I married a boy I had only known for six months, two months after my 19th birthday.
We were engaged two weeks after our first date and we had our first baby three years into our marriage. We have now been married more than 13 years, and while I could say a million things about getting married so fast and getting married so young and then having kids so soon, I really want to focus on the life potential I lost when I made the decision to become a teenage bride.
At 19, I was everything you'd expect a 19-year-old to be: irresponsible, overly-emotional, immature, impulsive and most certainly not cut out to be a wife. My husband, Cody, was 22 and had grand plans of someday becoming an attorney and, one day, a judge.
He was completing his undergrad while working at Radio Shack and living in a tiny apartment on the wrong side of town. I was working at a lingerie shop, living with my sister and three other male roommates, with no big plans for my future.
No one took our relationship seriously so there wasn’t much investment in our wedding. We had cheese and crackers at the reception, a terrible DJ, a homemade cake, and whole lot of relatives I didn’t know. Apparently, when your parents have just barely released you into the world, they get a say on who attends your wedding.
If you were to ask Cody about the first year of our marriage, he would say it was one of the roughest years we’ve had. I, on the other hand, barely remember it, as I was battling mental illness without the crutch of booze, drugs and one-night stands. It was a recipe for disaster, but the years kept on moving with us remaining Mr. and Mrs.
Our fights were always about the same things: money, sex, chores, and who had the more important life. When I got pregnant at 21, we finally felt like we were grown-ups. I settled into my role as a stay-at-home mom while Cody finished up undergrad and applied to law school. He was accepted to several, and we chose to move our little family to Indiana for him to attend Indiana University.
Law school was a beast; Cody was gone 14 to 20 hours a day for three years. I learned to never rely on him for anything and kept telling myself if I could just power through we'd both reap the rewards of his hard work.
He graduated in 2009 with honors and a job (and a fed-up wife). I was done waiting for “things to get better,” done being an afterthought, done being ignored. I told him I was leaving him in October of 2009, but rather than letting me leave, he fought to keep me and I chose to stay.
During his law school years, I started blogging as a way to keep my sanity intact. By 2009, my little blog really started to turn into something. With Cody working a regular 9 to 5 schedule and our daughter being older and easier to manage, I was able to begin working on my own interests: photography and writing.
Our second daughter came along in 2011 and it seemed as though things couldn't get better. I had a perfect little family and a nice hobby that helped pay the bills, and allowed me to travel and try new things.
But in late 2013, everything fell apart again. Looking back, I realize it was the beginning of a very dark period of ill-managed depression, but at the time I simply came to hate everything about my life. I hated where we lived, I hated that the winter was nearly unbearable.
I hated that I didn’t have a true support group around me. I hated everything. I felt strangled by the Midwest and the lack of opportunities it held for what I wanted to do — travel, write and be a professional photographer — and I became resentful of my family for needing me as much as they did.
I wanted a do-over. I wanted to see what I could accomplish without whiny children at my feet and a mortgage in my name. I misdirected my anger at Cody, because clearly this was all his fault. He was the one who forced me to marry him so young. He was the one who wanted kids. He was the one who kept me on the sidelines while he completed law school. He was the one who ruined my potential of becoming someone amazing or doing something amazing in my 20s.
It was obviously his fault I was so unhappy, and I took all my anger out on him regardless of the fair and balanced points he made in response to my bitterness. I'm stubborn and I had already made up my mind to leave, so none of his logical arguments were going to make me stay.
Leaving my husband gave me time to think about how far I had actually come, despite my insistence that I had amounted to nothing more than a wife and a mother over the last decade. I couldn't think of a single thing I had done that I couldn't somehow credit back to Cody, even if I did feel neglected for several years of our marriage.
He was the one who encouraged me to buy the camera I had always wanted. He believed I could do anything I set my mind to. And while he may have a hard time giving a compliment, he was my biggest fan.
The problem was I had spent months focused on how angry I was with him and what a disappointment he was to me when I really should have been talking to him about the problems I was having. Unfortunately, I projected any failings that occured in our previous 13 years of marriage onto HIM and I had convinced myself he'd be unable to change or unwilling to listen, so why even try?
What made things worse is when I did finally share with him my feelings of failure as a career woman, I had already made up my mind to leave, so his response of "I'll do whatever you want" made me even angrier, like he was only saying that to appease me.
It's hard to sum up just how many emotions were meshed in those stressful and emotional times. I was selfish, I was angry, and I took it out on the person who loved me the most. I knew exactly how to hurt him and I used that knowledge to shove him further and further away.
But the reality was that I hated myself. I hated that I felt unworthy to be this extraordiarily kind man's wife and I hated that I couldn’t just be content with the really good life I had been given.
Who would I have become had I not married so young? I don't know, but I can say with complete certainty that the woman I am wouldn't be nearly as fantastic as I am with Cody by my side. He's helped make me into who I am, and through all the ups and downs of our marriage he has been the constant. It’s also comforting to know that he never would've completed law school without me, as discarded as I felt during those three long years.
Getting married young is a tough topic to talk about, because many young marriages don't last. And if and when they do, the struggles are always entirely different for each couple.
I don't know if what Cody and I experienced is common, but I'm guessing there's another couple out there who is choking on anger and bitterness toward each other. I hope our story can help them sort out the messy and complicated emotions that come from being so deeply entrenched in someone’s life for so long.
Let me let you in a little secret: The long haul is worth it, kids.