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Married at 22: Why we aren’t a picture-perfect romance

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,

 

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29 thoughts on “Married at 22: Why we aren’t a picture-perfect romance

  1. Well said … I had approximately no clue about anything when I was 22.

    And if you ever feel you must treat yourselves … ice cream in the summer. Always ice cream.

    1. As I get older, I just cringe at how much I thought I knew at pretty much every stage in my life, compared to the reality. I’m sure it’ll just multiply with each year, and that’s okay! Live and learn.

      And yes to ice cream. Always yes. I have a dairy intolerance, but still love it so much, so we made a deal that if I go on a hike (not my favorite), then I get ice cream after. It’s amazing motivation.

      1. This whole discussion has me inspired to write something about ice cream.

        And yes, it only multiplies as you get older, plus with the added benefit of having more people younger than you to say they don’t know anything!

      2. Mint chocolate isn’t my thing (to me, eating mint is like eating toothpaste), but that’s one of the joys of ice cream … something for everyone!

  2. I also got married at 22 – we’ve been married 15 years this year. I look back and think goodness we were so young, but at the time we felt really ready – and hey, we must have been as we’re still happily married now. Like you said, marriage is a journey of learning and growing together with plenty of ups and down thrown it. No matter what happens in life, I will never regret my decision to marry at 22, I was just fortunate to find the love of my life at a young age – so pleased you’ve found the same x

    1. I love hearing similar stories, especially when they turn out well! 🙂 When we got married at 22 and 23, we’d been together for nearly 6 years, so it was a “more than ready” plunge. I love our story and history, and feel so confident that I know my spouse through and through as we meet new challenges. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, and for reading. And happy 15 years of marriage! xx

  3. Great post – I truly believe that everything we experience in life has the ability to build us up as a couple or tear us apart. We’ve had our challenges, for sure, but like you, I find they have given us incredible tools to manage anything that may come our way moving forward.

    1. This is so true. When I think back to the lowest points in our relationship—when we were unsure, fought more often, or had growing pains with the changes of adulthood—I feel appreciative of what it took for us to move forward, even though at the time it felt like a burden. Thank you for sharing and reading; I appreciate hearing thoughts from other spouses who go through similar things.

  4. I like how open you’re on being a young married couple and accepting that it’s not all rainbows and sprinkles. People often forget that it does come with hardships but often it makes the couple stronger 😊

    1. For sure—no relationship ever is! I feel like I have to keep it real, especially since me slapping a filter on a photo and writing a cheesy caption doesn’t tell the full story, though it’s what most people only see. Thank you so much for reading! 🙂

  5. Love this! I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly eight years now since we were in school and I’ll be 22 soon. Marriage isn’t on the cards any time soon because of money and I still feel like a teenager! I can relate to not living that romance film lifestyle, because we don’t have the money and our hometown is very small with not a lot to do, but that’s fine as the most important thing is you’re happy together!

    1. We have very similar stories! We’ve been together now for about 7.5 years, so got together in high school as teenagers. It took a very long time for us to grow out of that young-feeling era and start to feel ready for marriage, even though we had such a long-feeling history together. The nice thing is that there is no set-in-stone timeline; you’re ready when you are both ready, and nothing else. You’re 100% right—as long as you’re happy and healthy and functioning, you’re good without a ton of extras. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your story! I love hearing similar stories from people around my age. 🙂

  6. Great post! I feel like there’s such aversion to getting married “younger”. “Well, that’s the end of your life” “But don’t you want to enjoy more before you settle down”

    This is very open about the realities of your experience though. Love it!

    1. Thanks! I have also felt that negative vibe, especially when I was in college and talked about how I thought my then-boyfriend was going to propose soon. I understood the eye-rolls and the “but you’re such an independent woman!” comments, though I never understood how they were mutually exclusive. Every relationship is different and there are people that should mature and do some growing before committing to another person. We were lucky to grow together, and still are. Thank you so much for reading! 🙂

  7. It is interesting to read about relationships. There are always challenges that relationships come with that are not talked about. Finance is one of the hardest topics to go through but if you work together and have a game plan, you’re good to go. Sending you both positive vibes to keep the ball rolling strong :).

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

    1. It’s really tough when you’re young and want to travel and always try fun things or amazing food. But having financial security is also incredibly important as we build our life and future. Thank you so much for your kind words, positive vibes, and for reading! 🙂

  8. This was a really good post. Finances are something all couples need to work on, though admittedly some have an easier time than others. I think it is great that you guys are focusing on saving instead of spending it on having fun. I do agree that having fun from time to time is important, for both your relationship and your sanity, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about those odd times when you do spend instead of save. You and your husband sound like you have a good head on your shoulders and are working towards building a great life together.

    1. I think that now, with our full-time jobs, we’re able to transition into financial independence, though it’s often frustrating for us that we live in a state with such a high cost of living. It’s less that finances are something that causes rifts, and more of an annoyance. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  9. Beautiful post! You’re right! A lot of romance stories have young couples running off into the sunset, but that’s not the end of their story. My parents married pretty young too, and it was also very hard for them as well, but some how they made it work! It’s beautiful how you and your husband make such a great team, and I think that is needed in any marriage for it to work, especially in the marriage of a young couple.

    1. Thank you! I think it’s interesting how relationships are depicted, from romantic to platonic, and they traditionally skip over many of the nuanced details. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words!

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