I’m engaged. To be married. To the man of my dreams. And, I’m 21 years old.
My parents and the rest of my family are super supportive of me, and they adore Chris. To us, this isn’t counter-cultural at all; I’m getting married at the same age that my parents did as well as many of my other relatives. Imagine my surprise when I heard criticisms based on my age. I didn’t expect my engagement to be the source of awkward silences and nervous laughter. Why do some people think that marriage is “too adult” for a 21 year old?
So a little background… I was studying abroad in Rome for four months with a group of thirty Catholic Studies students when Chris came to visit and proposed! This was an amazing moment in my life, but it was immediately followed by my fiancee’s departure back to the USA where the rest of my family also is/was. I wanted to just explode with joy, but I had no one to share it with. I didn’t want to be that girl who made everything about her, yet it was constantly on my mind. I’m engaged, I’m engaged, I’m engaged. I held my tongue and grew more lonely.
One night, our Catholic Studies group had an arranged discussion about marriage. Except that it wasn’t just about marriage, it was about how old people should be to get married. The supplementary reading was titled, “A Case For Later Marriage.” Before it started, I knew it was going to be awkward for me, the newly engaged 21 year old in a group full of mostly single people.
The obvious answer is that marriage age depends on the couple and their discernment with God, but this group was overwhelmingly in favor of later marriage. People whom I considered friends were raising their hands and saying that our age group can’t handle the responsibilities of marriage. I know that I can’t blame these people because they didn’t know what they were saying and how it would come across to me. But, I was mortified. I shrunk into the corner and barely held myself together.
Maybe, I’m writing this because I lack the courage to tell people how I really feel. Maybe this is because people act like I’m not ready even though I know I am. Maybe, I am a little bit angry at the people who snickered under their breath, nobody here is ready for that. Maybe, I’m just sad because I didn’t hear words of encouragement. Either way, I had to write down these thoughts before they rolled around in my head one more time. These are some comments that people have said.
- Marriage is hard work. (As in, you should wait until you’re older.)
Marriage is not going to be any easier if you wait until your older. There are always complications. There are always financial difficulties. Life is never perfect. The beauty of young marriage is that Chris and I got to grow up together. I know how Chris responds to challenges in life, and I know how he supports me when I have challenges. In my mind, this is better than waiting until we are both financially established and set in our individual ways.
- There is no reason to rush into it.
I don’t think that five years of dating is rushing into anything. Besides, there’s no reason to postpone it either. I want to marry the man that I love! You’re ready when you’re ready. If you’re with the right person, there’s no reason to wait. You can absolutely know that you are with the right person. I knew during year one, and I’ve been dreaming about this engagement ever since. This is a feeling that I can’t explain to anyone else. It’s between me and Chris and God.
- Young marriages often end in divorce. If you marry between 30 and 36, you’re much less likely to get divorced.
I am not a statistic.
- The good thing about waiting until your older is that you become more financially stable, more mature, and more established as an individual. The good thing about getting married younger is that you can have sex sooner…
Oh, yes. They went there. Imagine the mortification that I experienced as I sat in this room of Catholic Studies students as this assumption was casually tossed around. I thought, these people think that I’m getting married just so I can have sex sooner. Even though I consider myself apart of this religiously affiliated group, sometimes I have to laugh that religious people always manage to offend someone…Even if everyone in the room believes in the same church doctrine. To address the comment, no, this is not the only reason why a young couple, like me and Chris, would want to get married. Young couples get married for the same reasons as anyone else. Because they love each other, they want to start a family together, they feel called by God, they are ready. So please don’t look at me and say, “I guess that I am jealous that you get to ‘do it’ sooner,” as if that’s the only reason anyone would want to get married young. Frankly, I find that insulting.
- You need time to develop yourself as an individual before you get married. You need time to be single, so you can grow closer to God in virtue and self-knowledge.
Ahh, my favorite. Since when does being in a relationship make your personal growth stagnant? Somehow, people got the idea in their heads that they have to be a perfect person to have a perfect relationship with another perfect person. This is ridiculous! There is no such thing as perfect. Besides, people grow in virtue by showing it to other people, not by secluding themselves. You would think that being in a relationship is actually the best time to grow in faith and spirituality because you have someone supporting you, inspiring you, and challenging you.
Chris and I started dating when we were 16 years old, and I swear, I swear, that I knew during year one that we would end up together. I believe that marriage is a vocation in which the couple discerns their commitment through the grace of God. I believe marriage is a sacrament where the couple receives graces that aid them on their journey. I don’t believe that it is anyone else’s business to speculate whether a couple is ready or how to define this “readiness.” That is taking away the romance and the beauty of the couple’s courage to answer God’s call.
I don’t want anyone to read this and think that I am criticizing their personal views of marriage, because you should do what is right for you. Everyone is going to have completely different experiences because we are all different people. So, maybe we should just stop worrying about what other people are doing and start supporting our friends at every stage of life. I know this would make me a lot happier.
Phew, got it all out. That wasn’t easy to say. I appreciate you for listening.:)