Before You Get Married: Advice from a 20 Year Old Wife and Mom
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For all the girls who are getting married “too” young, before you do, can I give you some advice? I come from a town where getting married young, and even being engaged in high school, wasn’t all that uncommon. So it didn’t come as a surprise when only 1 month after turning 19, I was engaged. No one gasped, no one looked at me funny, not my friends, not even my family. My mom was married at 20 and was followed by her 1st baby 1 year later. In fact almost all of my aunts were married between 18-21. So, like I said, me being engaged at 19 wasn’t extraordinary.
Before I start, let me say I honestly enjoy being married! However I do think it is more difficult to get use to when you’re so young. Having a wife, and now mother, mindset is hard at an age when most others are in school, partying, and finding “who they are”. Now the last thing I want to do is make it sound like I don’t love my husband, child, or am not happy in my situation. That isn’t true! I love my husband and child with every part of my being, and am quite enjoying myself out here with my little family, thank you very much! But that also doesn’t mean I haven’t had my “days”, as I’m sure everyone does. That being said, I feel that us young-ins have our “days” a little more often then someone who perhaps may have been preparing their marriage mindset for a while. As I get deeper into this post, I just want to remind everyone that just because I mention something here, doesn’t mean it ONLY applies to young marriages! Marriage is hard at any age, but all I have to go off of is my own experience! So here it goes.
I was always more mature growing up. That’s what we always say right? When we are trying to justify why we got married at 19? But that’s really how I felt! I always had older friends and was rational and responsible. That doesn’t mean deciding to get married at 19 was an easy decision for me, and when I went on a date with this 22 year-old college junior only a few weeks after graduation, I didn’t think anything of it! I was out to have fun and nothing else, and I definitely wasn’t thinking “I could marry this guy”.
All through high school I was in and out of a serious relationship with a guy I really liked, but knew there wasn’t a future with. We always new that our beliefs and opinions wouldn’t work together in the long run so when my graduation rolled around it seemed like the perfect time to finally split for good, and go our separate ways. Immediately after I felt like my eyes were opened for the first time, I felt like a whole new person! Through all this I realized I had wasted so much time with just one person that I had no idea what I really wanted or even liked in a guy. All I really knew was that I did like men so it was a good place to start! I also knew I wasn’t a fan of flings, a summer lover or carnival boyfriend wasn’t my favorite thing in the whole world. Instead I much preferred a long, real, intimate, get-to-know-you-and-really-care-about-you relationship. Because of the 4 years I had spent with my high school boyfriend, I wanted to make sure that whoever I did have a real relationship with next, I wouldn’t be wasting my time. I wanted to make sure that this guy would be marriage material even if it never ended in marriage. So, I wanted to find out who and what I wanted in a husband and fast! With my new found confidence and eagerness I immediately went on a billion dates with a billion different guys, finding things I liked and a lot more I didn’t.
I was having a blast dating and I when I met my husband I didn’t immediately know he was going to be my husband. There wasn’t a firework show or a flashing HE’S THE ONE sign. It was just a girl having a good time with this cute college junior. As I continued to go on dates, always telling these boys I have no plan on being exclusive with any of them. My date list got smaller and smaller and by the end of the summer, I had only two guys I felt were worth my time. Both were great guys, but when I was on a date with one and wishing it was that cute college junior, I quickly cut my list in half. He was definitely my favorite guy, and eventually he talked me into exclusively dating only him, that sneaky boy.
Well eventually there came a time where I had a little problem on my hands. He came to a point in his life where he was ready for marriage and, explained that he really enjoyed being with me but if I wasn’t ready for marriage then we needed to break up. This was a big deal for me, I really loved this guy, I didn’t think I was ready to get married but I also didn’t want life with out him! As the months went on, my love for this guy only grew and grew. I loved everything about him! He could do no wrong, and he was of course marriage material, I had made sure of it. That was the first time I thought to myself “I’ve gotta marry this guy.”. This thought brought an onslaught of overthinking and worrying, I’m only 19 and had just started my freshman year of college and now entertaining the idea of marriage?! I was always the girl who said they would never get married this young! What if he isn’t the one? How will I know? What will my friends think? What is my dad gonna say? Am I ready for this?
Being the praying type, I prayed and prayed but never received an angel descending from heaven telling me to marry this kid like I had wanted, so instead I changed my prayer. I said “Lord, if this keeps getting better I’m going to do it. I am going to marry this guy. But if I shouldn’t, don’t let this get any better, help me to know.” I never really felt like I got an answer, It just kept getting better. Which was the answer I said I needed, but was still hard to decipher at the time! I was excited to see him everyday, and wanted to be with him every hour of everyday! So 1 month after my 19th birthday, when he got down on one knee, I said yes!
Now I’d like to say that I never worried or rethought anything ever again and we lived happily ever after right then, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. If you read my posts often you know I’m the worrier of all worriers and the over-thinker of all over-thinkers! A few days later, in-between classes at school, my mind got the best of me and I called my fiancé freaking out and bawling. I was positive how I felt about him, yet I was still so nervous. I wanted to spend the rest of eternity with him but was I ready? This phone call was probably causing my new fiancé to rethink his decision of a life partner. Is she really this high maintenance? I’m sure that thought ran through his head once or twice because it sure ran through mine a few times. I soon realized I only worried and overthought when I was away from my fiancé. When I was with him, I never worried, I felt right. I DID want to marry this fool!
I came to realize that the word marriage was what I was so afraid of. That word is why I about had a come apart every time I thought about it! It wasn’t until I changed “getting married” to “date for the rest of my life” that I stop freaking out. So that’s what I did, I decided I would exclusively date Brian for the rest of forever, adding a ring, some paperwork, and a little party along with it didn’t seem too scary at all!
So yes, I made it to my wedding day and thank goodness I did! It was amazing, and so is life after! We were married in March taking our honeymoon in Park City and had our “real” honeymoon in Puerto Rico that May. It wasn’t until months later that I first had one of those days. The ones where all of your many single friends are out partying and your not invited because your married, or when you want to go on a little shopping spree but then remember you and your husband had just talked building a savings account so you don’t. It’s those little things that make the married mindset harder to get use to at this young age.
The following year was filled with much love and high emotions. Rolling into the married mindset is HARD! Fast forward to now, sitting here in bed, with my beautiful 5 month old laying asleep next to me, husband long gone at law school, I soak up my surroundings and can already tell it’s going to be one of those days. Today I miss my friends, I miss my pre-newly-wed body, I miss the carefree attitude. But the married mindset has taught me grow up and be stronger. I know I have to buck up, it’s days like this where you have to remind yourself why you are where you are! I would be miserable without my husband and baby. I wouldn’t trade them for anything! I’m out here in Kentucky away from all my friends and family living life! It may be different then parties and dances, but I know that I am happier married then I would be single! How many people can say that at my age?
All this said, I think that I got married the right way. Not on a whim, not because it was cool, not to gain some crazy freedom from the parents. Getting married is a big decision, something you need to really think about before you jump in head first! Here is my personal advice to anyone thinking about getting married “too young”.
Don’t talk yourself into getting married.
If the only way you feel good about getting married is by telling yourself “If it doesn’t work out, we can always get divorced.” then don’t do it! You should never go into marriage already looking for a way out. If you have doubts about your possible spouse and have to talk yourself into getting married, I can almost guarantee that marriage won’t last. Marriage is not something you should have to force yourself to do! It should be happy, exciting, and something you want to do!
Don’t expect them to change.
Marrying someone hoping they will change only leaves you unhappy when they don’t. People only change when they want to, so make sure whoever you decide to marry is already your idea of a “perfect” spouse. My dad always told me to marry someone you think the world of, someone who, in your eyes, could do no wrong. Through marriage you find your spouses faults along with your own, so if you went into marriage already thinking they weren’t the complete package then eventually, even more disappointed, you’ll find out you were right.
Make sure you really love them.
Okay, you’re like DUH, I already knew that! But ask yourself if you have compassionate love for your soon to be spouse along with passionate love. An article from talkitover.in explains the differences between and importance of passionate AND compassionate love in a marriage. Passionate love being essentially the experience of “falling in love”, or the intense overwhelming attraction to another person. While compassionate love is “love that is based on friendship, mutual attraction, shared interests, respect and concern for one another’s welfare.” While at our young age it can prove difficult to manage our intense emotions, it is important that we don’t get caught up in the lovestruck passionate love without a mutual strong foundation built by compassionate love. Do you really care about this person or are you just looking for a trophy husband? 😉 Although you may be attracted to this person, he’s nice and the family loves him make sure you can build a friendship before putting a ring on it!
Don’t rush into it.
My freshman year of college I read How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk for a class I was taking and LOVED it! I know it’s not very popular to suggest reading marriage books pre-marriage at this age, but seriously I learned so much in this book and Fighting for Your Marriage. They are both a fabulous read so if you’re planning on getting married young or old, if you already are married, or even if you are single and plan on staying single for a while I highly suggest reading them! Anyway in these books it talks about the three month rule, which is said to be the “magic number” that it takes to really get to know someone. In the first few months of a relationship we always put our best foot forward. John Van Epp, Ph.D. and author of How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk states that the third month is when we start to slack off, giving us and our partner a look into who we really are. Research has also found that couples who get married after dating less than 2 years have twice the divorce rate then those who dated more that 2 years. Now I’m not saying you need to wait 2 years but I personally believe that you shouldn’t get engaged until at LEAST 3 months of dating. It takes time to really get to know someone, and your life partner shouldn’t be someone you marry on a whim or in the heat of the moment. Wouldn’t it be terrible to get married too soon only to later realize you have no idea who this person is? It is better to wait long then to marry wrong, so don’t rush it and take your time really getting to know your partner.
Date a lot of people before getting engaged.
How else will you know what you want in a husband? If you’ve only dated few or even one person before getting married how can you really know what you want? You don’t, all you know is them. Maybe you can convince yourself that this person is all you want but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to experience many different people and personalities to truly find what I want and don’t want in a husband, so that when I did get engaged I knew he was 100% what I wanted. I felt that as I dated more guys it was almost like build a boyfriend LOL. “I like that, nope not that, yes I like that,” helping me build a list of what I wanted in a husband. I am so glad that I didn’t marry the first guy I had a serious relationship with because I know I would always have “what if” thoughts. I never wanted to think, what if I had dated more? Because I had dated lots of guys before getting engaged to Brian, I knew that I was getting the cream of the crop, exactly who I wanted, because I had literally searched him out! I had a list of what I wanted and wasn’t going to marry someone who didn’t fit the bill! So don’t just go off and marry the first guy you have fun with.
Know who you are, what you stand for, and why.
Okay this one is HUGE! I strongly feel the secret to success in these young marriages is finding yourself first! When you stand at the alter, you should stand there knowing who you are! Trying to find out who your are and what you stand for after marriage makes this difficult task seem impossible. At this young age in life, most are out finding themselves, what they believe in , and why they believe it! You don’t need to have yourself 100% pinned out but you need to have a good idea of who you are and why you do what you do before you get married. I always went to church growing up and married a man who believes going to church is important. It was fun going to church together but then a few months after marriage I looked at myself and didn’t really know why I go to church. I just always had, and it was important to my husband so it wasn’t even a question whether or not we would be a church going family when we got married. It wasn’t until months after that I felt I wasn’t entirely sure why I was there. I had gone with my family and with my then boyfriend but never just for me. Trying to figure out who you are while married can be hard, especially on your spouse. Having your own identity crisis can have your spouse questioning who they married. Being married at this young age, it is important to remember that you will have to grow up together and find yourself together. This is about why you act the way you do, what you stand for, and why you stand for it. If you are still in an experimental stage of life I wouldn’t suggest getting married until you have a good idea of the what and why of you, it just isn’t fair for your spouse.
Live on your own before getting engaged.
Going right along with knowing who you are, living on your own is where you do this. I feel like when you first move away from mom and dad the first few weeks are filled with everything you couldn’t do at home like staying out all night or never cleaning your room. After a while you clean your room because your friends think you’re gross and you head home just after midnight because nothing good happens later. In other words you only do things because you want to, you find out who you want to be and how to become that. At home everything is pretty much done either because your parents tell you to or because you want to do the opposite of what your parents tell you to. It’s when you are on your own, making your own decisions, where you find out what is really important to you and why you do them. If you get married without first living away from home, you better inform your new hubby of all the soul searching that is about to go down because whether you like it or not, that is what is going to happen.
Don’t get married to get out of the house.
My mom had always told us going up, when we hit 18 we are gone. Now she never meant this in a rude way, it was just her way of saying you need to go out into the world and do something with your life and not live with mom and dad forever. Well when 18 rolled around I was surprised to get the opposite! My parents actually wouldn’t let me move out! I was attending a school that wasn’t too far away and didn’t really have my own car, so they didn’t feel like I had what I need to move out. It wasn’t until I had already paid my deposit and signed my contract that I was allowed to leave. Well I have already told you why you should live on your own before getting married but you definitely shouldn’t get married so you can leave the house! In fact that is pretty much the opposite of what I suggested in my previous paragraph.
I feel like this happens a lot when people get married right out of high school. All we want, in our rebelliousness, is to make our own decisions without getting grounded LOL. So for a few, the answer is getting married. Listen, plain and simple, if you are getting married to have freedom from your parents, you aren’t ready for marriage. Marriage does not equal freedom.
Don’t let anyone make the decision for you!
At 19, fresh out of high school, I of course looked to many people for advice and opinions for everything I did, especially my parents! But when it comes to marriage, that is a decision you need to make by yourself! By far my biggest fear at 19 was disappointing my parents! Which has now jumped to second place after having a kid, but that’s a whole different post! Luckily my parents absolutely love my hubby, but I know for many deciding when to get married and picking a spouse is largely dependent on what their parents and others around them think. You should definitely hear them out but deciding to marry your mom’s best friend’s son just because they have been planning it for years probably isn’t a good reason to get married. This also doesn’t mean that you won’t be happy because uncle Jim says your too young. What the heck does he know anyway, he’s been married three times! Basically I’m trying to say that no one knows when you’re ready and what will make you most happy better than you, so don’t let anyone tell you who and when to get married.
Prepare your mindset.
When you get married young it is common to feel at times that you are missing out on something. It may not happen for months after marriage but at some point it does sneak it’s self in there. To avoid driving yourself crazy with the “what ifs” post-marriage, ask yourself these questions pre-marriage:
Am I willing to give up the “college life” (parties, dances, dating, etc) for this person?
Have I experienced everything I want to experience?
Would I rather experience it with a spouse?
If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then I would suggest you keep dating but wait on marriage until the answer is YES.
There isn’t a magic number for the age that you should get married and marriages at any age can end up with years of happiness, years of regret, or in a miserable divorce. While the statistics for young quick marriages aren’t in our favor, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t work! My own parents are living proof that getting married young can bring years of happiness and everlasting joy! And while I have only been married 19 months I can honestly say I wouldn’t want it any other way, but that also doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy! I think the reason I have enjoyed being married so much is because of everything I did to prepare myself! So before you get married at this all “too young” age, remember it is better to wait long then to marry wrong and once you choose your love, love your choice. [themify_icon icon=”fa-heart-o” link=”http://”] Cassie Jean
Thanks to all those who gave their advice for this post! Don’t forget to pin it, comment and share the love!
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What a great article for all ages! I especially love the “date this guy for the rest of my life” part! Such great advice for everyone. xo
Cassie JeanJeannie Barclay
Awesome post Cassie. You are wise beyond your years!!! Love you guys!!!
I have literally gone threw the struggle of the idea of marriage the same exact way over the past few months. The part where you talked about how you only felt that way when you weren’t with him really struck home with me as I am in a long distance relationship right now so my overthinking and worrying can get the best of me when he’s not around! Thank you so much sharing your thoughts, it really helped me feel a bit more at ease.
Thanks for commenting! It really is a hard mindset change to have, not to mention while in a long distance relationship! You go girl! I’m glad to have helped!
This is really thought provoking…Nice one!
My boyfriend of 4 years has been talking about marriage since I started university and I’m going into my final year in September. I’ve been nervous because he plans on proposing around my graduation but the “date him for the rest of my life” part really helped ease my worries! Great article!
I can totally relate to this article.
I am about to finish my first year as a nursing student at a university. I met this very great guy(I didn’t even plan to date him, we just met on Facebook and were friends for about a year before we decide to date)
We hit it really well, have a lot in common and appreciate our differences. He’s so older than me, already working and certainly mature.
I love him so much now and is willing to spend my life with him. I still have about 4 years to graduate, he is very supportive and continues to cheer me on.
I just worry about how people would react to me getting married at 22 (I’m 19 now) and still in school. My mum is supportive but can’t say for dad(my parents are separated and I’m not close to my dad at all)
I appreciate this article so much. Thank you for sharing your experience.