As we grow, we all go through phrases where romantic relationships mean different things. As children of ages nine, ten and eleven we may have giggled and passed notes with “yes” or “no” checkboxes. Sometimes kids can have a whole “dating” relationship with someone and barely speak to them the whole time. When we get into our teenage years, we become increasingly aware of appearance. How many high schools pair the star quarterback and the head cheerleader? Is that not the natural order of things? We enter college and then we find we have this wonderful feeling when we are around our special person and we think, “it must be love.” Towards the end of college, or during the first year or so after college, many people go through a phase where they look for perfection in a mate. Those going through this phase may refuse to go on a date with someone who does not possess (to their knowledge) all of the necessary attributes on their list. Finally, we come to a phase where we want to spend the rest of our lives with someone who is heading in the same direction are we are heading. This often occurs in the mid-twenties when many marriages take place.
Many adults get nervous when they hear of a couple being engaged at a young age. This largely has to do with the lack of life experience most people have at ages 18, 19, or 20; it also has a lot to do with how little we really know about ourselves directly following high school. Most people change considerably between the ages of 17 and 22, and then again between 22 and 25. Why is this important? This is important because if you choose a mate without really knowing yourself and who you will become, there is a good chance that in a few years into your marriage you and your mate will find that you are not heading in the same direction after all. Perhaps at 19 you both planned on going into medicine and one of you planned to work while the other went to school. At 23, one or both of you may decide that medicine is not for you. Such a change does not destroy a relationship, but it does change your future plans together considerably and there is a good chance that one person will end up sacrificing his or her dreams and goals because the other person changed. By age 25, the majority of people have an idea of where they are really heading in life, and after all that time of finding themselves, they will most likely be in the market for someone who is heading along the same path. Marriages can have considerable problems when the spouses are not supportive of each other’s dreams. Sooner or later, many marriages fall apart when two separate lives are led.
Am I saying that no marriages will last unless the people are at least 25 years old? Absolutely not. If I believed that, I would have to believe my own marriage to be doomed. When Eric and I married, he was 28 and I was 22. Are we unhappily married? No, we are very happily married; however, I did a great deal of changing in the first few years of our marriage which threw us both for a loop. There was still a lot of growing for me to do, and thankfully, our marriage withstood the changes.
As marriages persist, beauty will fade, butterflies in the stomach will diminish, and life will happen. However, for two people who complement each other long-term in their lives, dreams, goals, and talents together, marriage can be comforting, invigorating, and better with each passing year. When the things of youth pass away, your life goals can live on for the rest of your life. Never settle for marrying someone who is moving in a different life direction than you. Even if you both achieve your dreams, they will come at a cost.
We encourage all couples to get good pre-engagement counseling and premarital counseling; however, if either of you are under the age of 25, it is especially critical. If you are interested in having Eric and I work with you and your boyfriend or girlfriend in pre-engagement counseling or fiancée in premarital counseling, please click on a link to find out more.