23? Not Too Young to Marry

23? Not Too Young to Marry

Melanie and Bridget
Melanie holding my new niece Bridget, born before Christmas.
[lead dropcap="yes"]There’s a blog post going around entitled “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23”, written by a young woman who is seeing all her friends getting engaged and married and vowing that she doesn’t want to tie herself down and give up on her dreams of world travel and amazing experiences in order to settle down. Or how she puts it:[/lead]

I can’t help but feel like a lot of these unions are a cop-out.

It is a way for young people to hide behind a significant other instead of dealing with life’s highs and lows on their own. It’s a safety blanket. It’s an admission that the world is just too big and scary to deal with it on your own; thus, you now have someone that is legally obligated to support you till one of you dies or files for divorce.

Of course, she says, previous generations got married young, but everything is different for Millennials, don’t you know? Yeah, every generation thinks it’s the most totally unique generation facing problems and issues and opportunities that no other generation before them ever faced. Sure.

Look, I was once 23 and I didn’t marry until I was well past that age, but her description of marriage for people in their mid–20s is ridiculous. A cop-out? A safety blanket?

Marriage and family is the single most terrifying, satisfying, difficult, rewarding, energizing, draining thing you’ll ever do. What’s easy is deciding to stay in casual relationships, to never make a commitment, to be footloose and fancy free.

I remember the single life, being able to drop everything at a moment’s notice and head out for the night, for the weekend, or on a grand adventure around the world. You had no one else to run decisions by. If you wanted to have Indian curry five nights a week, you could (and I did).

But it was also unfulfilling and lonely, even when you’re dating someone. Being married isn’t a safety blanket because that’s the self-centered way of looking at it. Being married is the real adventure, living with someone that you’re committed to. There’s no going back. Divorce is not an option. It’s me and Melanie for life. We have a problem? We work it out. We argue? We settle it.

And then there’s kids. Children are amazing. They are completely dependent on you. Literally, without you they will die. They love you unconditionally. You are their whole world. And they’re just waiting for you to show them all the cool things in it. So you think going to visit the Pyramids of Egypt is cool? Take your little girl to her first IMAX movie and watch her face light up. Now that’s cool. Read book after book about the ancient Egyptians to her and take her to the Museum’s Egyptian exhibits and be prepared for her to gush over every single thing, not just the big statues and mummies, but even the tiny fragments of stuff they pulled out of the tombs and stacked in the little out-of-the-way display cases.

Then when you can’t imagine it being any more awesome, give them a sibling. And then another. And another. See the miracle that you can be filled with love for a person, add another little person to the mix and be just as completely in love with them too. Even more awesome is to see your spouse in love with that child, to see the children love each other.

The problem isn’t 23-year-olds are “copping out” by getting married. The problem is that by 23 most of them are still adolescents. They’re still playing the same old video games, doing the same old partying, living for no one but themselves, unwilling to grow up. Get married and grow up.

Traveling, partying, sleeping around, doing stuff isn’t what will make you a better spouse and parent some day. Getting married, making a commitment, giving yourself entirely to your family is what does.

My Sicilian grandmother was just 14 when she married. My grandfather was all of 18. They were more grownup than a lot of these 23 year olds. They had opportunities. My grandfather was a fisherman who’d been as far as the Bering Sea by the time he was married. He knew about the world’s offerings. But instead he went back to Sicily to get married because he knew that no matter how far you went, how much you traveled, what cool things you did, it was all so much straw unless you had a family keeping you anchored at home.

So don’t spurn marriage if you have the opportunity at 18, 20, 23, 25. Go for it. Give yourself entirely. Have a big passel of kids. That’s living life to its fullest. It’s a lot more fulfilling than a bunch of postcards and an iPhoto library full of tourist photos you never look at.

Image Credit

  • MelanieandBridget: Own photo
  • Beautifully said. It would be great if that young lady could read this. It might be an eye-opener for her.

    • I agree. Lots of people should read this. I’ve shared it on FB, Twitter and G+.

  • My 23 year old daughter wed in April of 2013. She asked me at Christmas time how I was a mom at 23. She says she is always tired and can’t imagine being a mom because she is so tired. I had no answer other than you do what you have to do. 🙂

  • What a great post. I married at 22 and became a mom at 23. People shook their heads, first telling me I was missing out on being on my own, then saying I hadn’t enjoyed my marriage long enough before having kids. I don’t know what life would have been like otherwise, but I can say this: at 30 I am surrounded by my very favorite people every day (you can’t get more millennial than that!). That is satisfying. Not always easy but a very enriching adventure indeed.

  • I married at 23 a man I had been dating for six months when we tied the knot–though we had been friends for a year. That was almost 40 years ago. In some ways we grew up together through the tough times of the twenties–and thirties–and forties…I worry about the current generation putting marriage off so long. It is HARDER to learn to be married when you are older and settled in a single life, not easier. And, just for the record, God did not want us to do these things alone–He says so in Genesis. And it is truly an adventure and the best one possible–Great post, thanks! OML (Old Married Lady)

  • Great post! That definitely nailed it on the head, charitably and humorously. Thanks so much for that.

  • Just make sure you know what abuse is, and how to reject it. That should be something we learn long, long before the 2nd date, but too few of us ever do, and it is the reason for rampant divorce and timid, drifting, singles.

  • Well Said. I laughed at her “cop-out” comment. Being married at 21 was hard work. Totally worth it, definitely the riskiest thing I ever did (Ta-da NO Net!). Great blog (as usual). p.s. GREAT pic of Melanie!!

  • I was a married at 22 and a mom at 23 and again at 25. Had I put off marriage and children, I would have been childless. Sure, we’ve had some rough times. There were lots of “sickness” and “poorer” moments, but the “richer” part has come from the gift of self that my husband gives me. I am far richer in love and faith than I ever expected to be. I only hope the same can be said of my own gift of self. 🙂 Great post!

  • Thank you for writing this! I’m 27 and was married 5 years ago. At 22 many people thought I was too young. This is very encouraging 🙂

  • I LOVE this blog. Very well said. I was married at 23 and I’d do it again in a heart beat no regrets from this 27year old! I think it just depends on the person so many people are to self centered to make another person the center of their world. I feel bad for them!

  • Great post! I found it through Pinterest but it is right on! I married at 19, was a mother of two by 23. I’m pretty certain that most of those at our wedding didn’t expect us to last, but we’ve been married for 11 years now and have a four kids being raised a lot better off than their friends parents who married the wrong person at age 30 and are now divorced.

  • I’m 30 and in her defense, a lot of the couples I’ve seen getting married had either 1. No business doing so, or 2. Feel it’s the thing to do at 25 or 30. I’m not against early marriage, but I am against unhealthy marriages. I have little doubt that’s what she might be seeing, even if her reasons for opposing it are shallow. It’s the duty of parents, clergy, and other people of faith to help young people form authentic and meaningful relationships.

  • Beautiful! I was married at 23, and my parents thought we were old farts* because they got married at 18 and 19 and will be celebrating 43 years of marriage this summer. 😉

    *My apologies for using the F word.

  • I love that you have taken the time to respond to Vanessa. She clearly has a lot of opinions and maybe even some wounds related to marriage at a young age. I think the fact that you can defend the other side from a personal place is beautiful, but I feel like you’re missing out on something important. You have been just as judgmental as she has, just from the other side of the story!

    I’m 25 years old and I hope that God is calling me to marriage. But He may also call me to singleness. He may also call me to religious life. If this young woman had the opportunity – even the vocation – to marry at 23 and said “no” just because she was 23, I would have a major problem. But that doesn’t seem to be the situation.

    I am currently living single, learning how to manage living on the small budget working for a missionary organization pays, and working to conquer a lot of hurts and fears that have been big parts of my life for a long time. If it were as easy as deciding to “grow up” and get a husband, don’t you think I (and countless others) would just do that?

    Spreading a blanket over taking advantage of the independence of singleness is not better than spreading a blanket over people who marry young. You are living your life to its fullest, but I wonder whether you’ve thought of the implications of what you have said about a life truly being lived to its fullest is the one that includes marriage and a “big passel of kids”. How many Saints have you just discounted? How many priests and religious? How many people seeking to live the abundant life as they anticipate or pray for direction?

    Something I hope you will think about.

    • Tia,

      I wasn’t trying to address the range of vocations but this specific attack on marriage. The original writer was mostly addressing those of her peers who were in relationships and getting married, not those who weren’t in relationships at all, as best as I could tell.

      She also wasn’t speaking in a Catholic context and so I addressed her in the same context. Bringing in religious vocations would have muddled the point and sent the conversation off in a different direction.

      Of course, I don’t think religious vocations are of a lesser kind that marriage. The most important vocation is yours. If you’re called to marriage that’s most important. If to religious life, same.

      I’m not glibly suggesting that to grow up you have to go out and find a husband, but that Vanessa and her peers shouldn’t think that dismissing marriage as a crutch and then gallivanting around the world makes them grown up and mature.

  • New to this blog; love it. Read (well, skimmed) the original article from which your response was drawn. Her bucket list of things to do? Wow, deep, man. I’m really regretting getting married instead of getting a tattoo, for example.