The average American is now getting married at 29 — a historic high, up from 23 for women and 26 for men in 1990. I got married at 26, and my husband was eight months younger than I. When I announced this to colleagues and acquaintances, the reactions mainly alternated between, "Are you pregnant?" to "Was it an arranged marriage?"
The truth is that we were just two crazy Bangladeshis who met at a bar in the middle of Manhattan. Maybe that’s why I knew he was the one?
Our decision to get married shocked our parents, friends and relatives. For me, my girlfriends seemed to think I was setting the clock back — at a time when women are becoming more equal in the workplace, excelling in education compared to men, and being more selective of partners, it seemed to them that I was being impulsive. During our first year we loved and fought with equal intensity and wound up wondering the same thing in marriage counseling.
Now, after more than five years living in a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, a lot of the kinks are sorted out. We've fought about everything from the dishwasher to money, gone to marriage counseling, overcome health problems, work crises, experienced periods of extreme hatred and love, and mainly balanced out as being best friends. I don’t know if I believe in soul mates (or that they're for everybody), but I do believe in the benefits of coming home every day to your best friend, activity partner, well-wisher, and family.
While marrying in your 20s is not the norm anymore, there are some unique advantages. Here are six of them:
1. You're adaptable.
Being 26 and 25, neither of us had much opportunity to get settled into our ways. At this point, I've established a carefully set daily routine and would be less welcoming to any interruptions than I was at 26. For example, life changes like uprooting and moving your career for someone (as many people do) are more easily done when you're starting your career rather than once you've established a career, a house, or children.
2. You grow together.
We've rubbed off on each other with good habits while fighting the bad. A marriage of my type A to his type B personality has worked well, and we meet halfway. In terms of bigger life changes, my husband quit drinking shortly after I did in our mid 20s — although people can change at any time it's a more difficult life change once your practices are more cemented. This might be what people mean when they say "couples start to look alike."
3. You hit milestones together.
Your 20s is a time when most people are still paying off student debt, trying to find success, questioning their beliefs, and accomplishing their "grown-up" milestones. My husband spent his 20s turning his family business from almost defunct to extremely profitable, while I became debt free, got laid off, and found a better job. Going through such periods together means you discover how your partner will cope on life’s roller coaster, and you learn to manage your partner through it. I suspect accomplishing these milestones together will be useful later when we encounter more complex milestones such as children, buying a house, losing parents or having problems with our health.
4. You discover the world.
We've experienced many firsts together because of our age, youth, and health. My husband is the first male I've ever lived with, and I'm the first roommate he's had — ever! My partner opened me up to adventurous activities I never did before him (like scuba diving), while I've opened him up to tranquil activities (like yoga). If I had done and traveled as much before I got married, would I have as much left over to experience with my partner? Probably not, and these could lead a potential gap if we met much later.
5. You learn from and teach each other.
Marrying young is a lot like hiring a recent college graduate to work for you. While the person has only the best intentions and can be molded for the position, he or she is probably rough around the edges. You might have to teach how to get the job done. My husband’s family doesn't celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or any nonreligious holidays. I had to demonstrate by example how important these occasions are for me to get him to participate. Conversely, my husband taught me that real compromise is not the occasional action blockbuster movie, but when someone rearranges his life for you, as he did by moving closer to my work while he drives 35 miles each way. These lessons are more effectively taught when younger — can you teach an old dog new tricks?
6. You avoid potential dangers of sex.
Couples who marry in their 20s should know that on the whole, married people have more sex than their single counterparts. Those facts aside, in truth, if you chose to get hitched earlier in life, you're less likely to increase the number of sexual partners you have which makes you less susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases.
Marriage is the most intimate relationship you will ever have on several levels. While co-habitating can also give you the ability to live together there is something about vowing to see each other through thick and thin — when it’s not so easy to run, that gives this relationship the extra power.
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