I Do Before Twenty-Two
It seems that from the moment you turn 18, the number of guess-who-got-engaged conversations gradually matches the frequency of conversations involving small talk about the weather and post-graduation plans. While, on one hand, it seems like everyone’s getting engaged, many students would also argue that they would never get married so young and they’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, not only is marriage at its lowest point since the 1920s, but the average age at marriage has risen by about seven years since the 1960s. Moreover, one in seven U.S. adults say they never want to get married. However, there are a select few who have dared to break that mold.
Over the past few months three undergraduate women—all of whom who’ve tied the knot before their 22nd birthday—have taken the time to sit down and tell us about their thoughts on various topics including how they knew they’d met “the one,” how they handled the tough questions and how their families molded their views on marriage.
Meet the Couples
Things We’ve Learned
1. They found that the quality that made their husbands stand out was that they supported them to be the best version of themselves.
“Entering into a marriage can foster a sense of purpose through a shared perspective on life and a need to support another person,” reported Gallup in a 2016 survey. When speaking with Maria, Leah and Anna they all agreed that the distinguishing factor that separated their husbands from the other men they dated was that their husbands supported their careers and pushed them to pursue their own goals.
“As a person, I have room for growth, and in a marriage, you need someone who’s going to help you grow.”
Over the last two years, Leah and Dustin have both grown. Leah says she’s learned how to sacrifice more and that things don’t always go according to plan. Together they’ve also learned how to work together to manage things like communication, emotions and finances.
“He didn’t want me to just give up on everything just to be there and serve him. He actually wanted me to be who I wanted to be and he would just be there with me.”
More than that, Maria and Mauricio have learned how to handle their differences.
“He’s a very religious person and we disagree on some fundamental aspects, but we understand each other and respect each other to the point where we can talk about these things without me judging him or him judging me.”
“I knew I loved him because he pushed me more than any of my other boyfriends … He pushed me to be my best self,” said Anna. “I don’t push myself like I could and Taylor helps me see that.”
2. When it came to backlash or negative comments, their best response was to just shake it off.
In large, Maria, Leah and Anna didn’t receive a lot of negative feedback from their close friends and family. While there were a few exceptions, most everyone was encouraging and helpful. However, when people questioned them on topics like their age or whether they were getting married because they were pregnant, they all agreed on one thing: it was their marriage, not anyone else’s and they didn’t need the input of the people who didn’t support them.
“People are going to say what they want to say, think what they want to think, and the people who don’t support us don’t matter.”
One of the people she got criticism from was a woman that she looked up to at her old church. It is here where she and her fiancé received a less than supportive response from the pastor’s wife. “She told my mom that we were making a mistake and that our frontal lobes weren’t fully developed,” said Leah.
Age was always a concern other people had. “That was like the first thing anyone would ever say to us. They were like, “Oh you’re so young why don’t you wait it out? And at the same time we were like well why?” said Anna. “We want to enjoy our time and our relationship together.”
“My family knows that I’m a responsible person and that I would think things through. They were like hey, if you really really want to do this, as long as you never quit school, go for it,” said Maria. “My true friends, even though they might have been a little weirded out, they were supportive.”
Even on her wedding day, Maria still dealt with unwanted questioning. “On my wedding day, the hairdresser next to me asked if I was pregnant and if that was why I was getting married,” recalled Maria. “I thought that was insensitive and so not her place to ask.” In the end, Maria, as well as Anna and Leah, stand by their decisions to marry their husbands when they did.
3. Their parents’ romantic relationships impacted how they view marriage and romantic relationships.
Our parents have a profound impact on our behaviors as we grow up, but it’s not often that we stop to think about how their actions have imprinted on our wants and needs in our romantic life. Leah, Maria and Anna agreed that their parent’s marriages’ acted as a point of comparison for their marriages and their behaviors influenced what they were looking for in a spouse.
Leah and Dustin’s parents both have only had one marriage and they aim to do the same. Even so, they’ve also realized that their respective parent’s marriages were different.
“We grew up in different households. He saw his dad treat his mom in ways that I never saw my parents treat each other. We both had different ideas of what we thought marriage was going to be based on our parents, but we had to learn to adjust.”
Maria and Mauricio grew up under different circumstances. While Maria’s parents are still together, Mauricio’s parents got divorced and remarried to different spouses.
“My parents have always tackled every aspect as a team, so I see Mauricio and I as a team instead of as two separate entities in one household.”
While Taylor’s parents got divorced when he was very young, Anna’s parents got divorced when she was in high school. Their divorce caused her to rethink things like dating and relationships.
“It kind of makes you look at what you’re looking for in a person … I think it made me take dating more seriously. I think some people date just to date and I was really thinking about the person I wanted to be with,” said Anna.
If you asked any of these women, they’d tell you that there’s nothing they’d change about their relationships. Much like any other couple, they’re doing what’s best for them. “We’re still growing and learning about each other. This is not going to change anytime soon.”