Don't Pity Me Because I Wed In My 20s —​ Marriage Is Hard At Any Age

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couple getting married

Just as the author of this essay cringes every time she sees a 20-something with a left-handed diamond, I cringe every time I hear a 20-something talk about everything they need to do before they get married. These things are generally along the lines of doing more: more partying, more travel, more promotions, more chasing dreams, and more hooking up with strangers.

Except for the hooking up with strangers bit, marriage, even in your 20s, doesn't preclude any of these things. 

Young marriage doesn't have to be a practice round or a fool's rushing in; it can be the real thing —and in my case, it's the best decision I've ever made.

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Yes, young marriage takes a path wrought with obstacles and forces growth, but doesn't any solid marriage?

Career stability isn't a prerequisite to a stable marriage and dream chasing is more fun together. Sure, time and energy that could be given to a career will be given to your relationship, but in exchange, you'll gain the support and encouragement of a spouse.

My husband has changed careers three times since we were married and I went to graduate school, both of us pursuing personal goals with the other's praise and backing. By no means did our individual aspirations slow down or cease.

The author is thrilled she didn't marry the man she was engaged to in her twenties.

She feared she'd miss out on the sipping of martinis, working for a glossy magazine, and kissing mysterious strangers had she wed too early. Clearly, if he was the wrong man, the decision was sound but the reasons for avoiding marriage leave some room for discussion.

I've certainly had my fair share of martinis as a married woman and never lost jobs because of a wedding ring. (Though it's true that my habit of kissing mysterious strangers was greatly curtailed.)

It wasn't until her thirties that she saw marriage as gain. But it can be a gain at any adult age. For me, the joint decision-making, the wildly optimistic love, even the floundering together were all gains in navigating my twenties.

If we insist on being the finished product of ourselves before we get married, we're missing out on the beauty of doing life together — the dream chasing, the career climbing, the traveling, and the mistakes, all alongside someone else.

When in love — the kind of love that's worth sharing your resources, your time, and your dreams — why would you wait to start the rest of your life together?

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Doesn't your heart swell when you see a grey-haired couple walking hand-in-hand or kissing when they don't know anyone's watching? It's because of the years they've shared, the for better and for worse, and not just the years they had it all together. Young love grows into old love.

"Wow, look at that couple with great careers, who did whatever they wanted for themselves before they finally decided to commit to each other," is a perfectly acceptable image to have as a married couple.

But it simply doesn't inspire like a commitment that says, "I will marry you now because I love you now. And I will be beside you through all the changes. I will chase my dreams and yours, and they will become ours. I will enter into something that is both you and me, for our joint good, not just for my gain. I will exercise both hope and faith in this love because the future is always unknown, but I know I want to do it with you."

A good marriage is hard at any age.

Whether you're twenty-four and worried you're going to regret it or forty-nine with the business card you've always dreamt of, or seventy and think you've learned every lesson a relationship has to teach you.

Are you willing to make decisions with each other in mind and to go forward in life with the other's best interest at heart?

Are you okay rubbing off your rough edges on someone else, and letting them do the same?

Do you want to spend the rest of your years enjoying the work you've done alongside a lover you also trust as your best friend?

If so, then get married. That's the more-than-happily ever after. You can have it in your twenties, thirties, or nineties.

And you can have it in New York City or anywhere else in the world. In response to the author's comment that New Yorkers don't get married in their twenties, I did, and there's nothing about being an urbanite that requires singledom.

If there's one thing true about that great city, it's that she's forever changing without losing her identity, and she does so for the people she loves. I say the same is possible for young marriage.

I'm still the idealist I was in my twenties, just wiser and with new dreams.

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I'm changing all the time — in light of my husband, because of my husband, and for reasons that have nothing to do with him. He's changing, too, but our paths intertwine, creating a shared journey.

So, don't pity me. Don't pity twenty-two-year-old me in my white dress, clinging to the arm of my grinning groom, my eyes burning with tears of hope, desperate to start the rest of my life.

Don't pity the thirty-two-year-old me with healed wounds, new confidence, and a heart full of gratitude and joy.

And don't pity the couple we hope to be — gray and tired, but in love with the people we've helped each other become.

Brit Tashjian writes on the collisions of Christ & culture and tradition & progress.