My adolescent marriage {on my anniversary}

My adolescent marriage {on my anniversary}

Today is my 14th anniversary.

Since I started blogging in 2011, we’ve celebrated our 11th, then our 12th, and our lucky 13th anniversary.

I’ve had more conversations than usual this spring—just coincidentally—with friends who’ve gotten divorced, or are in the middle of one. Those talks are sobering: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes our marriage work, and what makes us go off the rails sometimes.

Will and I married at 21 and 22. There’s so much I loved about marrying young (I wonder if that’s because of our personality types—I’m an INFP—but that’s another post for another day) but with the perspective of years it’s easier to see how that could have gone either way.

Fourteen years. Some people would say our marriage is in its own sort of adolescence right now. That never made sense to me, although, ironically, I do see a parallel between our fourteen-year marriage and the twenty-something years.

Meg Jay, who wrote a wonderful book on making the most of your twenties, says that one of the biggest challenges of the twenty-something years is to “slide, not decide.” It’s too easy, in your twenties, to walk blindly down the path of least resistance instead of living with intention during this decade.

I’m not a twenty-something anymore, but I recognize those same challenges in my fourteen-year marriage. We have four kids and two jobs and interesting side gigs and a fair amount of craziness in our day-to-day. I hate to say this, but we are busy. Life is packed.

It would be so easy, when it comes to our relationship, to walk down that path of least resistance, which—in my mind—looks a whole lot like long-term survival mode instead of consciously, deliberately, intentionally nurturing this relationship that means so much to me.

I understand how that could happen to a marriage, and how it does happen, everyday.

But on our anniversary, I’m reminded of why we went all in and how glad I am, (almost) every day, to put my lot in with this guy.

Reflections welcome in comments, whether you’re not-yet-married, hope-to-be-married, swear-you’ll-never-marry, or sixty-years-married. 

P.S. More thoughts on marriage.

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74 comments

  1. Desiree says:

    My husband and I have only been married three years now and we waited until our late twenties and had a baby on the way. Now three babies later I often find myself in survival mode. Is it part of a young marriage? Does it get better? Or do I have to purposefully change the way my marriage is? All things on my mind lately.

    Congratulations on 14 years!!! Perhaps in two years you could throw a Sweet Sixteen!

    • Anne says:

      I think “three kids” and “survival mode” often appear in the same sentence. At least, they sure did for me. Every family is different, but I feel like survival mode is less frequent around here now that my youngest is four instead of tiny.

  2. Dr. Clark Roush says:

    Anne – I raised my two sons (both now married) and “raise” my college choir with what I feel is an essential anchor: commitment is what kicks in when it’s no longer convenient. That phrase has weathered many a ‘storm’ in my life. I hope it blesses you and any others that might find use for it.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Congratulations, Anne, and many more! We just celebrated our 24th last week. I can certainly relate to your comment about survival mode; that’s how it feels many times. Consciously nurturing the relationship is so important but it doesn’t have to be with huge gestures: just little kindnesses like smiling and greeting each other when we appear in the kitchen each morning, saying please & thank you, offering to serve the coffee rather than sitting and waiting for the other to do it … all those small things add up to a good relationship.

  4. Grand Pam says:

    Hoping the day is lovely for you both. We shall celebrate 45 years of marriage in September and each day is just that a celebration of our love for God, each other, and family. Commit is the key.

  5. ed cyzewski says:

    We were the same age as you two when we got married. I’ve seen our marriage grow and become stronger as we each become more self-aware and see how we work together. The more I understand about myself, the more I can understand how my quirks are either helping or hurting our marriage. I wonder if part of the challenge of a young marriage is that you’re both still figuring out who you are as you make a life together.

    • Anne says:

      “I wonder if part of the challenge of a young marriage is that you’re both still figuring out who you are as you make a life together.”

      In our case—or I should probably say, my case—definitely YES.

  6. Yay for 14 years! We just celebrated our 10th–I was 21 and he was 24 when we got married. I just told a friend the other day and she said, “wow, 10 years, that gives me hope.” I knew exactly what she meant. 🙂 Marriage is way, way harder than I ever would have imagined. But also way, way more of a blessing–especially in ways I didn’t expect.

  7. Oh, if I could start all over…I wasted those years when I was married young trying to control my husband. It took 23 years to stop trying to control anything about him and we finally have a wonderful, intimate marriage! Now, I just love and support him. There is peace in our home and we absolutely enjoy each other.

  8. DebRN says:

    Bravo! Our 37th anniversary is tomorrow. We have become quite the team as we have weathered some pretty tough storms. Commitment is key. While being ‘so responsible’ we love having one day getaways/dates- it revives your relationship. Bless you all!

  9. Almost 14 years for us this year and I get what you are saying. It takes so much awareness and work to make sure our relationship is thriving. And while I’m watching some of our peers as their relationships either crumble or implode I’m all too happy to dive into that work.

    I got married at 19 and my hubby was 26. I think “growing up” with him was a good thing. As we (me more than him) grew into ourselves we also grew into one another. We were, and still are, figuring life out together rather than wrestling with the person next to us. But even that is a choice, you either fight to become closer or allow the tension to drive you apart in a million little ways.

    On a last note, I am not looking forward to my children leaving our home but… when that phase comes I think I’m really going to enjoy that part of our marriage. =)

  10. Janna says:

    We are celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary today too! I was 20 and he was 21 . . . Those early years were kind of hard for us, but I think there is something to say for “growing up” together.

  11. Alyssa says:

    Congratulations! We will celebrate 24 years next week and have 4 kids ( I was 19 and he was 20) Don’t stop dating and don’t stop dreaming!

  12. Carla says:

    Congratulations on your anniversary!
    I’ve almost been married for three years, and this past year has been the hardest, by far with graduations from undergrad and grad school, very unexpected illness, and professional changes.
    A friend of mine from work once told me that marrying young gave her and her husband to “grow up together” and that’s how I like to think about our marriage. We were both 22, which is “young” for today’s standards, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve liked growing up with my husband, and kind of hope that we don’t ever stop growing up together.

  13. Kayo says:

    Well, my husband and I were married over 28 yrs when we divorced. Divorced..and now remarried, to each other! With counseling and the Lord above, we are together again. Don’t regret divorce, but wish we had truly worked on it before, to save so much heartache for the whole family. Marriage is just hard. Period! But worth it!
    Oh, and we celebrate our 30th anniversary(we are calling it that anyway!) at the end of the month. Now I have two anniversaries. : )

  14. Brandi S says:

    Hi Anne,
    I’ve never commented before, but something called me to stop and give a little blurb. We just celebrated 4 years together and had our first child 8 months ago. We “married young” at 22. Three things that I have recently realized to be of utmost importance in our marriage:
    1. We started off as best friends. We told each other everything and just loved being together, hanging out.
    2. You can’t be afraid to be honest. I had to come a long way and realize that when he was telling me I wasn’t communicating effectively on some level, he was trying to make US better, not make me feel bad. It’s hard to hear a critique, but when you respect the other person you shouldn’t be afraid to be honest with them when you are having rough patches. But also try to be delicate in your honesty, no sense in hurt feelings over tone of voice.
    3. Talk about sex and intimacy. This can be hard, but it is also liberating. We very recently started asking each other five questions every week (from here: http://www.todaysletters.com/2009/08/tuesday-questions.html). We realized that since the baby I have felt our relationship is low on intimacy and he has felt it was low on sex. It was so eye opening! You can’t read each other’s minds (at least not all the time) so it helps to say things out loud to one another.

    Anyway, those are some new things I’ve really pondered since our 4th anniversary. I can appreciate not letting things just slide…Be active in your relationship! It’s so easy to focus all of your attention on the new baby (or your 4 kids) and lose site of that awesome person who started it all with you. 😉

  15. Jen says:

    I also married at 21 and I am also an INFP, and I am so curious about how those might be related. I’ve never even thought of a connection there.

  16. Congratulations, Anne! Today is my anniversary, too! 8 years for us. I was married at 20, and I am so glad we married young. I’m curious about your considerations on marrying young and personality type. (My husband and I are BOTH INFJs.)

  17. Kristen says:

    My husband and I just celebrated 7 years of marriage yesterday! We were both 19 when we got married and I can see now how we “grew up” together. Everything has been a team effort (graduating college, pursuing dreams, discovering who we are) and I love that we’ve done it all together. Those first few years were tough, though! Now we have three kids and life isn’t any less challenging, but our team-building years early on have prepared us for these days of parenthood. Congratulations on 14 years!

  18. When I got married at 25, I thought I was “old.” Now I look back and realize what a baby I was! What did I know at 25? I didn’t even know who I was! I love my husband, and I’m glad we’ve kind of grown up together, though he’s always been ridiculously mature and level-headed. I really needed the stability he offered—without it, I’m not sure I’d have begun to figure myself out by now. God sets these things up for a reason! Matchmaker extraordinaire! 🙂

  19. Happy Anniversary! We were 20 and 21 when we got married ten years ago. I do feel like that was young but I LOVE that we grew up together and learned everything together. I can see how it could go badly and I feel lucky that I got a great guy (at 21, I really could have made the wrong choice but I didn’t).

    Interesting to think of a marriage growing up like a human grows up–something to ponder. Thanks for the great thoughts.

  20. Tim says:

    Happy Anniversary, Anne (and Will too)! Marriage takes work, as you know, but it’s some of the best work ever. Here’s to many more years of God’s blessings for your entire family!

    Tim

  21. Congrats!

    17 this year for us, which is sort of mind-boggling. For some reason, 17 sounds much longer than 15 or 16, perhaps because we’re now edging toward 20 years or something?

  22. Suzette Mahoney says:

    I just read that book on Sunday and thought it was fabulous…I have a 19 year old I am hoping reads it. We got married at 22 + 23 and I am so happy we did! Our marriage was a start up and not a merger and I felt like that has made the path easier. This summer we are celebrating 25 years!

  23. My husband and I just celebrated our 9 year anniversary. I was 22 years when when we got married and a new state, job changes, buying a home, and three kids has meant that the road has been bumpy sometimes. We both committed to seeing this thing through though and giving it our all. Which does mean choosing not to take the path of least resistance. It’s hard when life feels overwhelming to actually take the time to work on your marriage; but as we’ve seen couples (some married for over 30 years) go through separation/divorce we are trying to stay proactive.
    http://joyfullyweary.blogspot.com/2014/06/9-years.html

  24. Vanessa says:

    We celebrated 16 years last week. I was a 19-year-old bride, if you can believe it. One thing I know to be true is that being willing to find compromises, to find solutions together … that’s the best way to grow closer together. Because people do change: they age and mature and lose interest in some things and gain interest in others. Partners who can ride the waves of a changing personality, who can be the anchor when necessary and be the wind in the sails when necessary, I think that’s what a good marriage is made of.

  25. Congratulations!

    When we were married 14 years, we had our twins. Talk about a baptism of fire!

    We married at 20 and 24………………… 🙂 That’s very young for around here (South Africa)

  26. Ana says:

    Happy Anniversary! I thought your comment about personality types and early marriage was interesting–I actually don’t know which type my husband is, but I know we’re total opposites. I *think* it keeps us more sane, although it drives us crazy sometimes too! We celebrated 13 years two weeks ago, and were 23 and 21. Have a blessed and joyful day! 🙂

  27. Anne says:

    Happy Anniversary, Anne and Will! 🙂 Hope you find some time to enjoy the occasion.

    I will have to see what type my husband is and report back. I am INFJ, if I remember right. That *would* make for an interesting post! We mark 10 years this October and were 27 and two days from 27 when we married. I’d say we are past adolescence, past the quarter life mark….hmmm…nearing our 30s?? 🙂

  28. Sarah says:

    We got married at the same age! Celebrated our ten year anniversary and I realized how I was celebrating just what you talked about – purposefulness, choices. Maybe not as exciting as celebrating a beginning but special just the sam.

    Here’s the reflection I wrote: http://bit.ly/1ocQ8kr

  29. So many thoughts, not enough time! First of all, YES. A year or two ago, I heard someone say to never stop celebrating. They said that when kids come along, you get busy with birthdays and full-out Halloween celebrating, etc., and you tend to let anniversaries fall by the wayside for a while. But what a perfect time to celebrate the progress you’ve made as a couple and to remind yourself of how important this marriage thing is to you. 🙂 (Don’t think I’ve ever shared that on my blog – I might have to!)

    Also, I LOVE how you link up to old posts so naturally and so often in your writing. I always think of you when I do that. (Like, “Anne would totally link this up – I should too!”) And thanks for sending some people my way today by linking to your marriage section! Have a great night!

  30. Happy Anniversary! I think its awesome that you got married young. It seems like it would make two people develop together, instead of develop independently and then try to fit together. But I know that there are challenges either way! Regardless, 14 years is awesome!

  31. Hannah says:

    Happy Anniversary, Anne. We just celebrated 14 years of marriage. We were 22 and 23 when we married. Three kids, two dogs, tons of travel, jobs, adventures, and ups and downs later, we are still all in. But it takes work. Sometimes the work feels like work and sometimes it feels like nothing at all. In it for life, though.

  32. Happy anniversary!

    I married at 25. Husband was 36. Different experiences of our 20s and 30s, to say the least. I don’t think he would have done well getting married at 22 — but since it wouldn’t have been to me in that case, all for the best!

  33. Lori P says:

    Happy Anniversary! My hubby and I have been married 26 years. We married when we were both 20. It can take a lot of work, but oh so worth it. Wouldn’t change it for anything 🙂

  34. My husband and I are coming up on five years. We also married young and I’m an INFP and have loved being married through my twenties. It is always interesting to me to talk with other couples who married later in life and get their perspective. They often seem shocked we married so young and don’t feel it would have been wise for them to marry at that age. I think it’s more about a mindset than an age though. We were young and still had a lot of maturing and growing to do, but we also were old enough to make a commitment and a conscious decision to stick to it. Just my two cents.

  35. Lauren says:

    My husband and I married when we were both 21. Unlike most of our culture today, we waited to have sex until we were married, and I’m upfront to say that’s one reason we married before we finished college. We were tired of the fight of waiting after dating almost four years! Anywho, the commitment, the covenant relationship we entered into with each other and the Lord, was real, so we celebrate twelve years of wedded bliss on Sunday, the 27th of July. We have five kids from 15 months to nine years old. We almost always go on an anniversary trip together. We live nowhere near family, so dating regularly is more difficult, what with both finding someone we trust with this many kiddos and the need to pay for that, but a once-a-year getaway, we find essential. My husband says the more he’s able to treat me like a girlfriend, the better he feels about me. Dates help with that. Putting kids to bed early helps with that. Spending several days alone together helps with that. Happy belated anniversary!

  36. Nanci says:

    Happy Anniversary number 14.
    We are approaching anniversary number 53. We have had our ups and downs as everyone, but we are still best friends despite our very different personalities. Don’t remember our letters. Lots of different eras – almost like different people then and now. We were 20 (me) and 22. Total support of one another is one of the strengths that makes it great. We are both different readers – occasionally a book will overlap for us. He is action and suspense where I am dreamy, fantasy, great long sagas, family stories over generations etc. Life is good past kids with grand and great grand children.

  37. Janet Miles says:

    Happy 14th! We started later, I was 29 and he was 33 and we just had our 33rd. I am his third wife and he is my second husband. None of our previous marriages lasted longer than a year but we are still going strong. As you say, though, it takes conscious and deliberate nurturing! If you found the right one, it is worth it. From the beginning I always stressed that we needed to have date nights, especially after the kids came, because after the kids grow up and go, we need to remember why we got together in the first place. We are now at that time where the kids have grown and gone and we continue to have fun with each other.

  38. Joy in Alabama says:

    Happy 14th!

    My husband and I got married when he was just-turned-20 and I was 17; we celebrated 40 years last December. We’ve had good times and bad times but we made a solid commitment from the beginning that we would never divorce, so we’ve always worked out whatever has happened. I can honestly say I love him more and more every year and appreciate and respect him. He’s a great husband and a great father and he loves me and takes care of me. I pray you and your husband will have AT LEAST 40 years, too!

  39. Happy anniversary! All the divorces makes me sad so I’m thrilled to hear that you two are going strong! We celebrated our 25th last Sept and are almost empty nesters (one senior left!) I homeschooled our kids and when they were little I would cry at the thought of an empty nest. However, since we nurtured our relationship through the tough years where the days were long, we are actually looking forward to it! We celebrated our silver anniversary with my parents who celebrated their gold with a mega party! You can read about it here:

    http://www.makingthemostofeveryday.com/anniversary-celebrations/

  40. JZ says:

    Happy 17th Anniversary! I missed this post the first time around, but couldn’t resist commenting. What a delightful surprise to see you quote Meg Jay! She and her wonderful family are our next-door neighbors. She is incredibly kind and has a new book coming out this fall called Super Normal. The way she describes it, I can’t wait to get my hands on it and dig in for a good read!

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