5/16/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy RaLeah ~
It's getting trendy for conservatives and Christians now to speak out about the virtues of marrying young and starting a family early.
In the church where I grew up, this was the norm rather than the exception. I thought it was probably because the church was very vocal about condemning sex before marriage, and so people got married to the first person who stirred their lustful thoughts.
Now I'm not so sure.
It was true that the people who didn't get married and start a family young were the most likely to leave the church. I thought at the time that they couldn't find any suitable mates left, so they were looking elsewhere. Maybe they felt bitter at God for not giving them a spouse, so they left in an act of rebellious discontent.
I don't think that's the case either.
I chose not to get married young, because I felt I still had a lot of growing to do. I had to get to know myself first before I brought someone else into the equation. I knew I had a lot of questions about God and the Bible that needed answering before I could commit myself to another person.
But the peer pressure was there, and it was enormous. They want you to stay like them, but to me, it started looking like a trap.
What if I had married and had children and took them to church... and THEN I realized I wanted to change my religion or give it up altogether? I would be "unequally yoked" with my spouse, and I'd have to tell the kids that everything I'd taught them about God I no longer believed. It would break their trust, maybe even break the home. But if I kept silent, unwilling to risk my marriage and my kid's faith, I would be letting them down. If they found out as adults I'd lied all along about my faith, they would feel betrayed. The only choice left would be to close my mind tight and keep it closed.
In short, I would be trapped: Be true to myself, risk my family's happiness. Live a lie, keep my family blissfully ignorant.
For most of us, our late teens and early twenties are all about self-discovery, learning about who we are and what we believe and what we want to be. I started noticing the people who married young slowed their progress, and some froze it altogether. They couldn't bear to change their minds with independent thought now that they were making joint decisions that would have a direct impact on the people who they cared about the most--their own family.
So we hear about Mitt Romney giving advice to college kids to marry young and have "a quiver full of kids."
But I feel grateful every day that I didn't.
Many of those who married young ended up splitting after the kids were grown up. They couldn't stop their inevitable questioning, their growing, only delay it. They realized they didn't have so much in common after all, not after they became fully mature adults. Some stayed in their stale or unhappy marriages because their church frowns on divorce. Some of them got lucky and grew in the same direction as their spouse. Some remained stunted in their growth, living in a forced state of denial.
I waited until I knew myself, waited until my career was established in the city of my own choosing, waited until I met the right person whose beliefs were like mine. We both had the opportunity to date other people first, to figure out what we did and didn't want in a mate, and brought our maturity and experience into our happy relationship. We're now more emotionally and financially ready to start a family than we ever could have been in our twenties. (And we don't want a "quiver full" of kids, just one or two.)
To each his own, but amid all the endorsements for early marriage, I just wanted to add my own endorsement for waiting: Find a mate who supports and appreciates your open mind and allows you to keep growing and evolving. Find someone who is honest and kind, and support their growth too. While this will not guarantee you won't grow in different directions, if you treat each other with love, kindness, and respect, even a divorce can be an amicable opportunity for growth... for both of you. But statistics show that those who marry later are more likely to stay married, and that's my hope for my husband and me.
Instead of constantly reinforced stagnation holding us back, life is a beautiful adventure we celebrate together, free to be our truest selves all along the way.
Filed Under: Opinion