Friday, May 08, 2009

Marrying Young Is Not Evil

Although in this society, one would think so.

My friend Carrie sent out a link for this article from the Washington Post yesterday: Say Yes. What are You Waiting For? I loved it because it confirmed what I already knew about getting married young, instead of waiting just for the sake of waiting. And hooray! It was from somebody other than a BYU professor (and why is it that most of the LDS standards are mocked until research shows we actually know what we're talking about? Always interesting, that...).
The timing of this article was interesting because over this last year, I've had a lot of time to think about it.
See, over a year ago, there was a "conversation" online (and I don't remember where, so I apologize for no linkage!) about the pros and cons to marrying "young." Now, dear reader, I think most of my readership (LDS) would consider 18-21 as young. Most of society, though? They would probably think 24-28 is young --to give you some perspective. I, however, was married at the ripe old age of 19, just to give you my definition of the word "young." (And this online conversation agreed with my definition, just fyi.)

[And just to put it out there, I am NOT a fan of women (and especially men!) under the age of 18 getting married --just to be clear. So "young" would mean "young adult" --not child-bride!]

Anyway, the online conversation had two sides: Those who think marrying young is insane, and those who do not.
More or less.
Can you guess which side I was on?

Brandon and I went out hiking shortly after this online conversation, and we talked about it. We discussed what it was like for the two of us to choose to marry young and if we had regrets about the timing. The entire conversation we had was enlightening, and it was comforting to know we agreed on everything.
See, I was 19 and Brandon has just turned 22 when we married --we were the poster couple for marrying young. We both had 2 1/2 years of school left (since Brandon had only been home from his mission for about a year), and we hadn't yet "found ourselves."
In fact, hat was the biggest argument, you know, during the online conversation: How could anyone under the age of 28 possibly be ready for marriage? They need time to find themselves! To learn who they really are! They need to finish college and get graduate degrees and serve missions and travel abroad and have many relationships before they are ready!

Ummm...okay.

In one way I agree with that statement --I do think it took me about 10 years to "find myself" --I really do. In fact, I'm still "finding myself", and I'm betting women at 60 are still "finding themselves" because we are constantly evolving, learning, experiencing, changing, etc. But who has time to wait for that?! If we waited until we "found ourselves" before getting married, most of us would be dead. Or 95. Take your pick.
See, now wouldn't it be better to "find ourselves" over our life's journey with a loving (and sometimes brutally honest) companion by our side to see us through it? That's how I did it in my 20's, anyway. And luckily for me, I didn't have to make any "big mistakes" because someone always had my back. I had support and confidence and love and commitment --all a safe haven to figure out who I am and who I want to become.
But! That's not all! There are other things I have done that I never would have done without my early marriage. I never would have:
*Finished school as quickly as I did (I graduated just after turning 22!).
*Traveled abroad as often as I have (work vacations are the best!).
*Had (almost) Five children during my most fertile years, thus lowering the chances of birth defects, delivery complications, and infertility. Now with my fifth child (and being officially in my 30's), I am having complications for the first time. Perhaps my body is done? I always wonder what would have happened if I had started at 32 instead of 22...And dear reader, lest you think the whole "women are more fertile in their 20's than 30's" is just bunk --go read this. Or this.
*Learned more about myself than I would have with my own blinders on, thus giving me maturity at a younger age (although that could have just been all the kids, too!). In fact, I could see myself still floating along, not knowing what I wanted if I was still single at this point.

[Now, before I go on, I need to point out that I'm talking about those who make the conscience choice NOT to marry young, or put it off for selfish reasons. I'm not talking about the pain many people (men and women) have suffered in wanting to get married but haven't been able to. That pain is real and I want to make it clear I do not judge their situations --in fact, I have nothing but love and sympathy for them (whether they want it or not!). I mean, my grandmother didn't marry until she was 33, and my aunt didn't marry until she was 34 --but that was not "their choice" --it just happened that way, you know?]

People (in society, not really Church) have always thought I was insane for getting married so young. They are also the same people who think having more than two children is insane too, so...you know... (remember my trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago and the reaction to my pregnancy?) But anyway, I just want to point out that I'm not insane.
I've been married now for more than 10 years.
And we still love each other! (gasp!)
It gets worse --we married for love (not money) and had only known each other for 8 months when we tied the knot (gasp! gasp!).
But that's what happens when we follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. We do things that society and "the world" deem as crazy. And then we are blessed for obeying (and more than happy to comply!). Oh! But then, if we look at the flip side, people do things (like marrying at 26 instead of 22, or not marrying that "great guy" everyone loves, etc.) that are deemed as crazy to members of the Church, even though the person refusing the marriage had also received promptings from the Holy Ghost.

[Now here I have to point out that for some people, it doesn't work out the way it did for me. There is something we all have called "agency" --and everyone makes their own choices. I don't want to diminish the pain people feel when their spouses choose to sin and end up destroying their own marriages that the Holy Ghost had told them to enter. This is real --this happens. And the pain is indescribable.]

Now, this post is already long enough, but I wanted to point out something else (that the article in the Washington Post alluded to --even if not specifically):
Why are people putting off marriage on purpose?
Personally, I think it has to do with a number of reasons:
1. Education is so highly favored and getting married young is seen as a deterrent.
2. Children are staying children longer.
3. The whole "find yourself" thing.
4. Fear.

Ironically, each of these things is a direct consequence of some societal prejudice that was put into place about 20-30 years ago. Let's look at it closer:
1. Education is HIGHLY favored --even in the Church --and gosh darn it, it should be! But how is marriage a deterrent? I can understand how having children can put it off (I mean...hello!?), but honestly? My grades went waaaay up after I got married. My study habits improved --and I think it was strictly due to my marriage. I didn't have the same social life; there was no partying with the girls until late hours. I was home with my husband --I was eating better, getting more sleep, and studying more. I mean, how can that hurt education?? I'm baffled.
2. The children entering adult-hood now are the product of parents who gave them everything. Their parents grew up with nothing --so the parents got educations, got rich, and gave their kids everything they couldn't have. College Freshman are going out into the world with mom and dad still paying for everything. These kids don't know how to work, to organize, to manage time, to balance a checkbook, to wash dishes, cook meals, sew buttons, buy clothes, put gas in their cars (okay, that might be extreme), but do you see what I'm getting at?
Kids are being kids longer, because their parents won't let them grow up.
And what kid is thinking about marriage? If you had everything given to you by mom and dad, why would you give that up? Marriage equates responsibility, and these young adults aren't ready for --nor want --it.
3. Already discussed it to death above. :)
4. They are simply afraid. Of what? I'm not sure! Afraid of responsibility, life-long commitments, possible divorce, having children, facing a mortgage and/or car payment, being accountable to one person, leaving home, sex (or becoming monogamous), vulnerability, etc. The fear is real.

So, dear reader, give me your thoughts on all this. Remember, I'm not saying my situation is the only right one out there --just lending a voice to those who married early and don't regret it. What was your situation? And holy cow --how do you feel about these generations of kids who can't do anything for themselves?! Not that I'm biased, or anything...

18 comments:

Summer said...

Well I think this is a fabulous post! I think much as you do. My husband and I have grown and discovered more about ourselves together and there is nothing better than that.

Annette Lyon said...

I should probably read that link before commenting, but as I was married at 20, I'm pretty much in your camp! (Fifteen years of marriage and counting . . .)

However, I do see how education can be put off because of marriage. Money is a big newlywed issue. So is time. Or the husband's job taking the family somewhere else. Or a hundred other things.

I personally decided to bag both my minor and the teaching certificate I'd planned on because I was pregnant and wanted to graduate before becoming a mom--I couldn't see myself student teaching (basically working full time) with a newborn. I graduated when he was 2 1/2 weeks old.

I know a lot of people manage to balance parenthood and student life, but I personally couldn't have, so I graduated as fast as I could.

My two sisters are good examples, though--they both dropped out of college after getting married (also at 20) for one reason or another. One of them went back and finished her degree about 5 years ago, and the other is going back now. But marriage IS what caused them to pull out in the first place.

Not saying you shouldn't get married young, just saying that educational concerns are a valid argument against it.

In hindsight, I realize how young and immature I was when I got married at 20. But since I did it, I can't tell my kids they can't do the same! So I tell them that they can't get married as a teen.

Cheryl said...

See, Annette, that's what I find ironic. I couldn't afford college when I was single, but I could when I was married (and dirt poor)!
Before getting married I could only get loans (yuck). After marriage, I got pell grants (and we bothed worked, and Brandon had a scholarship, etc.). We also lived in squalor (okay, it wasn't on the street or anything :) ). So, the whole "can't afford to be married and go to school" doesn't fly with me because the government gives married students money. And I was better with money when married. And I did better in school (so did Brandon), etc. I guess in your sisters' case, maybe that wasn't how they rolled, but I still don't get it.

See, here's the thing: I've seen couples drop out of school for myriads of reasons, and most of them (to me) were just excuses. Not enough money (but they lived in 3 bedroom condos and drove fancy cars). No time (but they worked full time and went on vacations). Wanting to be parents (but then they couldn't get pregnant for years or chose not to "try" for a couple of years). If they had lived in a one-bedroom apartment, drove cheap cars (or took the bus), and kept going until the child came (I was pregnant my entire senior year of college), then they could finish if they wanted to.

I'm not trying to judge them (every situation has a reason), but just to show that sometimes people make excuses for things they could actually accomplish --if they really want it.

Oh, and the pregnancy thing: For sure! I understand that. But I wasn't talking about parenthood and school --just marriage and school.

P.S. I hope you understand I'm not trying to diminish your experience --just weighing in! :)

Cardalls said...

I got married "older" (only in the church sense) at age 25. However in my family it was the average for the 5 girls. We had one sister get married at 21, the others at 24-25 and one sister 2 weeks shy of being 30. My parents taught us throughout our lives that marriage was wonderful, valuable and desired and necessary...BUT we should also live our single lives to the fullest by serving missions, graduating from college, having great experiences etc.... I felt like 25 was the perfect age for me. I think I will probably raise my daughter the same way my parents did and if she finds the perfect man for her at 19 I will gulp hard and smile and be happy! I think whatever is right for the individual is the right decision. I know I would have married someone completely different (and wrong for me) at age 19 so thankfully I didn't marry then! Maybe some of us are more mature at 19 to marry and don't need the extra time...I sure did!

I did have my first baby at 28, not by choice but because of fertility issues. So all but one of my babies have been born in my 30's...two in my later 30's and it is much harder to have babies the older you get...it can be done, but it's exhausting!

blogging and bliss~ said...

Marriage at a young age is exactly what I did. I was 18 and 1/2. But I had graduated at 17 so I had actually gone to a year of school first. I dropped out of school because the man I married was older and only had one year left.(excuses) I worked and even got my CNA. I think it worked for us. I was happy to help and my husband did extremely well his last 2 semesters.
I feel as you do that growing up and learning to find your self with the one you love is exciting and wonderful. I would not have done it any other way.

Annette Lyon said...

Cheryl, I think we're more on the same page than not. I think you basically nailed it when your said each situation is different, and that by and large, marriage isn't an excuse.

(My WV is "Manti"--Hah!)

Cardalls said...

Oh and Sis. Beck at Women's Conference last week talked about the "doctrine of selfishness" and how it has been preached from the dawn of time by failed leaders. Anyway, she said that the majority of the reason people are putting off families is this false doctrine of life being "all about me". My husband was in the bishopric of a singles ward until recently and I saw this running rampant..especially with the young men who didn't want to be "tied down" to the responsibilities of a family. The young women when they did get married often said they were putting off having babies for 5 or more years so they could have time as a couple and work on themselves. It does run rampant even in the church!

Mia said...

I just had to comment here because I strongly disagree with your generalization about young adults not doing anything for themselves these days.
I am finishing up my freshman year of college, and I DO know how to work, organize, manage time, balance a checkbook, wash dishes, cook meals, sew buttons, buy clothes, and put gas in my car. I've been working since I was 15, and have had a credit card and checking account since I was 17. I pay my credit card bill every month and cook dinner more often than I eat out. I received multiple scholarships that will pay for the majority of my education (i.e. Because it took outstanding grades, extracurriculars, and test scores, I also know how to organize and manage my time) and for the rest, I have a student loan that I pay for with the money I earn from working. My parents pay little to nothing for any costs associated with being off at school.
I do realize that I am not the norm and that many kids don't lift a finger when it comes to expenses and responsibilities in life. But you have got to realize that there are thousands of college students out there who are balancing it all and who DO accept responsibility. Generalizations don't work here.
I think you also have to consider that high schoolers and young adults have more pressure on them than ever, and the pressure will continue to mount for generation after generation. With each group of new students moving up to high school or college, a whole new set of expectations will be put on them. I hate to think of students 10-15 years down the road, like your children, for example, who will have a more difficult balance than this society has ever seen.
For the record, I do not disagree with your thoughts about young marriage. I also want to mention that I am not LDS, so there are some people out there who don't find the idea ridiculous.

Cheryl said...

Mia-
I had to make generalizations as a tool to get my point across, but hooray! You get it. And for the record, I think we completely agree --and kudos to you for being a responsible adult. That's awesome!

Thank you for your comment!

Janelle said...

Mia - you rock! And give further evidence that young people can be trusted with really big decisions.

Julie said...

When I got married at 23, I thought I was older. Now I realize I was very very young, but I still wouldn't do it any other way. I'm glad for the experiences I had as a single person (of which graduating from college was not one).
If Stanton & I had met any earlier than we did, we wouldn't have clicked or ever gotten past a first date.

I do wish I would have finished college, but it really wasn't happening even as a single person. I would be much better at school now, but it's so not the season for that. I'm okay with that, too. In fact, I'm pretty okay with the idea that I might never finish college.

Not sure what my point is here, but I will say that I wouldn't have much problem with my kids marrying young. I hope by then we will have taught them about the Spirit and they will be able to wisely make such a huge decision.

And Mia -- You are awesome! A huge pat on the back to you from me.

Rachel Holtkamp said...

Ok, I have to put in my two cents, because this has totally been on my mind lately. Congrats, Mia, for being the exception. I say exception, because I teach at a school that is very parent-driven. I say parent-driven, because we're forced to do what the parent thinks is best, instead of what is best for the student. Example: we had CRT's this week and next week. These are the state tests. I cannot tell you how many parents pulled their students OUT of school to go on VACATION!!!!!!! We have only three weeks left in school, and then they have three months for vacation. I am not a parent myself, but I am forced to bend to THEIR will, not the proven methods that actually work for adolescents. I could continue, but I won't. My point is that children are growing up now with a sense of entitlement. We can't "disappoint" them or let them fail. As a result, they are staying children longer. But I digress from what I actually wanted to say.
About marrying young: Kudos to those who have done it and made it. As my mission president said, "miracles happen", because it truly is a miracle that two people actually found each other attractive/intellectually stimulating enough to get together. You all have said that you wouldn't be the same person if you didn't get married when you did. I can say that if I HAD gotten married, I wouldn't be the person I am today. Not to say that I am putting it off, but I know I'm different than who I was ten years ago. Many single people say that they're at "plan B". I say that if we're on the right path, doing the Lord's work, then we're all on our own "Plan A", which is different for everyone. I'm going to say this once and only once on the internet to all married people who may read this: Please, stop pitying the single people. We don't need it or want it. It really only makes it worse, but things really aren't that bad. So what if I haven't found a husband yet? I've been able to accomplish so much and am super happy with my life. I want to get married, but unfortunately, the pool has grown extremely tiny the older I get. So please, we are adults, and please treat us as such. (Cheryl, I still read your blog because you do treat me as an equal, so thanks)
Ok, I'm done. :)

Ann said...

Cheryl, it's funny you posted this yesterday as it was my 11-yr anniversary. I got married at 18 1/2 and have NEVER regretted that decision. Granted, I prayed about it more fervently than anything else in my life previously or since. I KNEW how young I was and I wanted to make sure the Lord was on my side. Once He gave me the go-ahead, I never looked back.

I had actually planned on serving a mission my entire life. It was just something I was GOING TO DO. Then when Brent came into my life, that plan changed and I realized serving a full-time mission would have to wait a few years (or 40). That was a very hard decision for me to make, but it was the BEST decision I've ever made.

Brent and I got to "finish" growing up together. We learned who we were through each other.

Now having said all this, I have to agree with Rachel in that everybody has a different plan. I never thought my plan would be marrying THAT young, but obviously Heavenly Father had another plan for me (always the way it is, right?). While I also don't agree with those who "wait" on purpose, I know that there are many young women who are not ready to get married at such a young age. And if they've counseled with the Lord in this matter, I can't tell them they're going about their life the wrong way.

But I totally agree with you too, Cheryl, that getting married young is so looked-down-upon in this society and I enjoy being able to hold my head up high and say it was the BEST THING THAT I'VE EVER DONE.

Cardalls said...

Rachel....I do not in any way look down on you for being single! I admire single women who are independent, educated and are making a huge difference in others lives. Way to go!

Gio, Judi and Boys said...

Wow! This seems to be a hot topic. I was having this discussion with my 18 year old son just today telling him that as a parent I had done him a dis-service because I hadn't taught him all the things he needs to know and do. In fact today he is doing his own laundry and cleaning floor boards and helping around the house. You would think that someone died!

I was married at 24 and had #1 at 25 and #2 didn't come until I was 33. I think I was the perfect age, for me! And I think that is what it comes down to, we all need to do what is best for us.

There is no way my #1 could get marrried in 2 years, but in 5, maybe!???

He has worked since he was almost 16 has a checking account and a credit card that he pays monthly (on to establish credit-not to slurge). He is very frugal with his money and is learning to be more attentive with his check book.

Kids now days have a lot of pressure (as Mia wrote). They are expected to be perfect. To get into college that have to have near excellent grades, high test scores, extra activities, etc...when do they have time to just be a kid, they don't really!
I think that is why as parents we do keep them around the house longer and we do for them what we can. That is what being a parent is all about.

#1 has done great in school, excellent grades, was accepted to every college and university that he applied to, recieved thousands in scholarships, but chose to go to UVU instead because for his major it is the better school. And what happens, people even in our neighborhood look down on him for not choosing BYU. (He got in, but for him it isn't the best choice). The response is, don't you want to find a wife. BYU is the place to do that!

Why are we "forcing" our young ones to find a wife/husband at 18? Is there something wrong with getting married older??? I don't think so. Again, it goes down to free agency and what is best for the idividual. That is why the Holy Ghost is so important so that these young kids today will know what is best for them.

There is nothing right or wrong about getting married at any age, just make sure that when you do it that it is with the right person and for the right reason.

Of course, my husband being European, has the idea that the more schooling that can be done beforehand the better it is, (but that comment is for our son because we know him and how he is).

We have been married 19 years and we are still in love too! Like you, I found myself after I got married, not before. And I thank the Lord everyday for meeting my husband on the bus that day so long ago in Italy while serving a mission.

The Lord knows what is best for us, and it all works out! It always does!!!

madhousewife said...

In total agreement with your comments about "finding yourself." I say you get married when you find the right person and you're willing to make the commitment. I have a friend who got married at 19, and she says now, "I didn't know what I was getting into, but I did know that I was willing." That's what counts.

Nancy said...

Ooooh, this is a tough one for me! On paper, I get a little nervous about the general nature of getting married young. Of course it absolutely works out for many and that's exactly how it should be. I think it comes down to, as someone commented before me, marrying the right match for ourselves regardless of age. What does drive me crazy is how sensationalized marriage is at BYU. One becomes a celebrity if you're engaged and then married. A lot of bad matches happen in this manner and consequently, many divorces follow. I like "Cardalls" comment on living life to the fullest whilst looking for that compatible companion. Not that anyone who marries young is not living life to the fullest, don't get me wrong. Thanks for always helping me to think about these subjects!

C Mommy said...

i read this on original post day but, didn't get a chance to comment! I really feel like the girls above have added anything that may have need to be said. The gist of it for me is that we have to follow the spirit and be willing to take the steps that sometimes may be looked down on by our American culture - marrying young is one of them, modest dressing another, the list goes on and on especially when living in the mission field!!