So, people think you’re too young to get married

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Danielle and Ben Engagement-57.jpg
I am 19 years old and I’ve been with my boyfriend for 4 years. We are very much in love and have eventual plans for marriage, but nothing set in stone. An old friend recently commented that we were “too young” to be engaged. I was so offended, and wrote a strongly worded message back, essentially saying I didn’t care what she thought, and I found it presumptions that she would pass judgment. Now, I realize I’m a young person, but I never thought that love had an age limit.

My question for you is: How can I diffuse future situations where others judge our love to be “too young” for anything serious? I know it’ll come up again, and I need to be prepared and not lose my cool.

It’s true that love has no age limit. That said, if a love is true there’s no need to prove it. There’s no need to defend it. There’s no need to worry about those who might judge you. When you feel strong and confident and comfortable in your relationship, it doesn’t matter what other people say.

The biggest mistake young brides make is wasting time defending their commitment to others instead of solidifying the decision with themselves and their partner. I will say that I personally spent a huge amount of energy in my early 20s proving myself to others. With age, I learned to stop wasting my time trying to change people’s opinions about who I was, and started focusing my energy on my own self-development. I quickly learned that people respected me much more when I was visibly working to improve myself instead of prove myself. When you feel truly solid in yourself, the need to argue your point to others starts to fade away. With relationships, this means you can feel more comfortable letting the relationship and its duration speak for itself.

When you dedicate time to debating with people about your relationship, your reaction can be interpreted as immaturity, in essence proving the very point you’re trying to defend. You know what shows people you’re mature enough to be engaged? Grounded confidence and self-awareness. An openness to acknowledging that you might not know everything. A willingness to admit that yes, you’re young but that it doesn’t change the fact that the two of you are working to build a lifetime commitment together. In other words: stop arguing with people about how you’re too young, and start demonstrating that you’re not.

Stop arguing with people about how you’re too young, and start demonstrating that you’re not.

When people say you’re “too young,” just shrug and explain that part of what you like about being committed at this age is that you get to grow up together. Acknowledge your youth, and acknowledge the challenges. Ask them why — remember, these are your friends. They care about you. They may have interesting perspectives.

Tell them how excited you are to show that young people can make a lifetime commitment and stick to it. Talk about the books on marriage and commitment that you and your partner are reading together. (Because you ARE doing your commitment homework, right?) Mention the older advisers like family friends, coworkers, or clergy who you’ve talked to about commitment. (Because you ARE talking to your elders, right?) Explain how excited you are build a financial future together, and how you’re both working hard to reach your shared goals. (Because you DO have financial goals you’re actively working toward, right?)

This is all to say, rather than spend your time writing “strongly worded messages,” put your energy into fortifying your relationship. A strong partnership that lasts for decades is your best defense. Sure, it’s not a reply you can send immediately. But again: a love that’s true has no need to be proven today. It will be proven tomorrow, and next month, and next year, and decades from now.

Comments on So, people think you’re too young to get married

  1. Thanks so much for addressing this. I’m currently 20 and have gotten a few looks when the fact that I’m engaged has come up. The most common comment is “You’re not even old enough to drink!”

    Even though I will be 22 and finished with my BS when I actually get married, everyone still considers that to be VERY young. It’s nice to know that some people do approve, if you’re doing your homework!

    • While we will be 19/21 at our wedding, i couldn’t imagine being anywhere else in life. i’m very happily in school and working..he’s also going back to school and has a great job. we live comfortably. we’re not ultra stressed or confused about where we are in life or where we are going. we’re excited about seeing the world -together- and having a great time. day-by-day, that’s all i think it takes. It’s a spiritual connection and a deep love that will prove to the nay-sayers that you can do it and it’s none of their business anyway to tell you how you should party hard and be a drunken idiot through college (that never, ever sounded fun to me.)

  2. Love this. Thank you again and again for all the level headedness you bring to the wedding world. 🙂

  3. This is great advice! When I hear about people younger than 21 getting married, I do, initially have bad feelings about it only because I remember my boyfriend when I was 16-20 years old – Gack! So wrong for me – it was a young, blind, puppy love thing. BUT, if I was told to do my “relationship and financial homework,” back then, I would have realized that I wasn’t really for a commitment. If putting the work in doesn’t scare the begeezus out of you, maybe you’re ready – very sage advice indeed.

  4. Our plans aren’t very concrete, which is why we haven’t met with any “too young” comments or negative comments in general. But we (or I, he’s 8 years older than I am) are quite young and I just noticed we’re not doing anything it says in that post. I have never in my life read any advice-books on anything, much less on commitment or marriage. I don’t even know who those elders would be we should be talking with. We’re not in any church (he never was in any either), my father’s been pretty much single since he divorced my mother while my mother’s been in a few unsuccessful relationships and the only friends I’ve been talking with about relationships are around my age. The only role model I have for a relationship that started at a young age and held until death parted them, is my grandparents. Unfortunately my grandmother is the one who died and I’m not comfortable discussing relationships with my grandfather. We don’t dare to plan ahead financially, since we both have very insecure career plans (I’m hoping to stay in my extremely obscure field after studying while he’s in such a broad and competitive field that it’s hard to say where he’ll end up) so all we’ve been talking about are dreams (not plans).
    Can you (and this is a general, vague you) recommend any books for young couples? Or have any other advice for me on how to work on our relationship?

    • As for books, I’m not sure I’m will be of any help. The one that pops into my head is ‘the marriage book’ by Nicky and Sila Lee (We have read that and found it pretty useful. We were doing the course as well, it helped us talk through issues that somehow didn’t come up easily in normal conversation). It is christian, not really ‘in your face’, but still, if that bugs you, don’t read it.
      But what I really wanted to say, is that if I were you, I want try to expand your conversations about dreams, making them more or less into plans. Everything will come in good time, so no need to over plan anything, but try to get real. How do you envision life together?
      We are just (2.5 weeks) married, still graduate students and have no real income. We did however save money from summer jobs / part-time jobs and made a plan how to pay for the wedding and support ourselves the rest of our time as students. We found it really helped to get some numbers on paper, for ourselves, but for our parents too. It helped them to see that we were thinking ahead, had a plan and were overall responsible. They then decided to help us pay for the wedding. Notice the order of events? I think that this is what Ariel means. Not necessarily having everything worked out completely, but that you are working on it and take responsible steps, showing people around you that they can have a grounded trust in you. Good luck on this exciting path of committing yourself to each other!

    • I received a book during my engagement that was really helpful. It’s called “The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say ‘I Do'”, by Susan Piver, and it led to some great discussions with my husband about family, finances, home life, sex, and more. The author’s perspective resonated with me – she encourages questioning and is open to different types of relationships, as long as you are honest with yourself and each other.

      I highly recommend picking up a copy (it’s really cheap on Amazon) and talking through the questions with your partner over the course of several months. And then revisiting them later. You’ll never be done talking through the hard questions!

      Oh, by the way, I’m 23 and my husband is 24. We didn’t get a lot of crap for getting married at this age though – I think people recognize that we’ve really thought it through and we work well together.

    • My parents have both been in multiple unsuccessful long-term relationships, and I have dealt with feeling like I’ve never really had a good role model. I thought someone had ripped my hear out when my one couple role model announced they were getting a divorce. But I feel way less freaked out now not from reading books but by talking, both intimately and openly with my significant other and with just random strangers (I work retail and often have a lot of time in a female-dominant shop to talk to people). I have discovered a lot of communication helps me know what I want and what my partner wants and where our goals align or differ. I am part of various internet forums about gender and sexuality and feminism, and talking to people from different backgrounds and the more abstract side of things helps me out. And I’ve even found some people who appear to have role-model-worthy relationships that way. I still have strongly considered counseling before getting hitched officially, though, since we really are young and I really do have a lot of issues I should work through before signing anything.

    • People who have experience with unsuccessful relationships may surprise you with their insights into successful ones. Don’t discount your parents’ input just because they haven’t achieved what you’re hoping to.

    • A great place to start might be couples therapy. If you don’t have role models for long term relationships that made it, working with a pro is a *great* idea. She’ll make you ask the hard questions and come up with the answers. We did this, and we’re on really solid footing, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Instead it’s something to be proud of. And with some research you should be able to find people that will work with you on a sliding scale.

      That said, parents and family and loved ones are a great resource, no matter how their relationships panned out. Why? They know you really well, not to mention they have lots of life experance. So ask them what they think, and listen to what they have to say.

      As for the books, girlfriend, the library awaits. There are so many phenomenal books on marriage and on financial planning. If you can’t find them on your own, that’s why god made reference librarians. But until you’ve put serious research into researching and reading about marriage and finances (they don’t need to be all in order, but you do need to have a rough game plan of what you’d like to do in your lives, and how you’re starting to make that happen, even if it’s saving $5 a week…), I would argue it’s WAY too soon to tie the knot.

      Those knots are awfully painful and expensive to untie. You owe it to yourselves to do a lot of reading and talking before you tie it.

      • I am surrounded by failed marriages (myself included) but the one thing I can say is that after getting out of a failed marriage, I now know what I do and do not want in a future relationship. I have found my footing and can say what is right for me in a relationship and have learned from my mistakes. I will agree to ask those around who have the experience and can offer advice to help. Having that line of communication open between you and your partner is a major key component. If you can’t talk about the major issues in a marriage now, it might turn out to be too late once the knot is tied. Too much information was never a bad thing in this case.

      • I highly recommend couples therapy. (To everyone, I’m always suggesting it). It is just the coolest thing ever, honestly. You get to talk over your issues with your partner with someone who helps you resolve them. And those issues that keep being a problem? You learn how to communicate them so you can move on to new problems! (Or sometimes, so that you can communicate about them, and the underlying issue such as “I suck at getting my chores done” is still there, but you can talk it through).
        Basically, I think everyone should try couples counselling. (FWIW, it’s expensive, but what we did was go every other week for about two months, and then now we go in if we have an issue we can’t work out, or if we feel like it would be beneficial).
        Also, make a date out of it. Go to counseling, and then have brunch together, or take a walk and keep talking.

    • While we had been in a very loving and stable relationship for 2 years, after we got engaged we got a book as a gift and decided to read it. It is a really good read and the exersizes helped us with mostly what we already knew, and a lot of things we didn’t! It’s a good way to discuss the things to come and how to handle those things. check it out! http://www.amazon.com/Just-Engaged-Prepare-Marriage-before/dp/1598693298/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288809627&sr=1-3 I also recommend couples therapy. Just a good way to start off a marriage!

    • There is a book that my partner and I did called “1001 questions to ask before you get married.” The downside is it is written with heterosexual pronouns- however it does not re-enforce gender expectations and is not religious like many other relationship books I saw (as a feminist studies major this was important to me). It takes a long time to go through- but it is well worth it. It leads to lots of important conversations. I’m only 22 now and this summer when I was 21 we eloped (we are planning on having a bigger bash in a couple of years).

  5. My husband and I were just married last weekend – but we have been together for 7 years. I’m 23 he’s 24.

    Being young and immature when we were first dating, I spent a lot of time defending our relationship. When we both were 21, we got engaged which caused a firestorm of opinions suddenly come to light from some very close loved ones.

    I respected their opinions, but disagreed and my first instinct was to send back “strongly worded messages” to their hurtful opinions. It was a long hard road with my parents disagreeing with a lot of decisions myself and husband made.

    But in the end, just before the wedding – my dad (the person whose opinion means the most to me) was riding in the car with me and told me he admired our solidarity in sticking to what we (my husband and I) wanted whether everyone agreed or not. That was the best thing I had heard in a very long time.

    He said I was stubborn, but sometimes that can be good. Because you can’t run around changing your life for everyone’s different opinion – no matter how much they mean to you. My DAD told me that. And in the end, EVERYONE was happy for us at our wedding – which is all I wanted. Genuine happiness.

    Its much more constructive to show rather than angrily tell someone how you feel.

  6. Thank you SO MUCH for this post. I’m 21, will be 22 when I get married, and people have been just a tad snide when they hear I’m engaged. Or maybe I need to grow a thicker skin?

    The other day I was out with some classmates. One of them mentioned her birthday is coming up. I said, “So’s mine! I’ll be 22.” She went, “You’re 21 and you’re engaged?” with this LOOK on her face… but then she went on to talk about her cousin who’s 19, married and pregnant and she didn’t seem to find THAT weird.

    Before that, another classmate was complaining about not having enough time to study because of her job. She said, “Having to pay your own bills sucks! You have the right idea getting married right out of university.” I’m sure she didn’t mean to imply anything by it and just spoke thoughtlessly, but it stung.

    When people make comments like this, I have to remember that I never hear that sort of thing from my close friends and that my parents love the future Mr. Winterbymorning and consider him part of the family already.

  7. It’s so good to read something other than the constant “Nooooo, you’re way too young, you MUST finish college first, you MUST establish a succesful career, you MUST go out and have fun while you’re young and most importantly your immature and dumb teenage brain has to fully develope before you can even consider something like a serious relationship!”

    I’m 19 at the moment and my partner’s 8 years older and even though we’ve been together for nearly 5 years, lived together 1,5 years and won’t be marrying until 2012 some people still seem to feel it’s their “duty” to tell us how stupid we are when we told them we’re engaged, especially since he’s my first for pretty much everything.
    I’ve spent so much time trying to figure out how to get them to shut up and finally (slowly lol) come to the conclusion it’s not worth it.
    Just like this post says it’s so much easier and fun to stick all the energy in our relationship (and a lot better for my bloodpressure too!) and just reaffirming our goals in life.

    So what if I don’t want to go out and “have fun” (what exactly does that mean anyway?) and instead build up my life, career and future with the man I love dearly?
    I think it’s beautiful to see already how we’ve grown as a couple over the last few years and I can’t wait to see how the rest of our time together will look like.

    Sure, it still stings when people comment on our choice but it’s not our problem and we’ve got full support from our parents and friends and each other and that’s all we need.

    • Ugh, the “having fun” thing. Last week I declined to go out to a fundraising party with two classmates. One of them said, “So you’re already a boring married woman?” I was boring before I got engaged XD

    • I love this one too. I’ve asked the family who say it “Are you saying I should break up and sleep around?”
      And the way they stutter and try to backtrack is just silly. I always make sure to add “It’s okay, I know what you mean, but I was never into partying, single or taken.”

      • I had someone tell me that I should sleep with men other than my boyfriend before I get married. Seriously. I was so offended that I left the room.

        • Exactly that!
          They imply that you “Go out, get so drunk you can’t tell which way is up and sleep with everything, willing or not, that comes by” but when you ask them nothing comes out because ofcourse they didn’t suggest you should turn into a drunken slag (even though it is what they meant).

          I don’t like drinking or partying, although I do like spending time with my friends and if that be at the occasional party, fair enough, and I find it very comforting that my fiance has been my only bedpartner.
          I couldn’t just go sleep with anyone, what the hell makes others think I would just sleep with others to “gain some experience” before I get married?

          They do generally shut up though when I ask them sweetly how many people they gained experience with prior to “jumping into marriage” as they like to put it.

          • I’m not a party person, either. And I have crazy high standards, so it’s not like I’d be hooking up with guys if I was single!

            The fact that this guy was telling me I would be in some way defective for only sleeping with one person my whole life really bothered me. Was it the world’s worst way to try to get into a girls pants? Did he not see how demeaning that statement was to women? What, we’re defined by our sexual acts and abilities? We don’t get to CHOOSE how many people is the right number to have sex with for ourselves? For all his talk of being open-minded and modern, he was giving me the creeps.

          • And then again, if you’ve slept with a lot of different people you’re a slut.
            You can’t win 😀

            But besides that, if someone thinks they have a right to tell someone else they should sleep with more people then who is it really who is immature?

          • I remember my favorite “you’re missing out” speech. It was one of my neighbor’s from my apartment complex who was about to get married. She said the one thing she thought I was missing out on was spring break (completely serious). She was one of those girls you saw making out with random strangers within seconds of each other. I have NEVER been that kind of person, and the idea that she thought that I was missing out on that was laughable.

    • It’s not just “having fun” in a sexual way people seem to believe you loose when you’re married either. The other day someone told me she couldn’t get married yet because she’d miss going to concerts too much.

      I think some people confuse marriage with a whole host of other life changes/choices and feel like as soon as the ceremony is over you’re going to become some crazy-busy, 100% family orientated 30-something, no matter who you were before.

      I haven’t gotten the ‘too young’ talk but I have gotten a lot of people suggesting that even though we already have our own flat and jobs getting married will suddenly produce a ton of extra bills and responsiblities that will force us to give up everything fun or interesting in our lives.

  8. I’m so glad this is being addressed! I have been dealing with this same problem for a while. However, in my case I have gotten a lot of flack for being with someone younger than me.

    My boyfriend proposed to me one day after my 21st birthday and after three years together. His age at the time? 18. He is now 19 and I will be 22 in January.

    I have had to take so much criticism for being with a younger guy and for getting engaged so young. It has always been very frustrating for me. The thing is, we are in no rush to be married. We got engaged because we know that we want to be together forever, (So cheesy, but true!) but we haven’t even set a date and don’t plan to for a little while.

    We both know that we have a lot of growing and maturing to do and we are working on that, which I think is one of the most important parts of a relationship.

    Thank you for this post and all of your great advice!

  9. Great post, Ariel, thanks!

    Being 24, and my future husband 25, we still get comments about being too young for our wedding next summer. We are surrounded by extreme career oriented people who see getting married before 30 as a really bad move. But, anyone who makes a comment about it is somebody who doesn’t really know us.

    One of my close friends (that also happens to be very career oriented) was listing off a bunch of people he knew that were getting married within the year, talking about how young they all were (all of them were 23-26).

    He left me off his list. I said “Hey wait a minute I’m getting married too!” And his response was “Yeah, but I don’t consider you two to be too young….you guys are totally legit.”

    So, there you have it. If its true that your relationship rocks, the people who know you best should realize you’re “legit,” and to heck with all the other nay-sayers.

    • I’ve come across the same thing. Some friends of ours have said we are too young (I am 22, he is 25), but every time they say that, our best friends jump to our defense and say that other people our age might be too immature but that we have “the right stuff”. =p

      I agree with all this–let your relationship speak for itself! I think a lot of nay-sayers are jealous in one way or another. They see you are happy, and young and wonder why it hasn’t happened for them or why it took them so much longer than you.

      • Either that or they made a concious decision to focus on something else (maybe an education or career, or just being free n’ single) and feel pressured to defend their choice by pointing out the negative aspects of all the alternatives.

        Which is not the best way to go about things, but it’s very common.

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