Some parts of my life feel like the plot of a romantic movie.
There were the timid teenage years, where I was self-conscious and growing into myself. They were interrupted by the unexpected entry of a boy, who disrupted my plans and expectations and was soon invited into the most personal aspects of my head, heart, and future.
Then came another period of Figuring Things Out; dealing with distance and relationship what-ifs while coming into my own as a young woman. Student, boss, woman making moves and decisions. A few ground-shaking events, but mostly a story of knowing everything works out in the end, with a major theme of love coursing throughout. (Sounds like that emotional gum commercial, right??)
And it did. It has. I mean, a mountain-top wedding, a career out of college, a fresh start in a new place. Heck, even a blog made its way into my timeline. Along with hope, possibility, female empowerment, and a high school sweetheart-turned-husband. Yes; this is just like the chick lit I love to load up on my library card.
Being married at 22 has been amazing. But you know what doesn’t get talked about? Whether it’s in the Netflix Queue or fiction aisle, there are always details missing. Facts, really, about what it means to be a young couple.
Lack of Resources
When you are 16 and start dating someone that you really, really like, it might be a bit of a bummer when they don’t do the things you thought a partner would. Like, buy you chocolates or take you on ice cream dates. Or get you a big Valentine’s Day spread. Or go to the movies.
Sometimes teenagers don’t have any money. My loving partner certainly did not, and I was pretty low on funds too. We did not go out to eat very often—really just before a dance—and rarely did typical dating things because we just couldn’t afford it.
Even into college, when we had jobs, our money was very purposefully used. To pay rent, groceries, tuition. Any cash went directly into our survival. We lived in an incredibly fun place, but didn’t see much of the local scene because we simply didn’t have access. This can be a stressful thing for a young couple, feeling trapped by finances and unable to experience a lot of things that come with a price tag.
Even now, with three jobs between us and benefits, our priority is to save. We spend money on rent, gas, internet, groceries, student loans, a car payment, and groceries. The rest? Savings. So when we do go out to eat, or plan a weekend vacation, or buy some booze, it comes with a slight trace of guilt.
We’re not there yet. We’re married and ahead of the curve for our age, but we are still working with limited resources. We have privilege, but not enough for us to do those romantic things I always thought came with a happy relationship. That’s not how it works, and I feel naïve for ever thinking it did.
The tools you need
And while it might sound a little dreary and sad to note that finances actually do play a part in romance, it’s not all bad. In fact, my husband and I are a much stronger team, united by goals and a reassurance that we’re always communicating and on the same page. We’re still dreamers, too, but with plans in place to ensure that we can make them happen.
Here’s something that is also overlooked in the typical stories of true love: when you face hardship, especially the struggles of being young and poor, you also walk away with many tools. Chad and I are well equipped to handle things and get them done.
There’s the practical—the goal setting and saving, and there’s also the mental. We have hope and excitement and even faith—all qualities that have come from struggle and reinforce that we can and will do the things we want.
We will travel. We will buy a house. I will get a dog. I will be able to someday focus on a novel, and nothing else. Someday I will be a full-time writer. We will continue to grow and learn. We will retire by 56.
Patience and faith are our guiding tools. In each other, ourselves, and our future. Those elements have been with us since the beginning and will continue to carry us through.
Real life is pretty okay too
My life is not, I’m happy to say, a romance novel that starts and stops with a man entering my life and completing me. While he is my greatest gift and a complement to who I am, both mine and our stories are far from over just because we are married.
Even with the untold struggles, we are chugging along and making the most out of our reality. It’s pretty great, if I’m honest—better than a sweeping epic of large, expensive gestures and lavish living and a charming story arc.
Thanks for joining my journey through marriage,