Should Women Get Married Young? Everyone Has an Opinion, Apparently

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If you've been following along over on Parenting.com, I recently wrote about the young marriage debate going on throughout the Interwebz. Here's the basic gist: This woman advised Ivy League students to focus on their M.R.S. degree (finding a husband in college) and everyone was all, oh no she di'nt. And then this woman wrote an essay saying, "WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE WAITING FOR? Get married! At 23!" And then this other woman explained why that is a really terrible idea.

...and then the blogosphere exploded with their own opinions, including the entire staff of the Huffington Post.

And for me? Listen, I understand why so many people are pleading for young women to wait on marriage. I understand because I used to be them. But then I got married young and watched our relationship — watched myself — embrace the challenge and evolve individually and as a couple. I now understand that marriage can be incredibly challenging, but it's impossible to understand all the ways a marriage, young or not-so-young, can affect someone. It's impossible to know how something as complex as marriage will change a person, no matter the age.

There's absolutely something to be said for fully knowing yourself before committing to a life-long relationship with another person — that's not up for debate. But there's also something uniquely beautiful about growing up alongside someone else. Sometimes it's a disaster — people change and grow apart, no matter how old you are — but when it works? When it works, it's worth it.

My husband is turning 29 tomorrow, yet I remember him being 19. I remember him living with roommates, delivering pizzas, barely out of high school. And it's incredible to look at this man — this father and HANDSOME husband (seriously, he gets better looking each year)  — and think "you've grown into such a wonderful man." I feel, I don't know, pride? Like I'm proud of him. We used to lounge on a dilapidated futon exchanging our "what I want to be when I grow up" goals, and now we're grown up and actually achieving these goals.

Us, in 2006:

Our lives have changed drastically since those days when I'd plan my waitressing schedule just so I might bump into him to and from the kitchen. But all of the biggest changes happened with him, by my side.

Although the debate rages without any real conclusion, one response from The Huffington Post really stuck with me. It's from editor Lisa Belkin's mother, Janet Belkin, age 75:

I am writing this 55 years after I was married at age 20. This was several weeks after I graduated from a prestigious woman’s college and my husband had graduated from dental school. Our marriage lasted for 46 years until I was widowed in 2004. They were wonderful years, and if I were to relive my choices, I would not change my decision at all.

The press (particularly the feminist press) frequently gets consumed with “having it all." I firmly believe that I did have it all, albeit serially rather than simultaneously. I gave birth to my first child, Lisa, when I was 22, and my third was born when I was 26. Because I was too young to regard child rearing as a mission in which I must be the “best," raising my children was a joyful and generally relaxed experience. I was not filled with concern about being a wonderful mom -- I assumed that love and common sense would see me through --- and it did!

Many people, including my parents, argued that I should see more and do more before I got married (although they were fine with my choice) which to me implied that marriage and experiences were not compatible, and this was just not true. While raising my children I managed to earn a Ph.D. and then a J.D. As a family we traveled in Europe and Asia, and the experiences created memories we still explore.

And then, all too quickly, I was in my early 40’s; a new corporate lawyer and an empty nester. I pursued a career actively, and successfully, but, with the knowledge that there was more to life than work; and so I enjoyed both. At age 73 I married again -- but that is another wonderful story.

Do I believe that one should marry young? Absolutely -- if that is the time you meet someone with whom you know you want to spend the rest of your life. I do not believe that one should view marriage as part of a time schedule but I also do not believe that one should reject marriage based on one’s age. From my perspective, marrying young, and having children young, is the best way to “have it all." And its been a terrific ride, so far.

 

What about you? What's your opinion on the young marriage debate?

Read more over at Parenting.com.

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