If you get married young, people will probably assume that you either: a) got pregnant at age 18, b) are a sexually frustrated conservative Christian clawing to escape the abstinence cage and/or wrapped up in foolish puppy love, or c) a combination of the above (which clearly makes no sense).
Though I wouldn’t describe myself as a, b, or c, I did get married young. My husband and I got married when we were both 22, still in college, and poor as your average college student. 22 may not quite be considered scandalous, eyebrow-raising young, but it’s not old enough to be out of the “bad divorce odds” range, either. Add our finances into the mix–we didn’t have much savings in the bank (or any), and were living off of crappy part-time jobs–and we probably looked like a ticking divorce time bomb waiting to go off.
However, we didn’t mind living out the “for poorer” part of marriage in our early years together.
So far, my husband and I have lived in 3 different states in the 4 years we’ve been married. We’ve moved in the summers for internships, finished college, started up more college, moved again for grad school, and spent a summer apart while I was working and he was at another internship. My husband still has 3 years of graduate school left, and we’re years out from even thinking about buying a house. I’m sure some would say we were crazy to tie the knot before getting more settled into our adult lives.
Sure, luxury for us may mean sharing a restaurant meal and watching a movie on Netflix. Our entire apartment is furnished with repainted thrift store furniture. We’ve lived in some really funky (bad funky) apartments–like, one that didn’t even have any closets. We’ve had to budget our paychecks down to the dollar, and making decisions on where to live has been hard when considering both of our career aspirations and goals. But we’ve also loved the small moments of triumph, where one of us gets a raise or we save part of our tax return to take a vacation. We know neither of us is in the relationship for the money. In short, we don’t have a lot now, and we’re far from “settled,” but our marriage is healthy and happy.
Research shows that having stable jobs and assets correlates to lower divorce rates, and that the stress of being poor can drive marriages apart–there’s no doubt about it. But sometimes our consumer culture spreads its wily tentacles even into our relationships, and twists the idea of financial stability into the notion that if we have a lot of money, and are homeowners, and can afford a 2 carat engagement ring and a lavish wedding, that we’re doing everything right…so our marriages will definitely last. Even worse, it can make us believe that unless we meet all of that criteria, we’re missing out on something, our relationships are doomed, and we’re going to end up a divorce statistic–or that we’re crazy to even think about getting married yet.
Financial stability going into marriage is good. But you don’t need a chunk of real estate, a big diamond, and a plump bank account for your marriage to start out on solid ground. I don’t have stats to back it up, but struggling together to get through the lean times, in my experience, has only made life all the sweeter when success–and stability–has come our way.