From Our Readers Progressively Married at Twenty-Two From Our Readers

“So, you’re married at twenty-two? Why? That seems pretty young.”

This question, before several other logical ones, was the first asked on a phone interview for a nanny position in Austin, Texas back in the fall of 2011. I had just gotten married and I was looking for transitional work in between a disappointing stint at Anthropologie and what I assumed would be my big break. To be fair, this mother probably had little-to-no experience with conducting a professional interview, but nonetheless, the question she asked was jarring. I felt slightly electrocuted, initially. Immediately, I was in the position of having to defend a decision that seemed to have nothing to do with my qualifications as a nanny. In hindsight, when I think about where she was coming from, I mostly get it. This mom was reading my Care.com profile, saw that I got married right out of college, and suddenly she was picturing me with long fingernails and an ankle-length denim skirt. She’s imagining me teaching her daughter the dangers of book-reading and that belief in dinosaurs is an evil akin to murder.

Needless to say, I did not get the job. It was at this time that I realized that I was going to need a pre-packaged defense, and whatever it was needed to make me sound as normal as possible. Since moving to New York and starting a job in the television industry, I am asked the married-at-twenty-two question on an almost daily basis. Usually people ask it with a face that looks like they just ate a bug. A preemptive response has not really formed yet for me, so instead I tend to just respond with inaudible babbling and blatant sweatiness. It also doesn’t help that, at twenty-three-years-old, I look way younger than my age. I don’t know what exactly happened, but at the age of thirteen, my body was like I’m just going to camp out here until you’re thirty, and at that point I’ll just skip ahead to about eighty-three (I’m assuming this is what is going to happen, and I’m terrified).

When people ask me why I got married so young, they might also be wondering if it was difficult for me to plan a wedding while teething or if I had my blankey with me on our honeymoon. All of that aside, I’ve had a pretty long time to process this whole married-at-twenty-two question. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I even have to answer it at all. I am supremely proud of my marriage. My husband is brilliant, loyal, strong, patient, hilarious, handsome as a Disney prince, and he legitimately enjoys watching Project Runway with me. Through the six years that we dated, our relationship grew in maturity on a foundation of trust and patience. In terms of my decision to marry him, I am nothing but confident. Throughout our first year of marriage, it has become more and more clear that there exists a kind of quasi-prejudice against women who marry out of college. It’s not so strong that it keeps us from getting work (unless you want to be a nanny for that one lady’s kids, I guess) or that it infringes on any basic human rights, but it is enough to make me, and others like me, feel sort of dismissed.

I was reflecting on these feelings one day when reading an op-ed piece written by a woman in a similar situation. Her name is Lauren Ambler and she is also married at the ripe age of twenty-two. She titles her piece, I’m Married Young and I’m Ashamed of It (http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/it-happened-me-i- married-young-and-i-m-ashamed-it), which struck me initially as a tongue-and-cheek way of saying some of the same things that I had been thinking. I thought this girl and I were going to relate, and I would give her a big high-five by way of the comments-section. Tragically, Lauren and I do not exactly relate. Having married her boyfriend under unique circumstances (he needed a visa to stay in the country), she is definitely not exactly like me, but in many ways she is. Like Lauren, I never fantasized as a child about my wedding or even about a husband. I also agree that seeing marriage as a goal is dangerous for women on both an individual and ultimately larger scale. I certainly understand feeling the need to convince my single friends that I am not going to fall asleep if we go get margaritas (I might, but I just have a really strong tequila response). I do sympathize with some of Lauren’s hesitations about the institution of marriage.

We easily recall a time when most women in America married at young ages (a large percentage, as early as nineteen-years-old), never to work towards goals outside of their own homes. If these women did work, it was to bide their time as they prayed against spinsterhood. Homemaking was revered as a woman’s great American duty. While I see absolutely nothing wrong with stay-at- home moms (I know several and they are some of the strongest women I know), I am happy to live in a world with options. Where I differ most with Lauren, apart from the fact that I totally disagree on her stance that marriage should be open, is when she calls herself a “child bride”. This is the thing that we millenials are constantly criticized for: that we prolong our childhood in a way that makes us helpless even at an age where we should be considered adults. I am not a child. My married friends of the same age are, by no means, children. We are adults who have made a choice, and we are sticking by it. Now, that being said, I do not think this is for everyone. If it exists, I will not be joining the Coalition to Increase Young Marriages (It doesn’t exist. I just googled it).

I think getting married young is largely a mistake for many for the same reasons that some would assume it is a mistake for me. We all know the potential damage that this could cause for a woman. She could drop all of her dreams. She could lose all of her friends. She could decide he’s a skeevy dirt-bag and suffer through a senseless divorce only to find that she has no support left. This kind of thing really does happen all of the time, and it is a shame. But certainly this is not a uniform fate for every woman who marries young. Certainly there are those of us who feel logically compelled to make this decision based on our lengthy commitment, our unfaltering love for our husbands, and our determination to pursue our passions alongside the ones we love, not despite them. You might call us the exception to the rule, but I don’t think I even like the rule to begin with.

American women are far more progressive than that. Being “single” and being a “spinster” are no longer synonymous terms. You can be a mom and an astronaut and a tattoo artist and a grad student four times over, and in all of that, you don’t have to marry anyone, and everyone is (or should be) totally cool with that. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who went before us and awakened the world to a new realm of legitimate options for women. All I ask is that you at least consider the legitimacy of my option as well. Could we be progressive enough to re-appropriate marriage-after-college to be a respectable choice instead of an enslaving fun-sucker? Are we that radical yet? It probably isn’t entirely fair to appeal to your sense of rebellion. Use that revolutionary instinct to tackle far more important women’s issues, like promoting economic justice and getting Lindsay Lohan back to her Parent Trap days.

Just let me, in all of my marriedness, come with you.

You can read more from Christy O’Shoney on her blog.

comments

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  1. I’ve been married for 7 years, got married at 20. I remember people flat out telling me that they thought I would be divorced within a year or two. Thanks for writing this piece!

  2. Love it. I’m married for fourteen (YES, ONE FOUR) years, at the ripe age of 33. I married my husband at (almost) 20…..ok…19. That’s part of the problem. I feel compelled to say 20. As if the 2 months between our wedding day and my birthday would have made a world of difference! Well, I wouldn’t change a thing. I always say perhaps I should have MET my husband a few years later, but truthfully….when you know you know. And we knew. And, yes…we’ve fought for those 14 years because (news flash) marriage is hard! But, we’re happy. We’ve been blessed with a beautiful daughter. And, if she meets the man of her dreams at 17, like I did, I will give her my blessing as well….. xoxo.

  3. I’m 20. I got married at 18 (almost 19). I can truly say that it’s one of those decisions I made in life that I still feel 500% confidently about. I LOVE my husband… I love coming home to him, I love going out with him, I love traveling with him. I love going home with him after we go out with friends. I love waking up with him.
    Marriage does the exact OPPOSITE of “hold you back”. I have been married for a year and a half, I’m still in college, and some semesters I take as many as 6 classes. I still have great grades. I take summer classes. I still go out with my girlfriends. I take classes outside of school on things I love and want to pursue. I couldn’t have accomplished so many things in this past year were it not for my awesome, loving, supportive husband. Marriage keeps you accountable. It gives you someone to open your heart to and talk to when you know you’ve messed up and need someone to help you up and achieve your goals.
    I may live in the South but we are not rednecks. My husband has a master’s degree from Georgia Tech and he plans on starting his PhD in the next year. What do people think happen when you get married? Sit at home all day and do nothing?
    Also, even here in this comments section, people don’t understand how RUDE they’re being when projecting their own inner misery by asking questions like “Why would you WANT to be married that young? What’s the RUSH?”. There was no “rush”. When I was 16 and started dating my husband, I thought I wouldn’t even date until I was a few years into college. It’s just how my life unfolded and it’s what was right for us. Everyone is different.

  4. Love this! The best way to address the fact people seem to look at young marriage with distaste is to give that personal perspective and normalize it. I think part of the reason people look so oddly at young marriage is just that our generation is in general marrying older, so it’s just less common. This article (http://bit.ly/HqBELl) talks about how young people would get mortgaged before they got married, so it’s a pretty extreme difference. I think sharing stories like this does a great job of stopping some of the criticism and skepticism of young marriage.

  5. I love this! Thank you for writing it! I’m getting married in March, at the age of 22. My family, who knows me super well, is supportive and thinks I’m making a great decision. People who don’t know me that well, think it’s weird that I would get married “so young.” I think it all has to do with personality and the relationship. Certainly, getting married as a younger adult is NOT for everyone. I never fantasized about getting married, that was never my biggest goal in life. I love your writing, because you point out that marriage is such an important goal for so many women and it shouldn’t be.

  6. Great blog! I got married at 24 and face the same wrinkled face you do on the daily. 9 years later he’s 40 and I’m 33. I’m volunteering in Sri lanka for 3 months and he’s in the UK keeping the home-fires burning. We don’t stifle each other, we compliment each other. We don’t stop each other form living our dreams, but I discovered my dreams with him, though they are mostly not related to him at all. Everyone is unique as is every relationship. Let’s stop judging each other’s lives and just love our own.

  7. I got married at 24 and face the same wrinkled face you do on the daily. It’s 9 years later. He’s 40 and I’m 33. I’m volunteering in Sri lanka for 3 months and he’s in the UK keeping the home-fires burning. We don’t stifle each other, we compliment each other. We don’t stop each other form living our dreams, but I discovered my dreams with him, though they are mostly not related to him at all. Everyone is unique as is every relationship. Let’s stop judging each other’s lives and just love our own.

  8. Great article. I got married at 23 (like you, I was not a kid who dreamed about her wedding, and I’ve always been career-focused). I still remember a former co-worker telling me that the odds were against my marriage and I should have waited. Well, 12 years later I’m glad I didn’t. My marriage makes me happy. And it’s no one else’s business, period. Good luck to you!

  9. My husband and I have been together for nearly 7 years (married for half that time). I’m 24, and in college. People definitely tend to assume that I’m a boring fuddy-duddy who never wants to go out, or (even worse) that I’m an anti-feminist hopeless romantic stuck in the 1950s just because my husband and I wish to become parents sooner rather than later. Whatever happened to women having it all? Have we gone too far in the opposite direction that we’ve forgotten what love is? I think it’s absolutely preposterous that such notions are tossed aside. Can’t we have both?

  10. I can’t possibly say that every marriage between people of a young age is a mistake, but I do believe that the difference between me at 22 and me now at 27 would be instrumental in creating longer lasting, more open and discerning relationships. I just don’t understand what the rush is frankly.
    Knowing that marriage is so difficult at any age and that over 50% of couples divorce, why not give yourself the absolute best chance at succeeding by taking your time. Ensuring that you have the psychological and emotional tools to mend and work on a relationship and actually make it work, well that sort of just seems like a smart thing to do.

    “It is completely at odds with modern messages of choice and freedom and ambition,” Rachel Morris a psychotherapist and author of The Single Parent’s Handbook, told BBC Radio. “Nobody wants to settle. People realize that they grow and change every 10 years. How are we supposed to promise someone that we will spend the rest of our lives loving them no matter who they become or who we become?”

  11. I am a twenty-five year old in a long-term relationship and I can tell you that any way you slice it, people are insensitive, nosey and often straight-up rude when offering unsolicited comments on your relationship.

    I constantly get asked to explain why I’m not married yet, followed by a look that says, “Oh, bless your heart! He’s never gonna marry you!” I always feel the need to defend myself. He’s almost done with his doctorate and his parents still help him financially! We decided to go to grad school first! My parents can’t pay for our wedding! I’m in my twenties, for jeebus sake!

    In the end, I think people mean well, but can’t control themselves. So, I usually just end up referring to him as my man friend or life partner to diffuse the situation before it starts.

    It makes me feel weirdly better that someone who chose the route that people condemn me for not taking experiences the same type of criticism.

    You found your soulmate. That’s what matters! Cheers to you (and me)!

  12. My 17 year old cousin is getting married next May (she’ll be 18 by then), and I’ve been struggling with my feelings about getting married that young. I had a good friend who got married at 19 and stopped being my friend because I didn’t agree with the decision. They’re divorced now. I don’t want to see that happen to my cousin, but I also know that she will legally be an adult and should make her own choices. It does work for some couples.

    I’m glad, too, that we live in a time where it’s not bad to be single anymore. I wish the pressure to get married in your 20′s and have kids would go away, though. I’m cool flying solo for now, but I get reminders all the time that I’m 27 and not married and don’t have kids (technically, I have 126 at my job) and wish that would just STOP.

  13. I have the opposite problem right now. My boyfriend and I have been together for 7 years, I just turned 24 and he’s 27. We get “When are you getting married?” questions all the time, but we just are not in a hurry to tie the knot. We plan on it, but we’re in no rush. I also get crap from his brother’s fiancé saying things like “I will be the first real part of the family because I’m getting married first.” and that our relationship is not as valid because we are not engaged to be married. That really pisses me off, but to me love is not about a piece of paper.

  14. I was married at 21 and six years later I do not regret it at all. I am glad that I found the man I love so early. We have our whole lives to grow together. Who cares what other people say?! Make your own life and live your own decisions. Love your post. I can really relate with it and everything you said. Thanks!

  15. I come from a place (Utah) where marrying at 18-20 is considered pretty normal. I’ll be getting married next year, and I’ll be 23. Anywhere else I feel like I’d probably get the same reactions as you have, but here I hear more, “Why aren’t you married already?!” “So when are you starting a family?!”, etc.

    I just shrug it off. My SO and I have been friends for several years, and have been dating for almost two years. We’re not in any rush. We’re saving money and having fun! And in the end, our marriage/relationship is no one’s business but ours.

  16. I got married three weeks after my 20th birthday, my husband was 22, and I regret nothing. We’ve been married for two and a half years, and it’s been fantastic!!! I’m graduating this December and plan on going to grad school fora master’s dregree. Honestly, I worry that being married could keep me from grad school or from getting the career I’m after. I agree that there is a huge problem in the way people see young married couples. I go through it daily. Thank you for posting this. I think it’s something a lot of my friends need to hear.

  17. My wife and I married at 22. We are celebrating our 28th anniversary next year.

    28 years based on love, mutual respect, and allot of booze,

    Class dismissed.

  18. My wife and I married at 22 and we are celebrating our 28th anniversary next year.

    28 years built on log, mutual respect, and allot of booze.

    Class dismissed.

  19. It’s awesome and encouraging when people (like you) have to deal with the same things I am dealing with. I’m 21 years-old and I have been married to my awesome, hot, rockstar of a husband for almost TEN months (holy crap, already?!). We dated for ten months before we got engaged and engaged for 13 months. I wasn’t pregnant and my husband didn’t need a visa. We knew we wanted to marry each other so why wait until the “right age” or whenever society thinks is old enough. I also work in the film industry and I get SAME REACTIONS when I tell them I’m married and then my age. Anyways, I’m on a rabbit trail here. Thank you for your encouraging words. I don’t need to answer the question of “married at twenty-one”. So thank you!

  20. Great article. I am 35, and have been married for 11 and a half years (yup, 23 on the day of my wedding!). I still was getting the “Wow, you’re young to be married!” comments when I had my first child at 27…and wished I was still getting them when I had my second at 30. LOL I don’t know why people feel they are entitled to make a judgement about the age of marriage, any more than whether women will have children (or how many), but they do for some reason. Hold your head high, work on your marriage, and prove the naysayers wrong on your 50th wedding anniversary.