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“You Were How Old When You Married?”

I got married when I was 20. A week after my 20th birthday, in fact. I realize this is young by current standards, at least in my part of the country, but I never considered it young enough to be shocking. However, many people seem to disagree with me, because I used to get rude and intrusive comments all the time. It’s slowed down (since I’m 26 now), although occasionally people will still ask me how long I’ve been married, do the math, and say something like “you’re still married?!”. At least the comments about how I must have been pregnant have stopped since everyone has, by now, noticed the absence of children. (Well, except for the people who assume I was pregnant and miscarried, and who express surprise that my husband and I stayed together since the child we must have gotten married for didn’t happen. Yes, really).

My “favorite” incident happened at the doctor’s office.

The nurse practitioner was asking me all the usual questions one is asked when one wants to change birth control, so of course it came up that I was married. I was 21 at the time so this was my first appointment since tying the knot. The nurse said, “Well, that was stupid! You’re way too young to be married. You shouldn’t have done that”.   Now, here I should probably pause to mention that this is the gynecological and obstetrical practice that my family has used for years, and my mother is a patient and has been since before she got pregnant with me. One of the doctors at this practice delivered me. This nurse hasn’t been working there that long, but she’s been there at least 15 years. It’s not a huge practice and it’s always seemed like all the patients are on a first name basis with most of the nurses. I know my mom is. My mother and father are still happily married and had been married for about 40 years at this point, something that would definitely be known to the practice and part of her history. I say this so you’ll understand why I suddenly heard myself saying, “Well, you know my mom got married when she was 19…”

Clearly a mistake, but what can I say. I wasn’t thinking. The nurse says, “Well, then she should have told you not to do it”. WOW! So, my marriage is a mistake, and so is my parents’ apparently. I just said nothing, because I couldn’t think of anything to say. I switched practices after that appointment. I’ve never understood why people feel the need (or the right) to weigh in on others’ incredibly personal decisions, or what they expect me to do with that knowledge. “Thanks for letting me know, I’ll just head home now and file for divorce”? I know that we should forgive people for their thoughtlessness, but she didn’t just say one thing without thinking. She went in for seconds. And if you’re ever tempted to share your opinion on something as personal as that, you should remember that however harmless or correct you think your opinion is you’re probably the 764th person to express it.    0716-13

Generally speaking, I don’t encourage marrying young either.   I’ve been around too long and seen more unsuccessful marriages than successful ones when the couple marries young.  That said, there are some topics of conversation that are not within a person’s sphere of responsibility to express a negative opinion or hold someone else accountable for their actions.   If you are not in a position to have a substantial relationship that allows for that level of honesty and accountability or you were not asked for an opinion, it falls under “mind your own business”.


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  • PurpleZebra July 24, 2013, 6:04 pm

    I must be in a large group of statistical anomalies. I was truly surprised by this post. I would venture to say that 90% of my family/friends/aquaintances were married in the 19-22 age range. The majority are still together, at least 10+ years. I know a number of couples who were high school sweethearts, and even a couple that were childhood sweethearts. I was married at 20 to my high school sweetheart, and we are going on 16 years and 3 kids (and by the way, SF, no problems getting pregnant in our 30’s here).

    I really thought getting married in your early 20’s was the norm. I know historically it had to have been the norm (actually, even younger probably), because of shorter life expectancies. We’ve never heard any comments such as other people married at 20 are talking about. I would truly have no problem if my daughters wanted to get married at 20.

    I found this chart, which shows that the average median age has been going up since the late 1800’s in the US. So has the divorce rate, so I’m not sure it’s a good thing (yes, I know correllation does not equal causation, but the chart is still interesting). http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005061.html

  • Angel July 30, 2013, 8:31 am

    I don’t necessarily believe in getting married young, however I can’t imagine actually making a comment about it to someone! My brother and his wife were married at 23, which I consider kinda young but, they were both graduated from college, legal, consenting adults, and just celebrated their 14th anniversary this year. Nothing wrong with that. I happen to be one of those people who waited to get married. I wanted to enjoy my 20s which I did. Thoroughly. I got to do things I never would have done had I been married. And I’m sure nosey people would have something to say about this as well! And a few of them (including my own mother!) did. My point is you should never have to justify to anyone the way you live your life. Whether you decide to get married young, or wait, there are always people who will make comments. So you have to decide are you going to ignore the comments and go about your life–or are you actually going to let that crap bother you? My bet is that you’d be a lot happier ignoring the “haters.”

  • Doris August 7, 2013, 10:39 am

    We got married when I was 18 & he was 22. Still happily married after 30 years.

    His sister was married at 20 & her husband was 21. 38 years later, they are still going strong.

    His parents were 17 & 19 when they wed. They are still together after 58 years.

    My parents were married at 17 & 21. They had 36 years together before my father’s death.

    In my experience, it’s not the age of the bride and groom which determines a successful marriage; it’s the maturity.

  • CopperHorsewoman October 17, 2013, 9:44 pm

    We just had our 38th wedding anniversary. We robbed each other’s cradles (I was 20, he barely 21). Previous to meeting him, I would have said I did not intend to get married before 25 or 30. But when you meet your best friend at 17, he sticks around and really helps you after something horrible happens (I was injured as the victim of a crime) and later asks you to marry him, why wait? And I would have been stunned at the tactless nurse, and changed doctors, as well. You are old enough to know there are bitter, tactless, mean little gremlins out there. When stunned by a remark like that, I have been known to remark heartily “Well, who pissed in YOUR Cheerios this morning?” And laugh.

  • Anna November 19, 2013, 10:07 pm

    I guess for me, saying that you don’t encourage “marrying young” is so vague. 20 is old enough, but what about 23? 24? Or is 25 the magical cut-off number when one is suddenly “old enough” to get married? Or should everyone wait until they are 30+? How does one determine an objective age, both of being ‘too young’ or ‘old enough’ other than the legal ones (18+ can all get married)?

    My point is simply that it should probably be based on individual circumstances and the individual couple, rather than arbitrary numbers. Is it likely that a 26 year old is more ready for marriage than a 19 year old? Probably. But do I also know plenty of people who married at 32 or older and still ended up divorced after a few years? Absolutely.

  • KKW May 22, 2014, 1:51 pm

    Wow, I understand where you’re coming from, OP, sort of. When I was 23 and married, yet looked not a day older than 17, people would see my wedding ring and exclaim “You’re married?!?!” I would respond to the affirmative, and they would instantly say “Do you have children?” and when I would respond “No, we’re waiting,” they would walk off with a confused look, scratching their heads. It took a few times of that happening for me to realize that the fact that I looked so young (still do today, at 42 – yay!!) coupled with the fact that I was married, led them to incorrectly assume that I must have gotten married due to becoming pregnant. It was annoying, but still funny that I got to confuse them so much.