Thursday, May 27, 2010

Marrying Young

Signing the Register by Edmund Blair Leighton

I can blend in pretty well with society at large as long as I don't voice my opinion on two things: college and marrying young. I've written several times about college not being for everyone, but I've never written about marrying young. Here goes.

"You can't possibly be 'ready' for marriage before the age that most people graduate from college: 22 or 23, and it's much better to wait even longer, to gain maturity and get established in your career," I am frequently lectured.

"Oh, pooh!" I say.

I've said before that my paternal grandmother was 15. She didn't go to school after the eighth grade. And she raised a fine family, all three children extremely intelligent and successful. She and my grandfather, who also did not go to school past the eighth grade, were happily married until parted by death after more than 50 years.

My husband's maternal grandmother married young also, 15 or 16, and raised 10 children. Again, she and Herb's grandfather were married until parted by death.

My mother-in-law married at 17, my mother at 19. I married at 19. All three of us are still married to our first husbands, did not have careers outside the home, and live happy, comfortable middle class lives.

Newly engaged when I arrived at college for my freshman year, I still laugh at the things I was told when I first showed my engagement ring to my sorority sisters. I had just turned 18, and boy were they were horrified! Oh, how they took me to task for my ignorance of how it was supposed to be done. One of them told me that I would regret marrying young, because we would both end up working at McDonald's! I shan't ever forget that one.

Neither of us ended up flipping burgers, even though we married the next year and didn't return to college until five years after that.

Thankfully, my parents were supportive from the very beginning. Although it wasn't an arranged marriage, my dad did his best to make it happen. He had known Herb for several years--bought parts from him at Herb's dad's auto parts store--and he really liked him. I met Herb in my own front yard (and thought he was divinely handsome) when he came to work on my dad's friend's boat, which was moored at our house.

When Herb started working part time as a mechanic at the friend's front-end shop, my dad arranged for me to take my car there after hours and have Herb work on it. He did not arrange a ride home for me while the car was being repaired, and Herb was the only one in the shop. Before he disappeared under my car, he gave me a Marian prayer book to read, the contents of which totally baffled me, as I was not Catholic and only vaguely Christian.

I still marvel that my dad, an electrical engineer, encouraged this relationship and never tried to sway me toward men with college degrees.

When Herb and I got engaged one night after three weeks of dating, I woke my mom to tell her. The next morning she woke me--by covering my face with her wedding veil. I can still vividly recall opening my eyes under it and seeing everything in my room appear softened and dreamlike.

I had not prepared for marriage in any way. I even told Herb (who despite giving me the prayer book was not a practicing Catholic) before our first date that I was not interested in marriage, basically warning him that if he was wife-hunting, he should visit another hunting ground. So we started out without the help of the True Faith, no money, no college degree, and no preparation on my part for keeping house or mothering. Basically, we had nothing going for us except the example of our parents, my charming personality, and his good work ethic.

And we still made it. Not only that, we got money, education, and faith together as husband and wife. We have both been immeasurably blessed by our union.

Here is some good reading on courtship/dating and marriage:

Boniface at Unam Sanctam Catholicam: Courtship and Dating and, courtesy of my beloved sister Beverly, Orson Scott Card's Mormon Times article, Making Ourselves a Perfect Fit in Marriage.


Jenny said...

How fitting I should I find you today via Elizabeth. For some reason I woke this morning remembering a conversation I had years ago with a dear friend who is our priest. I was telling him my husband and I were very weak Catholics when we married. He asked, "Weak but well meaning?" My unfortunate reply, "No, just very weak." Through God's amazing grace, we are going to celebrate out 18th wedding anniversary this fall. We married when we were 20 & 21 with no career lined out for him and a lot of growing up on my part.

Thank you for this wonderful post and link.

Wendy Haught said...

Dear Jenny,

Thank you for your encouraging comment! And congratulations on your upcoming 18th anniversary. We will be married 31 years in August.

Vanessa VH said...

Thanks for your great post! I just found you via Elizabeth as well.... I married at 21 (wanted to earlier, but didn't find the right man till then ;-) ) I mostly got lectured when engaged about the quickness of it all, that how could I be sure etc etc.. (we dated for 6 weeks before getting engaged and were married 6 months after that)But we are now going on 6 years!

Now I mostly get comments about how many kids I have for my age... friends at story time, bible study etc are usually 10 years older with the same number or less than me :-) (3 going on 4 in Dec)

Thanks for the links as well, I am planning on reading them now!

Wendy Haught said...

Dear Vanessa,

I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

Let me just say that I am thrilled that you have 3, going on 4 children at your age. It is an awesome thing to join with God in His creativeness.

Gail said...

Oh I regret the mentality that we have to wait til we have finished college, have a career, have "lived life," or whatever, before we get married. I was married at 21, but still wish we had just gotten married right away when we decided we wanted to, rather than waiting as long as we did. Well let's just be honest. It's hard to be abstinant until marriage if you don't get married young! So if that (abstinance) is something we want to encourage in young people, then we should be encouraging them to go ahead and get married as teens or early 20s!

Wendy Haught said...

Dear Gail,

That is a good point. I think that so many are indulging in pre-marital sex with birth control that there is not as much incentive for them to marry as there is with a chaste couple. It all plays into the population control people's plans, because the longer they can delay a woman having a baby, the better off they are, as her most fertile years will soon pass.