Monday, February 13, 2012

On Marrying Young: Reflecting on 10 Years of Marriage

Here is another wonderful guest post in the On Marrying Young series, but unlike past posts, this one is from from a wife who had many years of marriage under her belt.  Many people assume that a marriage is doomed if the couple marries too young and I find it inspiring to hear stories of couples, like Jen and her husband, who have proved them wrong.  Jen and Jon, wishing you many more decades of a successful marriage!


It never failed. Anytime I met someone and they found out how old I was, they would look at the silver Celtic knotwork ring I wore on my left ring finger. After finding out that I was 20 (and then 21) and engaged, the reaction was almost always the same.

"You're too young!"

"Don't you want to live first?"

"You're only [insert age]!"

I met my husband Jon online in 1998. He was a senior in college and I was a senior in high school. We bonded over discussions of Celtic Christianity but lost touch for a year after I came back from a trip to Ireland with walking pneumonia in both of my lungs. The online discussion picked up again in July 1999 and in January 2000, we started "dating". We met for the first time in March 2000 and hit it off instantly. That August, Jon proposed. Our engagement was more than a year and a half long owing to my need to finish college and me insisting on 6 months in the same zip code to make sure that we could co-exist without killing each other. On March 23, 2002, we got married in my Episcopal church in northern California.

Our first week of marriage was a chaotic mess. The only time we got together before starting back up at the seminary was the day after the wedding when we were flying back to school in Ohio. Not only was it the first week of the quarter, it was also Holy Week and as two seminary students, that meant extra worship services in addition to the daily chapel service and worship on Sunday. Some things worked -- we were both students so we understood that there would be times when a paper or exegetical was due and the other would need to be quiet or vacate the apartment so that the one with the paper could write it. Jon actually *likes* to clean so I was more than content to let him do that while I managed the finances.

In August of 2002, we moved to Newark, Ohio where Jon would be doing his pastoral internship. Normally, the pastoral internship is done during the third year of seminary, but Jon did a year of CPE (chaplaincy) so his was a terminal internship. It was the first time since preschool that I had not been a student and the adjustment was difficult. Additionally, I did not have a driver's license and Newark had no public transportation at that time, meaning that I spent a lot of time in the house by myself with the two kittens that we had just adopted. Another problem was that I was the youngest married woman in the church and almost all of the other women had children or grandchildren my age so they had a hard time treating me like a peer when I was just a kid to them.

One good thing that happened that year was that I joined an online Christian blogging portal called blogs4God and got to know other people that way. I became one of the moderators in 2003 and had the opportunity to do some writing for them. It helped me channel some of my pent-up energy and frustration and gave me a voice at a time when I felt like I had none. Another blessing was that Jon and his supervisor started to take me on hospital visits with them and I found that I had a ministry in doing that. In August 2003, Jon finished his internship and became the pastoral assistant, a job he held until his ordination in December 2003.

Fast forward eight years and two parishes, we will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in March. Among the lessons I have learned:

[+] Sometimes, it's just better to go to bed angry than try and discuss things out when you are both tired and irritated. Things never look good late at night but they usually look better in the morning. Being the hot-headed and stubborn person I am, I've learned that things just work better if I'm given time to cool down.

[+] You can get through a lot of things together that are terrifying when you are by yourself. Our son Daniel was born by emergency c-section in 2009. Jon was out of town when I ended up in the hospital and received a few terrifying phone calls telling him the extent of my illness, that they were ambulancing me 90 miles south to the nearest BIG hospital, and then that they would be doing an emergency c-section to try and save both our lives. I think it was probably a relief to get the phone call that Daniel had been delivered safely despite his tiny birthweight and that I was going to be OK. The next week was one of the worst of my life as we dealt with the reality of having a preemie (29 weeks), trying to figure out how we were going to pay for what was probably going to be a massive hospital bill ($250,000 when all was said and done), and how we would somehow balance things for the months that Daniel would be in the NICU. (He went home on his 2 month birthday.) I could usually make it without crying during the day when my mother and Jon were with me but nights were really difficult. Having Jon at my side helped out more than one can express and we found that we could cope better at that time if we faced it together rather than separately.

[+] Respect each other's needs. I am one of the worst people to be a pastor's wife because I am incredibly introverted and I really resent people attempting to draw me out of my shell. Once I got my driver's license (after almost two years in the parish), I could leave after 5 minutes of the coffee hour following worship and let Jon stay at church to socialize and have the conversations with people that are important for pastors to have. There were always some parishioners who complained but Jon learned to back me up because I was a better and more patient wife if I could have the time to recharge after being around people.

[+] *Try* to have some separation between work and home. In Jon's first two parishes, this was impossible as the parish office was in our parsonage and all of the pastoral calls went directly to our phone line. For me in Jon's second parish, it was easy because I always had at least a 20 minute commute home from work and at the place where I worked full-time, it was an hour commute each way. It meant that I had an hour to decompress from whatever stress I had at work and could usually avoid bringing it into the house.

[+] Work together. When I was hired by my full-time job in Montana, I lost the ability to get some things done that I was used to doing in the marriage because things like banks were open during the hours I worked and my office was 35 minutes north of town. (I worked for an import brokerage on the Canadian border.) Jon, on the other hand, had a fair amount of flexibility with his schedule and could do things like get the money orders for his tax estimates. (Clergy are considered self-employed and the IRS tends to sit on checks for weeks so we learned to get money orders and cashier's checks to pay the tax estimates.) The supermarket was on the way home for me so I could do the grocery shopping and not make Jon come into town on days when his duties were out at the churches.

I will leave you now with the Old Testament passage read at our wedding:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
--Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Jen is a Lutheran pastor's wife living in northern California with her husband Jon, son Daniel, and four very spoiled cats. She is not quite sure when she lost her mind, but blogging at ::Meditatio:: seems to help. When she isn't being a mom or herding cats, she reads voraciously and is active with the Promise Walk and preeclampsia awareness. She also loves crocheting and cooking but can't seem to find the time (or counter space) to do either right now.

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


  1. Great story, Jen! 

  2. Awesome story, Jen! it's great to see success stories :)

  3. Jen your getting around the blogosphere this month!! Great post! I love seeing a Marrying Young story from the other side (someone who has "lasted" ten years). 

    I'm kind of glad that some things haven't changed. It makes me feel better. With my moms job I sometimes feel like I live the life of a "pastors wife/child" my mom works at our parish as the director of religious education and at our old parish everyone was always in my business of where i was working, what i was doing, where i was/wasn't going to church (our church didn't have young adults and I would often go to other parishes or diocese programs and I always got nasty looks/comments about it). But there were times when I would help out with certain things in the parish and they were all you can't do that "your too young" and I was like 23, 24, 25... after I came back from college.

    Anyway great story and it's really inspiring!


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