Story time: I got married two months after my high school graduation

by - 00:14

i got married at 18, too young to marry.

I was a teen bride. Instead of a prom dress, I picked out a wedding gown. Instead of college, I planned a wedding. Two months before I walked down the aisle, I turned 18. It was only 9 years ago, but my wedding day and my young marriage is all a distant memory—overshadowed by what seems like a lifetime of great and no so great moments.

I can’t explain, in a way that makes total sense, why my high school boyfriend and I decided to get married so young. We both had tense relationships with at least one of our parents. Life at home wasn’t easy for either of us. I know—for me, a huge part in my decision was that I wanted to escape that life and I definitely didn’t look forward to four years of more school (I hated school). So I clung to him and together, we made our own way in a modern day Romeo and Juliet type of fashion.

We had a white wedding—during the day, and we got married on a lake. We had a DJ and there was no alcohol at our reception, since most of the guests were under 21. Thinking about it now, it reminds me more of a prom than a wedding. We had about 120 guests RSVP.

What I remember most about that time now would have surprised my 18 year old self. In the year leading up to the big day, I was hyper focused on all the little details as we planned away. I was sure if it wasn’t all perfect, I would remember it forever with regret.

But I don’t even remember the food, or the centerpieces. I don’t remember the playlist we gave the DJ or the seating chart we slaved over until the early hours of the morning.

What I do remember is the judgement and the adrenaline rush of trying to grow up too fast.

I walked around the halls of my high school—during my senior year, with an engagement ring on my finger. Kids would laugh at me behind my back. I vaguely remember my health teacher scolding me for our decision. I remember my boss, from my part time after school job, shaking his head when he learned I was getting married.

I remember moving into our first apartment and stopping at the gas station down the road the week after getting back from our honeymoon. We were talking to the lady behind the counter and mentioned being newlyweds. Her smile instantly dropped.

At the time, I was defensive. I knew what was I doing and no, I wouldn’t regret it. I’m an adult, I’d assert. I just wanted to feel validated, supported and respected in my decision.
[Read: 11 Tips to Get People to Take You Seriously (When You’re Young)]

What I didn't know at the time was that I was giving up my chance at experiencing typical life as a fresh out of high school young adult. I missed my chance to go away to college, experience dorm life, meet other students from different states or be part of a sisterhood.

By getting married so young, I didn't give myself the opportunity to figure out the adult thing alone. In a way, I remained just as sheltered as I had when I was still living in the nest.

My husband handled the finances, he’d call doctors and make appointments for me if I was too nervous (I had a BIG phone phobia back then), he would take my car into the shop when it needed work and he would always be at my side when we were out in public.

I depended on him for everything.

When we had our son about a year and a half later, I left my full time job and stayed home to take care of our baby. I decided not to prioritize my career because I knew we’d be together "forever."

Making such a big decision so young only made me more dependent. And it later stunted my earning potential and limited my resources. When we inevitably separated after four years of marriage and six years of being together, I was at a complete loss...financially and emotionally.

Who was I without him? It took a long time for me to figure it out.

The best advice I could give an engaged teen girl is to wait. Experience your youth. Enjoy it while it lasts because you have plenty of time to be an "older" adult later on. Your teens and early twenties should be spent figuring out who you are, not who you are with someone else.

But if you don't take that advice (and I really don't blame you, I didn’t either) then at least make sure you don't depend on your partner the way I did. Make sure you have your own plans and goals for yourself and work towards them, prioritize them. And make sure you communicate a plan with your soon to be spouse.
[Read: 7 Discussions to Have Before You Get Married]

I learned that lesson the hard way and set myself up for a long time struggle. However, I was right about one thing: I don’t regret the actual marriage. Because without it, we wouldn’t have been blessed with our son.

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