On Marrying Young

by admin

A friend of mine, a young lady who is just entering into marriage, shared with her friends an article containing 5 reasons why one guy got married before age 23.    The piece is pretty love-oriented, and it’s not wrong, but I don’t know if it deals fully with all the reasons why people put off marriage today.  I do think it nails the biggest one: fear.  Fear of missing out on “single life”.  Fear of making the wrong decision.  So many fears.Scared Kirk

Full disclosure: my parents married young – they were 19 when they married.  They are still married.  My aunts and uncles all married young – I think the oldest to get married was my Dad’s twin brother who won a bet by making it to 30.  The rest all married in their late teens or young twenties.  All are still married.  Of my cousins close in age to me, half married in their early twenties.  No divorces.  So my experience is that there is no relationship between marrying early and marital happiness, or likelihood of divorce.  I think it has much more to do with expectations.

Scared PsychoBut I want to focus on fear in this post.  Do you worry that you might choose wrong if you are young?  That you might not know yourself or what you want?  That you haven’t “lived” yet?  That you are young and broke, won’t have the money for college, won’t be able to provide?

I’ll start with a caveat.  I am a Bible-believing Christian, and I do take seriously the fact that God is clear in His word that a man should be prepared to provide for his family (1 Timothy 5:8).  That said, I am equally convinced that nowhere does the Bible say that everyone needs to start marriage debt free, owning a nice house and car, and with a substantial RRSP in place.  These are ridiculous expectations that people use to disguise their fear as wisdom, and keep themselves from blessing (Proverbs 18:22).

I plan to raise my sons to prepare for marriage young.  Not because I am old fashioned, but for other reasons.  But the biggest one is for them not to fear.  My experience has been that there should be no fear to marrying young.  Caution, yes, but not fear.  Let me tell you my experience.

Did my wife and I know ourselves before we got married?  Did we have our life charted out and on our way?  Had we “found ourselves” yet?  Had we sowed our wild oats?  No.

We had both been to college – she to a film production school and I to Forestry Technology.  But they weren’t 4 year bachelor’s.  And the truth is while both of those studies we love and still look to in our leisure, neither of us are pursuing those as our careers.  But they were what we were doing when we got married.  We found ourselves after we married.  Together.  Because our love is strong enough to endure change – we both have changed since we married.  But we founded our marriage on expecting change, not hoping both of us had reached a perfect state beforehand and now will be forever the same person we married.  This idea that once you have found yourself your spouse can truly know you and accept you and there will be more stability is utter nonsense.  Everyone changes.  If your relationship can’t handle change, then break up.  Don’t waste your time with a potential partner who won’t love and accept you as you grow and change.  Because you aren’t ever going to stop.

Had we lived yet?  Had we experienced “single life”?  In slightly older parlance, had we “sowed our wild oats”?  No, not really.  My wife still lived with her parents, and I had been living away from home, on the day we got engaged, for a year and a half.  8 months of that was in an apartment while going to school, so not much real life.  I had dated exactly one girl before I met my wife.  She had gone on a few dates with a few young men but had never been in a sustained relationship before me.  We were our first sexual partners.  I hear many suggest you have to “test drive” sexual relationships to see if you’re compatible, as an excuse for getting intimate, and I can (and have) written more extensively on that fallacy, but I’ll summarize: previous sexual experiences create incompatibility.  That includes porn, explicit films, explicit conversation with friends or schoolmates, and even sexual abuse history.  When you come together as each others’ firsts, you form your compatibility together as you discover what you like and don’t like.  Any sexually experienced man will tell you every woman’s path to pleasure is different – so I ask, why learn what pleases a succession of women (or men) when that experience will tell you almost nothing about what floats your ultimate mate’s boat?  Previous sexual experience only creates baggage, comparisons, and doubts about loyalty.  They also demonstrate a lack of character – that you can’t control yourself or care about the future of another person, that you would safeguard both their trust and their ultimate spouse’s trust.

But sex is only part of the “living” picture of singles today.  Travelling, experiencing other cultures, studying widely, taking risks are all part of this idea.  Did getting married young steal these opportunities from us, like the opening verses of Kenny Chesney’s song, “There Goes My Life”?  Well, let’s see.

In our first year of marriage, I started graduate school and she started Nursing school.  I joined a 4×4 ministry to at risk youths and explored the backwoods of BC.  We travelled together to Disneyland, and took a canoe trip with another couple on a wilderness lake with zero road access, enjoying pristine nature together.

A year later, my wife became pregnant, but before she delivered, she travelled to Russia for a study abroad option in her nursing school.  She delivered in the fall, and completed on time her 3rd year of school, bringing our son along as the class’s “mascot”.

A year later, we travelled to Mexico, but shortly before travelling we discovered we were pregnant with our second.  Our firstborn stayed with family while we travelled.

I changed careers around this time, and we also took on a special needs young woman in our home as a side job for Cheryl after she graduated.   A few years later we joined a team that travelled to Africa, where we helped design and construct a model playground for a model school being built to train teachers in a very poor country.  Again, our children stayed with family.

Since then, we have gone to Disney three more times, (with kids), explored Amish country alone together, moved between provinces, planted a church, and taken two massive road trips with our children through almost every state west of the Mississippi.  Did I mention that in only three of those years did we have a household income over six figures?  The rest of the time it’s been mostly 60’s combined.  Have we lived?  If what we’ve done together isn’t living, I don’t know what you’d call it.  We haven’t missed a thing.

I can’t imagine how my life would have been more fulfilling had we delayed marriage until our 30’s.  Instead of 10 years of loneliness and wandering, looking for fulfillment, I have 10 more years with the love of my life that I can look back on.

I’ll leave you with this last thought.  People who delay marriage to “find themselves” and “experience” do grow.  They do mature, and they do develop life patterns that become more and more important to them over time.  This makes it harder and harder to imagine becoming one with another, even for love.  We become less willing to compromise, less willing to adjust, and the statistics bear out the older we get, the less likely it is we will ever get married.  If a man is single and has never been married by the time he is 40, statistics say he will almost never marry.  The biological imperative has largely subsided, and other interests become more important and with more payoff than seeking that more and more elusive soulmate.

Connected but separate

Connected but separate

It’s like this: if you are going to create one of those intertwined trees that lots of gardeners love, you can’t take two mature trees.  You might get them to bend a little, but not a lot.  They might grow closer together, but they will never unite fully.

On the other hand, if you take two saplings, they are easily wrapped around each other.

Entwined Cedar and Fir

Entwined Cedar and Fir

And as they grow and reach maturity already united, they will before very long not only become inseparable, but looking at them from any distance, they will look like one tree.  That’s the potential of a young marriage.  The longer you delay, the longer you fear all that marriage represents, the more time you waste.  Like Billy Crystal’s character, Harry said, “When you realize that you want to spend the rest of your life with one person, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

That sappy Aerosmith song, “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing”?  I haven’t missed a thing… BECAUSE I got married young.  Don’t fear it.  Embrace it.

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