young, stupid, and making it {2}

{This is the second half of a monster post. Read the first half.}

People have asked lately whether I have any regrets about marrying young.

That answer (of course, since I just told you in big bold letters) is no.

Life since then has meandered in the general direction of What We’re Supposed to Do. It is becoming easier to believe that there’s been meaning here, even if I’ve missed it. With my most recent job change (je suis freelance extraordinaire), I’m beginning to exhibit, in my attitudes, emotions, and bank account, this thing named stability.

And I love this man.

DSC00644 (800x600)

(And I love my dog. P.S. Our firstborn has fur.)

I do have some regrets about how I’ve acted since I married young. Part of that is youthful stupidity. All of that is human stupidity.

Young marriage forces you to face infantile attitudes in yourself and realize that you’re dragging your partner through unique problems with you because of your immaturity and inexperience.

Staying married is hard. Making the decision to get married when we’re barely out of our teens can make that harder. Being divorced when you’re 24 is hard. I wish (cue moderateness) that more pro-early-marriage articles would tell that story.

Lots of us could stand to tap the brakes, ask more questions, get advice, better examine ourselves – do some soul-searching now before you bind yourself to a person who deserves that from you. I fear that assumptions that everyone should get married (and/or that most should get married young) emphasize even deeply troubled marriages NOW over asking hard questions and, God forbid, prolonging singleness.

My real-life friend and fellow blogger  and I didn’t collaborate on this on purpose, but yesterday at her blog she had this to say:

Ask the hard questions. Do the harder thing. Don’t force it to work; face your fears instead. Don’t keep dating her because she’s a godly Christian girl and fits the list. Don’t say yes to him because he’s good enough and you don’t have any other options.

Being single isn’t that awful of a fate. Being married isn’t a heaven that will erase all your tensions and private lonelinesses.

This over-eagerness about marriage sometimes leads to this: this great social or religious construct, your great cloud of witnesses — family, friends, advisors, here to help you choose the best and most fulfilling path for your life — deteriorates into something we all should have gotten over in the fifth grade: peer pressure.

Maybe some couples could stand to be urged toward marriage. The biggest source of discouragement from marriage in my relationship with my now-husband was people in the Church – not apparently because of the particulars of our relationship, but because of a general negative attitude, to the tune of “Enjoy the romance while it lasts,” and “The longer you’re married, the longer the hours your husband works.”

I investigated this negativity. I read a dozen books on marriage, swallowed anti-marriage articles, took a marriage-focused sociology class, and looked up biblical and societal reasons for marriage (why do people do this anyway?). Josh and I asked each other so many questions prior to our engagement (tentatively at first – “Is it okay if I ask how many kids you want?”) that our counseling and pre-marital books worked through during our engagement presented almost no new questions.

One of the grandest and scariest things about marriage, though, is that you can’t ask all the questions (ask all the things!), and the answers are always changing. (And thank God. If they didn’t it’d be so boring.)

There are always surprises. You’ll see your dark soul, up close and in action, wielding your power to devastate or elate another human being. That’s a surprise.

Despite our darkness, my research told me — as so many pro-marriage articles will, too — that marriage is good for society. China, I’m told, is having a field day trying to figure out what to do with all the misdemeanors of unwed young men whose potential wives were aborted, abandoned, or adopted out of the country. And I delight in reminding my husband that I’m good for him. Did you know you’re now less likely to commit a crime? Die in a high speed crash?

But Josh did not propose to me so I could save him from a life of crime, or so we could create lots of tiny humans to reinstate Christendom, or even because I was the only woman he could find who would consent to restore old houses or fost-adopt puppies with him (is there anything more romantic).

For many many reasons that this post is not about, we were better off together.

I humbly propose that

  1. Amid the American shuffling of the definition of family, marriage is still good and timeless, needed and beautiful.
  2. Married people should love each other and love their story and love telling it (love love love), but their (probably rocky) early relationship shouldn’t be treated as a blueprint for the rest of unmarried humankind.
  3. We could stand to stop asking every single person, essentially, “Why haven’t YOU joined the club?” Despite the cultural shift toward later marriage, marriage out of its very nature operates on a case-by-case basis. (And I hope that no one married before because it was hip.)

In other words, your single neighbor doesn’t deserve your snarky remarks, just because she’s traveling, working, and studying, rather than settling down, plugging in, and procreating.

That Josh and I are young, stupid, and somehow still making it doesn’t mean that we’re hunting down disciples to groom for equally absurd life choices (as wonderful as apparent absurdity has been in our adventure together).

I propose also that there’s no perfect time to get married. And that we’ll all mess it up anyway, and that it still stands a good chance of being pretty glorious.

Even if you wait until you and your vibrant bride are 94, you will, quelle surprise, still be a broken soul, ugly and beautiful and capable of great and horrible things. And you will still have the same Source of love, patience, and faithfulness that you did when you were 24.

(But those sweet friends of mine? They owe no one an explanation while they wait.)

Rewind to part one.

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8 thoughts on “young, stupid, and making it {2}

  1. emily —

    imh and un-asked for o, you should spend some time today finding chrisitian publications to which you could submit this article.

    dml

  2. This was very good! I Young marriage can definitely be a good thing (my fiance and I are about to get married at 22 and 23, so I’m definitely not going to argue that!) I appreciate how you presented it as something than can definitely be a positive while still digging in to the issues with many aspects of evangelical culture which can encourage marrying excessively young and without a solid, built-over-time framework for really getting to know each other and yourself. I almost got married much younger and I’m so thankful that I didn’t.

    • Thanks! Moderation’s always been my problem — I’m glad to hear that it worked for you.

      I like that you pointed out that though one instance of young marriage wouldn’t have worked for you, this one does. That’s my beef with the cut-and-dry rules that lots of Christian dating how-to’s like to pin on people — because we’re PEOPLE, we’re different. We change. Maturity levels differ. I’m so glad for the research I did and the questions we asked — My husband and I had some rough patches in our dating relationship because we chose to work through tough things then – pre-ring-by-spring – instead of pushing them aside and marrying anyway and waiting for them to come up, bigger and uglier, later.

      I’m happy that you feel you were able to navigate the messiness of all of this and make smart choices that work for you, even if early-twenties marriage are discouraged.

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