Settling down and settling are NOT the same thing.
I got married at nineteen. I am, for all intents and purposes, a teenage wife. I can almost guarantee, however, that I am not the picture you have in your mind. I did not get pregnant. I am not living in some tiny town with no options.
In fact, I graduated high school with honors, scholarships, and every opportunity to go to school and become incredibly successful in a career, but I walked away from it in favor of a different kind of personal success. I don't fit into the stereotype that so many people want to put me into.
I understand that some people think I'm crazy. Statistically speaking, the average age women are getting married today is 27 and most people I know are even older than that. In today's day and age, for the most part, people recommend completing as much schooling as possible and being established in a career before settling down.
I chose a very different path and I am going to be brutally honest about what that's like for me. I will try to address all the questions I know come to mind when you hear "20 years old and married" and hopefully show people that they can and should make the choices that are right for them regardless of the social norms or expectations.
1. There's no use in waiting if you've met the right person.
Once I met the person I knew I wanted to be with for the rest of my life, to us, we didn't see the point in waiting any longer. I did what made sense and felt was the right decision for me and my life, and that was what mattered.
2. Settling down and settling are not the same thing.
In no way did I settle for something that was less than what I wanted and deserved, and I would never suggest anyone else settle.
3. It requires enormous sacrifices.
It involves enormous sacrifices that most people at this age, or any age, could never fathom making. I am simply opening up about my life and assuring those who feel this may be right for them that they can do it without feeling responsible for others disapproval.
4. You can still do anything you would've done single, with him.
I do not have a college diploma. I am not ashamed of this. At this point in my life, I don't feel like it's something I want. I want to raise a family more than anything and I really don't care if that "sets the women's rights movement back" because as a woman, I have the right to choose what I want to do with my life.
If something changes and I want to work towards further education, there is no reason I can't do so later on. I know I would have my husband's support.
5. Yes, it's expensive.
But it will ALWAYS be expensive. Would we be better equipped to handle it if we were older? Maybe. However, what we're living through right now is the stuff strong marriages are made of and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
6. Marriage is hard — no matter what age you get married.
Like, the hardest thing I've ever done. It is NOT all romance and happiness. It is fighting. It is stressful. You're basically taking two different people and saying, "OK, you have to live together and you have to make all major decisions together for the rest of your lives."
This is so much harder than you could ever imagine if you haven't done it. It's constant compromising, cooperating, struggling, communicating, and working to make the best of difficult situations.
7. You never really live alone, but that's OK.
I pretty much went from my mom's house, to the house I share with my husband. Making the permanent move from your family is hard. Getting married is hard. Putting them together definitely makes for some homesickness starting out (particularly for me since I was moved more than three hours away from my entire family). Having support in place and mutual understanding is the key to making this work.
8. Don't pity us.
I am 100 percent aware that at this point in my life, I am expected to be going out and meeting people. I am aware that I haven't met a fraction of the men I will meet. I don't see this as something people should pity me for. Making a decision to be faithful is a beautiful thing and I'm proud to have made that choice at this age.
9. Yes, our forever started early but that means we have a whole lifetime to be together.
I will celebrate my 10th anniversary before my 30th birthday. That is my reality and it even sounds crazy to me. However, I think we are so fortunate to have the chance we do. That we are able to grow up together and have so much time to be together.
10. Our challenges are different than other married couples.
My challenges just happen to be different than the typical 20-something. I am not worried about finals, I am worried about bills. Everyone's struggle is unique and I own mine with pride.
11. Don't assume my husband was my first boyfriend.
You need to understand my personality and approach to relationships. I have always loved completely and without reservation. I tried to date people I could see a future with. My husband was not my first boyfriend or anything. I had dated and been in a serious relationship prior to meeting him but I was always thinking about my future. This resulted in me very quickly figuring out who and what I was looking for.
12. We had support (but not all young couples do.)
We had friends who didn't really understand but as far as our family and people close to us, we had their acceptance, support, and help as we took the step into marriage and we continue to have that support system. Without it, things would be much more difficult.
13. Love isn't enough to make a marriage.
That's as hard to say as it is to hear. You can be totally in love with someone and still fail if you tried to be married. Marriage is constant effort and a desire to always strive for what's best for your marriage and for your partner above what you may want. It is self-sacrificing, communicating, and always sticking together when things get rough.
This world is filled with way too much judgment and way too many expectations of how we live our lives. Marriage will always be hard and it's definitely harder doing it in your 20s because those years are supposed to be your selfish years where you do what makes you happy.
Getting married before I even began my 20s meant forfeiting that. That being said, for me, it's been worth the challenge and worth the sacrifice.
I hope that by sharing what it's really like to be in my situation, I can help people realize that you need to do what makes you happy and what fulfills your life. It is essential to be open, understanding, and accepting of how others live their lives. If you read this and feel like it's absolutely ridiculous, then it's obviously not for you and you should continue on the path you're on. But the truth is, not everyone wants to, has to, or should take that path.
There are challenges in life no matter what. It's up to you to make your choices because at the end of the day, you have to live with the life you've created so build something you're proud of. And if you want, build it with someone you makes you happy, no matter how old you are.
Originally published on Unwritten, the number one lifestyle destination for millennial women.
This article was originally published at Read Unwritten. Reprinted with permission from the author.