Monday, April 18, 2011

Young marriage

Another little sister has gottten engaged.  She's 21 years old, with no degree other than an EMT and CNA certification.  No job.  Hasn't traveled, hasn't done a whole lot in life, like most 21-year-olds haven't.

I am not against marriage.  I am against marrying so young that you don't know who you are.  I am against marrying when you're in the prime of your life, when the world is open for possibilities.  I love my husband and my son, but saying I do meant saying I don't to moving to another state, traveling to Europe, going to medical school, making friends, and pursuing hobbies.  Saying I do really means saying I don't to everything else, and I don't think that is something to be done until you are sure, you are absolutely positive, that you are ready to slam the door on everything else you could do or be.

And I don't think that anyone at 21 or 22 is prepared to do that.

I have a wonderful marriage.  I firmly believe that some of that is because we were best friends first, we have similar interests and hobbies.  I also firmly believe that a lot of our marital success is that we had a firm financial foundation.  There have been a few weeks, sure, where we decided to put some extra on the mortgage or car payment instead of eating out or going to a movie or some other frivolous purchase that week.  But we have never once had to worry about where the money is going to come from for rent, mortgage,car payment, gas, utilities, food, formula or diapers.  All of our necessities have always been covered.  This has nothing to do with our hourly wages, because in reality, we're not making that much money.  Our dual income, along with his overtime pay, is sufficient, but not massive.  Paramedics aren't highly paid.  What it has to do with is that we were able, from the beginning, to manage our finances well--we had jobs that paid the bills, we didn't use credit cards, and we made sure there was money set aside for the emergencies(like when all four tires blew on my jeep, and we needed tires right that moment) so that we didn't have to resort to credit cards.   And what does that come down to?
We had jobs that were able to pay the bills, we had health insurance, and we lived within our means, or below them, from day one.

And I don't believe that anyone at 21 or 22 can have a job that means you are completely free from financial worries.  The majority of jobs require some education and experience to start paying decently. The majority of jobs a young person can get don't include health insurance, which(since I have a host of medical bills from when I didn't have insurance) is so important.
Financial problems put a stress on a marriage that is unbelievable.  And when you're young and newly married, it can prevent you from building a firm foundation for your marriage.  Instead of focusing on building your marriage, you're concerned about bills and where dinner is going to come from.  Instead of enjoying each other, you're stressed about money.
Instead of love, it dissolves into fighting.

And it's so preventable.

Wait to get married until you are financially secure.  Pursue an education, be wise in what you major in, that will allow you to have a good career in a field that, even if it doesn't pay super well, is stable and will pay the bills.  It's not about getting rich; it's about being stable.
If it's important to you that one parent stays home after you have children, plan appropriately.  If it's important to you that both parents work, plan appropriately so you can send your children to a high quality day care.
And, did I say, wait to get married.  Don't rush it.  Travel. Explore. Pursue a formal, academic education.  Work a few years. Hang out in the evenings with friends.  Get solidified in who you are and what you want.

Enjoy yourself.

I have never once regretted getting an education.  I have never once regretted the years I spent fighting fires and running EMS calls in the middle of the night.  I have never regretted the free time that allowed me to take extra fire classes, or the 2 am nights at Denny's talking to friends, or the summer days off work spent doing nothing.  I have never regretted the 14-day cruise to Hawaii, or Sharon's and my sojourns around North Carolina, or simply leaving for the weekend and discovering some new location.
I have never regretted waiting until I was 27 years old to get married, or 28 to have my first child.

I think I would have regretted marrying at 20. I would have regretted all that I didn't get to do.  All I didn't get to experience.  All I didn't get to be.

So I have no regrets.
And I can only pray my sister doesn't either.


Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife said...

I was 20 when I got married. I was young, but I had no aspirations for a career. I always knew I was going to be a wife and a mother ever since I was little. I was not raised that way either. Both my mom and my stepmom worked outside the home.

I think the difference might be that my hubby was already established in a secure career. He was an engineer/paramedic. He had a place of his own, a nicer vehicle and we could do some fun things, like travel a bit.

Although I was young, I don't regret getting married that young. I had a lot to learn, but we muddled through. We both had some maturing to do. We did it together and now things are a lot better than they have ever been between us.

God sealed us together and we stayed committed even in the rough patches. I'm so glad I hung in there when the going got tough.