When I was a little girl, I often daydreamed about when I would get married and how many kids I would have. In my young mind, 24, seemed to be the age I thought was best. As it turned out, I married at 22 and I can't help but think that my life could be a different now, if I had waited.
In many ways, I am a poster child for what not to do! I always did have to learn the hard way! I am not saying that I regret my decisions, but I am still catching up to where I would/could/should be. In my mind, I am re-naming this article, "Lessons Every Girl Should Learn Before Marriage."
Times have Changed!
Looking at U.S. history, women used to marry younger and divorce was not as prevalent. Before World War II, women didn't often work outside the home. As times changed with work responsibilities, equal rights and higher divorce rates, women became more independent and secure before they got married. In my non-expert opinion, I think women should wait until they are 28-30 to marry.
So, if you wait, what's the difference?
The biggest difference in waiting to marry is that you don't have to learn everything at the same time. Establish yourself in your career and you will have gained some wisdom and experience with money and relationships. MATURITY in all aspects of your life will spare you grief in many ways.
1. Education: In today's job market, many careers require graduate degrees. It is wise to get your education completed before other life decisions get in the way and take away or suppress your opportunities. Your education can never be taken away from you. Career paths and your finances will be altered by an incomplete education.
2. Your Young Girl's Dreams: No, I don't mean sowing your wild oats, but you are only young once. Marriage and children come along and change your priorities- As they should. My 18 year old daughter asks me questions out of the blue- sometimes, I think to see if I would be totally opposed to an idea. For example- If she didn't get accepted into a college of her choice, could she take a year and join Americorps. Or could she enroll in a study abroad program? Mostly, I am supportive and think of bigger picture issues. Is it safe? What are the pros and cons? You’ve heard the phrase “Once in a lifetime opportunity?” There are some opportunities that come along only when you are young. Often, you can’t consider them once you are married.
3. Finances: Learning to manage your finances is very important. Financial maturity cannot be undervalued for yourself or when you are in a relationship. For those of you who have been married, you all KNOW what an issue money is. (Unless you were among the few for whom money is no issue.) I confess that at 22, it took a long time for both of us to learn to handle our finances. Even now, I am having flashbacks to my 20's and I am re-learning. It's an on-going challenge. (Perhaps if I had finished that degree, or learned how to do it right the first time, I wouldn't be in this predicament!)
4. Relationships: We all learn and grown through our relationships, even the ones that don't work out. Hopefully, we learn about communication, conflict and compromise. We learn what we need from our relationships and hopefully, how to express that. I was watching Kathie Lee and Hoda today and they were answering Valentine's questions. One of the questions was, "If my husband always buys me red roses for Valentine's Day, but they are not my favorite, should I say something or let it go?" Matthew Hussey's advice was dead on! It's not a good thing and an indication of other communications problems if you can't express yourself, even to the extent of your favorite flower.
As we go through relationships of all sorts, we learn how to deal with people. We have friends, bosses and co-workers, as well as boyfriends and/or husbands. Things will not always go as we like. We are old enough to know that temper tantrums are best left for 2 year olds. They are not becoming for grown women. We need to be our own best advocates. We need to communicate what we want. Other people are not mind readers. Especially men!
Learning our Lessons Will Make Us Better Partners
For those of us who have been married, perhaps we get a second chance to learn these lessons. We can't turn back time or turn our back on our commitments, but learning from our mistakes is important. We are older and hopefully wiser as we venture into new relationships.
For our daughters, and younger women, I will always hope that someone can benefit from the wisdom of others. If I could, I would spare them the struggles of learning the hard way. With all the heart felt and best intentioned wishes, I would tell them, "Just wait." (a least a little while.)