Thursday, August 9, 2012

teen marriage: some keys

Early disclaimer: I'm just going to write stream-of-consciousness here and so I will likely read it back later and disagree with myself on some point or realize I didn't express a thought fully, whatever. So there you go. Oh, and another disclaimer: I refer to sex, which is so awkward to write about. and another (late-breaking disclaimer: I'm not all like, ooh, look at us, we're perfect. I'm just saying I think these are some things that helped)

Most of you know that the MOG and I got married before we had all of our permanent teeth. I think there are a few things that made our marriage work back then. (it works now, but it runs on different stuff, like affection, commitment, duty and momentum)

One: we were both deeply committed to our faith in Jesus. Our lives then and now revolved around loving Him and being obedient to His commands, or at least working towards being obedient. Our spiritual lives separately were the foundation of our personal maturity and the strength behind our decisions together.

Two: we did not have sex before marriage. This was possible because of number One up there, and also because my parents had crazy eagle eyes and had impressed upon me a great fear of sexual sin and my inevitable death from pregnancy and STDs if I should choose that path for my entire (short) life. I think waiting for intimacy was a huge part of our relational success. We built a relationship and a friendship that was based on so many facets of our interests and personalities, and, while there were sparks, the sparks were not the basis of "us". It was a fight over the 2 years we dated to stay (relatively) pure, it was not easy. That is one of the benefits of getting married at 17, you aren't fighting those urges for years and decades. It can't be the reason, but it is a reason.

Three: we could support ourselves. We considered starting our marriage in my parent's spare bedroom, but our pastoral staff urged us to make a different plan. I am really grateful for that. Our tiny apartment paid for by our full-time jobs is a sweet memory. That first year was just great, growing up together and learning how to live as adults. We have no experience living as singles, our entire adult experience has been shared. I'm so glad for that. So, we had decent paying jobs, a relatively dependable car and an apartment we could afford. I would tell any young couple starting out: it is so important to build a life together, to "leave and cleave". Your parents should not be paying your bills or providing your housing, that is your responsibility as an adult.  (another disclaimer: I know sometimes life throws a curveball and you need some help; I'm referring to starting a marriage on someone else's foundation) If you can't do that, maybe give the wedding a little more time, until you're ready.

Four: our families were supportive emotionally and had given their blessings. We were blessed in that most of our group of parents were believers and understood the value of our faith, and of our  commitment to youth ministry and seeing revival in America. We didn't want to go to college, we wanted to get married and do youth ministry, and they understood and got behind that. When we decided to get married, I was only 16 years old. Our plan was to graduate high school and then get married over the summer, and our parents listened to us and helped us make the steps to independence and a strong marriage.

Five: we loved each other. Our commitment to God and to purity had our relationship in a solid place of learning to die to ourselves and put the other one first, and also we shared a deep passion for bringing the Gospel to teenagers. We liked each other, we made each other laugh and think deeper. Once we were married, we determined to not give each other a "back door" escape to think about divorcing. There was only making it work, doing the work to make it work. Marriage is fun, but marriage is largely work. We fought like cats and dogs in the early years, but we still ate together and slept in the same bed. Nobody was allowed to retreat to Mama's house, we were together now, for better or worse. So we'd fight it out, and we'd come to a resolve, eventually. We'd sit there, basically overgrown children and realize that that place, where we had fought and come through together, was a stronger piece of the tapestry of us. It's a patchwork now, but we fought for it all.

I might change my mind later, but I think I like teen marriage, given those 5 conditions are in place. Even the battles we've fought over the years and the tragedies seem so much more meaningful, like we've lived a life together already and we have a couple more lives to live together. I have more to say about the current culture in America, with dating and waiting so much later to get married, but I want it to be more thought out, so I'll come back to that sometime.


  1. You know, I heard over and over how bad it is to get married as a teen and was 31 when i got married. for ME that was right, but for some of my friends it would be way too late. They married at 16, 17 and were/are happy. not only that, they are now empty nesters whilst i struggle to keep the energy up for our brood. in some ways it's easier to wait (we don't worry about not being able to pay the electric bill), but the lvoe i see? it's priceless.

  2. I want my kids to get married young (even tho I don't want to tell them that)...this was a cool post, thanks!

  3. These "keys" should apply to any marriage at any age, I think! Thanks for sharing, Jess! :)


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