Nourishing Hearts and MindsParenting

The Side Effect of Marrying Young


This past Wednesday was Josh’s and my third wedding anniversary! It’s one of my favorite days of the whole year – even though this year he was almost 800 miles away from me and I didn’t get a chance to kiss him until I picked him up from the airport at 11 PM.

We got married young; I was 22 and he was 21. I got married one month after I’d finished my bachelor’s degree and was still slinging lattes at Starbucks. I’d never lived away from home (I paid my way through college and lived with my parents to save money). I didn’t have a real job. Neither did he.

But we were in love and eager to avoid sexual sin so we tied the knot after 11 months of dating (we were engaged after 5) and before we’d really figured out what it takes to make it on our own. This has certainly brought its own set of challenges to our life together however, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our early marriage has brought us both blessings and trials that a long engagement would have never allowed us. My first favorite is our amazing children (well, we know that one is amazing, but I’m pretty sure the other will be just as great 😉 ). My other favorite is the unbelievable friendship that has happened between Joshua and I as a result of our marriage. Sure, we were close before we got married – why would we have ever gone forth with marriage if we didn’t like each other a whole heck of a lot? But nothing compares with the closeness of being together in the same house, working toward the same goals, and sharing all of our secrets, hopes, dreams, and fears. Not to mention the freedom in expressing intimacy.

I realize that there are plenty who move in together and have sex before they’re married, but for us this would have never been enough. Our goal for marriage is to be a representation of Christ and the Church – a powerful relationship that’s built on mutual respect and love for one another. Our marriage is about more than gratifying our sexual desires, although that’s a pretty fantastic perk. It’s about being an example to our world, our children, and anyone else who cares to take a peek into our lives. It’s about practicing what we preach, what we believe to be true.

For this reason, we knew we had to go ahead and get married or part ways, lest we end up tangled in a complicated mess of gratifying our own desires rather than seeking God’s purpose for our lives – whether they be together or apart. We went into marriage with a healthy dose of faith and a naive assumption that things would just work. We didn’t have much else to rely on – no fat savings account, no down payment for a home, no jobs with upward mobility.

And so far, things have worked out far better than we’d ever expected. Now that’s not to say that we haven’t had to put in gallons worth of our own blood, sweat, and tears to help hold things together. God absolutely provides, but He’s not a cosmic UPS service sending packages of money, food, and clothing right to our doorstep. He gives us so many opportunities to sacrifice for one another and for our children. But yeah, it’s work.

Our most recent struggle has been our decision to send Josh back to school to finish his BA, with the ultimate plan to pursue a seminary education at the end of his undergrad years. There’s a tome’s worth of backstory to this decision, the details of which I’ll spare you. Suffice to say, this is one of the biggest and most challenging decisions that we’ve had to make for our family.

My husband’s education is the key to the future we traced out in the stars during our long late night chats in my parents’ driveway as we put off saying goodbye to one another while we were just falling in love and time stopped for our idle chats. It’s also a huge commitment for us to take on together as a family. I joke that we’re going backwards to take out student loans rather than a mortgage, but that’s actually the truth.

As I ponder the implications of this and other decisions, I’ve come to a profound realization: getting married young forces you and your partner to grow up together.

Yes, technically Josh and I walked into our marriage with plenty of skills that qualified us to be adults. We could hold down jobs, balance budgets, and care for a home (although we’ve definitely upped the ante in that department). But we’d never had to put the rubber to the road and experience a life where failure to use those – and other – skills would mean terrifying things like eviction, hunger, and darkness. Add children to that picture, and the intensity of those realities skyrockets 1000 percent. At least.

As I sit in the twilight hours, tapping descriptions of who-knows-what out on my keyboard to meet some client’s deadline or another, I consider my toddler sleeping in the back room, my husband hunched over the desk with a stack of books and Frankincense smoking away on its holder, our unborn baby kicking away and forcing me to sit on a grey exercise ball to get any bit of comfort. I realize how blessed I am, despite my exhaustion. I wouldn’t want any other life.

Yeah, I don’t have the luxury of being married to someone who figured out what he wanted to do long before I ever came along, had secured a job, and could give me the chance to spend endless days home with our kiddos. We didn’t save mountains of money to purchase a house before babies ever came along.

Yeah, I have to work hard to help make ends meet. I have to budget for a growing mountain of student loans and more than a few out-of-state moves coming up in the next decade or so. Josh and I do all kinds of weird things to find spare time for each other and our babies and our lives are just complicated as we sort out the skills that we need to grow into the people we’re becoming.

But we’re happy. I dare say we’re even blissful at times, when we fall into bed too exhausted to even mumble “I love you” before drifting off. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I’d rather have a marriage full of love, with crazy little humans tucked into the nooks and crannies of our wee apartment, and modest vegetarian dinners (mostly because we can’t splurge on meat) than any other luxury or security that a fatter bank account might offer. There’s no guarantee that we’d have that even if we’d waited.

Maybe we’re crazy. Whatever. I like it here!

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Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt is a writer by day and a writer by night (because writers never sleep), who spends time balancing client orders, a couple of books and her blog at Raising Rystedts. She’s a business school grad who’s dabbled in management, both at the project and company level. She loves coffee and crafting, and enjoys settling down with a good book. Though as mom to three kiddos in three years, she realistically spends most of her time reheating her coffee and typing away like a crazy person on a laptop keyboard while surrounded by (clean) cloth diapers and cheddar bunnies.

What are your thoughts?