I never planned to be a teenage bride.
In fact, since I was a little girl, I planned to go on a mission. And then I thought that once I’d done that, I’d get on to graduating college, moving to the city, buying a cute little studio apartment, and getting a gorgeous Great Dane to keep me company. Where was a husband in all that planning? Maybe somewhere in my mid-to-late twenties, after I had established myself the way I wanted: as a strong, independent, single woman.
But things didn’t work out that way.
I graduated high school and started college, right on track. I dated casually—for the practice and for the fun—until I met Matt. He was perfect. Intelligent and shy, kind and thoughtful, Matt was any girl’s dream guy. I can’t even tell you when I decided maybe a mission wasn’t for me and maybe Matt was—I just remember being so happy and thinking to myself that I would be contented for the rest of forever if Matt was with me.
He proposed when I was 18, after knowing me six months, and we got married six months after that, when I was 19.
And I became a Mormon cliché.
Even in Utah, I get funny looks when I mention how young I was when I entered into matrimony. I’ve had people shoot me strange looks. Sometimes they'll suddenly change the topic. I've heard awkward jokes about teen pregnancy statistics (after all, if I’d have a baby that first year, I would have been a teenage mother). But perhaps most common is for people to just gawp and ask a simple and incredulous, “But why?” Apparently, according to some, I’m missing out on wonderful life experiences single people have that married people don’t. I’m missing opportunities to travel, chances to meet new people, the prospect of learning who I am as a person by myself, and so much “more.”
But as someone who was married at 19, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Here's why:
I get to grow with my spouse. I seem to hear a lot that being single for several years post-high school lets you “find yourself.” But in my opinion, because I got married before I really had a chance to develop a lifestyle of my own, I get to grow in ways that complement my husband. Since we were sealed for eternity, growing together and finding out who we are together is more important than “finding myself.” It’s like Mandy Hale said: “True love makes you more of who you are, not less.”
I have more support in my trials sooner. Having a spouse is a special kind of support. I never feel like I’m bothering my husband when I come to him with a problem. From texting him when I’m having a bad day to helping me through some of life’s major trials, I can trust him to always be there for me because he covenanted with me and with the Lord that we would get through this life together. My trials won’t wait until I’m older—why should I have waited to get married and get that help?
I’m learning more about selflessness. For my marriage to work, I have to put my spouse first, even before my own desires. And that’s something a lot of young people struggle with. Getting married has given me the opportunity to work on developing this attribute of Christ—not only because I’m trying to be more selfless like the Savior, but because I love to make my husband happy. And when he’s happy, I’m happy.
Married couples are more financially stable, are happier, and live longer. Even if you disagree with my anecdotal evidence, the numbers don’t lie, either: married people have more money, are happier, and live longer, healthier lives. Getting married younger brings these benefits sooner, so why wait?
I still get to pursue my dreams, even if those dreams have changed. Being married—even married young—has never held me back. Did I get the chance to buy my Great Dane and live in the city? No. But I don’t want that anymore. I want something better. In the case of my dream for city living, I’m now thinking about moving to Europe with my husband for a few years, if we can. That’s a bigger dream. And I’m more excited about that goal than I ever was about my small personal ambitions.
Getting married so young isn't for everybody--we have to trust the Lord's timing in our lives for what's best for us, and marriage comes early for some, and later for others. It comes when it's right for us. And for me, getting married at 19 was right. So when others suggest it was a mistake, that I'm "missing out," I want them to know that those of us who did marry young aren't necessarily giving up any life experience. We gain different life experiences. And different doesn't mean better or worse--it just means not the same.
By getting married at 19, I wasn’t losing anything. I wanted to be strong, and I am. I wanted to be independent, and I am. But I’m also part of a team, one that’s helping me practice for eternity, one that’s made me happier than I ever thought possible, and one that’s worth every single “lost experience.”