When I asked some of my blogger friends for guests post during our move/transition, I gave a few ideas of topics, including my two blog series (this one and Baby on a Budget). Haley quickly responded, "Oh, marrying young. I can write on that. I was 12 years old. OK, 20. But I look 12 in the wedding pics." Lucky you, you get to check out one of those pictures below! And some tips from a young bride turned experienced wife and mama of three.
I didn’t plan on getting married young, it’s just how things worked out. My high school sweetheart Daniel and I broke up before I moved across the country for college, but after a few months apart we decided to try long-distance. A year later we were engaged and set the date for our wedding for five months hence, just after I completed my sophomore year. I was 20 and he was 21. Look how young and cute we were!
I’m a big fan of getting married young, but seeing that many of our friends who were married in their early twenties are already divorced, it’s clearly not for everyone. And many times we’ve asked ourselves, what makes a marriage work when you marry young? Why have we been able to stay together? I’m going to share a few of the things we’ve reflected on:
Don’t Give Yourself an Out:
Even before we converted to Catholicism, we were given strong examples of committed marriage from our parents (something we were so lucky to have!). Both sets of parents are still married and that gave us a huge advantage as we entered the married state. So we came into marriage believing that there was no “out” if we were no longer happy together. This was the decision we had made and we would have to make the best of it, come what may. This emphasis on the lifelong commitment of marriage only became deeper and richer when we entered the Church and came to see marriage as infused with sacramental grace. Despite all our mistakes and shortcomings during those first years, divorce simply was never an option and so we were motivated to solve our problems and find joy in our marriage even when it was difficult or we felt distant.
If you get married young, most of your friends are still college students or living like college students. There’s no need to up your living expenses simply because you’re married. In fact, getting married and sharing an apartment saved us money after living apart. Our first year we had a one bedroom apartment and couldn’t even afford furniture. We sat on pillows and Daniel made a tabletop that we rested on flower pots as our dining room table and we felt rich as kings because being married is fun. Exceeding your income will only stress out your marriage.
Don’t Overemphasize Your Individual Journey:
When you get married you are now a family that has to journey together. That means that your marriage becomes more important than your journey as an individual. This certainly does not mean that you will not grow and expand as a person, but if your journey takes you in a very different direction than your spouse, it will be a huge stress on your marriage. This means that decisions about careers and pursuits have to be made in light of what is best for your marriage. Although you both might find a career in academia personally fulfilling, if those careers require you to live in separate cities, it may simply be incompatible with a healthy marriage. It’s also crucial to encourage your spouse’s interests and enjoy those things together. I would never have become interested in farming and homesteading if not for Daniel, but as I supported his interests, I became genuinely interested myself and it’s now a part of our identity as a couple. He listened attentively to my musings on Jane Austen novels until discussing Austen’s examination of human virtue became one of our favorite topics to talk about together. So, putting your marriage above your individual aspirations doesn’t mean you will be damaging your personal journey, but that you are expanding your world to always include the other person. This was especially important as we journeyed toward the Catholic faith. We were able to do it together.
Discuss How Your Friendships Will Change:
When you’re the only married couple in your circle of friends, you have to navigate some changes to your friendships that your friends haven’t faced yet. While pre-marriage you may have had many friends of the opposite sex that you spent time with alone, you may need to alter how you view those relationships. And it’s important to discuss these transitions with your spouse at the very beginning so that you’ve already laid some ground rules before any awkward situations arise. It’s so important to expand your friendships to include your spouse. And while it might still be appropriate to spend time with friends of the opposite sex, depending on the relationship, it really might not be. It’s probably never a good idea to discuss any marital problems with a friend of the opposite sex. The bottom line is that you need to address these issues as a couple and have a game plan in place.
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to start out our married life early. Marriage makes a big dent in the selfishness that has been hiding in your heart. It brings it right to the surface so you are forced to deal with it. And the younger you are, the easier it is to attack those selfish bents. I know I’m a far better person that I was 7 years ago when I had the good fortune to marry Daniel. Sharing life with him is one of the best things to ever happen to me!
Haley Stewart is a bookish Catholic wife and mama of a preschooler, a toddler, and a newborn living in the deep south on her little urban homestead. When she gets a moment to herself she loves to read Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, L.M. Montgomery, or Flannery O’Connor with a cup of coffee in hand. Her husband of seven years is an amazing cook, gardener, beard-grower, ultra-marathon runner, and father who patiently puts up with her failure to stay organized and her obsession with musicals. Haley muses about cultivating a Catholic family through literature, liturgical living, and urban homesteading at her blog Carrots for Michaelmas.
Please check out the other posts in the On Marrying Young series.