When I, Abigail, was in high school, I had a few ideas of what my marriage would look like—someday very far off in the future. I wouldn’t get married until after I graduated from college. I would be at least 24, with a few years of independence under my belt. My finances would be in order, and I would know the basic skills for making it as a full-blown adult. In my perfect plans, getting married young was not an option.
Fast-forward to a month before turning 21—with eight weeks left in my final semester of college—I was walking down the aisle to meet my soon-to-be husband. Isn’t it funny how quickly plans can change?
So, with less than a year of marriage under our belts, here are five things we’ve learned from getting married young.
1. Isolation isn’t an option. It can be tempting to embrace the honeymoon phase of a new marriage and neglect the people around you. But we quickly found out that isolation wasn’t an option. In fact, we truly believe our marriage is stronger because we’ve been intentional about the people we surround ourselves with. One of the best ways we’ve found great friends is in our LifeGroup. One of our friends shares it best:
“Seeing how the other couples acted, I didn’t feel like we were all on our own on this new lifelong journey. There were people sitting in front of us on the same adventure, and we knew we could share struggles or successes with them—we would have people to relate with.”
2. Marriage is about God, not us. Before we were married, we knew that our marriage was for more than us—we wanted to live fully surrendered to God’s plans. So, one Sunday after church, with cups of coffee in hand, we dreamed about our future goals, hopes, and aspirations.
We talked about the values we wanted to instill not only in our marriage but also in our future family. After brainstorming the broad values—like open communication, having fun, humility, and a few others—we listed tangible habits to help us build each one. Then we laid it all at the feet of Jesus in prayer, because there is freedom in a marriage surrendered to God’s will.
3. What you say—and how you say it—matters. Communication has been one of the hardest areas for us to grow and develop in as a married couple. And if we can be vulnerable and transparent for a moment, communication—or lack thereof—leads to the majority of our “colorful conversations.” We are truly learning what Solomon meant in Proverbs:
The tongue has the power of life and death … Proverbs 18:21 NIV
What you say in the heat of the moment sticks, especially when it’s coming from the most important person in your life. The good news is that this has a positive application, too. Nobody can encourage, uplift, and support your spouse the way you can. The words you speak have power, so use that power wisely.
We have a talking stick to help us intentionally listen to understand one another—not simply listen to respond. And while it might seem silly or elementary to have a formal talking stick, sometimes “elementary” may be exactly what we need to grow up.
4. Don’t be afraid to talk about money. We’ve learned that by getting married young, we’re truly building a life together. We were the couple that had towels, toilet paper, and furniture on the same registry because marriage was the first time either of us had lived in our own household. So as we were preparing for marriage, we had many conversations about budgets, bank accounts, and credit cards.
Thankfully, a few months after getting married, our LifeGroup decided to go through Financial Peace together. Our weekly get-togethers have forced us out of our comfort zones and into uncomfortable conversations about our finances.
As challenging as it can be, it’s worth it to know that we’re on the same page. And with statistics telling us that money is the number one cause of divorce, talking about money is one of the many things we have to get right—and the sooner, the better.
5. Boundaries don’t go away after “I do.” At their core, boundaries are rules that protect our hearts, minds, and souls in relationships. We had important, defined, and specific boundaries when we were dating, and while they changed when we said “I do,” they didn’t go away. If anything, marriage has created additional boundaries.
We both experienced our parents getting divorced while we were still living at home. So we know the hurt and harm that brings not only for the couple, but also for the families and friends involved. We vowed that divorce would never be a part of our story, so this was the first boundary we set: We don’t joke about divorce.
When that word is thrown around—as a joke or in the midst of a fight—it opens the door for it to be a possibility. So we have a boundary in place to keep that door locked and sealed, with the key thrown away.
Other boundaries that we have in place protect our time together, such as prioritizing weekly date nights and putting our phones down at dinner. We also share our locations with one another, and we have full access to each other’s devices—not because we don’t trust each other, but because we don’t have anything to hide.
We’re still very new to this whole marriage thing, and we’re learning new things each day. However, we can promise you this: There is nobody else we would rather be on this journey with.