“You Were How Old When You Married?”

by admin on July 17, 2013

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”.

{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

Cherry July 17, 2013 at 8:57 am

Marrying young can be a minefield, but you know whose business it is? That of the couple and maybe their families.

In today’s society, where many couples are perfectly happy to go their entire lives without a wedding ceremony, assuming that someone only married young because they got pregnant is offensive on so many levels.

“Thanks for letting me know, I’ll just head home now and file for divorce” – Personally I like this as a response and think it should be utilised. It could hopefully make some of the people realise what a personal, offensive thing they’ve said.

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clairedelune July 17, 2013 at 8:59 am

Wow, OP, I hope you told the doctor’s office exactly why you were switching to another practice!

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Miss-E July 17, 2013 at 9:11 am

I must agree with Admin, I have three friends who got married right after high school (two at 18, one at 19)…and I have three friends who were divorced by 24. Two of those marriages were because the couples were religious and did not believe in sex before marriage and I guess they just couldn’t wait. The other was a green-card related thing. So, whenever I meet someone who married young I usually assume it is a religious-based thing. In any case, it isn’t any of my business and I wouldn’t ever say something to a young married person.

From a purely practical standpoint: what is the point of lecturing someone on their choice to marry young? Is the OP expected to leap off the table and shout “I’ve made a terrible mistake!” and then go back in time and not get married? What’s done is done…

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Anonymous July 17, 2013 at 9:12 am

I have the opposite problem–a lot of my friends are married, have kids, etc., and I’m really not ready yet. However, if anyone in a professional capacity passed judgement on me for that, I’d probably not go back to wherever it was, or at least file a complaint with their supervisor, assuming that my marital status wasn’t relevant to whatever we were doing that day.

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Lacey July 17, 2013 at 9:17 am

I’m with the Admin on young marriages in general, but even if you are in a substantial relationship that allows for that level of honesty, the time to express your opinion is before the marriage, not after, right? Like the OP said, what is she supposed to do with that opinion, head home and file for divorce? I will never cease to be amazed at the number of people who feel the need to comment on people’s life choices that don’t affect them in any way. So rude. Sorry you’re surrounded by jerks, OP.

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Lacey July 17, 2013 at 9:22 am

Also, can health care professionals (who are not mental health care professionals who have been asked for their advice) stop commenting on things about patients’ personal lives that don’t affect their physical health? I’m looking for a new family doctor because mine, who just came off maternity leave, expressed horror and disapproval at my choice not to have children. I think some people in that position just get used to their words being taken as gospel and think they’re allowed to dispense advice on anything and everything.

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Psyche July 17, 2013 at 9:37 am

True story:

My mother is massively obese. She also walks with a limp due to a birth defected hip. She walks with a walker.

When we were eating at a local resturant, a guy comes up to my mother and I and asks my mother what’s wrong with her. My mother, suspicious of why a total stranger wants to know her health problems, politely explains about her hip. The man then claims to be a “healer” new in town-not the New Age kind, but the kind you see among the hardcore Christian fundamentalist groups-and offers to rid her of her problems with the help of Jesus’ love. My mother politely tells him no. He thanks her and walks away.

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Lisa Marie July 17, 2013 at 9:37 am

I’d like to speak up for the married young crowd. I was 18 and engaged. My mother and two aunts who were putting on my wedding reception for me all told me it was too young. No I was not pregnant. It took us 5 years before we finally had children. I am proud to say now that my husband and I have been married for 36 years, longer than both my mother’s marriages and my two aunts. We have no intentions of getting a divorce either. It just happened that we found each other young. My suggestion to OP is to act PROUD of how long she has been married and say something like yes he’s a real keeper etc. No one should be made to be ashamed of being married.

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Tricia July 17, 2013 at 9:38 am

I just got engaged over the weekend, and I have also been surprised at some of the comments I have received, including complete strangers weighing in with their opinion about my decision.

Oddly, I’ve had several aquaintances congratulating me with a comment of “I’d BETTER be invited to the wedding!”. I am always so shocked that I don’t know how to respond and I’m usually silent (and hoping my mouth isn’t on the floor).

My favorite though is when an employee that works in my building, whom I am not even on a first-name basis with, asked me if I had done anything fun over the weekend while we were standing in line to check out at the employee cafeteria. I lit up and said, “YES! I actually got engaged!!”. A sour look came over her face and she said, “Ohhh. Well, you know it’s all down-hill from here, right?”. I replied with, “Well, this is my second time around and…” – I couldn’t finish my sentence because she was laughing. Not laughing because she was joking, but a maniacal laugh because she was making fun of me. I decided she no longer deserved to converse with me. I said, “Have a great day!”, smiled and walked away.

What is wrong with people that they think they can put their jaded views on me? Ugh.

Sorry, OP. Regardless of what anyone thinks about people that get married young, they have no right to chastise you, patronize you or provide their opinion. I’ve been thinking that a good way to thwart these jaded folks is to respond with pity…Something like, “Awww. I’m so sorry that things haven’t worked out for you. You’ll find the right person, I promise!”.

That might shut them up quick.

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Amber July 17, 2013 at 9:39 am

Yeesh.

Absolutely is rude to question someone’s life decisions right there in front of them when someone is simply wandering about living their life. You don’t bemoan tattoos and piercings, you don’t decry religious practices, you don’t denounce a young married person. If the person with the “controversial” lifestyle struck up a debate or started proselytizing, that would be one thing, but scoffing at a decision without prompting is as bad as walking up to a stranger and snidely asking if their clothing choice indicated that they were colorblind.

That said, I’d also advise against early marriage unless the young people getting married knew each other for a rather significant amount of time and their lifegoals were very, VERY similar. I have a logical reason for this:
1.) Adolescence does not actually end until around an average age of 23/24. That means cognitive abilities, rational thinking, wisdom, and psychological stability are all still developing up until that age. You are literally not the person you will be at 25 when you are 20, and it’s not just life experience causing this. That means there is a real, scientific posibility that you and a possible spouse will not grow up “together” as it were – you could think the world of each other, and suddenly be on entirely different planes within a year. There are some people who develop fully at a younger age, but why take that risk when you’re still 19 or 20? (NOTE: because at 19-20, the ability to successfully judge risky behavior is still developing).
2.) Experience matters. Life experience, sexual experience (even if it isn’t actually having sex, simply dating more than one person to see what other people are like matters), independent experience. Being an independent grown up without any SO was a super important part of my development. It taught me how to be alone without being lonely. It taught me to pursue things I enjoy even if an SO isn’t on the same page (in this sense, I mean going out for fencing even if he’s not into it, not running off to another country for six years without him). It taught me that having a life outside of him as well as having a life with him is necessary to be a fulfilled person. I imagine someday my future kids will appreciate this experience because they won’t have a mom hovering over their every move – mom has karate practice, she won’t be at your ballet practice, 14 year old future daughter.
Experience also teaches you what on earth you want from a relationship, and what you’re willing to put up with and compromise for without the permenance of marriage making things more difficult if, say, you suddenly discover that you are NOT down with being the primary domestic cleaner and the SO isn’t willing to pick up the slack.

I believe these two things are what cause young marriages to combust more frequently than older marriages. So, if someone I loved came to me with an engagement ring on their finger and 21 years on their birthday cake, I’d dispense a quick list of why he/she should reconsider (if it’s true love, they’ll still be there in 2-4 years, dontcha think?). Then I’d let it go, because people will do what they will do.

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Jay July 17, 2013 at 9:44 am

I hope you told the practice why you were switching.

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Mae July 17, 2013 at 9:49 am

“Thanks for letting me know, I’ll just head home now and file for divorce”- I would have LOVED to see the look on her face if you had said that!! (Those gems never come to us at the moment though!)

Something along the lines of “Thank you for your concern but I did not ask you for your opinion” or “Is marriage advice covered under my medical plan?” would have clued her in that she was over the line.

I hope you let someone- office manager, nurse manager, doctor- know why you changed practices. Your age and martial status may have been pertinent to your medical record but the nurse’s unsolicited advice on your marriage should have been kept to herself.

I think because is was a small practice and they have known your family for a very long time, that nurse thought she could just chime in on decisions you have made as if they were your friend instead of a medical provider.

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PB July 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

I married at 21, and am still married 13 years later. It’s not about age, it’s about the amount of work you put into it.

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Lo July 17, 2013 at 9:57 am

When it comes to other people’s opinions on your marriage, wedding, family planning, pregnancy, and child-rearing you cannot win.

You can never win, so long as someone has an opinion and they are bound and determined to convey it to you.

I married at 30;(“don’t women start getting antsy after 26?”), to a man I’d known for 8 months. (“Are you sure…?”)
Another family member got married at 24 “(he’s too young, they’ll end up divorced”), to a woman he’d known for 6 months (“there’s no way that marriage will make it”) <– that comment came up multiple times AT THEIR OWN WEDDING. They started having children right away ("Because she's almost 30 and she wants to hurry up before she's too old")
We don't have children and never will ("but what if you change your mind and then you're too old??")

I wish I were exaggerating on the above comments.

I'm pretty sure the only opinons allowed to be offered on these private matters are those from CLOSE family and CLOSE friends who are looking out for the couples best interest– not prying, not trying to push some outmoded ideas on them, not being busybodies.

And then most of the time only when asked unless there's a real issue going on. Which is a tricky and difficult situation.

No dispensing advice to adults unless they've interested in your opinion, is a good general rule of thumb.

It's good you switched doctors but I hope you also sent them a letter letting them know why they lost your business.

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Arila July 17, 2013 at 9:57 am

I also try to avoid, if at all possible “shoulda/coulda/woulda” after the fact. Sure if they have a good relationship, a friend or family member should intervene before what they perceive as a “mistake” happens, but after it’s done, what’s the point?

I thought the poster’s comment about going straight home to file for divorce was quite funny, and I wonder if she ever actually uses it. I guess sarcasm is not condoned by ehell? :(

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Allie July 17, 2013 at 10:01 am

I feel you. I got married at 19 (hubs was 24). I didn’t get too many negative comments although lots of people expressed surprise that we had married so young (and still do). But we had our reasons that were personal to us. They did not involve a baby, though. We have been married 23 years and just had our first, a beautiful daughter who is almost 7 months.

Whenever people say ridiculous things to me I have a tried and trusted phrase I pull out – “how nice.” It’s awesome because there really is no comeback to it. For example: HER: ““Well, that was stupid! You’re way too young to be married. You shouldn’t have done that.” YOU: “How nice” (said with a sweet smile).

As an aside, I love reveling in this comparison. Petty, I know, but I can’t help it. My husband and I essentially eloped, except without the going away part. We were married by a justice of the peace in his home office in our sock feet at 11 a.m. and both of us then had to go to work. I worked 12:30 to 9 p.m., after which we met up with his sister and her boyfriend, who had been our requisite two witnesses, for a supper of Philly cheese steaks and draft beer. A couple we know married in 2007. They had two lavish engagement parties (think hall, DJ, buffet, guest list in the hundreds, etc.), she had two showers and they then had two weddings and two wedding receptions. One of the weddings was a destination wedding in Mexico. My husband went (they are extended family and he felt obligated). I could not attend as I was taking the bar admission course and had I missed any portion of the course it would have set back my completion and, therefore, employability by four to six months. In any event, between planning and execution of all these various parties, weddings and receptions, it seemed this couple discussed nothing but their impending nuptials for about 3 years, which is how long they were married for. The divorce was just finalized. Petty I know, but pthew I say!

Admin, while I respect your opinion, what’s right for one couple isn’t necessarily right for another and getting married young isn’t always a mistake. Sometimes you just know and a couple may well have perfectly good reasons (not involving babies) for getting married at a particular time. It is incredibly rude of anyone to make the kind of comments you describe, OP. What’s done is done and the only appropriate comment on someone’s nuptials is “congratulations.”

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Ruby July 17, 2013 at 10:02 am

I got married at 22 and am happily still married at 40. I have friends (two separate couples) who wed in their 30s and divorced within two years. Young marriage is no worse than later marriage. The failures simply stand out more when a couple ties the knot young.

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Huh July 17, 2013 at 10:03 am

I was married at 20 and divorced by 31 (not my choice.) I have friends that are my parents’ age or older who were married right out of high school or college (18-21) who were divorced after 30-40 years of marriage, and friends my own age that were also married right out of high school or college who got divorced after 10-15 years of marriage. I and my divorced friends have all remarked to each other after seeing announcements in the newspaper or hearing about a friend’s child getting married young – “They’re going to regret that!” or “OMG, don’t do it!” BUT NEVER TO ANYONE’S FACE! I’m just going to guess that your nurse either went through something similar or knows someone who went through something similar, which has tainted her views on young marriage. So while I might understand her views, I can’t believe she said them out loud to you!!!

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Crazy Chicken Lady July 17, 2013 at 10:06 am

Wow-what a rude nurse!
Chances are, at 20 years old, the OP had signed agreements for student loans, rented an apartment, held her own insurance, held a credit card, etc. She could have even joined the military a couple of years earlier and been shipped halfway across the world to fight in a war. It’s strange that people (like the nurse) are so focused on the marriage aspect. It’s hard to understand why these other things are acceptable to do at a young age, but marriage is not.

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Gena July 17, 2013 at 10:10 am

What good does it do to comment after the fact? Even if I don’t believe you should get married at 20, if you are already married, why should I even comment?

And obviously I should only comment beforehand if asked, or if I’m your mother.

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Nikki July 17, 2013 at 10:27 am

My DH and I started dating as seniors in high school. He was my first boyfriend. We made personal decision to wait to get married, and we did just that – we waited seven years to tie the knot.
In that time, I cannot count the number of times it was expressed to me that you should never stay with your first boyfriend, you shouldn’t be with someone you met that young. I was told that I shouldn’t plan on marrying him, because if he was really serious, he would have popped the question by now.
I was told a LOT of stuff. What I finally figured out is this – you judge other people by your own actions, experiences, and beliefs. Therefore, for those people, marrying their first boyfriend would have been a disaster. Maybe they had been stuck in dead-end relationships. Whatever their reason for thinking what they thought, they had no right to actually voice that opinion. Once they did that, their behavior became rude, off-putting, and obnoxious. And yes, they should have kept their noses in their own business.

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Still just a baaaabyyy July 17, 2013 at 10:27 am

I was also married at twenty. My mother was also married at 19. I also don’t consider 20 to be all that young, but of course many people disagree with me. They are, of course, even more shocked to learn that we do not have kids.
Around here, it seems to be the norm to have a couple of kids and then get married eventually.

After all the shocked looks, condescending and patronizing remarks, unsolicited advice, and so on, I have decided to not reveal my age to anyone. Whenever someone asks me how old I am, I just say, “A lady never tells.” with a big smile. (Making an exception for medical professionals in a professional setting, or where it is legally required)
If someone notices my ring and then starts in on how young I look, I abruptly change the subject. If they persist, I walk away. A bit blunt, but it works. :)

My husband and I have been together for 2.5 years before marrying, and we are still together and are about to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary. That adds up to a total of over five years relationship time and counting. We are still very happy, and our marriage is strong.
I bet if we were to have waited and gotten married today, at age 23, it would still be too soon for some people. Well it’s none of their business anyways!
I wish you a lifetime of happiness for you and your husband!

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The Elf July 17, 2013 at 10:34 am

How rude! I also married young (21) and lots of people told me I was too young too. Some of the naysayers are divorced, with the biggest naysayer divorcing twice in that time. We’re still together. I’ve gotten the same assumption about a miscarriage too. I rolled my eyes then and I’m rolling them now. But I must admit OP and I are the exceptions – statistically, a marriage that starts young is more likely to end in divorce than one that starts later. So much depends on the couple in question!

This is your ob/gyn nurse. That you are married is only somewhat pertinent (the real question is if you are sexually active with a man and need birth control). When you got married is really irrelevant and definitely not something the doctor should be passing judgement on.

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AMC July 17, 2013 at 10:36 am

OP was right to switch practices. The nurse behaved in a very unprofessional manner and should have kept her opinions to herself.
My mom and dad moved in together at the age of 22 after knowing each other only 3 months. They married shortly after that, and I was born 2 days after their first anniversary. Statistically, their marriage should not have lasted. They celebrated 30 years together this past March.

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Ashley July 17, 2013 at 10:38 am

Regardless of whether or not marrying young is a good or bad idea, it was WELL out of bounds for the nurse or whatever her title was to be saying that sort of thing to you mid appointment.

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Boagaboo July 17, 2013 at 10:43 am

I have to say that unless someone asked me for an opinion on something as personal as marriage and having children, and I felt I was close enough to that person to give an honest opinion I would keep my beak out. Just because someone is young doesn’t mean I know better than them. OP shouldn’t have had to change practice. She should have said “That’s an interesting opinion.” th en changed subject.

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Sarah July 17, 2013 at 10:44 am

Also, once they are married (or pregnant, or carrying a baby, or whatever) it’s a bit late. Unless you’re VERY VERY close (and willing to risk the person ending the relationship) it’s wrong to tell someone marrying their love was a mistake.

While I know the statistics about marrying young, I cannot imagine expressing anything but congratulations to someone who told me they got married. It is none of my business to do otherwise. Even someone close I might simply ask if they were happy, and then tell them I was happy for them.

It may all go to heck, but my judgment won’t make them suddenly rethink.

I still hear the judgment when my husband and I announced we were expecting our first child. Rather than joy, we had people telling us they thought we’d pay off all our debt prior to having kids. My husband went to med school. It takes an average of 30-40 years to pay that. Our debt is no one’s business but ours and the suggestion was impractical… and it was hurtful to hear that someone didn’t think we were doing it right and that someone wasn’t excited for the baby we were anticipating.

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ferretrick July 17, 2013 at 10:50 am

Why in the world would you change the practice you’ve been using for years over the words of a new employee? Why wouldn’t you just inform the doctor? My guess is, especially at a small family practice a nurse like that won’t last long-but you do a disservice to the business by not informing them of the problem and giving them a chance to make it right.

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SimplySam July 17, 2013 at 10:52 am

I understand how you feel exactly! I too married my husband when I was 20 (he was 23). The most frequent comments we got were regarding surprise at our ages, and questions about when the baby was due (I wasn’t pregnant either). I still get comments to this day, and my husband and I will be married for 12 years this December.

However, the episode that stands out most in my mind also happened when I was in a doctor’s office for birth control. Being that I was 20, and married, I at the time was no longer eligible to be on my parents’ health insurance (that and I had a falling out with my parents and could not rely on them for coverage even if I wanted to). Unfortunately, my husband’s work would only allow me to be added to his policy after we had been married for 3 months, so for a period of time, I was uninsured. The only place that I could find affordable care that would provide me with birth control was the local young womens clinic. Their rules at the time were that you had to have a pelvic exam whenever you wanted/needed a refill on your birth control, and they would only write you a 3 month prescription at a time. So, I was on the examining table in the middle of an exam when the doctor started going through her standard questions about protection and safe practices. She told me that she was sending out my pap smear for the standard tests along with their gamut of STD tests as well. I must have made a sound or gesture that indicated confusion because she then asked me if I was currently using protection along with my birth control pills, I told her that I had been previously, but not any more. She retorted rather coldly, “Well I hope you trust him!” To which I replied, “I should hope so, I married him.”

Thankfully, after a brief pause, she stammered out an apology. While I understand, she probably saw her share of less than responsible young women everyday, it is ill-advised to assume that every woman that came into her facility is one. I understand I was young at the time, and looked even younger than my age. However, had she simply checked my chart, she would have seen that I came in every 3 months like clockwork, always had a clean bill of health, and only had one sexual partner. Nor was I at the time showing any signs or symptoms of any STD infections.

Even if I had gotten myself into a bad situation, I would hope that my doctor would be professional enough to leave his or her own opinion and attitude behind and advise me calmly and kindly as to what my best options are. I work in medicine myself and daily provide patient care, and would never dream of ever speaking to a patient in the way I was.

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Harley Granny July 17, 2013 at 10:57 am

It never ceases to amaze me how people think it’s ok to give out advise or their opinion when it’s clear neither is being ask for.

If it helps any, my mother’s co workers told me that I was too old to expect my parents to pay for my wedding when I got married. I was 28.

Can’t win lol.

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A July 17, 2013 at 11:10 am

I have my opinions about marrying too young, or having children after a certain age, or having too many children. If you are under my sphere of influence, I might share my opinions with you, but I was also taught tact! I wouldn’t even tell my own child “Well, that was stupid!” No one will listen to your opinions if expressed in such a manner!

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Kovi July 17, 2013 at 11:21 am

Geez. I can understand some mild surprise, since many do see it as being pretty young. That said, she went far beyond ‘mild surprise’ and into, ‘just plain rude’ territory with her comments. And like you said, while the answer is her business (in her particular line of work), commenting on it further is not. She should have kept her opinions to herself, and went on to the next question.

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Timothy July 17, 2013 at 11:24 am

My sister got married young, at 21. She and my brother-in-law have been together 5 years now, and have hardly even had any fights, never mind being at risk for separation. They are a textbook example of happily married. They are childless, but it is because they want to ensure that they are exactly where they want to be in life before they have a child.

The reason I say that is because both my sister and brother-in-law are rather blunt. They don’t like to hurt feelings, but if someone were to try to tell them that they were too young to get married (my brother-in-law was 23 at the time), they would not exactly be the type to quietly slink away. And if it was a professional giving that advice as part of their job (like the nurse), they would definitely have asked to see their superior in order to report it. Wonder if the nurse even thought about the possible effects of her comment, not just on the patient, but on herself should the patient report her.

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Ergala July 17, 2013 at 11:27 am

My husband and I got married when he was 19 and I was 22. We are going on almost 10 years. Happily I might add. What doesn’t help is that I look like a teenager. After our oldest was born people would actually stop me in the store to chastise me about having a child as a teenager….and how I have my whole life in front of me. Yes complete strangers. But I was almost 24 when he was born…I wasn’t a teenager. Even if I was it was NONE of their business.

The issue is that everyone has an opinion and think they have the right to shove it in your face. I had a friend who would offer me her opinions and 100% unsolicited and unwanted advice about every single aspect of my life. When I finally told her that it was both unwanted and unneeded she told me I was close minded. No I just don’t want advice about my marriage from someone who has cheated on her now husband at least a dozen times. Especially when my marriage is just fine. We are no longer friends.

Switch practices OP. Trust me. You won’t regret it.

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Cami July 17, 2013 at 11:28 am

Many years ago, my mother came to visit me at my workplace at a social occasion. My mother had me at age 20 and had a very youthful appearance, so it wasn’t uncommon for people to think she was my older sister or a young aunt. I was introducing my mother to an older coworker ((she was about 60 years old) who headed up our donor relations office — so you’d think she’d have a modicum of tact. The coworker exclaimed, “This can’t be your mother!”
Upon being reassurned that this was my mother, the coworker exclaimed, “Wow, you must have been YOUNG!”
My mother laughed and said, “Yes, I was only 20. But that meant my kids were out of the house by the time I was 40, so it worked out!”
Coworker says, “Well, how did it work out being an unwed mother?” [iksert sneer and arch tone here]
Me and mom: “EXCUSE ME?”
Coworker: “Well, you couldn’t have been married that young and having kids!”
Me: “Why? Was there some law against it?”
Coworker: “Well, no. But it was just not ‘done’.”
Mom: “Well, it was 1960 and in fact it was certainly done.”
Coworker: “Well, in MY opinion 20 is far too young to get married and have a child!”
Mom: “Well, then, I’ll just go back and get a divorce. But what should I do about my kids since abortion is not retroactive?”
Coworker: “That’s not what I meant!”
Me: “What did you mean then? You told my mother she was either lying or stupid and insulted her life choices, after insisting she was an unwed mother — not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
Coworker: “Well, I’m right.”
Me: “Hope that works out for you.”

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Ange July 17, 2013 at 11:30 am

I firmly believe that there are no “rules”. Maybe there are statistics (like “most people who marry young get divorced”) but seriously, when it comes down to it, it’s your choice. And if it is a “mistake”? So what! You learn from it.
I too get the rude questions, but mine are the opposite. I am 32 and unmarried (engaged and getting married fairly soon). But fiancé and I have been together for almost a decade, and people are always asking “why are you only getting married now? Didn’t he want to get married? Have you given him an ultimatum?” -The implication is always that its a failing in my part that I wasn’t proposed to before and that I must now have managed to somehow force the poor man into marriage. The truth is, I didn’t mind either way. I’m excited to get married, but I am also just happy with being with the man I love. Married or not, that happiness doesn’t change.
You are awesome for disproving those statistics OP! Don’t let anyone tell you you got married too young – because for you you clearly got married at exactly the right age.

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--Lia July 17, 2013 at 11:38 am

Any discussion of the “right” age to marry includes the assumption that at the magic time when one is mature and ready, the magic “right” man appears (usually riding a big white horse so he can scoop up his bride and carry her off into the sunset). Ah, if only life were like that. Truth is, there are early marriages that succeed, early marriages that fail, women who married early and wish they’d married later, women who married late who wish they’d married earlier, and every possible combination in between. Let’s throw in some “one who got away” for good measure.

For that reason, I love Mae’s rejoinders, but since she’s also right that you never think of them in time, the one line I now go into a medical office ready with is “is there a medical reason for that question” or “is there a medical point to that comment.” Said with an arched eyebrow, it can work wonders. After all, a doctor or nurse might be trying to make a reasonable point about the statistical effectiveness of a certain birth control or wish to convey something along the lines of “if you’d like to conceive children later, I recommend …” What seems like an outrageous personal question about your sexual practices or relationship status might have a medical basis behind it. Or it might not. You don’t know until you ask.

I agree with the others who note that it makes sense to let the doctors know why you switched practices. The way it stands now, in a smallish town, the nurse could start working for the doctors at the new practice (great recommendation, raise in pay), and you’d be left running back to the original to avoid her. If nothing else, you could have said that you’d prefer to see another nurse.

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AthenaC July 17, 2013 at 11:38 am

Along the same lines, when I was pregnant, many well-meaning people would ask, “Is this your first?” Upon telling them that it was my third, more then a few people would be shocked and ask, “Are you done?” to which I would reply, “I don’t know – we’ll see.”

One lady gave me a outright grimace – seriously, when did three become an ungodly number of children?

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Princess Buttercup July 17, 2013 at 11:44 am

Hey, that first paragraph might as well have been written by me! haha My husband and I got married exactly one week after my 20th birthday. And despite some problems, I wouldn’t change that. I’m turning 30 this fall and one week later celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary (wooo!!). I still get some “wow, you were young!” but my stock response is; “yes, but age makes absolutely no difference, maturity is what matters and due to my life experiences I have always been way more mature than my age.” That tends to leave them at a loss of what to say, either they don’t know me well enough to say anything beyond that or they do know me well and agree that I tend to be more mature than most.

Personally, in the case of the nurse, I would have either asked to see someone else or asked her what that has to do with my health, which is the only thing she should be discussing.

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FeatherBlade July 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm

There’s this wonderful line in the old wedding vows, a solemn charge to the congregation: ” Speak now, or forever hold your peace.”

It is excellent advice and one that everyone should adhere to when speaking to one who is married.
When my brother married his wife, it was over the objections of both his family and hers. (The problem for both families was religious incompatibility.) Before he married her, I gave him my carefully reasoned objections. After her married her, I have not spoken against their marriage to anyone, not because my objections changed, but because they are married, and woe to anyone who seeks to destroy that bond.

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Gamer Girl July 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm

My mother married at 20. She and my dad are still married, 38 yrs later. Everyone looks to them as a beacon of what marriage should be, no one makes any comments about how young she was.

I married at 21, having been with my husband for 2 yrs. I was also 7 months pregnant, but we had gotten engaged before we knew about the baby. People at our wedding reception, I found out later, were actually making bets as to how long our marriage would last b/c we were ‘poor, pregnant college students” and “didn’t know what we were doing”.

It’s been 15 yrs since then. We’ve gone through our son being hospitalized after birth, my husband enlisting in the military, around 8 deployments of various lengths, and on his last deployment, he was injured and subsequently medically retired at 38. I am now his caregiver.

Out of all of my friends, I was the youngest one to get married. And out of all of them, I’m one of 2 that haven’t been divorced. I think it’s not about age, it’s about maturity and the willingness to take the good with the bad and not just walk away when it gets tough.

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gramma dishes July 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Times — and attitudes — have certainly changed in the last half century or so.

I was 24 when I got married. I was the oldest “girl” to get married that I knew at that time! Everyone else either had gotten married within a year of graduating high school or in college or right after college graduation. At the time, I think I was basically considered an “old maid”! ;-)

We’ve been married 46 years and are still together. But some of the “kids” who married right out of high school (at 18 or 19) are also still together and going strong. Others have divorced, but that’s also true of people who married after college and also of those I’ve met since that time that married for the first time even as late as their mid-thirties or even forties.

I don’t really think age has much to do with marital success. I think it’s more a matter of shared goals and expectations and respectful attitudes toward themselves and each other.

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manybellsdown July 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I married young, the first time. It was a mistake. My best friend told me, years later, “Well, I wanted to warn you, but I knew you wouldn’t listen.” So she never said a word, stood up as my maid of honor, and supported me.

I don’t think all young marriages are doomed to fail. But if my best friend knew she couldn’t talk me out of it, why on earth would a semi-stranger think their unsolicited commentary will do any good at all?

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Jenn July 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm

My daughter recently married at 17. She was not pregnant. She and her husband are long friends since middle school and have dated several other people all during high school. They both are mature for their age, with my daughter graduating from high school 1 year early to start college after they got married.

No problems here. I was married at 18; my husband was 23. We are celebrating 22 years this year. My parents were high school sweethearts and married at 19 – they are celebrating 41 years this fall. One set of grandparents were 15 and 19 respectively. They were married for 49 years before my grandfather died. My son-in-laws parents were also married at 19/21 – they are celebrating 24 years.

I have been dealing with rude, ugly comments my whole life. So did my mother. And now my daughter has to. She has learned from us: “My marriage is none of your business and I have no interest in your opinion.” And for those who “bless” us with their insight, experiences of their friends, and are down-right ugly about it: just walk away.

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Stacey Frith-Smith July 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm

So what’s with the supplementary commentary on the subject of marriage and age? OP, your marriage and your age at the time of marriage are private. People who insist upon commenting can be ignored, fixed with a stare and “oh…really?” or offered your free and unsolicited opinions on topics of equal sensitivity to them. If they protest, it seems equitable to reply that you thought their commentary indicated your relationship to be one whose terms were of such intimacy as to make such blunt observations wholly warranted. Seeing that type of remark modeled might jar observers and erstwhile pundits like that nurse into keeping their (unsolicited) comments to themselves.

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siamesecat 2965 July 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I’m 47 and have never been married, but I would never think to tell anyone who might want to get married very young, or after only knowing each other a short time etc. that it’s a mistake. I might think perhaps they’re being foolish, based on other factors, but I’d never voice that out loud. Their life, their choice.

I think everyone is different and while some may get married at 18, 19 etc. and have a long happy life together, others may not. Most of my friends go married shortly after college, 23, 24, and most are still married. Some have gotten divorced, for various reasons. I personally know I never could have married that young, or gotten married to the one and only person I ever dated. But that’s ME. Doesn’t mean it isn’t the right decision for someone else.

A couple of years ago I attended my 25th HS reunion. There’s one couple who started dating sophomore or jr year, and after college, got married. They have 4 beautiful kids and are still disgustingly very much in love. So it works for some!

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Shannan July 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I call it “Jerry Springer syndrom”. ;-) Too many people think that just because they know something about you, they get to comment like the audience does on all these nosy obnoxious talk shows. On the flip side, people don’t mind airing out their dirty laundry to anyone who will listen. I once was in line somewhere standing in front of a woman, her daughter & her granddaughter, a 2 month old baby. The daughter was the baby’s mom. I remarked on how adorable and well- behaved the baby was. The women said “Thanks. After this, we’re going to a lawyer to have her father’s rights terminated”. I just said “Ok. Good luck.”

Another time I was in a restaurant with my brother> The waitress recognized him from high school. My brother hadn’t seen her in more than 10 years (since graduation). She asked him how he was. He said he was fine & was working as an engineer for a lumber company. He asked her how things were for her and she says ” well I work @ IHOP, my husband left me & I’m living in my parents’ basement”. Ok then.

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E July 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm

In certain situations, I might express surprise about a woman marrying young, because I just know so few people that have done it and it actually IS surprising to me when I meet someone that has done it. The extent of my comment would be, “wow, you must have been pretty young!” That’s it. No judgement, no speculation as to why, no telling them that it was a mistake (or even thinking that it was), or anything else negative. I don’t ask anything about it. I hope that’s not offensive to women or men who’ve married young. (Personally, I think I married young at 27.)

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Sirius July 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I married at 39 for the only time and was asked, “Why’d you bother?” Well, I loved him and still love him, and I think that’s reason enough. We just celebrated 15 wonderful years together. Incidentally, he was 36, and he says that no one asked him anything like that. Talk about a double standard: It’s okay for the man to be older, but not the woman.

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Library Diva July 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Why are people so free with their opinions? Are they really that full of themselves that they think anyone else will care about their views on how they should live their own lives? Every person is different. Every situation is different. I agree with Lo. You can’t ever make everyone happy with your choices, so the heck with those who aren’t. In the end, the only people that need to approve of your decisions on when to marry, who to marry, and how many children (if any) to have, are you and your spouse.

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