There’s a general trend in our society towards higher education and, as a result, a longer young adulthood. Psychologists and sociologists are calling it “emerging adulthood” but I think most of us just refer to it as “that time when I scrambled to make ends meet on a part-time job while losing sleep over making the grade.”
In many ways, this is a great trend. More people than ever have access to post-high school education, and more women are learning to be independent and self-sufficient. With this trend has come another: the delay of the average age of marriage. I’m sure the age demographics change depending on where you live – city versus rural, very religious community versus a more secular one, etc. But the national average is creeping up as a whole, and more couples meet later, wait longer to settle down, and live together before marriage.
I met my fiance at a really young age. We were friends for a few years, and it developed into the kind of sweet crush that so many of us remember. The difference is, at the age of 14 we turned group dates into dinner and a movie, and over the years developed a relationship that we both realized didn’t resemble average in the least.
As a whole, our high school years were filled with the normal activities: extracurriculars, school dances, parties, and college applications. We navigated through it all together, though, and somehow made it through graduation still very much in love. We both valued independence, and struggled with the push and pull of educational goals versus love. I’m not sure how we could have gotten through those big decisions without the sweet naivete of young love – we were unafraid of vulnerability and okay with putting everything on the table, regardless of the stakes. That’s how we ended up agreeing on any school in Chicago and embarking on the transition to college together.
That transition wasn’t easy. It was filled with the normal things – crazy roommates (his), long hours at two jobs (mine), running on caffeine (both of us) and finding a balance between independence and togetherness.
We lived apart and, later, together. Both of us highly value the time we spent apart that allowed us to experience a social life outside of each other, but every night we came together and spent time catching up.
The most common question we’re asked is “why not wait?” We always laugh when we hear that, because to us, the waiting has been constant. It’s not a bad thing – we made a very conscious decision to wait for financial independence, four years of college, and time spent living together. But after over six years as partners, we’re painfully aware of waiting for the world to recognize what we do: that we are each other’s “person”, that we have created a home together and a life together.
When we celebrate our marriage in a little over a year and a half, we will have the full support of both of our families. His parents married young, mine did not, but both of them have come to respect our relationship even if there were doubts when we were young. To us, this is a huge vote of confidence and a sign that the people who love us most are behind us all the way. But we still face the snap judgments – the disbelieving peers, the people who can’t get past their personal experience, and the strangers who feel they know more about us than we do. Luckily, I have someone to laugh off the rude comments with – the same someone who I come home to every night, who I share every struggle and accomplishment with, and will for my life to come.
What snap judgments did you face in your life and your relationship? Are you willing to fess up to being guilty of judging others at times?