Young marriage is dangerous proposition

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (U-WIRE) — My best friend from high school called about two months ago to tell me that she is getting married in August. I was a little surprised; she’s only been seeing her future husband since January, although they’ve known each other for a couple of years. I have mixed emotions about her upcoming wedding. On one hand, I’m thrilled for her because I can see she’s happier than anyone I know. But on the other hand, she just turned 22.
Even though I try to be eternally optimistic, in the age of a 60-plus-percent divorce rate and Vegas-style marriages, it’s a little overwhelming to be faced with “happily ever after.” Oh, I know Rachel can make it work for life if her heart is in it, and I believe it is. From what I can tell, her fiance is head-over-heels devoted to her. And that’s what Rachel needs. She wants kids, a family life and all that comes with it – runny noses, Girl Scouts, GI Joe. She’ll be great at it, and I couldn’t be happier for her.
But she’s not the only one planning to tie the knot. Marriage season is upon us, and each week my hometown paper features more “happy” couples announcing their impending unions. I can’t be as optimistic about them as I am about Rachel, though. And Macaulay Culkin announced his engagement last week – Culkin and his fiance are both 17. SEVENTEEN! Honestly, I can’t really picture being married at age 22, so 17 is really unfathomable for me.
Last week I was talking with two friends and the subject of marriage entered the conversation. One of them, who has been in a relationship since November, told us her roommates and part of her family have already practically married her off to her boyfriend. She’s 23.
But then my other friend, who will turn 30 later this month, made an extremely profound statement. “You have your whole life to get married – another 50 or 60 years – why rush it?” She’s right. And I admire her for the choices that she has made because she has lived life her way.
That makes sense. If longevity of life keeps increasing, we could easily be here at least 100 years. And life is made up of our experiences – education, career, relationships, travels, heartbreaks and heartaches. Society doesn’t encourage us to rush into buying a home or investing our hard-earned money in the first get-rich-quick scheme we run across.
How many homeowners purchase their casa without knowing about its maintenance and upkeep, strengths and weaknesses? Why don’t we apply these same values to whom we choose to be our lifelong mate?
Too many people get married without finding out about themselves first. A girl should get to know herself before painting someone else into the picture as well. Society instills a fear in us — the fear of being alone.
It’s hard to overcome this fear. But my oh-so-wise mom tells me that finding someone to share your life with is the icing, not the cake.
I was raised in a town with a population of less than 5,000, and that experience will always make me very conscious of how other people look at me. I wish I could make a decision without wondering what someone else would do in my shoes or what so-and- so will think of my choice. Our individual decisions may not be good for our best friends or our worst enemies, but that shouldn’t matter. They are our personal choices. I guess looking out for No. 1 isn’t such a bad rule to follow.
Because of that, I trust in Rachel to make the best choices for herself. She’s a smart gal, and she knows I’ll come home and kick butt if she gets hurt.
But in the meantime, as I prepare for my best friend’s wedding, I’ll be sticking to my latest motto: “Trust your instincts, but don’t rush into anything that’s over your head.”
After all, I’ve got my whole life to get married.

Jennifer Gill’s column originally appeared in Thursday’s University of Arkansas Arkansas Traveller.