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Ask Team Practical: Marrying Young


I just can't wait

by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Marrying Young | A Practical Wedding

Q: So I am in a situation and I am not sure what to do. I am eighteen and my boyfriend is nineteen. We have been dating for a little over a year and a half. We have known each other for close to seven years. Well, we are madly in love!! :D I feel like mentally we are prepared for marriage, but financially we’re not. We both have jobs, but don’t bring a whole lot in. He has a car and I’m working on getting one. He will be graduating college with his second degree and I will be graduating high school, both in May. So here’s where my dilemma comes in…  I want to get married so bad!! I think partially it’s because I see people who I go to school with getting engaged after dating for only a year or so, and I think its partially because I really adore him and I just want to be with him. Well, I know as of now, we’re not financially ready to get married. But is it wrong to get engaged now and just slowly plan parts of the wedding until we can afford to live by ourselves? I feel like our relationship is at a standstill and I just want to take it to the next step. I mentioned it to him one time and we talked about it for ten or so minutes and it hasn’t been brought up again. So I guess my question is: is it wrong to get engaged now, and plan the wedding for when we’re more stable? And: how do I bring this up to him? And: if he still says not yet, how do I get myself to be patient being in the pre-engagement stage?

Sincerely,
Is Engagement Wrong?

 

Q: I got engaged over a month ago, and plan for a June wedding. I don’t know how to decide to pick four bridesmaids when I have more than four candidates. But of those none of my friends offered to help me plan or even said they are happy for me. In fact they straight out told me I had no idea what I’m doing and asked me to reconsider. My sister (maid of honor) hasn’t offered any advice at all, should I ask? And my mother doesn’t think I should even be getting married when I still have “four years of college” to get through (I’m currently seventeen years old). I am not sure how I’m going to tell her that Andy and I are tying the knot after graduation. My fiancé doesn’t know how to help, at least he tries though. So kudos to him. It’s all very frustrating. I don’t know where to start, who to talk to, or anything really. Please help. I don’t know what to do.

— Anonymous

 

Q: I’m here to ask advice as a pre-engaged college student.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for over three years now (I’m now eighteen, and he’s twenty-one), and we’ve been toying with the idea of getting engaged for quite some time.

Before you think anything about our ages (as I know the majority of our friends and families do), I’ll give you some background.

He and I are long past puppy love. This isn’t some whimsical “Let’s get married for the heck of it” kind of idea. This is serious. We’re both finishing our associates degrees this coming spring (I started college way early, and I love it), and want to get engaged before I move away to go to a university for my last two years of college. Neither of us live away from home, because we simply can’t afford it individually, but we share the weight of each other’s financial troubles because we know we want to get married. We spend A LOT of time together, since we attend the same school and live very close. His parents married young, so it’s mostly my parents that I’m worried about. The last thing I want is for them to be unhappy if I came home with a ring. It’s very troubling to think of my parents not being happy for me, or being disappointed. BUT, I’m prepared to walk away from that and get married anyway. It’s been three years, and I’m tired of acting like marriage isn’t on our minds. Nor am I willing to wait another two years just for the sake of pleasing other people.

I honestly just don’t know how to balance this with my age, and the reaction of my family (which I’m dreading, and I feel like I shouldn’t have to).

Any advice is welcome, I really need some.

— N

 

A: Dear IEW, Anonymous, and N,

Guys, I want you to know up front that I’m not questioning how much you love your partners. I’m not questioning your preparedness for marriage. And I’m certainly not questioning your maturity. But I am going to suggest that maybe you slow down.

Yes, yes, yes. APW is the land of, “Get married if you’re ready!” and “Don’t wait for those wily ducks!” That’s because there are some things that just may never be resolved (like financial security or your parents’ opinion of your sexuality, religion, etc.). Wait for that stuff, and you could be waiting a lifetime. But there are some things that have a clear and definitive deadline. For example, “When you finish school,” or, “In x number of years.”

My point isn’t that I necessarily agree with your loved ones, or that I think you guys are too young to get married (I was a pretty young bride myself). This isn’t about those years actually meaning something. Maybe they do; maybe they don’t. It’s about how your loved ones do mean something. If there’s a way to make them feel comfortable and come to terms with your choices, then by all means: DO IT. Marriage is incredibly important, but so is maintaining your other relationships whenever at all possible. That’s not always an option, and sometimes you’ll need to live with disapproval, tension, and strained relationships. But if you don’t need to, don’t. Put another way, which would really be more difficult? Toughing out another few years of waiting to get married, or toughing out an indeterminate number of years of family tension and strife?

It would also probably help your whole situation if you gave your parents a buffer zone to get used to the idea. Frankly, an unexpected “We’re engaged and we’re getting married in June!” would put anyone on edge. Instead of just springing that on them, start talking about how serious your relationship is becoming. Make it clear that you’re talking about engagement and marriage. Ask your parents what they think seems a fair timeline and, if you disagree, start bracing them for that fact.

Aside from all of that, if everyone around you is saying to wait, you need to face the possibility they’re seeing something you’re not. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our happy romance that we lose all objectivity. Maybe they’re wrong, but it’s worth listening to their concerns and actually considering them. Your loved ones are smart and they love you. Two pretty solid reasons to hear what they have to say.

Like I said. I’m not questioning your love or your maturity or that you can handle all that marriage entails. I swear I’m not doubting any of it. But I am saying that even if you’re legitimately ready to commit to marriage and your loved ones aren’t—what’s the rush?

Team Practical, how do you determine when to listen to your family’s concerns and when to ignore them? Is there such a thing as “too young to get married”?

Photo by Gabriel Harber.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • Kestrel

    As someone who thought they were seriously ready for marriage at age 20, it’s good to wait. I’ll be 24 when I get married, and even though I will have finished my undergrad and masters and been in my career for a few months by that point, some people are even a little wary of that young.

    The biggest thing I believe is that you really should wait until you’re mostly done with transitional phases. So going to college is one transitional phase, and getting a job is a transitional phase. Going to grad school is also a transitional phase. If you went to work right away, I’d actually be far more ok with marrying young because you have a good idea of what the rest of your life will be like.

    If you don’t even have a general idea of what your life will be like, it’s difficult to choose a lifelong partner. And it’s something I came to realize as I went through more of these ‘transitional phases’.

    Now, I’m engaged to the same person I wanted to marry when I was 20, so theoretically it worked out. But was there really any harm in waiting? No. We still grew in our relationship. After all, once you get married, your relationship certainly doesn’t stop evolving, so why should it stagnate now? We’re not planning for kids for another 5 years, so that wasn’t delayed at all either. Sure, it’s frustrating for people to not take your relationship as seriously as it feels because it doesn’t have the “engaged” or “married” designation, but that’s just something to suck up and explain to the important people in your life.

    And I feel far more confident now, and as a bonus we’re far more financially ready.

    Waiting was a good thing. Now all of our family is on board, we’re more excited than ever, and we can have the wedding and the beginning of a marriage that we want and couldn’t have 4 years ago.

    • Kelly

      Agree – one of my biggest frustrations was how people didn’t take my relationship seriously, and I also totally, from that standpoint, get the OP concerns that she wants to take “the next step.” But marriage is not the only step to take! There are lots of little steps to be taken in between, that maybe even you aren’t thinking about or might not notice you’ve taken until later. I spent years feeling like i just wanted to take the next step while I was pre-engaged, but looking back, we did take so many little baby steps during that time that really helped us get ready for marriage.

      • http://weehermione.blogspot.com/ Hayley || Wee Hermione

        Yes! There are so many steps and there can be Very Big Decisions — move across the country for a job? Take an internship that doesn’t pay well? Pursue a higher degree? These things can happen, too, and I think it’s important to consider them when you’re so close to them being possibilities out of college, before committing to support someone else — if you take on your partner’s debt, can you take that internship, etc?

      • Kestrel

        Yes, that was such a huge annoyance. Particularly when you mentioned that you would have to consider your ‘boyfriend’ when talking about final career plans. No one would think a second about it if you said ‘husband’, but ‘boyfriend’ seems automatically juvenile, even if you’ve been dating for 3-4 years. Thankfully my parents and his were good about that – they saw that we were committed to each other and that it was very important for us. (Also, my mom was pretty much pulling for us to get married after about a year of dating – when we were an ‘appropriate age’, so that helped too)

        We did a lot of things in our ‘pre-engaged’ time. We moved in together, did a whole lot of long distance, dealt with family dying, dealt with severe depression, made it through medication weirdness, etc. Frankly, I’m glad we did that all before when we weren’t legally bound. Hopefully means that when we are legally bound, we’ll have a good foundation on which to base all problems that come up in our life.

      • Lauren

        Then I think you have to make good use of PARTNER and have conversations with your boyfriend about it. I wanted something “more” way before we were ready, which I knew. So it was trying to communicate about symbols, that I/we now considered the relationship differently than in the past, and for the most part being on the same page with him, calmed my frustration. I knew I was the most special thing to him and that helped a lot and I think it opened doors to other kinds of conversations, which helped to prepare us to head in the marriage direction.
        To offer another possibility, you could get engaged and not set a wedding date. Then you get the status and can continue to figure life out, finish school, find work etc. Then when you have accomplished a few things you want straight and have your finances where you want them, you can plan the wedding.

      • Winny the Elephant

        Totally agree. Revel in the baby steps, they are the foundation of things to come. Figure out how you’re going to celebrate holidays. Figure out how to raise a dog. Buy a car together. So much to be learned, so much to be enjoyed.

    • rys

      I think this is sharp — transitional phases, especially those that come on the heels of adolescence are often transformative in unpredictable ways, and making your way through them, even if that means waiting to marry, is wise.

      In this sense, while I agree with Liz’s overall advice, contra Liz, I am going to question the maturity of the writers. “I want to get married so bad,” others are getting married after a year, I’m having trouble picking 4 bridesmaids, and we already spend a lot of time together, do sound (to my curmeudgeonly ears) immature.

      I have married friends who were high school sweethearts. I have friends who married right out of college. And I have friends who got together in high school and in early college years, thought they were going to be together forever, and broke up within a year after college (see: transitional phases). The point is not that one end is more likely than the other, but one common thread in the high school dating to marriage (all totally solid marriages a decade plus in) continuum is that all of these couples paused in some way — they waited until a year out of college, they intentionally stopped dating for a year or two to explore other options, they lived on their own or together sans parental support while in college, they got jobs and held them down for a certain amount of time, they spent long periods apart during study abroad or summer internships, etc. In short, they made very intentional decisions that tested their relationships by creating transitions for themselves, even if those transitional phases didn’t map onto a linear high school-college-work path.

      Being able to recognize the importance of transitional phases, insisting that they happen, and figuring out how they responded/evolved/worked together as a couple is mature. It signals maturity to those around you (parents, friends, etc) and, most importantly, it lets you make a decision based on experiences in real-world crossroads and challenges, it lets you grow incrementally as a couple, and it gives you ways of explaining *why* marriage is important to you individually and as a couple (something absent from all the letters).

      • marie

        My “curmudgeonly ears” picked up on the same notes, and I think your advice is excellent.

      • Kestrel

        I’d agree with the possibility imaturity – but note that it might simply be in communication/writing maturity. I’m not the greatest with writing, and tend to use phrases I hear all the time (“so bad”, etc.) so how old I sound when writing is directly related to who I’m around!

        Once I got to grad school and started reading more technical papers and was around more professors, my communication skills were vastly upgraded, even if they’re still a little juvenile.

        So, basically, I just like to give the benefit of the doubt, particularly as that means more people are willing to take advice!

      • Lauren

        I tend to agree in the sense that being/becoming an adult is super stressful! College is stressful, friends, parties, grades, life paths. After college, unemployment, depression, 6 months of unemployment, deeper depression, job, yay!, super mean boss while getting paid peanuts and desperate to move out of his parents house, uber frustration, and oh yeah student loans. Finding a place, knowing its the right place you can afford, signing a lease, MOVING DAY, exhaustion. Now you need to find your own doctor…doctorSSS, oh and your own car mechanic, oh your car needs more in repairs than it’s worth? you need to research cars, negotiate and purchase a new one, line up financing, live with it when your insurance is ridiculous; also your friends have gone away to school or work or are just busy or live only 10 miles away but this city you moved to has disgusting traffic so you are lonely. Mind you this is only scratching the surface and assuming you have a lot of basic skills like, cooking, cleaning, knowledge of cars, and finances to name a few.
        You can definitely get through these things together, but I think overcoming some of these stressful moments before marriage would be a huge plus. As a test of you as individual adults and as a couple. Also if your parents/friends really aren’t on board you will only be able to rely on each other, which will make everything extra hard without their advice, experience and support.

    • jashshea

      Kestrel – This is really well said.

    • BD

      This is exactly why I can’t help but worry about very young marriages. It hasn’t so much to do with maturity as with TIME, particularly the transitional phases as you call them, that can make or break a young relationship. Marriage is often called “settling down” for a reason, and very few people these days are truly settled before their late twenties. So much can change between the ages of 17 and 25 – really, why not wait?

      • Jen

        My fiance and I are approaching this with a different mindset than what Kestrel said about transitional phases. I believe transitional phases are necessary and that going through many of them as a non-married couple was very transformative for our maturity levels, but I don’t think we have to wait until all the pieces of our lives are put together before “settling down.” The major reason we are getting married this winter (the winter before we graduate from college) is that we want to pronounce to the public a commitment we have already made privately: that we want to go through the early-twenties adventure of figuring life out TOGETHER, as a team. We are still looking forward to all the transitional phases that will be changing who we are as individuals, but we both feel that going through those phases together will enhance, rather than detract from, our feelings of personal fulfillment.

      • Mari

        I don’t believe that marriage means “settling down.” I see marriage as another transition. We’ve been through almost as much as some of these examples, i.e. raising two dogs together, moving cities together, living together, experiencing family deaths, depression, and soon a transition to grad school. We’re 20 and 21, and tired of defending our relationship to strangers. I know this wasn’t directed at me personally, but older people (always strangers, never family or friends, because they know we’re mentally 30) like to scoff at young marriages. We’re going to settle down when we’re older, but we’re getting married in six months.

    • KC

      I was skittish about marriage (having seen a lot of Bad Marriages), but still married at 21 after dating for two years (and we’re now well past the “seven year itch” point, so I think we can call this not a flash-in-the-pan). The keys for me feeling comfortable about it, though, was going through periods of time when:
      1. now-husband was super-super busy and I wasn’t (boring, but necessary to be able to get through)

      2. I was super-super busy and now-husband wasn’t (again, communication lessons galore!)

      3. we were both super-super busy (hey! we managed to be low on sleep, low on time, accidentally mess up a date, and still not bite each others’ heads off!)

      4. we were bot not-too-busy (hey! we don’t get sick of each other if we do get to see each other often!)

      And then:

      5. lasting through several months of long-distance (only-have-enough-time-to-talk-once-a-week long distance), which settled me that I wanted *this* one and was not more or less just as happy without him (partly because I kept trying to be okay with it if he found someone who was a better fit for him than me, and this was Not Easy). So, I was convinced, then we got engaged, and got married six months later.
      The other thing that helped our “young” marriage was:

      6. three batches of premarital counseling (during which we also asked them “should we be getting married”, because: more limited life experience!)

      But anyway, when we got married, we had both graduated from college and both had a year of full-time-ish work under our belts (so: our relationship could make it through each of us having very different and not-really-very-interesting daily experiences). (if you’re doing the math here, see: both of us starting college really unusually young) Our marriage also benefited from having substantial and varied living-on-our-own-with-roommates experience, since we already knew that our family of origin’s way of doing things was not the only way, and had gotten at least a bit of practice in working around someone else’s quirks/opinions.

      Different peoples’ experiences vary, but I personally needed to know that we could make it through some speed bumps, relationship-wise, and that the relationship was not primarily fueled by proximity. I’ve had enough friendships that are amazingly close while you’re in the same area or activity that then fizzle out into acquaintance-ship afterwards, and at that point I knew I couldn’t tell what was going to fizzle without extra fuel and what was going to keep going before it was tested. And, obviously, I didn’t want to marry someone if our relationship *needed* that extra fuel to keep going, because marriage is hard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good when it’s good, but it’s still hard.

      Basically, I think it’s good for relationships to be a bit stress-tested in assorted different ways before engagement, because they will be stress-tested after marriage and it’s better to find out any weak spots you can find now than then. Your stress tests will probably look different, but it really is important to have a relationship that can survive some things beyond “the two of us against the world!” parental opposition. (and if you have images of pretty flowers and a gorgeous dress and a giant party and perfect wedding with you as the star helping you float past stressful parts of relationship while you’re engaged… then that’s also not quite a full stress-test? Especially if you’re super-committed to demonstrating that you were *not* too young to get engaged and hence are less likely to back out even if red flags pop up.)

    • http://www.devabydefinition.com/ Deva C.

      I think this is very wise. I am now married to the man I’ve been with since I was 20. there have been so many transitional phases in our time together that were trying on our relationship. I have chronic depression and anxiety which is trying on both of us at times and in the seven years and four days between first date and wedding we have seen one another at best and worst. While we worked out, I often do wonder if the one time we were on track to a break up how that would have tested a marriage and if it would have tested it the same way. Growing through that time of tough communication and learning how to interact with one another as we grow (and grew) and change (and changed) was a big part of what made our relationship stronger.
      For us, waiting was definitely a good thing, but that is us and I cannot speak for everyone in a relationship. I also had confidence and the financial security as well as the “settled” feeling. Not that I felt I was settling – because I wasn’t, but that I was settled into MYSELF as a person and my place in life and starting to parse out long-term goals.
      Even then, I know we will continue to grow and change and our relationship will as well. Past experience does not predict future results but it does help me to know that what we have gone through will be there in our toolbox when we bump up against walls in our future.

    • Genna

      I’ve been with my fiancé for 5 years, and about 3 years ago we thought we were ready. Looking back on it, these last 3 have been fantastic years of growth and finalizing things, and I agree with you in that we’ve grown in confidence and are happy we waited. My dad’s one requirement was both of us finishing school, which is done now. It doesn’t always work for everyone, but we got engaged in 2012 and will be married in 2014 and having a slow engagement was really beneficial for us. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said! If you love the person, waiting and finishing your transitions will not hurt.

    • Kristin

      Life transitions are so huge. I watched a cousin’s engagement end after they had both moved to her hometown and were living together last year, and he basically crumbled. He and his partner had been together since the beginning of their first year of college and they were engaged during the December before they graduated at 22 and 23. I don’t think that we questioned that they were too young, but there were some signs that they weren’t exactly on the same page.

      While they loved each other deeply, what they didn’t anticipate was how their priorities and lifestyles would change in a post-college environment. He worked in a customer service setting and spent all day talking to people. She was a teacher and spent all day with little kids. At the end of the day, he wanted to decompress and she wanted to go out and be social. And they couldn’t find a way to reconcile what their lives were “supposed to be like” and they were both unhappy. I am positive this wasn’t the only issue, maybe more a symptom of other things, that is why she told him “I can’t marry you, you’re not the same person you were in college.” More than anything, I think it was a sign of maturity and preparedness for marriage, because that’s not likely to be true for anyone down the road.

      My fiance and and I line up pretty closely with the “likes to go out/doesn’t” divide that they had, but I think that because we have been through more life experiences, more ups/downs of relationships, and more trials, that doesn’t impact us. Something like that isn’t a deal breaker. Our vision of adult, married life, with potential kids down the road, isn’t going to be shifted because I might meet up with friends after work, while he sits home watching tv.

      I don’t think there is an age where you are automatically ready/not ready. But I think that your visions of what life will be like together, need to be both flexible and compatible. Because who the heck knows what’s coming.

    • Lila

      I would second everything Kestrel says. I met my husband in middle school, began dating him at 17 and we married 8 years later after going through MANY transitional phases by each other’s sides. Marriage is not just a profession of love and commitment, it is a legally binding contract. I would dissuade anyone from taking such a legal step without knowing their general career and personal path. Meanwhile, I can assure you, marriage is not required to deepen and strengthen your bond to one another. I would suggest considering the wait for marriage as a learning experience and challenge you can approach as a team. A lot changes during the late-teens/early-twenties, after making it through these changes together your family and friends will be SO supportive and excited to help you make your already-cemented commitment legally binding! The payoff for a bit of patience is really staggering both in your relationship with each other and with your wider social circle.

      • Guest

        My story is very similar! I met my husband and started dating him at 17, and even though I thought I was ready at 19, 20, 21, I’m so glad we waited 8 years and got married when I was 25. We went through so much in that time, including a long period where I reflected deeply and critically on the relationship and whether it was what I wanted. A lot of that was affected by what I was going through in my life in general – graduating college, finding a job, moving to a new city. It was a rough time, but we got into couples counseling and learned how to communicate with each other so much more effectively. When we eventually did get engaged and married, I was so happy we’d waited because I actually felt settled, ready and sure, rather than eager and desperate to take the next step.

  • Kelly

    I met my husband when I was 18 and we started dating at 19. I knew by the time I was 20 that I wanted to marry him – but we didn’t get married until we were 25. I suppose if we had, it might have been wonderful, but a lot of things would have been much harder. We would have had to face difficult relationships with our parents, and would have lost their financial support. We would have strained relationships with friends and made it harder to make some of the decisions we did about our careers and our relationship and what was important to us. I guess my point is this – once you’ve found the person you know you’re going to spend your life with, you have your whole life. That’s the whole point! So it doesn’t matter if you get married tomorrow or in 10 years – they’ll still be that person. If they’re the right one, they’ll still be there when everyone else you love is on board, too.

    • Casey

      Similar situation here! My husband and I started dating when we were 16 and knew it was the real deal when we were about 20. I definitely had times when I wanted to get married then, but looking back on it, it seems like what I really wanted was for our long-distance relationship to end. Obviously marriage wouldn’t have helped that : ) We got married recently at 24, and even though that’s still pretty young, I wouldn’t have traded those late-teens/early twenties years for anything! We both grew so much individually and as a couple.

  • themoderngal

    Liz has great advice. I’d also add that you need to really, really, really think about WHY you want to be married so badly right now, and make sure you distinguish between the act of GETTING married and the act of BEING married, something so many of my loved ones who were young brides acknowledge they failed to do. Like Liz, I’m not doubting your maturity or relationship or anything else, but one of the reasons anyone who’s older might voice concerns is that we can look back at ourselves when we were your age and understand how much we’ve changed since (in ways that were incomprehensible at the time). Granted, change is a part of life, but 18-22 is probably one of the bigger times for it, if college is part of your life. Ask if your relationships are the kind that will help you change for the better.

    • Jacki

      You said everything I wanted to say … even at 22 when I married my first husband I did not understand the difference between GETTING and BEING married and it was from that less-developed, less-fully-formed perspective that I made a choice I would not have made later. Now, that said, I know some folks who met their spouses at the ages of these OPs and they’re now happily married, but in those cases they waited until their mid- to late-20s to marry, after finishing college, establishing careers and growing together. I would caution anyone against marrying at such a young age, not because I think the relationship will inevitably fail but because of the massive changes most of us will experience in the years between 18 and 28 (and on, for some of us) … make sure you are partnering with someone you can change and grow WITH, not away from.

    • M is for Megan

      “…..but one of the reasons anyone who’s older might voice concerns is that
      we can look back at ourselves when we were your age and understand how
      much we’ve changed since (in ways that were incomprehensible at the
      time).” Yessss.

    • C

      Yes yes yes on the “getting” married vs. “being” married. I got married young-ish (at 23) to a man I can now say I hardly knew. Sure, we had been friends for a few years and sure, we thought we’d had all the talks about what we both wanted out of life and marriage. But the truth is that we didn’t really know what it would mean to be married to each other — how we would truly deal with conflict and tough times, how to fight fairly, how to anticipate each other’s needs and moods, how to build a life together as a new family. We GOT married but we didn’t know how to BE married. Inevitably, the marriage failed.

      I’m not saying ALL marriages between young people fail – we know statistically that’s not true. But gosh, if I could go back to 23-year-old me and whisper in her ear, I’d tell her that there’s no need to hurry. Marriage will ALWAYS be there, and it’s a whole lot easier to get married than it is to get divorced.

    • april

      I was just about to say this too! And because I’m a lawyer (and that tends to color the way I think about these things) I’d add that you should make sure you really understand the legal implications of marriage. Marriage isn’t just about committing yourself to your partner emotionally – you can do that without any involvement from the State at all – it’s about creating a government-recognized partnership that comes with certain legal and finaciancial obligations and privileges. And while breaking up with someone you’ve had a long, meaningful relationship with is heart wrenching and awful, it’s a heck of a lot easier than divorce proceedings …

      • Kaveets

        YES! Especially for women who are far more likely to see a drop in their standard of living after divorce (it usually goes up for men). We’ve been together for almost 8 years, I love him and have wanted to marry him for almost 8 years. But part of loving us and who we are together has been educating ourselves about the legal and financial changes marriage will bring and TALKING about them.

      • z

        Yes! (Surprise, I am a lawyer too!) Being ready for marriage means researching and understanding all the implications of marriage, and finances are extremely important because they are so often a source of disagreement and stress. I think it’s really, really important to consider the financial implications, because if student loans or credit card debt is involved, the stakes are high. Just to point out a few issues, you could end up divorced and on the hook for half his debt, or he could get half your savings. Anything you inherit during the marriage could be divided, including property co-owned with others such as a family business. And it’s not all about divorce– how would being married to an income-earning person affect your eligibility for college financial aid? What about health insurance?

        I would have a very difficult time supporting an engagement if both members of the couple did not have a solid grasp of their particular financial issues and basic money management skills.

  • Mo

    Liz: GREAT advice. Your response is respectable and sensical, which is hard for most people to do when talking about marriage at a young age.

  • http://weehermione.blogspot.com/ Hayley || Wee Hermione

    My opinion is that you should wait until you’re financially independent and have a reasonably solid plan for your independence together. Marriage is, in part, about moving from your old family to your new one, so if you’re both capable of that, then it seems like an ok choice, but if you’re still dependent on others, then you may need to wait. I know, this sounds like the. Most. Boring. Answer. Ever. I got married at 23 — I was young, too, though out of college. My advice is to enjoy the space you’re in right now. I met my husband when I was 19 (a baby!) and I’m glad we waited until we were a little further from the nest before creating our own. We were kids when we met, (not legally, but we were YOUNG) and sometimes it’s good to wait until you live as an adult for a while to make that leap.

    This is kind of rambly. I know knowing what you want feels like, and it’s not wrong to want to get married young. Being together so early let’s you “grow up together” and I would encourage you to look at waiting a little longer as part of that process.

    Also, counseling. Go. To. Marriage. Counseling.

    • Cali

      Just want to second the premarital counseling. We did it through a local therapist during the months before our wedding, and it was incredibly helpful.

      • http://thesixthletter.wordpress.com Liz @ The Sixth Letter

        I’ll third it! Counseling was the best thing we ever did.

  • addiez

    When I moved in with my boyfriend, my parents (who had previously said they thought it was a good idea) said they were very concerned and not supportive of my decision. I’ve always been very close to my parents, so this really bothered me. After freaking out for a few days, I set up a time to sit down with my mom and talk through everything. I wanted to know her specific concerns so that I could respond to them. After the conversation, she was totally on board.

    If you’re sure you want to get married but don’t have the support of friends/family, it could be worth a conversation to figure out why they’re so concerned. Either you’ll already have answers and they’ll calm down, or they’ll share things with you that you haven’t thought of yet or don’t know the answer to. Either way, use those around you! My best advice is to go into any conversation assuming they want the best for you and are trying to support you – that you’re on the same team.

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com/ Marina

      Right. On. Especially if you can have this conversation and take the other person’s concerns seriously, without going into it feeling defensive or like you need to prove anything. If nothing else, how you handle this kind of conversation will show your family that you are mature enough to seriously consider their concerns.

  • MagNCheese

    I met my fiance when I was in eighth grade. From the moment I saw his nerdy lord-of-the-rings necklace and Zelda tshirt, I knew I was in love with him, seriously. Well, that “love” changed and grew into real love throughout highschool and we finally declared our feelings for each other the semester before graduation. We started dating and were VERY serious VERY quickly. We both knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and we were considering getting married right away. I was given a promise ring.
    Well, guess what. That “this is definitely it forever” feeling changed many times over the years while we were in college. We both changed and matured and realized our own selves in ways I never though I would when I was 17. Cheesy, I know, but true. I thought I knew myself and him completely. I was wrong.
    We split up and got back together again a few times throughout college. We dated other people for a while. Each time we got back together I was even more certain of our love. I am so grateful that we did this. If we had married when we thought, I’m sure I would have grown to resent our relationship to the point where it could not be repaired. Not being married gave me to freedom to question our relationship from a distance and come to my own conclusions about it on my own time. We are finally getting married now, at 25. It may seem like “well, we’re going to get married eventually, so why not do it now?” but believe me, it can really hurt your relationship if you marry before you are really ready, even if that’s where the relationshp is headed anyways.

    • Robyn

      I couldn’t agree more. Although I’ve known I would marry my now-fiance since I was 21, I (and to a lesser extent, he) had a lot of growing up to do. I’m now 25 and we’ll get married next year. Even though the relationship was always headed toward marriage, if we had actually married younger, I don’t think our relationship would be as strong as it is today.

  • Laura C

    The first letter had what was, to me, a big red flag: “I feel like our relationship is at a standstill and I just want to take it to the next step.” If you feel like your relationship is at a standstill after a year and a half, there are other answers to be looking at than marriage. Or maybe other questions: By standstill do you mean you’re not growing in the relationship? Do you mean you don’t feel like the relationship can deepen without marriage, and if so, why? Or do you mean there’s something you want from the relationship that you’re not getting and you feel like maybe marriage would do it?

    I guess the second letter had some big red flags, too, in that it’s not just the letter-writer’s family at issue, but her friends. If you’re trying to pick bridesmaids and they’re all telling you you’re making a mistake to get married, you’d be going into a marriage lacking not just the support of your family but of your friends. That’s a lot of stress to put on a relationship. There are definitely times when it’s right to say screw it, we have to do this. But as Liz said, you have time. Why rush?

    This, incidentally, is one of my biggest issues with “don’t have sex until you’re married” culture. I don’t know if it’s a factor for any of these letter-writers, but I’ve seen it lead to too many hasty marriages because it did give people a reason to rush.

  • Kat Robertson

    Questions like this are so hard to answer, because whether or not it’s right to get married young is absolutely dependent on the individuals involved and their relationship. I know couples who eloped at 18 and ten years later are still very happy with no regrets, but for me, I would not trade my single years in my twenties for anything. The fact is, none of us knows what the future will hold for our relationships, and in the end we are all really just making a guess about which course is the right one – no matter what age you are. That said, it’s a good idea to make the most informed guess you possibly can. If you have a healthy relationship with your parents and you respect their judgment, talk to them about this – and really consider what they have to say, even if it’s hard to hear. Go to couple’s counseling – many colleges provide student counseling services for free or for very reasonable rates. Read books about marriage together. Make a plan for financial independence, and make a budget together. If you’re religious, speak to a leader in your faith who you trust. Feeling ready for marriage is an amazing start for moving forward to becoming practically ready. Decide what that means for you as a couple and work together to get there, and once you’re there make the informed guess and get married, no matter how old you are.

  • Jessica Nelson

    I have friends who got engaged when he was 18 and she was 20, in the fall of his senior year of high school, and they were married a little over a year later, when he was 19 and she was 21. They definitely got a fair amount of flack from people who didn’t know them that well, but I think that their families were pretty supportive. They are still married, nine years later, with four kids!
    Granted, I don’t know all the details about how their engagement process worked (the guy is my best friend’s twin brother, I’m not super close with him), but here’s what I know as an “outsider”:
    – He joined the army at 17 and did basic training the summer before they got engaged.
    – She finished college in 2.5 years I believe, by the time they got married all she had left to do was her student teaching.
    – He joined ROTC and thus had a clear plan for an income/career through college and for several years post-college (he’s still in the military). He also graduated within 3 years.
    – He talked to both sets of parents and laid out a financial plan for the future. I know that “getting parents’ permission” might sound anti-feminist to some, but in this case I think it was important to get all the parents on board. I don’t know, but I would assume that the couple also talked about their financial plans together before he approached the parents.
    – They did all the Catholic pre-marital prep: personality tests that you discuss with a priest/trained counselor, NFP classes (learning the signs of a woman’s fertility in order to know the likelihood that sex on a certain day will result in pregnancy), a financial planning session, and an overnight engaged couples’ retreat with other engaged couples. I think they also did a special book study on marriage with the youth pastor at the church.
    – Oh, and of course they actually planned the wedding itself.

    My point is that they made quite an effort to demonstrate to themselves and to their loved ones that they were ready for and committed to marriage. As people have been saying, your personality and character will grow and change a lot between 18-22. That can be awesome if you’re already married by the time you hit 20, and you’re growing and changing together. But I think it means that you need to be really really sure 1) what your fundamental values are , and 2) if they’re compatible. It might be that you don’t really know yet what your core, non-negotiable values are, and if so, I think you need to take time to figure them out before getting married.

  • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

    I met my husband in college (at the age of 19). When the end of college came I was a mess. He was applying to grad schools all over the country and wanted me to follow him. My sister had gotten married two months after her college graduation and that timeline was stuck in my head as the “right” way to do it. Well I was wrong! I followed him to grad school, 900 miles from home – because guess what, I busted my ass to get a job in his town so we could be together. My parents were certainly not happy at the time, but three years later we are newly married. I would never trade the three years we had together, alone, figuring out our adult relationship for anything.

    When I was in pre-engaged world a wise friend of mine said “no one ever says they wish they’d gotten married sooner.”

    • Sara

      Ha! What a great line. No one ever says they wish they’d gotten married sooner. I might have to steal that!

    • Ali

      I have actually heard a lot of people in my life, across various generations, say they wish they had gotten married sooner. Some waited until that whole “27-30″ timeline and just lived together waiting for that precious bday when it would make their friends think it was “okay”. Some were older and had to wait for a war to end so they were actually safe and on the same continent. And then there’s us. We wish we could have gotten married this summer. But we had exactly 12 weddings between cousins, other family and friends so there were pretty much zero dates. Especially when considering the fact that family must fly in from all around the US and some from Europe. I have many friends telling me when we’re getting coffee or drinks that they wish they would be able to get married soon too. We’re all freshly out of college, and many of my friends (and all of my bridesmaids) wish they were at least ‘pre-engaged’ because marriage is important to them. And I totally understand. So sometimes, people do wish they had gotten married sooner, if they’re getting married for the right reasons in the first place. (Don’t get me started on getting married as a “business deal” because that, sadly, has happened recently in my family. Oy vey!)

      • Alison O

        I can understand how, romantically, people might wish they’d married sooner (‘tho it’s also romantic to sustain commitment out of love separate from legal ties), but it seems like it would be rare that a little extra time would make a significant difference–except for the old/ill, people involved in life threatening activities or have big benefits like GI at stake, or people who are anti-living together/sex before marriage. I’m talking about instances in which the legal benefits of marriage would have made a difference, like maybe if they could have married sooner they would have saved a ton of money by filing taxes jointly, or one got sick and the other couldn’t visit in the hospital, etc. I agree with commenter Laura C that a relationship should be able to feel meaningful and keep deepening independent of marital status, and with April, who noted that marriage is largely a legal contract. After all, people can commit to each other without the possibility of marrying, as many non-heterosexual couples have done, as well as heterosexual life partners who opted not to marry for whatever reason. Like you said about your friends, a lot of people consider marriage important to them, but it seems like if we unpack that, what is meant is that being in a deep committed relationship is what they long for. That’s also suggested by the fact that some would like to be “at least” pre-engaged. The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” is relevant here. :-)

        That situation with the people who waited to be in their late 20s because of social pressure is interesting. I can sympathize with peer pressure about not settling down too soon. On the one hand, I think one should take family/friends’ concerns about one’s relationship seriously because those people matter in one’s life, and they have a perspective one doesn’t. On the other, if their friends’ lack of validation–which in this case seems pretty superficial, only age-related, as you didn’t mention anyone voicing concerns about the relationship actually being problematic–is so influential that they basically prioritized it for years over their own desires for their relationship, maybe it’s best that they waited. How we run our lives, raise our children, etc. will always be questioned by someone; it takes a lot of maturity and self-confidence to anchor a family that stands up to that.

    • Amy Sigmon

      I think I’m the one person who says “I wish we (could have) gotten married sooner!” I met my husband at 26 and we got married 15 months later. We’re so in love, it’s crazy, and I do wish we had met younger so we would have had more years together.

      • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

        Oh I’m sure people have said that and meant it with all of their hearts. I just mean with regards to meeting very young and waiting. I’m a firm believer that you meet the right person when you’re at the right place in your life.

        • Amy Sigmon

          Completely true. I mean, the reason we were right for each other when we met was because we had both been through young relationships that didn’t work out – my husband got married at 22 and was divorced by 26 (he’s two years older than I am), I moved in with my boyfriend at 22 and moved out at 25. We are so much older and wiser and KINDER with each other. We’re thankful every day that those younger relationships ended so that we could be brought together.

      • anon

        well it’s not like you weren’t together before you were married.

  • Acres_Wild

    Definitely agree with Liz and the comments. I, too, was engaged young – 21. Then I went to law school in Minnesota, he got a job in Texas, and we tried to do the long distance thing for a few years, but eventually it just fell apart. I guess I thought I was done growing up in college, but I changed during law school in ways I didn’t expect. I think Kestrel, who commented somewhere below, is right about waiting to get married until after transitional phases like college and grad school. Of course, you may end up on the other side of the transition with the same person, but if not, it’s so much less difficult and painful to walk away when you aren’t legally entangled.

    I completely feel for the letter writers because I had the same kinds of thoughts, faced similar misgivings from my parents, watched other couples get engaged and married in the time we’d been dating, and everything else. This is the advice I would not have wanted to hear at the time, but looking back, listen to your loved ones. As much as it sucks, they may be right – and even if they’re not, there’s no harm in waiting.

    • http://weehermione.blogspot.com/ Hayley || Wee Hermione

      I would add that it may seem like there’s potential harm in waiting — that you could change in ways you wouldn’t if you’d gotten married, that getting married could do positive things in a relationship which wouldn’t happen otherwise and you could fall apart. But the thing is, life is FULL of road a versus road b, and you don’t get to see what would happen with road b once you take road a. So logically, assume your relationship will not fall by the wayside or suffer from not getting married right now, because if that’s all that’s holding it together long term…is that a thing you want to commit to now, something that’s pretty inflexible? I’m not saying the OPs feel that way, but I’ve heard the “but waiting could harm us” argument before. *Life* will harm you. Life and how you roll independently and as a couple with it will harm or strengthen you! and waiting and growing before marriage is sort of like putting yourselves on the charger, powering up for life.

  • Sara

    My fiance and I met when he was in the 10th grade and I was in the 11th. By the time we danced together at my senior prom we knew that this was something truly and really special, and we were right. But sweet, lovely letter writers, please slow down. Knowing that a relationship is the one and being ready to act on that are two very different things. You need time to understand the other person. In the seven years since we started dating, we went to two different colleges, did long distance, broke up, traveled, got back together, redefined our relationship and strengthened our communication, tested each other, fought, made up, stood together against outside pressure and changed in ways that our young selves could never, ever have understood. We made a deal with each other that we would both finish our degrees, both get jobs, and that we would be able to support ourselves without any parental contribution before we would discuss marriage. All of that time and energy and delayed gratification is what made us the couple we are today (a pretty kick-ass one, if I say so myself). Also, we moved in together and felt our way around the edges of that before we got engaged. I understand that for many people that is not an option, but if it IS an option for you, I highly recommend it.

    tl;dr You can know that your relationship is the one without being ready to act on that one-ness. Give yourselves some time and a chance to grow.

  • Ash

    I was 22 when we got engaged (well officially, we had been engaged technically MUCH longer, we just waited for family sake for about a year which I was semi-ok with.) We’ll both be 23 when we get married. Have we gotten crap from family? Oh yes. From friends? Oh yes. To be honest? Most of my girlfriends are jealous (not in a bad way!) and wish they were at least in a pre-engaged relationship but only 1 of my Bm’s is. They’ve all told me that their initial “wow, young much?” reaction was really just a tad bit of jealousy.

    We’ve been dating for yearssss. And basically grown up together. But my fiances family is VERY career driven, very ‘city’, and very obsessed with waiting until you’re 30 to get married. Did we face some crap from them? A little bit, but mostly just from his cousins. Was it because they waited forever and kinda regret it and are a tad bit jealous of our balls to go for it now? Probably. Maybe.

    Did my family freak out like I thought? Nope. Not even my mean grandmother who told me I need to elope when I’m 35 and no sooner, and no wedding! (truly!) My family was pretty prepped for the situation, and most of my family was married before 24 anyway. (Like at 20 & 21 for my parents. It was the 80s and we live in a small rural town.)

    Did his parents freak? Oh yes. At first they majorly did (I mean MAJORLY- like horrible names. Wanted us to break up, gave him ultimatums, etc.) But this was A. because they are the ‘city” side of the family where grad school and buying condos and being at the top of the cooperate food chain is #1 before marriage, family and all else. And B. this was also because they were slightly in denial about how old we are (they baby fiance big time) and because my fiance didn’t do much ‘prepping’ and didn’t really want to talk about it because he’s horrible at keeping secrets (re: proposal!) I really wish we had gave them more prep time, but honestly we had been dating at least a year longer than all of the recently married family members from our generation so I thought they were expecting it within the next few years. I expected some backlash about our age, but nothing nearly that severe. With that being said, 2 months later when we did get engaged they had both had a pretty big 180 and had finally(!!!) started seeing us as adults and finally recognized we’ve already been through hell and back together even though we’re “only” 22.

    My advice to anyone getting married at any age, EVER: WHY are you getting married? And how hard are you willing to work for it? What is your long term strategy? Get real with it all. It ain’t rainbows and butterflies! We’ve already been through hell and back. We’re getting married because we love each other and would rather travel the world together, or sit at home and watch Big Bang Theory for hours drinking coffee than go out all night or travel the world solo. That’s just us. We want the same things in life, we’ve worked HARD to make sure we’re on the same page and stay that way.

    We’ve already decided that the “D” word will not even be in our vocab (no offense to anyone at all, that’s just our fine print for us.) We’ve also already booked sessions for pre-marital counseling. Not with a minister, but an actual therapist. Why? Because I had an emotionally abusive childhood and those things still come up as triggers for us in fights and communication, so we’ve already made the pact to attend at least 2 sessions a year from here on out (until we’re old enough to be crapping our pants again!!) And I’ve also been clear I’ll always work on my stuff individually because it’ll make us stronger together. My grandparents are our relationship role models, and we’ll continue to find others to help us navigate this too. We’re not going in naive, we’re going in kinda like it’s both a battle and a round the world trip. Why? Because, like I said, it ain’t butterflies, but it is f*ucking awesome and so worth it in my opinion. I’ll admit, I’ve definitely had to grow up fast in my life, so I’m not exactly 23 as most people would see it. But we’ve both asked each other those hard questions. We know our WHY for getting married is solid, and our policies for longevity and working on things are also strong. So that’s why we’re getting married even though we’re “too young.” (As you can tell, I can and will rant about this for days. I’ve seen friends get attacked for getting married at 18, but also friends getting married at 24 and being “too young.” So I always want to highlight the WHY thing because I think it matters SO much more than the numbers. So.much.more!!)

  • http://heartsvsbrains.tumblr.com/ HeartvsBrain

    I want to tell these and any other young ladies out there a story. I met a boy when I was 18. We moved in together six months later and we were together a total of 14 years. The person I was when I met him and the person I was when I left him were two totally different people. I don’t even recognize the person I was at 19, honestly. But, there’s no way for me to convince you of how much you’re going to change. I wouldn’t have listened to me either at 17 or 19 or even 21. You have to live through it yourself to understand.

    Instead, I’ll tell you simply that I did not marry this boy. So when I needed to leave, I did not have to go through the pain of a divorce. I can not recommend enough, the value of living together before marriage. I can not recommend enough the value of knowledge and life experience when trying to not only be an adult, but be an adult in tandem with another person. Good luck.

    • K.

      I understand this advice in theory and I think it’s definitely true in terms of how much you change from older teenage years to your 30s, but it also seems like it could be taken out to be an indictment of marriage altogether. There’s always a chance no matter how young or old you are that 14 years in the future something will drastically change. Or, say, you could meet someone at 25 and something changes at 32. It’s part of the risk of marriage and why it’s considered a leap of faith.

      • http://heartsvsbrains.tumblr.com/ HeartvsBrain

        Thank you so much for your thoughts, honestly, I always appreciate feedback. Unfortunately I disagree with you. :)

        As a now happily married woman, I honestly don’t see any indictment of marriage in my comment. If anything, my comment was a personal indictment against marrying my ex. I didn’t do it and I was right not to and I wanted to share that.

        I agree that you change a lot between 18 – 30 regardless of whether you’re married during that time or not. My point was that the changes during those years can be more difficult, if you’ve already committed to someone who is ALSO going through changes and you’re both trying to keep fitting together as you change. It’s not impossible by any means, but it is a factor of difficulty that I think responsibly, shouldn’t be ignored.

        • K.

          Fair enough! :) I guess what struck me was the idea of being grateful that you weren’t married when you needed to leave. You were trying to show foresight in that you didn’t marry your ex even after more than decade together, where I read it as “there’s always a chance, no matter how long you’ve been together, that you will need to leave and it’s easier if you’re not married.” And I don’t necessarily disagree with that idea -life sometimes deals a poor hand and can shake even the most solid foundation. Maybe that makes me a cynic, but I try to keep clear eyes about entering a marriage, no matter how gaga I am about my fiance and sure of our partnership I am. Obviously, though, I also think marriage is worth it even if you can’t know the future. So just a misinterpretation on my part…obviously your ex just wasn’t the right guy to take the leap with, which is a different thing.

  • Emily Shepard

    At 18, my boyfriend and I would talk about marriage and babies all the time. The problem is, we started focusing too much on how things would be better in the future, and stopped focusing on our relationship in the present (which I couldn’t see was crumbling). It took me years to end the relationship because it felt like I wasn’t just breaking off two people dating, I was breaking off our marriage and the kids we’d imagined having.

    I know people can really only learn from their own experience, but if possible I hope you can learn from me: don’t focus on the future of your relationship, focus on the present. Learn how to be good and kind and giving to each other. Make your relationship strong and don’t lose sight of what’s happening today because you’re so excited about tomorrow.

    • Alison O

      EXACTLY. When I broke up with my first boyfriend (well, the other way around), whom I started dating sophomore year of college and lived with for two years after, it was by far the loss of the assumptions and dreams for our future I’d had that was so jarring and painful to let go of, rather than the relationship we actually had.

      Right after the breakup when I’d read people say things like, “I’m so thankful so and so broke up with me” and “blessing in disguise”, I didn’t buy it. But I will be the first to say: THANK YOU, ex-boyfriend, for dumping me. Life is SO much better now!

      In my current relationship (about 4 years), I actually don’t find myself thinking about the future/long-term all that much because I’m so happy with how it is right now. The decision to get married would/will be based pretty much solely on logistics and legalities, not the thought that it will make the relationship itself better or more meaningful (although I’d be totally open to that, too).

      • Meg

        This is so true and echoes the experience I and so many of my friends have had. I’m turning 30 next week and am engaged to the most wonderful partner. But I seriously dated 2 other guys (one from 18-21 and another from 22-24) who I wanted to marry and assumed I would marry. I am sure I’d be happy if I’d ended up with one of them – they weren’t bad guys or anything – but I am SO glad in hindsight that those relationships didn’t work out.
        Life is LONG and getting longer. I may have the next 6 DECADES to spend with my husband – and that’s if we only live to be 90. That’s amazing, but I will always treasure the years I had to myself – my 20s – to learn and grow and explore and date and travel and flounder and recover. It wasn’t all fun, but it was all good for me. I was a very mature young adult. It’s not that I “wasn’t ready” back then for marriage. But being forced to learn how to be independent and make decisions on my own regarding my life – jobs, apartments, friends, major purchases, religion – took me in a different direction than I otherwise would have gone if I was married at 18 or 22 or even 25.
        With regard to relationships, it really truly pays to have more than one major one in your life, in my opinion, in our modern world. I learned over the years (sometimes the hard way) which things matter most to me in my relationships – and how to be a better partner myself. I denied this fact fiercely when I was 23 and my older BF expressed concern that if I stayed with him I’d be “missing out” on my 20s. But he was right. I am so much more confident now in my decisions and in my relationship than I ever was with my exes.

    • Bonnie

      Completely agree! When my fiance and I started dating, we felt a lot of pressure from people around us (parents, friends) to “hurry up and get married already!” even though we’d only been dating for a few months or a year. Our motto was “one day at a time” with our relationship and it was the best thing we could have done. We’ll have been together 4.5 years when we get married next May and a lot of people are still asking why our engagement is so long (16 months) and I like to tell them because we weren’t in a hurry to get married yet. Things were good in the present – really good – and now we are more prepared for our future because of it.

  • jhs

    A lot of people here are posting that they are completely different people now (at whatever age) than they were at 18. That they “grew.” That’s true for everyone, whether you get married at 18 or at 45. I’m 27 now, and I’m not the same person I was at 18, nor will I be the same person at 60. People change and grow in marriage, because people change and grow in life. Saying “you’ll change” is a bit of a cop out.

    The question is, are you going to change together? You can never know this for sure, but you get hints. Do you share core values? Have you supported each other in new endeavors? If every piece of shit hit the fan, are you comfortable being with this person at your absolute crushing worst? Do you know that even if a million surface things change, you will love whatever kernel of soul makes them *them*?

    My fiance and I started dating (for the third time) when I was 22, and will be getting married at 27. Even though at 22 we knew we wanted to get married, we waited. We waited until we lived together, and until we had an idea of what our lives were going to look like. That’s just what worked for us. I attribute living together to helping me be sure of questions like this. I also attribute it to just generally going through more shit together, like deaths in the family, the presence of more and varied finances, and supporting each other in difficult career moves. So don’t be worried that you’ll change, because you will no matter what. Just see if this relationship feels like a constant amid the inevitable change.

    • MC

      “Just see if this relationship feels like a constant amid the inevitable change.”

      EXACTLY!

    • Katie

      I started dating the man I married at 20, and we got married when I was 24. We grew up a lot together. I think what brought about the end of the relationship eventually, was not that we changed. It’s that we didn’t truly know ourselves at 20, or even at 24. By that, I mean I THOUGHT I knew what my values were, and what his values were, and he probably thought so too, but you really need life experience to understand what your values really are: how you pick and choose your battles, how you prioritize the things that matter to you. For example, I didn’t know how much being close to family mattered to me until I moved away from them, and how little it really mattered to him. I didn’t know how much financial independence mattered to me until I had it, and how he felt family support was just part of the way people lived. I didn’t know how much living in a place where my kids can bike down the street without me worrying mattered, and that having the convenience of city life was more important in his eyes. Learning those things is how you learn which of your values means the most to you, which you can compromise on and which you can’t. It’s not about age really, it’s about experience, and that’s why I would suggest you wait.

      • Shiri

        I’m so sorry to hear your story, and I think what you’re getting at is the biggest issue here. Yes, people will continue to change over time, whether in their 20s or 40s. But the changes that happen between 17 and 25 or so are enormous for most people, by far the biggest changes they’ve had so far and some of the biggest of your life. I think it’s more about knowing who you are, and this is the first time many of us figure these things out. This is what sets these changes apart from those in your 30s and 40s, when you probably know better who you are.

      • BD

        Very much yes. Actual experience is very important in learning who you are, and I think experiencing life on your own, without the direct support of family or a spouse, is one of the best ways to get that experience, because you don’t have to consider what someone else wants/needs all the time. Of course everyone’s path is different, and I’m not saying one is always better than another, but I believe that period between 23 and 28, when I was financially independent and living alone, was what truly got me ready for a real, deep relationship and eventually marriage. By that point I knew what was really important to me, what I wanted in life, and – just as importantly – what I wasn’t willing to put up with. if I had met my husband at 18 years old, I would still hope that we’d have the patience to wait another 10 years before getting married, for all these reasons.

      • Gina

        Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. The hardest part about being in your late teens and early 20s is you only have the years you’ve lived to base decisions on. I knew what my values were and what I wanted at 18. But those are a million times different for me now that I’m in my late 20s.

        My grandmother used to tell me, “don’t get married until you’re 26. You don’t even know who you are until you’re 26.” Why she picked the arbitrary cutoff of 26, I will never know. But the sentiment that I didn’t yet know who I was has stayed with me, and she was right.

  • Fiona

    Hi all! I definitely. understand where you are coming from. When I got engaged, it was difficult for my family. They DID think I was too young (I had a year of college left) and they felt threatened by the idea of changing the family dynamics. I have many siblings and our father died when I was 13, so we are a really tight family unit. Outsiders seem to threaten the family cohesion. Tony and I have been engaged for over a year now and we will have been engaged for over two years when we finally do get married.
    The first year was a year of adjustment for my family. We talked about what the changing family dynamics would be like. We discussed what the family thought of marriage, and what they thought about this new person I had decided to spend my life with. That year was crucial for all of us and we had a lot of hard conversations.
    This year, we celebrate a little more. We are actually planning the party (wedding!). It’s not all sunshine and lolly pops, but my family has had more time to get used to the idea. In the beginning, Tony and I never threatened them with an immediate date. We would both get educations and jobs and be ready to support each other financially. We expressed to them how this was our first priority. Now my family has had time to get to know and trust Tony a little more.

    Have a long engagement! Have open-minded conversations. Be accommodating but firm about your plans. Ask family members what their reservations are and how you can alleviate them. Ultimately, they are your family and the love you and just want the best for you.

  • Bethany

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong age to get married. It depends on the people and their life experiences.

    That being said, I am so, so thankful that I didn’t marry my first love. We met when I was 16 and he was 17 and dated for about six years. We were very serious and very happy until we just grew apart. We didn’t want the same things out of life (I wanted a college education and to move away from our hometown, he wanted to get married and start a family right after high school) and neither of us were willing to give those things up.

    Our breakup was awful and heartbreaking, but now I have to thank him for breaking up with me. I don’t think I would’ve had the strength to break up with him because I wanted to prove my parents wrong, I wanted to be the high school sweethearts who made it and I really relied on him for all my emotional and social support. When we broke up, I had to make my own friends and figure a lot of things out alone. It was HARD. I cried myself to sleep almost every night for months. But I’m so thankful that I had those experiences.

    Because I had that time to learn more about myself, I was able to make mistakes. I dated other people and was able to narrow in on what I did and didn’t want out of a relationship. I no longer had to mold myself to fit in a relationship that wasn’t working. I could call the shots. And because of that empowerment, I knew and could recognize what I was looking for in a partner — and I was able to see it in my husband. It’s hard to find what you’re looking for if you don’t even know what it looks like.

    This is getting waaaay too long, so I’ll just say this: don’t get married because you want to prove something to anyone, because you’re comparing yourself to other couples, because you feel like it’s the “next step” or because you’re afraid of being alone. Get married because you’ve found someone who loves and challenges you, who has been and will be there for you, who makes you laugh and be a brighter person and who you want to be your family. Getting married is creating a family. Don’t take it lightly.

  • Kat

    I share the same sentiments as everyone else here. At 17, I was already a freshman in college. I had a promise ring from my boyfriend and I thought I was ready for anything, including marriage. However, as we continued through school, I started to change and he didnt understand why I wasn’t the same girl anymore. It was hard. We broke up got back together and broke up again. He kept holding on to the high school version of me and I was ready to be young and free in college. We eventually ended it. I thought we would be forever. We made plans. We talked about it. We were “ready”. We were together for 3 years. I was wrong.
    Fast forward to 19, I started seeing someone else. It was serious and I had never felt this way about anyone my whole life, including my ex. It just felt different and right and we didnt feel like we had to rush. We discussed life and plans. We are engaged now, living together, and are planning to get married this June.
    My parents werent sure at first because I was 21, engaged and moving away from home. That is still young. Some family members said I was throwing my life away by following him. But my parents supported me. I had always been independent and mature. And my dad told me I always had a place at home if things fell through. I took my parents advice and I listened. But I made the best decision for myself and I don’t regret it for a single second.
    Looking back now, I can see the flaws in my first relationship and how thing might have become if we rushed. I am glad I took time to decide what it best for me and to find myself in college. It helped me become an adult and helped me truly appreciate the relationship I am in now.

  • Julia

    I completely agree with the advice. I’m 21 and the wedding is planned for a year from now when I’m 22. Very young by most standards, and if we had it our way we would have had the wedding much earlier. But for both me and my fiancee, respecting our family was #1 on the list. We made sure they were okay with us getting engaged, and when they expressed discomfort about a 6-months-from-now wedding we pushed it back to something they are comfortable with. It’s not about how young you are, but about how your family really loves you and knows you, and they want what’s best for you. I’m not saying it’s not frustrating, it is super frustrating to get tight lipped and traditional parents to open up to you about what they really want, but it’s a process, and I believe putting respecting family at #1 is going to pay off.

  • Shortnsweet

    When my now-spouse and I approached college graduation, we began to feel a lot of pressure to skip ahead to a wedding, that we both knew we were heading for. We wound up waiting about two years post graduation to get engaged and another year to get married, and while I feel nothing but more certain that our relationship is the best part of us, I am so grateful for those years. For me, those years were about “me decisions,” what job to start my career out with, how far to live from my boyfriend and family, how to balance a job and a personal life, etc. Don’t get me wrong–having a partner was a part of those decisions, but the choices themselves were ultimately mine–not ours. And those choices were wonderful. I knew I was ready for marriage when I was ready for “we decisions” on issues like my job, my family, and personal life. I knew we were ready when my partner had become my family, and we knew that we would support each other rather than each turning first to our families of origin for support. While I don’t know these bridal-hopefuls personally, I would encourage them to think about these changes because they have different impacts at different stages of your life. To say that my partner and I will provide for my food, clothing, and shelter (and college tuition for some) impacts me differently now than it would have as a teen. Similarly, your transitional years are a time of some big “me decisions” and me-discovering, and not all of us are ready to become a baby family before we’ve finished the me-time (even if you are spending that time with an amazing someday-spouse). We is wonderful, but it waited.

  • Sara P

    I just have two stories. The first is mine: My senior year of high school I met a boy. We dated for about 9 months before I moved away for college, did long distance for my freshman year, and then moved in together at the beginning of my sophomore year. I really, honestly thought he was the one and we would be getting married. We managed 8 more months. At least live together first, is the moral of that story, I think. And don’t underestimate how much you can change in the years between 18 and 22.
    The second story is my (current) bf’s parents: they got pregnant when she was 16 and he was 17, got married, and kept the baby and had another. They are still married 30 years later. So it does work, but it wasn’t easy. Really, though, there’s no rush. If it’s “meant” to be, you guys will find a way to make it work.

  • K.

    So on the one hand, I completely understand the LWs frustrations and agree that deciding to get married should not be a group decision. Heck, my fiance and I will 27 and 26 respectively when we get married, and his parents still think we should wait until we are at least 30 or “more settled”. Frankly, as much as it hurts to not have their complete support (in a sense) or know that they are worried about our choices, there comes a point where we have to look at our 6+ year history together, our home together, our steady incomes, our dog, our joined finances, and, most importantly, the fact that we’re still madly in love with each other to say, “Thank you for your concern, but we are doing what is right for us at this point in our lives.” And if the LWs can truly look at their situations and come to a joint agreement that they really are doing what is right for them, beyond having a wedding and beyond proving anything to anyone, then I say go for it. They are all adults (or I assume will be by the time they get married; if the 17-year-old needs her parents to sign off on the wedding, that’s another issue). They are very young adults, true, but still adults in the legal sense of the word. I think a lot of people forget that about 18-21 year olds.

    However, on the other hand, my parents had the opposite reaction of his family– they were asking when we were get engaged when we had been together a little over a year (we were ~20 years old at the time). They were married at 22 and are still extremely happy together, so they didn’t understand our reticence to jump into marriage ASAP (at least, my mom didn’t. I think my dad sort of just nodded, but probably wouldn’t have been thrilled). To be fair, this was after I told my mom that I was fairly certain that my now-fiance was The One. But you know what? I am so, so, SO glad that we waited. Not because I ever really doubted that we were a great partnership and team (though, yeah, over the years occasionally I did and I’m sure he did too), but we both had a ton of individual growth and growth as a couple before we were ready to take The Leap. After being together over more than a half-decade, I can say that I truly feel like I know my fiance and know that we work well together, but I can also say that I really know what I want and what I want my life to look like, even if he wasn’t in the picture. But I know that I desperately want him in that picture and it’s based on a lot of mutual goals, mutual respect, and a deep friendship, in addition to romantic love. I’m not saying that this is the best and only way to go about marriage, nor am I saying that none of the LWs have this in their relationship. I just think when you cross from high school to college to “real world” adulthood, you see a lot of changes in yourself and your partner, and it makes it all that much better to enter the next phase together more certain (absolute certainty never exists, of course) in your ability to weather changes and storms both individually and together.

  • Brenda

    Completely off topic, but did six different Saras really just post in a row?

    • Lauren

      Sometime Disqus doesn’t get the names right unless you refresh. For a while I thought MagNCheese was having a personality disorder, posting endless contradictory life stories…then I refreshed and saw it was posts from different users lol. Sorry for the confusion.

      • Brenda

        Now all the names are right! I was thinking the same thing, that one Sara was saying lots of different stuff, or that there were suddenly a whole lot of Saras

        • scw

          I know it was an error this time, but I am a sara and am always surprised by how many saras comment here!

  • Gina

    At the risk of being dismissed as “oh, that’s not me, that’s not our relationship”, let me just share my experience with you.

    At 18 I had been dating a wonderful guy for 2 years. We were not only “in love” but really loved each other. My parents were on the conservative, stricter side of things and were concerned. They were SO concerned that they gave me an ultimatum (parents, never do this!). They said I had to choose between him and between living at home. Like any red-blooded American, I chose him.

    Living on our own was hard. In some ways, it was amazing because I got to spend all this time with the man I loved. But it was really hard to provide for ourselves. As we prepared to go to community college, we started talking about marriage. Why not? We knew it was inevitable anyway. We were 100% sure we wanted to be together.

    At this point, my parents really freaked out. They offered to help me go to a 4-year school to take some of the financial pressure off. I accepted, and will forever be grateful for their assistance. They welcomed my boyfriend as a part of my life. My boyfriend and I continued dating, but my sophomore year of college we broke up. In that short amount of time, we had both changed so much that I literally couldn’t imagine how, at 18, I saw myself marrying him. Now, 9 years later, I’m married to the love of my life and our families could not be happier/ more supportive.

    I know, I know. That’s not you. You won’t grow apart. You will figure out the financial stuff. But. Even if that is ALL true, and he is “the One”, there is absolutely no reason not to respect the people who love you and who want the best for you. What could it hurt to wait? Seeing how happy my family was on my wedding day is one of the most treasured moments of my life. And delayed gratification is real, trust me. The only thing waiting will do is strengthen your relationship and enrich the beauty of your wedding day and marriage.

    • Lauren

      I actually approached my now pre engaged relationship, 5 years ago when we were just starting, with the mindset that, everyone thinks they have found the ONE (I am not such a fan of that concept generally) but really most of these early relationships end. Most people don’t get it right, so to speak, on the first try. I wasn’t trying to be a pessimist, I was just trying to be a little more objective and not get carried away with first love infatuation. For me, part of not falling into the immature, lovesick kid department, was accepting that possibility that this love wasn’t the be all and end all. I had my own sh*t to do! Also we didn’t start in the most responsible way, we kinda just dove in head first and either we had great instincts or a lot of luck but those things could only be proven with time. And at 23 we are still aspiring for a long engagement, no rush, we have each other, no one is going anywhere.

    • Jules

      This! I am 24, l and engaged and will bot be married until I’m 25, but really, it doesn’t matter how old I am. What matters is that when we announced our engagement, there has been ZERO backlash and 100% support from both sides. It’s not a magic number, people, but I promise you’ll know when you’re really ready, and so will your loved ones. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but when it comes to this huge and permanent transition, sometimes your family does know best. IMO, it’s not about age (though I wss NOT ready for marriage before meeting my fiance) or maturity, but finding someone and sometime that fits. When you do, others will notice.

  • Caroline

    Tl:dr: having been there, my advice is:
    -find an older adult you trust who is fairly neutral on the subject to help you discuss if you are ready (rabbi, priest, therapist, family friend, school chaplain, whatever).
    -family support makes a huge difference, and if you can wait just a few years, still sharing your lives, and gain that support, that is worth it.
    -Prep your family. If you decide not to get engaged right away, tell your family you are thinking about it on the horizon. Give them time to get used to it. If you do decided to get engaged right away, consider a longer engagement for family to get used to it, and come around as supportive.
    -Engagement kind of sucks, it’s a rough time period. If you can just enjoy your lives together and let people know you are getting married someday, instead of a long engagement, do it.

    Long version:
    Oh I’ve so been there. I started dating my fiancé when I was 16 and he was 19. We knew within months that this was serious, although people thought we were crazy since we were dating long distance. We talked marriage a lot. We at first said “when Caroline graduates high school”, but then we didn’t have the financial resources to live in the same state at that point. Then I went to college, became severely depressed and came home. We kept dating.
    This whole time, we told everyone that we had found the one, and they kept rolling their eyes. We moved in together, at 19 and 22, with a lot of financial help from my family. Everyone knew we were marrying someday. At my cousin’s wedding, my aunt said “so you’re next?” (This aunt got married at 19, and they’ve been married 38ish years). We knew my parents would freak out if we got married soon, but we wanted to anyways.
    We waited mostly because we were scared to tell my parents. At 22 and 25, we got engaged. We weren’t totally sure whether our doubts meant we were not ready to get engaged or were just scared of my parents, so we talked with my rabbi. It was very helpful, and we decided we were ready. We got engaged the next week, and, fingers trembling, called my parents. They surprised the heck out of me by excited but they did want us to slow down our plan for an 8 month engagement. They said to give us time to plan the wedding but I think also for them to have time to get used to it.

    In the end, I think that waiting was good for us. The funny thing is, we both went back to school recently with family support and are less financially independent than we were before. We are marrying while still in school and still supported by family, something we never thought would work. But the time to grow up has helped us in many ways. We’ve become eachother’s families, we’ve learned we can make it through hard times, and we had no doubts we were ready. Also, having the support of family and friends, which we might not have had had we married younger, makes such a difference. I expected a lot of “you’re too young!” but instead got “congrats! It’s about time already” and even a few “I thought you were already married? Wow, well congrats.”

  • copper

    OK I’m going to sound like an old fogey here, but the thing that jumps out at me about these letters is that everyone still seems to be living with their parents. I feel like that’s the biggest signal of not-readiness here rather than your calendar ages. One LW even says, “We spend A LOT of time together, since we attend the same school and live very close.” What would happen if you didn’t attend the same school, or your parents didn’t live very close? Or you, you know, didn’t live with your parents anymore? It sounds like you spend so much time together by circumstance more than by choice—put yourself in a position where it’s by choice before you commit to a lifetime together.

    • Kate

      Amen copper! I think living on your own (with or without your partner) and being at least somewhat financially self-sufficient (read: paying your own rent) is so important to do (and somewhat master) before getting married. If you want your relationship to command respect from friends and family, you have to earn a certain level of respect.

  • Kaveets

    Without making too many assumptions about the beliefs and choices of these three brave question-askers, I’m just wondering if any of the desire to get married is at all related to delaying physical intimacy until after a wedding. This is a completely valid option for some people (among a million other valid options), but it needs to be acknowledged if it’s a factor in the decision-making. Love, desire, sex, intimacy, these are incredibly powerful motivations and have an important place in building solid relationships. While I’m not saying this is the case here, I don’t know these three people, but it’s easy to let these motivations run the show without necessarily realizing it. Something to consider…

  • anon for this!

    Hm, I’ve read lots of great comments. I was feeling slightly triggered by all of it, however, so I need to speak my peace. It really truly is about the person. Everyone has a different path to take and at 23 myself, I have always been an extremely old soul and “older” than, well, like anyone my age. I’m a very conscious person. The friends that are my age are from growing up – the friends in the city I live in are older. My partner is older. We’ve lived together for about two years. We have a dog. We watch lots of dateline. I’ll be 24 when we’re married. I thought I was marrying young until I read these girls’ questions! I don’t want to judge someone’s wisdom and will to learn and grow in a partnership by the few sentences they submitted above (AND giving the benefit of the doubt – I know when I am emotional or scared or wanting support my writing style can be much less composed or put-together) but I do agree with the other commenters that expressed concern over some of the expressions and tones used in their posts. I do think it is so imperative to be grounded in the idea of what marriage actually is (not just what a wedding is). Of course no one is “prepared” for marriage, you’ve never done it before! But, you CAN have the talks, read the books, ground yourself in self awareness and get familiar with the tools needed to build your new union, and what that means exactly.

    So yes, it’s different for everyone, but it’s also so important to go about things consciously, instead of reactionary at the mercy of your “feelings”. This ain’t The Notebook. I guess I just wanted to speak my peace since I’m marrying young, but at the same time express concern for the actual situations of the girls that wrote in.

    • anon for this!

      And one more thing!
      People (and I am guilty of this as well) like to use other people’s stories to validate or reassure or justify their own. As in “Well my cousin got married at this age and here’s what happened to her” etc etc…Those *stories* are everywhere. But something I have learned is that there will be a story to match any scenario you want. You can find it out there, I promise. So it’s really about self trust. I could throw out a scenario and get five stories to scare the shit out of me and then five more reassuring me. But those stories don’t matter- because I didn’t write those. The only story I write is my own, and you know what is so beautiful and power about that? You have the power to write whatever you want! Over the past year, I have truly learned so much about living consciously and leaning into my own self trust. It’s easy to hand our responsibility over to some “story”, as if someone else’s story can give us a guarantee. We have to take responsibility for the pen that’s in our hand. And that’s beautiful.

      • NicoleT

        Yes!! Thank you for this. I’ve been reading through all of the stories in the comments and shrinking a little on the inside whenever I read the words ‘financially independent’. I’ve been out of college for about a year and a half working a little but mostly going to school and I’ll be entering medical school the year I get married. There’s no way I’m going to be financially independent when we’re married (my fiancé will have a job, but it’s going to be rough). Thanks for reminding me that this is okay.

        • Jess

          I think there’s a big difference between being “financially dependent” as in not understanding how credit works, not being able to budget, and not having a plan to someday be able to support yourself/family and being “financially dependent” right now because you are seriously pursuing something that will someday support yourself/family.

          So maybe remind yourself of that, too. Because GO YOU for Med School!! That’s AWESOME!! I’m hard core impressed!!

          PS – To be extra clear, sometimes a “plan to … support yourself/family” means you or your partner may be the only one pulling income either by desire or because of the way life works out like that sometimes. You still as a family have a plan and are capable of managing the income you do have smartly. Huge accomplishments.

          • NicoleT

            Thank you so much! :) That was the nicest and most unexpected encouragement I’ve received and it made me incredibly happy. I really, really needed to hear that. I’m doing my darnedest to make sure we’re prepared for the future and I’m glad to know that that’s enough for now. This made my day!

          • Jess

            :D Awww! Glad i could help! Go out there and own your plan, girl.

        • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

          yes to this conversation! I agree with what Jess said to you too. To me, it’s not so much about financial independence as it is *financial awareness* :)

          I’ll be 24 when we get married and we’ve been together since I was 20, and I definitely won’t be financially independent!

  • KC

    The other question to throw in here is community: does your community have models and support for marriage around the same life stage as you are? If you don’t have access to a decent number of people who know what it’s like to go through the specific extra challenges you’d face by getting married younger and have weathered it and can provide good advice and support when you’re in a rough spot, then it’ll likely be a lot harder than if you do have that community/support/examples/etc. This is especially the case if your current support network is… not supportive… of you getting married now.

  • Keakealani

    I was all prepared to chip in my two cents as a young married couple – we recently got married at 23 (me) and 24 (him) after a fairly short dating period. But, even though we felt young at that age, I feel AGES more mature and ready to make that decision than when I was 18 or 19, and while I think it’s absolutely possible to be that mature at that age, I do think those few years can make more of a difference than it first may seem while you’re going through those formative years.

    In particular, I completely agree with the point about learning to balance your relationship with your family/loved ones – if there’s one way I’ve grown up substantially it’s in the way I view my family and their beliefs/opinions when it comes to how I’m leading my life. I’m lucky that they are open-minded and generally willing to let me make my own mistakes, but I’m also lucky that they care enough about me to express hesitation when I’m doing something that really raises eyebrows.

    And personally, I agree with this advice completely, especially about easing into a “serious” relationship. Even if you *are* ready to put a ring on it, most people around you probably aren’t reading your relationship as being at that stage, due to your age. The assumption in modern culture about teenage/early 20s relationships is that they’re not likely to go directly to marriage, do not pass go. So the impetus is on you and your partner to make sure that everyone around you understands that this is the state of your relationship, and that any decisions to change your relationship status are the result of a long, thought-out decision-making process, not a wild fantasy.

    Finally, though, I think complete financial independence is overrated as a marker for when to get married – this lines up with APW’s advice about ducks in a row. Yes, a good understanding of how to make your life work with another human being (and an understanding that barring a prenup, you’re marrying into someone else’s financial situation in terms of debt, assets, etc.) is important, but in some situations it’s possible to get married while still ironing out your financial independence. BUT, if you are going to be even somewhat financially dependent on a parent or family member, they DO need to support your marriage because that is a good way to get on someone’s bad side and/or end up in serious financial straits. This is exactly where it’s important to help your loved ones understand what you’re doing and help them feel like they are able to make decisions they’re okay with.

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      thanks for saying this about financial independence. as an actress and a student, i have struggled with that one big time. luckily my fiance is more stable and established than i am, and i have supportive parents, but i think mental and “wisdom-independence” is more important that financial independence. i have lived away from home for five years now, my life doesn’t reflect someone who gets financial help, but i do! the work i am doing right now to build my acting career and my school career is not reflected in a paycheck, and i have struggled with equating money/income to worth or “adultness” and i truly think that’s false. if i was sitting on my butt and not working towards anything, that’s a different story. but at this time in my life i can’t wait to be making x amount of dollars before building the rest of my life. and it doesn’t make me any more or less strong, capable, wise, or “adult.”

      • Keakealani

        I feel you. We’re both musicians so we have a similar picture of needing some startup time to get to a position of financial independence.

        I don’t believe there are some sort of magic milestones you have to pass in order to “be an adult”. It’s a process, and sometimes those milestones don’t happen quite the way you expect. It’s definitely important to have thought about finances and make sure everyone understands where they fall, and making sure everyone involved has an opportunity to weigh into decisions that affect them and their finances. It’s different for everyone and that’s why it’s hard to really make a hard-and-fast rule about finances or any other measure of “readiness” or “maturity” when it comes to marriage.

  • KateOSee

    I was engaged at 18 and he was 19. We had been together since freshman year of high school and were “madly in love”. We even drove down to the courthouse but I bulked because I wanted my family there. Within a year and a half, we realized that our lives were going in two completely different directions and ended our relationship. Now, I’m 23, engaged again (getting married in a year and a half- long engagement!) and could not be happier. We are a much better fit and my ex and I parted on very good terms. We’re both very happy with our lives now and wish each other nothing but the best.
    Do high school romances last? Yes! Of course they can! But life changes so much in those first few years after high school. There shouldn’t be a rush to get married. Let yourselves grow first and then revisit the idea. I have two friends (a couple) that have been together for 6 years now- since she was a junior in high school and he a freshman in college. They’ve now done the distance thing for 3 out of 6 years of their relationship and are currently living on two different sides of the country. They’re one of the strongest couples I know and he is moving out there soon and will be proposing.

  • Guest

    “I feel like our relationship is at a standstill and I just want to take it to the next step.”

  • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com/ Marina

    I got together with my now-husband when I was 17, we moved in together when I was 20, and we got married when I was 25. I’m SO glad we waited that long. Marriage didn’t change our relationship at all, except that being engaged and planning a wedding was HARD. Until we got engaged, our relationship was about the two of us and only the two of us. When we started planning a wedding, suddenly our relationship was also about negotiating the boundaries of our baby family and our families of origin. It wasn’t just us anymore. There are benefits to getting married, absolutely, but don’t underestimate the benefits of the “just us” stage of the relationship either.

    I also love Liz’s advice about not waiting for non-specific deadlines (like “being financially ready”) but being okay waiting for short and specific deadlines (“when you graduate college”). You’re planning to be married for the next 60+ years. Compared to that, a couple years is not that long of a time to be asked to wait.

  • http://thinkweirdthoughts.blogspot.com Phira

    I think that it’s very hard when you’re younger to separate out peer pressure (intentional or not) from your own desires. I remember feeling ready for sex when I was 16 years old … and when I started having sex, I wanted to go back in time and tell 16-year-old me, “You barely even knew what sex was!” I did have sexual desire when I was 16, but I also felt a desire for sex because I knew that it “meant something” about me, or the relationship I was in. I feel the same way about marriage; when I was in previous relationships, I thought I was ready for marriage with any of those guys … but looking back, I feel like I couldn’t really untangle my desire for marriage from my desire for the status and meaning that it would give to a relationship.

    There will come a point in life when there’s no reason to keep waiting. But if you are young, and people are actually to-your-face telling you that they’re worried that you’re too young … then that’s a reason to wait. Your relationship will still be there in a few years … right?

  • Kate

    Your relationship doesn’t turn into stagnant pond water after too long without a marriage certificate, you just get more kick ass at your relationship. You will not always be able to rely on concrete, public milestones like moving in together, getting married, having babies (or a dog), buying a house, etc. to prevent standstills in your relationship.

    • KEA1

      YES. Truer words were never spoken, and they are true for whatever age you get married.

    • http://weehermione.blogspot.com/ Hayley || Wee Hermione

      This this this exactly. It’s funny, my husband and I got married, tried for babies, bought a house, tried more, sold the house to try more expensive options…all the while being in a holding pattern, stuck watching peers who married after us pass us. If you can’t stand a long engagement, the future full of possible holding patterns may be a rude awakening.

  • Also got married “young” (24)

    When you’re young, everything is up in the air. Where will you live? What will you do? Who will be part of your core group of friends for life? Will you make enough money to eat? Will you make enough money to be comfortable? Do you know how to balance the bank book and fix the running toilet? Is your credit such that you can afford a car loan and still make all your other monthly payments like rent, utilities, student loans, the almighty cell phone, etc?

    So if you’re with somebody romantically, you can answer one of those questions. It’s like a badge. “I checked ONE THING off my list today! WAHOO!!!” And then you become a partnership, where burdens are shared. “I know we will find a way to make it work financially.” “We are strong enough to pull through all those transitions together.”

    Please allow me to quote the awesome Meatloaf here and say this: “STOP RIGHT THERE!!!! BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER…” Because here’s the thing:

    YOU will find a way to make it work financially. YOU are strong enough to pull through all those transitional phases. YOU need to be secure enough in yourself to face down those daily questions and major to-do lists. It’s wonderful if you have a partner, but make sure you can do it yourself, too. Because, when the chips are down, you need to be able to take care of yourself.

    This is in no way an indictment of your love and commitment to your partner. I just want to make sure that your love and commitment to yourself is your number one priority, because who you are as a Self (capital S) is so integral to who you are as a Partner. Without a cohesive sense of self, the partnership stands to lose its base and eventually crumble.

  • RMM

    I was in a very serious relationship that started when I was 17 and continued until I was 21. We talked about marriage, but ultimately he wasn’t ready to settle down. So we broke up, on good terms, and went our separate ways. Now, 10 years later, I’m happily married to someone else. Looking back, and looking at the people that we’ve turned out to be, I think that if we had gotten married instead of breaking up, we wouldn’t have had a terrible marriage. But, we both went on to have incredible experiences in our twenties, that led us now to the lives we are happily living. And I am SO glad that in my twenties, I was able to make decisions about where I was going in my life without having to take another person into consideration. I understand now that when you are married you have to act as a team and both spouse’s needs have to always be part of every decision. Some people are ready to do that when they are 19 or 20, but I am very happy that we did not. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had and what I learned for anything, and I wouldn’t trade the man I met, after I really figured out who I was, for anything either. I was crazy in love with my high school boyfriend, but being in love wasn’t reason enough to get married. I love my husband and I wanted to commit to sharing a life and creating a family with him, and I’m thankful we met when we were both ready to do that and understood what that kind of commitment really means.

  • Alissa

    I agree with Liz in that I don’t question your relationship or your maturity. And I don’t necessarily think there is a “too young to get married” line. I do however, caution to stop putting so much pressure on yourselves to take this huge leap and just enjoy your relationship and being together. My, now husband, (we will call him M) and I have been together for 8 years. We started dating when he was 20 and I was 18. I grew up in a VERY small town (less than 1,000 people) and everybody tends to marry their high school sweethearts at a very early age.

    I had always wanted to wait until I was done with college to get engaged, and when I hit my senior year all my friends were getting engaged and I was ready for M to propose. He wasn’t ready (even though he was two years older than me) and I decided not to push it and just be happy that I was with him.

    And then life happened. I moved my last semester of college and finished school half way across the country – we were 1,700 miles apart. I left to pursue my dream – which I couldn’t do in my hometown – and M supported me and my moving. And then I got a job there and we ended up having a year and half long-distance relationship. After a year and a half he moved out to be with me and at that point I realized that getting married wasn’t what was important. It was being together, sharing our lives. You don’t need a piece of paper to do those things.

    We moved in together, combined our finances and truly lived like we were married. There was no rush anymore – because its a huge commitment and you need to be sure. You may love your significant other right now, and I’m not saying you don’t – but sometimes life happens. And sometimes what you want and what your significant other wants don’t coincide. You all are so young and you don’t know where life is going to take you.

    We ended up dating for 6 years before we got engaged – and then had a 2 year engagement before we got married just a couple months ago. If I could do it over again, I would have waited just as long. There is no rush – you have the whole rest of your lives to be married. Just slow down and enjoy life and don’t worry so much about forcing your relationship forward. If and when you do get engaged, please take marriage counseling. It will help prepare you for marriage better than anything else – whether you are 20 or 40…..it’s so important.

  • Leigh Ann

    This is a small soapbox for me… you’ve been warned… also, my opinion is completely based on my personal experiences, but hey, you asked!

    I began dating my boyfriend my freshman year in high school. I was 14 and he was an 18 year old senior, so we really weren’t even allowed to “date”; but we spent tons of time together (and with one another’s families) until I was old enough. We went to college at two different times & maintained a long distance relationship for 7 years. When I finished college, I moved back to be near to him. We then had an “adult” dating relationship for 5 years. When we got engaged he was 30 and I was 27. When we get married, I will be 28 and will have dated him for half my life. All of this back-story is to say,

    I’M SO GLAD WE DID NOT GET MARRIED YOUNG!!!!!!!

    Frequently, when people like your families and friends advise you not to marry young, they say outright, or just insinuate, that you might be with the wrong person. That always infuriated me! He and I were made for one another, and have been HAPPILY committed to one another for 13 years now– HE WAS NOT THE WRONG PERSON.

    BUT, IT WAS THE WRONG TIME. Hear me out- I’m so glad I didn’t marry young, because being a single adult is SOOOOOO FUN! It is freeing and stressful, and exhilarating to live an independent life. You should not cut this phase out of your lives. You will be short-changing yourself of some of life’s best experiences. (By the way, we didn’t move in together until we were engaged– didn’t want to offend our traditional families; and I also would recommend that, but for a different reason- because every woman–and man– needs to tackle the world independently. You need to know that you CAN!) Since I am a “full-fledged, has degrees, owns a home adult when I get married,” I also can know that if the worst happens, and I have to be on my own again, I have done and can do it!

    I recommend that you find other ways to grow in your relationship, and focus on becoming fully independent adults, which will in turn grow your relationship. FINISH ALL OF YOUR DEGREES! Travel; learn new hobbies; PAY YOUR BILLS INDEPENDENTLY, learn to maintain a house- struggle, and learn and grow. Don’t go straight from sharing decisions with your parents directly to sharing them with your spouse. You have the rest of your life to experience marriage and compromise. TAKE A DECADE TO BE selfishly INDEPENDENT in the best ways!

    And certainly, DO NOT listen to anyone who says that you need to “‘commit’ or get off the pot” (for real, people said that awful metaphor to us!) You can be happily committed and choosing to postpone marriage. (By the way, you and your partner should be discussing this too. We always openly talked about it.) NOT GETTING MARRIED means nothing about the significance of your relationship.

    Then, I can testify, when the time comes that you do decide to get married. Having seen how long you have already been committed to one another, your families and friends will be nothing but OVER THE MOON, ECSTATIC for your marriage! And, so will the two of you!

  • SarahG

    For me, moments when I feel “what’s the next step” -ish often turn out to be about something that needs addressing between me and my partner. Maybe I’m feeling like my career is at a standstill; maybe he’s been in a bad mood and I’m not sure why; maybe our sex life has been a bit off lately. Realizing this has produced some awesomely rich and sometimes hard conversations. I have realized that when something feels off, I tend to focus more on external signs that the relationship is a “success” (whatever the hell that means). Signs like getting married or having a kid. I have no idea if this is true for these women (I think they are all women?) but taking a step back and looking at the feelings underneath the impulse has never steered me wrong, and it has enriched our relationship enormously.

    • Crayfish Kate

      Wow, this is a great way of looking at things and is spot on! I do the same thing, but thank for putting it into words!

  • Jen

    As someone who is 21 and engaged I can really relate to these questions. My fiance and I have been together for almost five years and in that time we have dealt with long-distance, going to separate colleges, having jobs, roommates, living together, and very nearly breaking up. We have not done as much time apart as some people have advised and it does scare some of our friends and family that we are getting married young, but I think that we are ready. And even though I was in love after a few months of being with him, I knew I was not mature enough to marry him. We have grown up a lot and have really built a solid foundation to build our relationship off of. That being said, I do disagree with the fact that you could take your family and friends seriously and wait. That may be true for many young couples, but I also think that our culture has a very bad image of marrying young so there are always going to be people telling you that you should just wait. It is important to listen to those in your life who have had more experience than you with relationships, but you and your partner are the only people in your relationship. I have also learned that not all the advice I am given is good advice, especially because both me and my fiance come from broken marriages. I also think that even though our parents are wary of our ages, they also trust us so we do feel supported and I think that is important.

  • Crayfish Kate

    I am seconding, and thirding, and fourthing ALL of the transitional phases comments. The importance and hugeness of all those phases cannot be understated.

    One big thing I would also like to highlight (not sure if this has been said yet)…

    It’s all fine & great when things are going well, you’re enjoying each other’s company, you’re SO HAPPY! That’s wonderful, but I read once that it’s not how your partner acts when things are hunky-dory, it’s how s/he acts when the shit hits the fan. I’ve found this to be so. true. with my own relationship. We’ve been engaged for 2.5 years, patiently taking our time. During this time? We’ve had one minor health scare (me), one major health overhaul, resulting in a life-altering chronic condition & hospitalization (him), job changes, both of us finishing grad school. Then there are the ‘minor’ things. We woke up to find raw sewage flooding the basement at 2am. The new dog pooped and peed and walked in it & then all over the living room. Another time, a drain pipe broke, spilling drainwater into the basement, at 10pm on a Saturday night.

    We’ve been able to weather these storms again & again, because we both know the other can keep their cool and handle these (sometimes scary) situations together. Stressful events are a good ‘indicator’ to see how well you handle them as a couple. I would suggest experiencing some of these first, as not only will you be certain you’re building a strong foundation, but your loved ones will also be able to see that you can handle the hard stuff.

  • Cali

    These questions are always hard for me to answer objectively, because I totally was the girl who desperately wanted to get married at 18 and, looking back on it, that guy was so so so so so wrong for me. Part of the issue for me was that I felt like our relationship was lacking and I wanted to get married to “fix” it (though I didn’t admit that to myself at the time). So when the first writer said, “I feel like our relationship is at a standstill,” it reeeeeally put up some red flags for me.

    Obviously, you need to do what you feel is right for you; ultimately, no one can make your major life decisions for you. Just do a little soul searching first. Are your friends’ and families’ objections valid? Do you want to get married because you are both completely ready to commit your lives to the other person, or do you want to get married to prove your relationship is legitimate or fix something that’s lacking? Any time the majority of people in your life think something’s wrong, it’s worth actually listening to what they have to say. I’d suggest asking your friends and family what their *specific* objections are, to start with. Is there something that’s making them nervous other than a general feeling that you’re “too young”? Really listen to what they have to say, think about it, and decide for yourself whether or not you feel it’s valid. Either way, at least you’ve considered what they have to say and made a thoughtful decision for yourself.

  • Rebekah

    Oh golly. I have so much to say about this.
    1. Liz is wonderful, as usual. One of the main things that young couples face is the inability of people to take them seriously. Many couples marry young and succeed, but many also do not, and those who love you want you to succeed. To them, success often looks like monetary establishment, and young marriage doesn’t often lend itself to that. So thank you Liz for taking them all seriously even though they are not very old adults.
    2. Today is actually my 6th (dating) anniversary. We met in college and began dating my Sophomore, his Junior year. I come from a culture where many, many of my peers got married early (high concentration of LDS families), so it was what I was shown was appropriate. I received similar messages from my mom growing up, so I was ready to determine that he was or wasn’t the guy for me and then move forward once we knew. It was very frustrating, then, for him to have heard the opposite narrative and to be in no big rush. Although I was disappointed, I recognize now that I had a lot (a lot) of growing up to do and that I would have used marriage as a crutch to avoid dealing with a few of my issues.
    3. My baby sister got married at 19 after knowing the guy for less than a year. He did not have a steady job or benefits or savings. He has no desire for continued education past his GED. Those concerns have (mostly) been addressed 3 1/2 years later, but I am guilty of not supporting her young marriage, although I think my reasons were valid.

    I can’t really provide a TL;DR, but it does boil down to recognizing Why you want to get married, Why others are hesitant in supporting you, and What kind of mentoring and support you are willing to get to help you decide what’s best for your relationship(s)

  • Katie

    John Gottman has done some great research on marriages, and one of the things he found is that there is an inflection point in the divorce rate around 28 years old. Older than 28, it’s all about the same, but the younger you are the higher the likelihood is that you won’t make it. Other commenters have pointed out some of the reasons for this, such as the experiences of living independently, but regardless of the whys, it’s true that there are concrete things you can do to stack the deck in your favor. One of them is to marry closer to 28 than 18. (Other factors include finishing college, having similar religious beliefs, and your own parents having a good marriage.) As other people have said, you don’t have to break up. But just consider every year that you are closer to 28 as an investment in the strength of your eventual marriage. Also – check out Gottman’s books; they are great marriage prep resources.

  • Beth R

    I did not get married young, but when my now husband jokes about how he wishes he could meet “high school Beth”, I always cringe, because if we had met when I was in high school or even early in college, I do not think we would have worked out. I had no idea what it actually meant to be in a mutually beneficial relationship. I was full of angst and drama and I am so glad I was able to work through those things before I met him. Not saying you are the same way, but like so many other people have said, those years, from 18-22 (or really until my late 20s for me) were full of so much change and growth that I’m grateful to have had that time to figure myself out before I met my husband.

    My mom got married to my dad when she was 21 and he was 25 – they had only been dating 6 months when he proposed and were married 6 months after that. They’ve been married for over 40 years, so it is possible for these things to work out. However, throughout the course of my 20s my mom told me multiple times that she wished they would have waited – not because she regrets getting married to my dad, but because she never got to have the experiences I’ve had of living on my own and being responsible for nobody but myself. I agree with her that it has been a very important (albeit sometimes lonely and challenging, but ultimately rewarding) experience for me to have.

  • Christina A.

    Oh, man. Those are difficult shoes to be in: being so serious about a person AND “young” AND fielding concern from family members.

    Among other things, what marriage means is that two independent people are pledging to provide for each other. That pledge includes money, stability, emotional/mental support, and supporting the kind of life you both want to live. If you picture a future with strong bonds between family and your honey, you’ve got to have a honey who thinks family is important–and who puts in the time with them. (And to be honest, who fits in with them, if that’s what is important to you!)

    The question to ask–and I mean seriously, take days and weeks and months of contemplation asking yourself and others–is: am I ready to give this kind of support? That means financial support. That means compromising what you want for the good of this other person. That means closing a lot of doors for your single self in order to become a married couple.

    Once that question’s answered, you have to figure out the next one: is my partner ready to give this kind of support to me?

    If the answers, once you have explored every single dark corner of them over a lot of time, is anything but “Yes, and it’s been proven over and over and over,” just wait.

    Trust me: three times over–at 16 when I was sure, at 18 when I was sure, and from 21-23 when I was sure–I waited. My parents weren’t crazy about any of those three and I just made up my mind they were (ha) frigid. Bring things forward to the present, to pre-engaged land once again: my parents adore my guy as much as I do, we’re taking the time to seriously consider our questions, and I want to go back and high-five my 16, 18, and 23-year-old self for hesitating.

  • Winny the Elephant

    I’m getting married at 23, been with the fiancé for 5 1/2 years. Could I have gotten married and stayed married at 17/18? Probably. But planning for marriage is so much sweeter when your family and friends are on board. It’s exciting to have people who are excited for you. My mother requested that I not get married until I finished my post grad work. I’m finishing in June, getting married in July. It’s wonderful to be able to plan with my family and have everyone be genuinely happy for you. Why add problems to your life? If they approve of your partner but want you to wait, then I suggest waiting.

  • snowmentality

    So here’s my advice, for whatever it’s worth. I’m speaking as someone who met my now-husband when I was 18 and he was 19, in the fall of my freshman year of college. We lived in the same dorm for three years, but didn’t move in together until after I’d graduated. Then we didn’t get married until I was 27.

    I’m also speaking as someone whose parents met in high school when they were 17 and 16, went to college together, and got married when they were 21 and 22, and my dad still had a semester of college to go. My parents are still happily married 36 years later. However, they will freely state that they feel like they got married too young, and advised me not to marry as young as they did.

    I’m also speaking as someone who really wanted to marry all three people I seriously dated. Obviously, the first two of those were in high school. I was genuinely serious about both of them; I don’t discount anyone’s ability to be genuinely serious about a high school relationship. But the first person turned out to handle disagreement and change by getting super-controlling and frankly, emotionally abusive. The second person turned out to be fundamentally polyamorous, which is incompatible with me being fundamentally mono-amorous. (I don’t mean she cheated on me — she didn’t. We broke up because I went away to college and neither of us was quite ready to commit to a long-distance relationship, as we’d only been dating for six months at that point. It was much later on that she realized she was poly. Had we continued to live in the same area, I really do think the relationship would have continued on a trajectory towards marriage. And if we’d gotten married before she realized she was poly, it would obviously have created problems.)

    With all that said, here’s my advice.

    1. If your family and friends are concerned, consider: Have they been reliable sources of advice in the past? Deep down, do you generally trust them to have your best interests at heart? If not, then disregard what they think, and try to seek out advice from people you can trust. But if so, then you might want to take a second look and try to understand their concerns. Maybe they’re valid and maybe they’re not, but it’s worth having a conversation.

    2. Go through at least one major problem as a couple — a major disagreement, or a time of massive external stress, like financial stress, illness, grief, or being long-distance. You don’t have to handle it perfectly. But you do need to learn from it as a couple, and come out of it with more communication skills and more trust in each other.

    3. Actually, I’d say, also go through one major project as a couple, something that requires planning and logistics and scut work together over a long period of time. Moving in together could be such a project — or it could be planning a big surprise party for your parents’ anniversary, or joining forces to do a big community volunteering project. Planning a wedding is such a project for some people, but I’d advise not having it be your first such project. Test your ability to get things done as a team. If it doesn’t go well, it does not mean your relationship is doomed! But it might mean you need more time and experience with each other before committing to becoming a married team.

    4. I genuinely recommend living as an adult, completely independently of your parents, for at least a little bit of time before getting married. It really is an adjustment to have the ultimate responsibility for everything in your own life. It’s not necessarily a huge adjustment; both my now-husband and I were pretty good at it from the start — in the sense that bills got paid, we each managed to keep ourselves fed and clothed in clean clothes, our apartments weren’t condemned as biohazardous waste zones, that sort of thing. But I recommend getting a bit of practice at it before committing to being responsible for each other’s lives.

    I don’t think you can ever really guarantee that X age is too young, or that Y age is old enough. I know two couples my age that got married when they were 19, and both are still happily married years later, with children. I knew another couple my age who didn’t get married until after grad school, when they both had great jobs — and three months later, she found out he’d been cheating on her the whole time they’d been together, and got a divorce. Age is no guarantee. In fact, there are no guarantees. But I do think having certain experiences as a couple — and as individuals — can give you at least some important indications.

  • Alyssa M

    For all three LWs and anybody else who ends up here thinking the same thing… just wait. There’s no rush. I’ve been there. Met my future husband when we were 14 and 15. I knew by the time I was 17 that I wanted to spend my life with him, but I’ll be 25 when we get married. There’s zero reason to get married as a teenager and a lot of reasons not to. If your relationship is truly marriage worthy, which I’m not doubting, then it can certainly survive a few more years of dating. Take advantage of being supported by your parents for a little while and learn to be adults. Wait till you can have those happy teary mother daughter moments where she can tell you how proud she is of what a beautiful woman you’ve become, instead of marring your happy day with her disapproval. Heck, wait till you can partake of the champagne toast at your own wedding…

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  • Roxi

    I can really identify with a lot of the feelings mentioned in these letters. I have been with my partner since I was 15 (now 24), and have felt ready to be married from 18!
    My partner has always been the more practical/logical of the two of us and I am very emotionally driven. We discussed marriage at length over the years and what I would say to the first letter is that a ten minute discussion about a life changing decision such as marriage is not enough! He made me wait until September this year before we got engaged (so we had finished school and both had permanent jobs and our own flat) and I am SO glad he did. Yes being pre-engaged can be really frustrating, but planning a wedding with the support/excitement of your loved ones and the budget to have at least some of the things you want is an amazing part of the whole experience. You don’t have to wait for all your ducks but waiting just a couple more years for those things to fall into place means you get the best of both worlds. Waiting will not damage your relationship, but it could greatly benefit you as a couple and there’s no reason you can’t start saving now if your serious about doing it in a few years.

    Main message from that ramble – it’s VERY worth the wait until you are both stable as individuals before you become a married couple. It doesn’t mean you are not ready now but don’t underestimate the value in support of loved ones, why risk losing it for the sake of waiting a little longer?

  • Laura

    One thing nobody seems to have touched on to the second letter writer, the one with the June wedding, is that if none of your friends seem happy for you, and if they have even gone so far to ask you to reconsider, is it possible that they might have very valid reasons for saying this? One or two friends might say that for unhappy reasons of their own, but if every single one of my friends was saying they didn’t support my marriage, I would ask them why. Not in a dramatic way, not to create tears, but to find out if their objections are legitimate. I think it’s also worth asking your mom if she’s unhappy about your wedding for reasons other than you still having four years of college.
    Also, please forgive me for sounding curmudgeonly, but the last year of high school is a very uncertain time, and a lot of people at that phase in their lives try to plan everything so that they can feel a sense of security in the face of an uncertain future. The four years of college will change you in ways you can never imagine, and that can be a scary thought because right now you have no idea what that will look like. I would say leave your relationship the flexibility to grow along with you as you move through this time.

  • Brianna K

    Reading this was really difficult for me. I first read this post probably 3 months ago when my now fiance and I started talking about getting engaged. From the first letter I immediately started freaking out (Me: “No, no, no, no, no…”) because I don’t feel represented by these girls.

    I’m 18, and I’m not getting married because I feel like that’s the next logical step, or because everyone else is doing it, my family was unsurprised by the announcement and incredibly supportive and happy for me. Also, (and here’s where the confused, mildly judgmental math usually kicks in) we’ve already lived together for a little over two years (one year due to unfortunate circumstances, and the rest because we wanted to continue doing so without any significant parental financial support). Despite lots of posts and articles floating around like this one, where I felt completely misrepresented, we decided that we wanted to get engaged and that it was in OUR best interests to get married two years from now.

    These girls are definitely NOT ready to be engaged. And the fact that their families are so concerned for them is a huge indicator of that. That, and the fact that they haven’t officially lived together and had to experience making decisions as a single unit, also makes me extremely wary of their ability to function as a married couple.

    The advice they’re receiving via this post is spot-on for them. But it might not be the best for girls like me who aren’t getting married because “we already spend a lot of time together” or are having trouble planning a wedding (or a marriage) because we can’t afford to live with our potential spouses.

    When I see posts like this on the internet (not just APW), it makes me incredibly sad to see how quick people are to pounce on young couples who want to get married as a whole (rather than just certain individuals who have maybe made it clear they’re not ready). It seems like as time goes on, we’re becoming more and more accepting of women or couples who choose not to get married until they’re in their thirties or forties, but increasingly judgmental towards women who choose to get married earlier in life (in the 18-25 age range). It’s not that I don’t understand why (people change, your brain isn’t fully developed until age 25, etc.) but I think that since marriage is often regarded as such a personal choice for you and your partner it seems odd and unfair that when age comes into play it’s suddenly a different story where everyone feels it necessary to educate the woman in question.

    As far as the people changing and brain development arguments, those are solid points and I think they should definitely be considered in these cases. That being said, people change their whole lives as a result of personal growth and experience. If you want to marry someone who isn’t going to change at all in the entire expanse of time that you’re married, I pity you.

    After all of this rambling (which is admittedly pretty biased on my part) I just want to say that these girls shouldn’t be getting married because they’re too naive and they’re too immature, NOT because they’re too young. It’s not always the same thing.