I was 20... barely. He was 21. We were young, in love, and knew that we wanted to be married more than anything. We could not imagine living without each other, and wanted to tackle the world and the future together. We did not have a penny to our names, and no assets to speak of except two hearts that were overflowing with love. We had 10 years of school ahead of us, a borrowed car, and a dream of happiness that we held tightly as we walked hand in hand into our marriage ceremony on that beautiful summer day.
There were voices that we ignored in the days leading up to our wedding. The ones that told us we were making a big mistake; that we should wait on such a big decision until we were old enough to know what we were doing; that we should travel and see the world before settling down; that we should finish school first; that we should wait until we were financially secure; that we should live together first and "try it out" before making a commitment as big as marriage.
Those voices were wrong.
Yes, we were young and naive. We did not fully understand exactly what we were getting ourselves in to. We did not know how difficult it would be to juggle college, full-time work, and babies. We did not realize that there would be huge financial challenges that would feel insurmountable at times. We were blind to the reality that blending two different backgrounds would sometimes feel like we were riding white water rapids that would never slow down. We could not fathom that spending four years in school far away from most of our family would be one of the most difficult things that we had ever done. We were unaware that we would be blessed with four children before completing school, or of the challenges that would accompany those blessings. There was much that we did not know or understand as we looked at each other with starry eyes on our wedding day. But that didn't really matter, because we were absolutely committed to making it work... no matter what.
When challenges arose in the days and years that followed, we faced them together. We struggled together. We cried together. We triumphed together. We laughed together. Together we looked in wonder at each of our newborn babies, amazed at what the two of us were able to create. We took turns bathing fevered brows, kissing skinned knees, and wiping away tears. We sat down together to figure out how to make the last of the money in our checking account stretch a little bit further. Together we waded through the stress of a meager income, a small apartment full of little kids, and the demands of graduate school. At times we got impatient or frustrated with each other, and sometimes we felt misunderstood or under appreciated because we did not see eye to eye.
Life has not always been peaches and cream like we hoped it would be when we started our life together. However, we have learned through experience about life and love, relationships and family, and how to make them work. Many of the challenges that we have faced, some because we married young, and others simply because we married, have become the glue that continues to bind us together because we have worked through them as a team.
Now we are nearing the end of our 30s, and our oldest son is 16. We are looking forward to a decade when all of our kids will be going into the wide world to forge their own paths. Our youngest child will be leaving home when I am 49 years old, and then the possibilities are endless. We look forward to traveling the world, seeing all of the places that we have always wanted to see, serving a mission for our church, and spending quiet days enjoying each other's company. We will still be relatively young when all of our children are grown, and then we will have more time and money to enjoy all of the things that we supposedly missed by starting our family so early. Of course, life may take an unexpected turn at any point, and the plans that we hope for may never materialize. But no matter what life throws our way, we will hold onto each other through the roller coaster, ever grateful for the ride.
At the end of the day, I do not feel like we missed anything by marrying young. Rather, we had the wonderful opportunity to grow up together, while simultaneously growing together as a couple. That development has shaped us into who we are as individuals, spouses, and parents, and I would not go back and change it, even if I could. I am who I am because of him, and he because of me. The challenges and joys that we have waded through together have forged a magnificent partnership that continues to thrive, and I look forward to our future, come what may. Together we have created a family with five children and two parents who love each other, and that is exactly what we hoped for when we started out 17 years ago. No amount of travel, money, or "missed experiences" would ever replace that.
Yes, marrying young was a blessing for me... not a mistake.
Lynnette Sheppard blogs at Simply for Real, where this post first appeared.