Recently, a friend of mine got divorced. Everyone involved with the couple – friends and family alike – seemed to agree that they’d just been too young when they got married. I was a bit taken aback. My friend and I were both the same age, and we married our respective husbands the same year!
I won’t say that our marriage has been 100-percent perfect or that it’s always been a walk in the park. But I believe that – contrary to expectations – marrying young helped us tremendously.
Still, I remember calling back home to announce my engagement to my family. I had known my then-fiancé for less than a year. Everyone was shocked, and they almost seemed to be against it – that is, except my grandmother. She had gotten engaged after knowing my grandfather for two whole weeks!
When everyone else seemed to be cautioning against it, her words of wisdom were, “You go, girl!”
The Odds Were Stacked Against Us.
My husband and I married within the first two weeks of 2008. Right from the start, the odds were stacked against us.
First off, we were both young. I was 20 years old, and my husband was 24. I couldn’t even legally drink a beer yet to celebrate. Sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger writes in his blog that based on our age, we had a 20 percent chance of not making it past the five-year mark.
We also had no money or assets when we married, unless you counted our old beater cars. This increased our risk of divorce within the first five years by another 11 percent, according to the State of Our Unions project.
Finally, we had a limited amount of social support. The numbers on this one are hard to come by, but they are definitely a factor in marriage success. At the time we were married, we were living nearly 2,500 miles away from the closest family member.
We didn’t have enough money to travel back to visit family, much less pay for them to visit us. As a result, we got married without ever even having met our respective in-laws!
We Turned Our Weaknesses Into Strengths.
The reason I think our marriage has been successful so far is a bit counterintuitive: our biggest predictors of failure became our biggest sources of strength.
Let me explain. We were young when we married, and that could have hurt us in a number of ways. We might not have been fully mature and capable of dealing with the difficulties of married life. But it also gave us a golden opportunity to grow and change to suit each other.
We didn’t come into this marriage as fully formed adults, set in our ways with hard-to-break habits from years of independent living. We were adaptable.
Plus, we had no money when we married. This was partially because we were young, but also because we had no money management skills. I remember receiving $300 as a wedding gift from a family member after we announced our marriage. We both said, “Awesome! Now we have $300 in our bank account!”
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We Began to Manage Our Money as Partners
We learned to manage money together. If things didn’t work, we found ways that worked for us both. When we got frustrated with each other for spending money, we set spending limits. When we weren’t progressing as fast as we wanted financially, we agreed together on how much money to set aside in various savings accounts. There was no me versus him in terms of bad habits. We both agreed that we had bad habits to break. We both agreed to talk about how we should try to solve them.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to go out and get married as soon as they’re able – what’s worked for us may not necessarily work for you. Instead, sometimes you just have to realize that everyone is different and sometimes even things that seem like they won’t work might actually be the best option for you – both in your personal finances and in saying “I do.”
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