On September 20th of this year, I married my best friend in a beautiful wedding ceremony in Baltimore, surrounded by our closest loved ones. I was just shy of turning 24. Mike was 26. And although we have only been married for three months, in March we will celebrate our eight year “anniversary.”
I mention this because this time of year seems to bring about two things:
- Several engagement announcements (I myself got engaged Christmas day two years ago)
- Several condemning blog posts about said engagements (no seriously… they’re everywhere)
While I was planning my wedding, I noticed a trend that began festering. From Huffington Post to blogs like this and ridiculous posts like this one about the “23 things you just HAVE to do instead of getting engaged before you’re 23,” people are becoming more vocalized and more vitriolic about their distaste for their fellow peers who are tying the knot in their early 20s.
These posts all share the same sentiment:
- People who marry young are missing out on opportunities in life
- People who marry young will end up divorced
These bloggers write that once you’re married, you can kiss your youth and any semblance of ‘fun’ goodbye. That walks down the aisle are now synonymous with funeral marches for your social life. That your 20s are meant for crazy, drunken nights full of bad mistakes, not picking out wedding dresses and filing joint tax returns. That anyone who gets married before the age of 25 is practically begging for a life of unhappiness.
But to lump all ‘young’ marriages into the same doomsday category is just as ignorant as calling all “millennials” lazy and uneducated.
I’m not here to advocate that people should marry young. I’m not even advocating that people need to get married at all, because it’s not for everyone. I’m a firm believer that marriage is meant to be forever – through the good, the bad, and the I-hate-your-guts-right-now downright ugly. People should only get married when they are absolutely ready – whether that means 23 or 43 – because no two couples are the same and not all marriages are created equal.
I have seen people get married and divorced all before they celebrated their 21st birthday. I’ve seen people who have been together for a few years get married in their 40s only to get divorced a few months later. I’ve known people who married in their 20s and have been together for more than 60 years.
It seems everyone these days has their own idea of what they determine to be an acceptable age for people to make the commitment of marriage, and to those people I ask – who made you the expert in other people’s relationships? When we turn 25, is there a magical “I’m ready for marriage now” switch that suddenly goes off?
Because I’m calling bullshit.
For those who might want to throw some overly-used statistics at me right about now, here, let me do it for you.
- According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 60 percent of marriages for couples between the ages of 20 and 25 end in divorce.
- Also according to the National Center for Health Statistics, 50 percent of all marriages in which the brides are 25 or older result in a failed marriage.
Seems like we’re damned at any age…. According to statistics.
But like many things in life that don’t fall into black or white, definitively defined categories, marriage is a gray matter with far too many variables to consider when trying to determine why some marriages succeed and why some marriages fail. Variables that include respect, honesty, trust, love, patience, kindness, understanding and compromise. Things that take a lifetime to learn and understand and can’t be measured on a scale. Things that my parents, who have been married for nearly 30 years have been learning since they got married in their early 20s.
With all of these stories and statistics, I believe that the demise of a marriage is more a testament to the lack of maturity in the relationship, and the lack of maturity of the individuals, more-so than a person‘s age.
A successful marriage, at ANY age, is one where both partners have a strong understanding of the other’s needs and desires and work together to help achieve them. One of the most overused arguments in these anti-marriage blogs is that in your twenties you’re still discovering yourself and that you can’t discover yourself when you’re tied down to someone else. That you need to be single in order to make mistakes, figure out what you like and don’t like, travel the world and be selfish.
But I’m here to tell you I’ve done all of those things. And I’ve done them with the unfaltering love and support of my best friend and now husband. I began dating Mike when I was only 16. And in these last eight years I have traveled to Europe, graduated high school, gone to college, made new friends, lost old friends, partied until the sun came up, lost myself, found myself, spent a summer in Paris, drank too much, laughed too hard, made mistakes, had regrets, challenged myself, pursued my dreams, changed my dreams, graduated college, landed a dream job, picked up my life and moved three states away, changed jobs, made more friends, and changed myself again.
And I’ve done it all with Mike by my side. Encouraging me the entire way. We grew up together. And in those eight years, we’ve both changed quite a bit, and I will venture to say, it’s been for the better. Mike and I motivate and challenge each other to be better than we were yesterday. We support each other when one is weak or failing. We push each other out of our comfort zones and dare each other to try new things. But we always allow the other the space they need to grow. Together we have faced triumphs and successes, hardships and loss. That kind of support and companionship is something I wouldn’t trade for the world, and I am incredibly lucky to have found it so early in life.
So while my counterparts may be out clubbing until 4 in the morning or backpacking across Europe to ‘find themselves’, I am content with spending a night in with my husband and our two cats. Or trying the newest hit restaurant in town. Or planning trips to Barcelona and Rome for the fall. Or hosting a dinner party with a group of close friends. Or god forbid – spending time alone or with friends to focus on ourselves (because contrary to popular belief – married folks are able to do this too.)
It may not be your idea of what someone in her 20s should be doing – but for me, it works just fine.
And at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters? People making their own decisions to find their own version of happiness, whether that means being single, marrying the love of your life or everything else in between. Your life and the decisions you make are yours and yours alone, and deserve to be free from scrutiny and judgment. But let’s be real… that will never happen, so ignore the naysayers and the doomsday statistics.
Cheers to you and your happiness – whatever, whenever and whoever it may be.