Friday, August 9, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Get Married at 18... and Why You Can't Tell an 18 Year Old That

I got married at the age of 18.  I knew all of the statistics... early marriages are more likely to end in divorce... your brain isn't fully matured until the age of 25... you don't know who you ARE yet at the age of 18, you're still trying on different identities.  And so on and so forth.

I made the decision to get married anyway.  After all, by the time I was 18, I'd already known and been close friends with my husband for TEN YEARS.  I'd already finished two years of college.  And I was dead certain that I knew exactly who I was, and that while some small things might change, my basic identity was already fixed.  Besides which, even if I changed, I was certain that the only thing required for a healthy marriage was commitment.  Sure, we'll grow and change, I thought, but we'll just make sure we grow TOGETHER and everything will be FINE.

This is why you can't tell 18 year olds anything.  They always think that they are the exception to the rule.  And since there always ARE some exceptions to the rule, you can never convince them otherwise.

By the way, this doesn't only apply to teenagers.  I think everyone, from 9 to 99, has the tendency to whine "but it's DIFFERENT with ME!!!"

I wrote a list of pros and cons about whether or not to get married when I did.  Hubby and I were already engaged.  We got engaged in October, planning a 3 year engagement. By April we were sick of the long distance relationship, sick of not having sex, sick of people telling us we were young and not really in love and not going to make it.  So we were considering moving the wedding up to July.  I was on a weekend trip with some girlfriends and we were bored on the long road trip.  So we wrote the list of pros and cons.  It was a laugh riot and a fun memory.

Most of those pros were about being able to have sex.  A lot of the rest of them were about being able to escape my home life, specifically my mom who was very emotionally abusive.  I'm pretty sure the only cons we came up with were that I'd have to leave my friends behind and that my mom would be mad as hornets (which might have been a pro as well, come to think of it.)

So all of the sudden I had about 3 months to plan a wedding and a future that was suddenly much different than I'd envisioned.  We had to find a place to live, I had to find a job, we had to plan a honeymoon.  We had no money.  It was crazy.  I settled.

I settled for less than the wedding I wanted (because it's about the MARRIAGE not the DAY) and because we didn't have time or money for something different.  By the way, it's true that it's about the marriage and not the day, and if I could do it over again I wouldn't change much.  Mostly the things I regret are the people who weren't able to be there because we did it on such short notice, and the way my mom basically made me feel as if I didn't deserve to have a nice wedding because I wasn't doing it "right."

But more importantly, and I didn't, COULDN'T know this at the time, I settled for less than the marriage that I wanted. Because I wasn't mature enough to be married.  My husband wasn't mature enough to be married.  And neither one of us had a clue who we really were. So we did everything wrong.  Oh the first few years were mostly happy.  Blissful, even.  But we were setting up dysfunctional patterns of behavior, reliving dysfunctional patterns of behavior from our childhoods, doing everything we could to destroy our marriage from the inside out without even knowing it.

So now, here I am, 6 years into a marriage with a man that I love more than words can possibly explain, with a 2.5 year old daughter who depends on us and deserves a loving home, and the situation has become absolutely intolerable.  I spend my days waffling between numb and between despairing.  Because the thing is, to fix this marriage, we have to completely un-make it.  We need to tear it down to rubble and ash.  Then we need to clear out the rubble and ash. And only then can we see if there is anything left to even rebuild with.  After all that, we'll still have to do the hard work of rebuilding it right, the hard work that at (almost) 25 I'm much more equipped to do than I was at 18.  I know more of who I am now. I have a better sense of self.  I have a touch more self-respect and dignity, and a little bit more of an ability to stand up for myself.

But doing that is going to take so much time. And it will be so, so, so painful.  And at the end of it... it might all be for nothing.  At the end of it, we might find that there just isn't enough there to rebuild with.  And so I'm scared.  I'm not sure it's worth going through all the pain.  But the pain of losing Lee is going to be bad too.

I feel paralyzed.  I feel stuck.  I want a good marriage, a strong marriage, a mutually respectful partnership marriage.  I want to be married to Lee.  I'm not sure the two things are compatible.

This is why you don't get married at 18.  But if you tell an 18 year old this, they will scoff at you and tell you that it will be different with them.

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