What I want you to know: I married young and that's okay

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Shelley Armenta.

that's what she said new

Marriage isn’t exactly an eyebrow raiser. Most people are raised with the belief that marriage is a rite of passage. What makes my marriage seem crazy to so many people is the age at which I said I do.

A typical eighteen-year-old spends the summer after graduating high school packing for college and going to party after party. I spent mine planning a wedding and moving into a condo with my fiancé.

Marriage is a social norm but there is a universally acceptable chain of events that must precede a wedding: college, a career, and a few years of dating around are all things that people believe that I should have done before becoming a wife. As touching as the unsolicited concern and comments of others is, it’s getting old hearing the same reactions time and again.

Typically when someone finds out that I’m married and that my husband and I have a son, they become visibly smug. Clearly it’s very hard for people to wrap their heads around the fact that I would choose to get married at such a young age. So when they find out that we have a child, they feel justified in their belief that there was a reason (besides the whole being in love thing) that led us to get married. In their eyes we become a typical young couple who messed up, got pregnant and decided marriage was the solution.

The problem with that theory is that we had our son after we chose to get married. Noah was born a year after our wedding. Did it all happen a little fast? Yes. Was our child the reason we said “I do” or the reason we are still together? No.

My husband and I dated for three years - longer than most couples – and were engaged for another year on top of that. I think it’s safe to say that after all that time we just liked being together.

Another usual reaction I get is the one that comes from my age group. It’s the question of “Should-I-have-dated-around-like-crazy-and-had-some-fun-before-I-tied-the-knot?” This is a fun reaction to deal with because frankly when discussing this with someone my age, what we’re really discussing is whether or not I should have whored it up for a while when I was still young. You know, because that’s what youth is for. Anyways, I’m still young and I do have fun. I happen to be married to my best friend and we have a blast together. And the best part of it is that I didn’t have to spend years of my life looking for him in all the wrong people.

The last reaction that I get is really just ignorance. It’s the thought that because I’m married and have a family, my life is over. I should have kissed all of my goals and dreams goodbye on my wedding day, tied on a pretty pink apron and put my baby making face on while climbing into a little domestic hole. That’s fine for some women because there is no shame in being a housewife and a mom, but I’ve had big plans for myself since a was a little girl and I read that marriage certificate and nowhere on it did it say I was signing over those dreams. I just get to do them with an amazing support system by my side. My husband knew me and what I hoped for my future as soon as we started to get to know each other. That’s the beauty of real love, not only do you accept the other person’s dreams, but you take them as your own. You gain a whole new set of goals that become just as close to your heart as your own. And those sets of goals and dreams come together to build up a future even better than the one you imagined years before.

Marriage is a choice made by two people who for one reason or another, want to join their lives and futures together. The age that that decision is made is a personal one and it’s unfair to judge a relationship and a family by the age at which it was founded. Getting married at a young age was not a choice that I took lightly. It’s not always easy and we’ll have many obstacles in our future together but I reaffirm the choice I made that autumn day three years ago every single day by choosing to work through any problems and by nurturing the love we have.  

That’s the key to a successful marriage. I just happen to be an early learner. 

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