of undergrad, so I transferred schools to be with him. We were SUPER young, and I don't regret it for a second. Today is our 4-year anniversary! He is now finishing his undergrad and I just finished my masters and am staying home with our baby, so I know exactly how you feel about financial uncertainty and not being able to settle in like you would want to! Congrats on your pregnancy! I'll say a prayer for you!

  2. LOVE your "On Marrying Young" series!! My husband and I got married at 22, and we've been living the grad student life ever since, so I strongly identified with this post. It's hard to feel so unsettled! I'm not too crazy about where we live, but I know it's temporary...yet, I wonder what is next for us! The uncertainty is very difficult, but I believe that going through it together really strengthens the marital bond! You continue to be in my prayers!

  3. You have a lot of good points! Why wouldn't you want to grow closer together instead of waiting to get married until you're "settled?" If you're going to spend the rest of your life with this person then you should be growing closer throughout your experiences. Love your series!

  4. I hear ya. We got married at 21 (barely--just a few weeks shy of a more-respectable-sounding 22) and 22. There's a lot that's tough about getting married young (especially for someone in your shoes, we didn't do THAT much moving!)

    But there's so much I love about marrying young-ish. We've been married over a decade now, and I love how we've shared our entire adult lives together.

    Great post!

  5. "I wouldn’t trade this unsettled life with my husband for a more stable life on my own." No, trust me - you wouldn't. :) Actually, one of the struggles of long-time singles is when to "settle down" without a spouse. Should you buy a house? Only to meet someone and have it not meet your needs? Should you stay in an apartment? (I did stay in apartment... but agonized over certain job and school opportunities, especially when they took me away from a current relationship that could lead to marriage).

    Another struggle with long-time singles is resenting the career you love. That sense that... if you had true, lasting love in your life, you'd trade it all.

    I say all this, but I don't want to downplay the hardships of marrying young either. Everyone has their cross. Hey, if you want a guest post on marrying closer to 30, I could contribute. ;)

  6. Your comments about transitions and being unsettled is interesting. I never, ever would have considered myself young for marrying at 25, and part of that is because of the difference in culture. I'm not sure what part of the country you call home, but here in mid-Missouri it's still quite common to marry well ahead of thirty. I was the last of my friends to walk down the aisle.

    Some of it also may be due to the difference ten years makes. I got married in 1999. The number of weddings we play for has taken a huge drop in the last twelve years, and I think it may partly be because people aren't bothering to get married at all.

    And my sister, who got married in 2007 on the East Coast, definitely has people looking at her like she's marrying crazy-early.

    For myself, I've always felt like getting married was the end of my "unsettled transition" years. But I was out of grad school, and my husband had a job.

  7. SO I just found your blog via #CatholicSorority, and I love this post! My boyfriend, whom I met online, is also getting his PhD and our future is so uncertain! Most people don't understand how unpredictable his job prospects are and why we are still long distance after 2 years. I'm glad to see there other Catholic couples facing the same challenges!

  8. I just came across your blog. And I appreciate this series. We often had friends tell us we were too young to get married when we did, and I wish that I could have found some support like this then. I was 6 weeks shy of my 22nd birthday, and my husband was 22. We had graduated from college 4 months earlier. Of course, that was 11 years ago. And 5 children, 6 moves, 5 states, 8 jobs (between my husband and myself), 1 grad degree (his), and a sudden decision to homeschool.

    I look forward to additional posts as well as the baby on a budget series. We were married in Sept. And the following July, I gave birth to our first child 5 1/2 weeks early. At the time, I was the only one working. Even now, babies on a budget is useful. My husband works for our dioceses, and our children are between 10 and 4mths.

  9. Hi Mandi; I just stumbled onto your blog!  I guess I am a newer newlywed than you, having gotten married this past summer, but I was so grateful to read about your experience as the wife of a grad student.  I'm in the same boat right now, and your desire to feel settled and at home while searching for a new job path is so similar to mine.  The Lord has definitely asked me to trust Him during these last few months of looking for work and discerning where we will go when my husband finishes his degree this June. It's been so humbling to try to just give everything up- sometimes I know I haven't done it with my whole heart, and it's a journey in surrender, for sure.  The encouragement and truth in this post are so familiar to my heart- thank you!


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