I had expectations.
They weren’t high expectations, but I had a plan anyway! I was going to follow society’s rule of thumb and live my life in order of operation: graduate high school at 18, move away and go to college, have a career, meet a guy and get married sometime in my 30’s, have a kid or two and then my life would be complete. That was the way it was supposed to go.
Here’s how the order actually went down: dated my high school sweetheart, had a baby at 18 (two weeks before he left for boot camp), got married at 19, graduated from high school, moved away, had another kiddo at 21, moved again, started college at 23, moved again, started a career, graduated college at 33, moved again, paid my first ever electric bill at age 35 … you get the gist, right?
So yea, I was a teenage milspouse. We did everything backwards from my original plan. The odds were definitely stacked against us from the start, yet here we are after almost 18 years of marriage!
Wow, that sounded super braggy, didn’t it? Well, let me just say that it wasn’t always pretty.
Getting married young in military culture isn’t all that uncommon, but it comes with a set of challenges that are unique in their own rights … it’s definitely a wild ride.
I’m going to lay out a few pros and cons for you, and feel free to tell me if any of this sounds familiar. Not all of these examples will resonate, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that you’ll end up nodding your head at some point. (Warning: this may require you to look back at moments in your marriage that you wanted to forget … wincing may occur.)
1. Our communication skills kinda sucked
I don’t know about you, but my ability to communicate definitely left something to be desired when I first got married. My husband and I are the same age, so his skills in this area were a little raw too. Picture this: I’ve been stuck at home all week with a sick and screaming toddler while he’s off playing in the dirt with his friends (or at least that’s what I envisioned anyway). He comes home tired, hungry and dirty from the field. I missed him terribly…really, I did! BUT: I’ve been dealing with a sick kid for the last week, I’m ready to seriously LOSE it, and my filter is nowhere to be found.
Instead of giving him time to rest and regroup, I launch right into a tirade. At this point, his own ‘give-a-damn’ had busted and he counters with a tirade of his own. We spend the rest of the night in silence (with the exception of the aforementioned screaming toddler). Eventually we learned how to get through moments like this, but those first few ‘disagreements’ literally felt like knock-down-drag-outs!
2. Money matters
I always laugh whenever I learn that people (incorrectly) think that young military spouses are ‘gold diggers.’ HA! I married my husband when he was a PFC (E-2) in 1998. He made $926 a month. I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: No one is seriously trying to jump into marriage for $463 on the 1st and 15th of every month! NO. ONE.
In fact, it was quite the opposite. We argued over not having enough money all the time! Somehow we managed a car payment, food, internet and phone without ever getting them shut off, but we know way too many military couples who didn’t fare as well.
3. Priorities don’t always align
Since I’m writing about our marriage, I decided it was only fair to get my husband’s opinion on the pros and cons of marrying young. He said we didn’t always understand each other’s priorities in life. “Sure, we want to be all lovey-dovey and just go out and have fun and enjoy our youth, but sometimes it just can’t be like that,” he said.
When you’re married with a family at 19, you might ‘understand’ that you can’t always go out every Saturday night or splurge on the newest tech-gizmo…but that doesn’t mean you won’t still resent the fact that you can’t do exactly what you want to do when you want to do it. Even if it’s not the ‘fault’ of one person or the other, resentment can boil up to the surface over time and if left unaddressed, you’ll literally find yourselves back at square #1 (communication).
So what then, if anything, is good about marrying young? In our case, I’d say the pros outweigh the cons.