on why i got married young - and also ambition and babies

"To love another is something
like prayer and can't be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.” 
                                                               - Anne Sexton

Since I have been outside of Utah, (ahem) traveling so much in June, a lot of questions have arisen from colleagues of mine. The biggest of which is, "Why did you get married so young?"

It's true that I did. I was 21 and he was 23, the same age I am now, and even at 23 I don't feel any more ready to get married than I did at 21 but I am married, which is strange and still feels surreal. I am married. I am a wife. I have a husband. 

I am never quite sure how to answer that question. "Why not?" is the response that comes to mind first, since many of my friends were also married, and also, it seemed like it was the thing to do. We get married. He finishes school. We move away so he can attend more school. We have babies. I start seeing a therapist because we can afford it and also, I drive a hatchback Lexus. Textbook. 

But that wasn't the honest truth for me. It wasn't a matter of "Why not?" It was more a matter of love, which people don't seem to think is a satisfactory answer. We didn't have to get married. We were never pressured, we didn't do it out of obligation, or tradition or mere curiosity - we did it because we relied on a feeling and trusted each other to make a commitment and decided our lives would be better shared. (Right Kev? :)

What I neglect to tell them however, is that getting married was the best thing I ever did for myself. Not just because of Kevin, (although his love and guacamole-making skills have a lot to do with it,) but because of how it has changed me. Allow me to explain. 

Before Kevin, well actually, before marriage - my attention and thoughts and feelings were centered almost entirely around boys. From around 6th grade on, I dressed for boys, I attended parties for boys, I thought about and dreamt about and agonized about boys. There was no time to think about what I might want. It was all about what they wanted. What I could do to get them to notice me, to desire me - why he would break my heart, who asked for my number, who asked me out. I didn't give myself five minutes to sit down and think about me - what I wanted, what I could be with or without a man. That was never an option. In my future I saw a husband and babies. Lots of them. 

But about six weeks after being married to Kev, something strange occurred. I started thinking about other things. (Read: not boys.) I thought about traveling, and entrepreneur opportunities and freelancing. I wanted so deeply to return to school and pursue a higher degree. I focused on my job, and realized that I actually like working, and surprisingly (to myself) I am pretty good at it. I recognized my innate, deep desire to write and started the book I should have started years before.

Marriage made me realize that I had so many misconceptions about how a wife and ultimately a woman should be. Being married allowed me to stop thinking about boys and start thinking about everything else that I wanted. I already landed the best man for me, and somehow that was what I needed to move on and become someone I could be proud of instead of a love-sick wimp. I didn't think about cooking dinner the way I thought I would as a wife, and I didn't feel bad about not doing it like I thought I would either. I didn't feel guilty when the laundry piled up. I also didn't think about him every minute like I thought I might. And I didn't feel like a bad wife by not doing those things, because he didn't make me feel bad about them. But he did encourage my ideas, and aspirations in a way that no other boyfriend ever had. 

Don't get me wrong - I still want babies - a house full. But I still let the laundry pile up, and neglect to cook and things might not change any time soon and that's okay. We all do this marriage thing the way that it works for us, and it might be harder for some than others and that's okay too. It might take longer for some and it might not come at all, but what I do know is that as a society we have got to put less pressure on girls to find a man. We have got to teach our daughters that you can be alone and still thrive, but that you can be married and thrive too. That you can break out of the stereotypes we sometimes accidentally place on each other. I'm not here to say that marriage isn't important because it is the best thing and I wish it for everyone. I want to sprinkle marriage confetti around the world like a flower girl because I love it that much. I just wish it hadn't taken a marriage for me to realize that I can have exactly what I want. I don't want other girls to make my same mistakes. I wish I knew myself and trusted myself more before it. But most of all I am just grateful that it happened at all. That it gave me confidence and ambition that I didn't have before. 

Things happen differently for all of us, and maybe your experience with marriage is not the same. Maybe you think that I should have waited longer to figure this out on my own, or that I didn't need a man all along, and maybe you would be right. But for me, it was almost necessary. I got married young, and I wouldn't change a thing. 

So there's my real answer - you colleagues out there who feel the need to ask why I married young. I did it for love. And I am not limited because of it. Instead, these past two years have been the most empowering of my life. (And also the most delicious. Mostly because his guacamole is insane.) 


Robots in Trouble said...

hey ! i'm so glad that i'm not the only on this subject! i got married to my husband (still feels weird saying it) when i was 20 and he was 22 :D people asks us the question on why so early but i'm like... whhy not?! heh

Alison said...

thanks for sharing your feelings about being married young. i think you're supposed to change because of it. not just your life, but you yourself. and together.

stephanie said...

Thanks for sharing this. I am also 23 but NOT married, and I know that marrying young is not for me. I've seen it go badly in a lot of cases (part of why I feel the way I do), but your thoughts make a lot of sense and I know that it just works for some people -- people like you and my friend Jenny (married at 22) and my friend Becca (also married at 22). They're happy and so thankful to be married, and that makes me happy. Isn't it wonderful that we have the freedom to make these choices for ourselves? Gorgeous post, as always :) xoxo

{Rachelaine} said...

Beautifully said. Thanks for sharing.

larajanepark said...

Beautiful, perfect and lovely. I got married at just 20. I agree with all of your thoughts and my experience was the same wonderful as yours for many years. Although my marriage ended after 18 years, I still stand by my decision at 20. It was the best thing for me. Ever. I have 3 beautiful children that I love and I learned that I am wonderful with or without a man.
I love your stories. Keep writing.

ashley. said...

so lovely. thanks for sharing.

Alison said...

I was on a bus home from DC the other night and when the woman next to me found out that I was married she asked me what gave me the confidence to marry so young. I don't usually get this question cause I am 25 not 20 but I just tried to remember the things that you wrote here, since i agree completely. So thanks again Mandy!

Stephanie said...

I love what you said about being boy obsessed! I was thinking about my hobbies before I married Matt and I realized, I DIDN'T HAVE ANY!! What the heck? I was literally so boy obsessed that that was all I did outside of school and work. Now I have a lot of hobbies and I work and I'm finding myself. I got married even younger than you--19... GASP! But, I feel a lot of the same things you feel. Getting married allowed me to find myself... I only wish I hadn't been so obsessed with boys and been able to find myself when I was 16 or something. :) Thanks for sharing!

Lauren Hall said...

Great post! You put thoughts to words so eloquently. I am totally feeling this right now!

Erin said...

Love this. I hate when people ask me why I got married "young" or make blanket statements that it is a bad idea in all cases. I had actually been thinking about writing a blog post about the subject at some point...
I agree that my marriage has made me more of who I am. It has given me stability in so many areas of life (socially, economically, etc.) so that I have time to pursue the things that I love.