A guest post by TikunOlam
I got married young. By 21 I was engaged, at 22 I was married and by 24 I was a mother. I have been following "Ayelet's" blog, where, among other things, she discusses the frustrations of finding a mate. She is 39, intelligent, successful, from accounts on her blog, attractive, interesting and passionate. I enjoy reading her blog and I frequently comment there. She has even used my name "TikunOlam" in the title of a couple of posts to solicit my opinion on the latest frumster profile up for consideration. Because, I am a shrink who can be very opinionated about guys, I am very happy to share my observations about who sounds mentally stable and worth getting to know versus who has a personality disorder readily apparent from his Frumster profile. Ayelet, also a mental health professional, and I, have been known to diagnose a man or two.
Following her quest and having recent discussions with a family member over Rosh Hashanah, got me thinking about how easy I had it. I met a guy through overlapping college social circles, thought he was cute and fun, he became my best friend, I fell in love and I got married. He had a dead end job and had no idea what he was going to do with his life. I was just in the stages of applying to graduate school. We had no money. We had no idea by what religious philosophy which we would lead our lives or raise our children. We didn't know how many kids we wanted to have or where we wanted to live. We knew nothing and it didn't matter. We were in love, we knew instinctively that we wanted to build a life together.
Barely being an adult, instinct seemed like enough. And while I have never been an impulsive person, when it came to matters of the heart and making a decision about getting married, I didn't over think it. Maybe I even under thought it and just got lucky. Honestly, I have no idea how a person could make a real rational decision about marriage. Beyond surface compatibility and attraction at the moment when you decide to get married (which, of course, is subject to change when he loses his hair and she is no longer a size 2 or she goes BuJew and he decides god doesn't exist) making the decision requires a real leap of faith.
If you get married as an actual "adult" there is so much to think about. At least, that is what they tell me. Issues that didn't matter to barely out of adolescence me, become obvious and understandable considerations to adult singles looking for a mate. And of course, it makes sense that a later age at marriage offers a better chance at success, but man, the dating process sounds really, really awful.
There are drawbacks to getting married young. You miss out on being a single adult, discovering on your own who you are and who you want to be. You already have a committment to another person just as you are starting adulthood, so no decisions are solely your own. In the MO world, many young marrieds start families when they have little financial resources, little free time and often with a parent or two still in graduate school (I was pregnant through year 3 and took my finals late over the summer that year, my husband started graduate school when I was pregnant and I guess love paid our bills). Judging from conversations with some of my childhood friends who got married in their early twenties, it is not uncommon, even among those happily married, to wonder if they had explored enough before they settled down. Did they have enough "fun?" Did they miss out on the "excitement" of being young and single? Of course these questions are only uttered out loud to the closest of friends because it is otherwise a taboo topic of conversation.
My husband and I have more than a few friends who got married young and divorced within the first few years of marriage. We also know a handful who are clearly unhappy in their marriages. However, the vast majority of the young to get marrieds that we know seem to be happily committed to their lives together. I recognize that, especially considering the religious journey I went on in my early twenties, my husband and I were very lucky that we grew together rather than apart. I am fortunate that I still think my husband is an extraordinary man, husband and father and still think he is the best choice I could have made for myself considering every man I met before and after him. I am lucky that I am happily married.
But would I want my children to get married at 22? I don't think so. I am afraid that luck had too much to do with my being a happily married woman and I think I want my kids to make their decisions not just based on instinct but based on knowing what they want out of the rest of their lives. I would like them to be at a point in their lives when they are further out of adolescence and capable of making such a big decision taking into account at least some actual adult considerations.
Search for more information about getting married young at 4torah.com.
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