Jerry and I got married on October 11, 2009, in the beautiful mountains of north Georgia. We were both 23. We hadn’t waited until marriage to have sex, I wasn’t pregnant, and there was no one pressuring us to get married. We simply knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, and there was no reason to wait.
Our marriage is both traditional and nontraditional. It’s traditional in that, on paper, we are perfect for each other—we’re from the same place, we have the same religious/cultural background, we’re both college-educated, we view money in (mostly) the same way, and our families get along swimmingly. It’s nontraditional in that we’ve always lived in group housing situations, we both changed our last names when we got married, and less than a year after our wedding, we up and moved to Colombia without jobs or friends here.
It’s funny how just one generation can change the way society views marriage. When my mother got married at 27, she was old. Even now at 25, almost two years after our wedding, people I meet are surprised that I’m married (it doesn’t help that I look like I’m 16). I have spent too much time justifying why I’m married, explaining to people that we dated for a long time first or all of our friends told us that if they knew anyone else getting married that young they would’ve thought it was crazy, but for us they thought it made sense. But I’m tired of justifying it, because young marriage rocks.
So far, one of the greatest things about being married young is that I have this person who holds me accountable. Not in the annoying, nagging sense (though that happens, too), but rather in the sense that we have been able to define both individual and family goals, remind each other that it’s important to follow through on at least some of those, and remember that it takes work and patience. When I talk to people about all of the things that Jerry and I plan to do (live in France at some point, start up an irbutz), the response is usually, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll see if that actually happens,” along with a good eye roll.
The point isn’t whether or not all of our dreams will come true (though so far we’ve followed through on quite a number of them), but rather that we let ourselves dream together. We’ll be there to celebrate with each other when some of those goals come to fruition, and we’ll be there to comfort each other when others don’t. All along the way, we’ll be pushing each other to become better versions of ourselves, to push our limits, to imagine what life could be like, and to relish the present. We have been growing up together, shaping each other to define what’s important in life, and giving each other the confidence to seek that out.
Young marriage rocks because I have been able to allow myself to be vulnerable (if you haven’t watched this TED Talk by Brene Brown, go watch it. Now.) in a way that is different from how it was when Jerry was just my boyfriend. It’s a let-myself-be-known-completely vulnerability that gives me the strength to be open to experiences in other parts of my life, as well.
Another awesome aspect of being married young is that I feel a sense of belonging. OK, I know that as a young feminist, I shouldn’t think of myself as “belonging” to my spouse—but hey, it goes both ways because he belongs to me, too. In this age of the world not making much sense, of my generation wondering where it is we belong—geographically, in our professional lives, or our place in the grand scheme of things—the world makes a little more sense to me. I am already a part of something bigger than myself that I constantly contribute to and that I constantly receive from. The peace of mind and self-assurance that comes with my marriage allows me to take my time in figuring out the rest.
You hear people talk about 50% divorce rates and how those rates are even higher for people who get married young. But what about that other percentage of successful marriages, of couples that go on to be married for 60 years? Or those couples that grow up together all through their 20s, and when they look back during their mid-life crises to those days of being young and in love, it’s with the same person that they wake up next to every day? What about those couples who have awesome, regular sex throughout their lives because they don’t have to worry about looking for a partner? What about those people who focus on making themselves better as individuals because the biggest question mark in their life is already answered?
I am grateful for having had the sense to marry Jerry and not worry about all the “missed opportunities” of dating other people. You can be sure I don’t wake up every day and think, “I wish I had dated more people, I wish we had waited three more years to get married.” Rather, I look at him and think, “I am the luckiest person alive to have found him when I did, to have this person to encourage me to become the best me, to share life with, and to figure out the future together.”
Photography: Phil Skinner, all rights reserved