Being a military spouse, I see a lot of young military couples getting engaged and married. Whether they be my husband’s co-workers or girls on a support group, it’s no longer uncommon for me to see an 18 or 19 year old couple announce their engagement, and then shortly after elope.
It’s not shocking for me to see, but my first reaction to an 18 year old, fresh out of high school girl, announcing her engagement isn’t happiness or excitement.
I’m not bitter or cynical, thinking that their marriage will fail because they are young. I got engaged at 19 and eloped 3 months later and I am very happy with my life and my marriage; my husband and I just celebrated our 6 year wedding anniversary.
But I can’t help to think back to my first year in college, the year before I met my husband, and how glad I am that I had that time to be single. It was such an amazing experience; to have the typical American college life. I lived in the dorms, did some illegal drugs and went to frat parties. I also went to college football games, stayed up late chatting with my dorm mates and planned spring breaks together. I dated around and I slept around. I experiment with life, pushed the boundaries and got a lot out of my system. I gained self-esteem and self-confidence; I felt secure in myself as an individual…living away from my family and finding out who I was; without my family or a relationship to define me.
I’m not a crazy party person; I’m actually a huge introvert. So when I met my husband a year later, I was already feeling done with many aspects of that life. I had accepted many things about myself and I was starting to figure out who I was and what I wanted from life. I didn’t want to be a party girl, and I was okay with making the change in my life (even if none of my friends did).
I know that not everyone wants the same experiences I had. There are plenty of girls that want to go from high school to marriage to parenthood. Not everyone wants to go to college; that might not be their goal in life. Many people want to remain virgins until they get married; that is one of their core values. Etc.
But even if people don’t want to take the path that I did, a part of me can’t help but feel that they are missing out by immediately getting hitched. Missing out on finding who they really are, outside of a relationship.
So while I try to put on my non-judgmental hat…and in reality, I do understand that every person has different values and goals, I don’t imagine I will be jumping in joy when a young couple announces their engagement anytime soon.
I love “love”. I love marriage. I love my husband.
But I also love me. I love the individuality of people (even in a marriage). The self-absurdness of challenging your life experiences and growing as an individual.
The older I get, the less my life revolves around my spouse and the more it revolves around me. My husband is my partner in life, the person that will be by my side for all of my future experiences. The value I place on him has not diminished. But he is not my entire life.
I suppose the argument can be made that you can still grow as an individual even within a marriage; and I would concede that is true. And maybe I am just being cynical, this post is just a rant of sorts anyway. But I can’t help but feel that the growth you do when you are single is different from any development you have in a marriage. There is something about relying only on yourself and being responsible for just your own needs that facilitates an experience that is unique and transformative.
A PG photo from my freshman year. Me and my dorm mates on the way to a football game
As always, feel free to comment and share your opinions, but do so in a respectful manner.