Young and in Love

I met Holly Goddard Jones when she came to speak at an Atlanta Writers Club meeting. After her talk, about a dozen of us went out with her to an Italian restaurant where we dined late into the night, our conversations about writing, publication, and craft leading out into the parking lot where we wrapped things up at around midnight. Holly’s book, Girl Trouble, is one of my favorite short story collections of all time.

Recently, Holly published a new essay about her teenage marriage, which I read first on her blog and re-read this morning on Salon. It’s a beautiful narrative of how a young union can evolve into an incredibly special relationship. (Soniah Kamal wrote a lovely post comparing Goddard Jones’ young marriage to arranged marriages here.) I found this passage particularly moving:

There are days when we look at each other with stunned expressions, and one of us says, “I could not have done this without you.” And it is true. Somehow — and it should not have been this way — getting married at 19 was the best bad decision I’ve ever made.

Though I did not have a “teenage marriage” (we were engaged at 22 and married on my 24th birthday) my husband and I have been inseparable since age 19– our marriage delay a function of money and graduate school/jobs temporarily located in two different states. I largely ignore my wedding anniversary (15 years earlier this month), because the date I cherish more occurs in a different month, in March, when we began dating. (This upcoming March will be twenty years.)

Having said that, I still occasionally get comments from people hinting that our young union will lead to an any-day-now marriage meltdown. I never know how to respond to these reactions. But after reading Holly’s essay, I suppose my answer is that some couples are able to change together, while others are not. Sometimes naivete and immaturity are the perfect ingredients for a long-lasting relationship, and not fully understanding what you’re getting yourselves into is the best way to jump in with both feet.


11 thoughts on “Young and in Love

  1. I was 24 when I married also (as you know). Jerry was almost 29, but he hadn’t dated a lot so I don’t think of him as having been very much older than I was. As I look around now and know close to a dozen couples who married around the same time that are at some point in the divorce process, I am amazed and awed and humbled to be one of the surviving couples. I am, above all, thrilled that I was so smart when I was so young and stupid. I needed someone to change WITH, not someone to change FOR, and I was lucky enough to find him and recognize that we have a well-matched resilience. We have weathered a lot in these past 15 years of marriage (and 17 years of acquaintance)… Each time we’ve faced a crisis, it could have pulled us together or pushed us apart. We’ve been the lucky ones, but I don’t think it’s all luck. I think the doe-eyed innocence when we married and the fact that we weren’t jaded by cruel relationship experiences that kept us from giving everything we had to the marriage have had a lot to do with it.

  2. Getting married at in one’s teens just sounds scary though the prospect of growing together is exciting. I suppose if you’ve found the ‘right’ person then age IS just a number:)

  3. I suppose when one meets the right person then age IS just a number:) I was 24 myself when I got married. Messy Goat you’ve nailed it beautifully: ‘change with and not for’.

  4. True, but I don’t know if one can truly know whether someone is the “right” person at such a young age. Perhaps people evolve to become the right one?

  5. Love to read your stories! I remember being told that I should “wait” to finish college, and “wait” to live on my own for a few years, and then it would be a good time to get married. I was told that after getting married it is best to “wait” to have children…..

    Michael and I met while in college and wanted to get married as soon as we graduated. However, graduating at different times, new jobs, living in different cities just slowed down that wedding date. We were 26, after dating 4 1/2 years, when we married. I look back and although I enjoyed my time working and having my own apartment, I think we would have been great getting married sooner. 20 years in February!! Our oldest starts college the same year our youngest starts kindergarten!! 🙂 Love it! He is still my sweetie!! For my children, I pray they find their spouse at a young age so that they can enjoy each other for many many years.

  6. What a sweet, sweet story, Robin! And I can’t believe you’ve got an upcoming college girl! Wow, does time fly.

  7. What an interesting post.
    There are gazillions of posts, articles and books written on marriage, happiness and finding the right partner. There is, I guess, no right way. Some believe in arranged. Others believe in love. Others believe in finding love in arrangements. And still others arrange the love (and life’s priorities) in what they have. But as long as you find happiness, I guess, that’s the key to a long, lasting relationship!

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