Dear Red: Am I Too Young to Get Married?

Dear Red,

I am 18 and my boyfriend is 21. We've been together for a year, live together, and now I would like to move to the next step within the next year by getting engaged and starting to plan a wedding. I know I'm really young, but lots of people have gotten married at my age before. You've talked here about your marriage and divorce, so I'd like to know, how young is too young to get married?

Sincerely,

Ready to Tie the Knot

Dear RTTTK,

I won't pretend to know whether or not your desire to get married is because you're just super in touch with who you are or what you want, or a product of our crazy culture and its obsession with weddings. To be honest, it could be either, both, or neither. Either way, it's easy for me to look at a few sentences and say, "Um, hells no, 18 is too young to get married."

At the same time, I know people who have gotten married at that age, and I had only recently turned 21 myself when I got married. So it's not like it's unheard of. And even though my marriage didn't work, my younger brother's has (he was 21 and she was 18. They have been married for just about nine years now).

All that to say, I'd do a few things....

First, check in to see WHY you want to get married.

Is it the allure and appeal of having a wedding? Is it because you truly want to spend the rest of your life with your boyfriend? Is it because one or the other of you could use the insurance benefits? None of these reasons are unheard of when going into a marriage...regardless, I'd take some time to do some strong self-reflection to check your motives.

Next, I'd check to make sure your boyfriend shares the same timeline as you.

Is he looking to get hitched at this age, or would he like to take a different path? Again, nothing wrong with that if he does, but you'll save both of you a little angst if you know your priorities are aligned.

Last, I would make sure that you're aware that the love you share now will be completely different after a year of marriage.

...and then it'll be different in five years, ten years. You and your boyfriend will almost certainly be different people, as well. The question is, do you want to experience those differences within the bonds of marriage or not?

You asked for my advice, and not necessarily my opinion, so I won't get too far into my ideas about how I think the twenties are the new teens for a lot of people.

I will say, though, that I think you're entering some of the most exciting, tumultuous years of your life, and weddings and marriages are huge decisions that require commitment and lots of work. Enjoy this time in your life for what it is while you can. Relax, have fun, get busy with your boyfriend, hang out with your old friends and make a bunch of new ones, too. Then, in a few years when you've figured out what you want to do with your life, and you've sowed some crazy wild oats, and you've saved up a little money, decide what you want to do about marriage.

After all, you have the rest of your life to be married, but only a little while to do the kind of silly things that you'll look back on later in your life and say, "I can't believe I did that...but yeah, I was only 18."

Sincerely,

Red