“What was it like to get married so young? What would be a piece of advice for other young brides, from your own experience?”
Getting married at 19 felt normal to me, because I was completely convinced (and still am) that my husband was exactly who I was designed to be with. I knew. We met at small, smaller than your local Starbucks, Bible school. The pond was small, and we were surrounded by wise mentors, students learning the same things as us, and couples who met and married within the same calendar year. We began to have a particular view of what foundation must be laid before marrying, and in essence, the basic requirements. We were in love, we knew what we wanted in life, and we were attending pre-marital counseling to work through all of our sin and baggage. We felt ready, and at the time, we were.
We married on a beautiful, hot, sunny day in July of 2016. He wore a grey suit, with a green tie. I wore a champagne, lace-ridden gown. It was perfect. All of our favorite people were there, down to our best friends from all over the country. We read our vows and took communion, and we were married. And before we knew it, the sun had set and we were man and wife for eternity. It was the most glorious, freeing feeling I have ever experienced.
For awhile, having been conditioned mostly by our peers at school, things were smooth sailing. Then, in February of 2017, we packed up a U-Haul and moved to Chicago, Illinois to begin a new stage of our life together. A big city, far away from anything we had known. And even in the interval of our lives when we moved here, things were well, and we grew to cling to each other more than we ever had need to. However, a recurring theme began to sink into our lives, and the fabric of our union together: I am not yet 21, and Alec is.
During our term in Michigan, in our first months of marital bliss, this reality had rarely crossed my mind, as there are not many opportunities to exercise your right as a legal adult in Jackson. It was old and dilapidated, and it was perfect for us. There was almost never an instance where we had to consider the reality of our age difference, and if Alec would go somewhere without me; his wife, his other half. Chicago is different.
If there was something I wish I had known and learned to anticipate as a young engaged, or dating, woman, it is that the age difference does matter, if only one of you is above/under 21 years of age. The amount of heartache that could have been mitigated is enormous, had this been discussed in counseling, or addressed in some setting before we wed. But it wasn’t, and so this life of the last six months in Chicago has been harsh, and difficult, and incredibly painful.
Chicago is full of settings designed only for mature adults, not for those of us who aren’t yet legal in the eyes of bars and clubs. There are places to two-step, drink, listen to music, and play games, if you’re 21 or older. There are vast experiences waiting to be tasted, if you’re of age. And if there is only one person in your life who doesn’t meet the given requirements of an institution, what is there to be done? There has to be give and take somewhere.
I never anticipated the pain of rejection I would feel married to someone older than me, who has the world at his fingertips, if only his wife was right there with him. In truth, Alec does not make me feel shame for this aspect of who I am that I cannot change, although that has not always been the case. There is naturally some level of frustration when you are tethered to an unmoving pole, a pain that I’m sure Alec did not anticipate either. There is frustration in all of the fights and tears and misunderstandings when he just wants to go have fun with friends, and his partner cannot go with him. There is a deep rawness that I did not foresee, a level of partnership I did not anticipate.
From all this, and these several months of struggle and hard decisions and feeling left out and wanting to belong, God has sewn our souls together with a stronger thread. Alec has seen his wife break over and over when I can’t go, or I don’t feel considered in the planning. I have seen him truly struggle with what to do, when he desires something that I cannot participate in. He does not easily give in, but experiences the hurt of my heart. And because of this, I know I am deeply loved by him.
Do I regret getting married at 19 years old? No, I don’t think that I do. I have experienced so much life with Alec since that day in July. It has been a great year, though not void of sorrows. What is something I want to communicate to young brides, with an older spouse? Develop an awareness of the world that they have already been a part of, even before meeting you. Begin to have conversations now about how you will compromise on those situations where you are not welcome, and understand that there will have to be sacrifice on both ends for love to grow. Had I merely shut down all possibilities for Alec to go out with friends without me, while he would have conceded, I believe that roots of bitterness would have had great potential to grow. In our early days of marriage, Alec had no idea how to be a husband. He had no idea how to love me unconditionally with his actions and life, and no idea how to lay down his life for me (Eph. 5). It would have been too soon for such an abrupt change in his life, on top of now being bound to another.
And now nearing my much anticipated 21st birthday, I can say that because of the time in our lives God brought us together, He knew what He was doing. God was aware of the pain that would come, and used that to demonstrate His nearness and do the work of binding us together in greater solidarity. He has been near all along, enduring the suffering as part of His story.
It has been a hard year as a young wife, and for Alec as my husband. But, I would not trade it in. God has brought us low, and met us with life there. He is still meeting us. And to the young bride experiencing similar pain: the glory of Jesus seen in these times is amazing. He is your Help and Companion, and while He is not in the business of allowing us to hide from pain, He willfully endures it all with us. He doesn’t care if we’re 21 or not; He doesn’t care if we’re married or not. We are ultimately, and completely, wanted and accepted. And in the suffering, we say: Glory to God.
Addendum: Cheers to my husband, who has taken up the cross of rejection with me, and willfully identifies with me. He has never been ashamed of me, and has always been proud to belong to me. I love you more every day, Alec.