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Friday, April 24, 2009

Guest Post: Young Marriage Isn't the Problem!

Thank you to yet another eloquent guest poster!

I am a reader, but non-commenter on your blog. I read many of the 75 comments that the most recent post generated, and one thing I noticed was that everyone seemed to be attacking the concept of marrying young. As someone who married at 20 (spouse was also 20), I think your readers should hear the other side of the story.

We married the summer between junior and senior years of college, and we had been going to school full time up until that point, never having really worked at anything other than summer jobs. We lay in the fuzzy gray area known as right-wing Modern Orthodox and left-wing Yeshivish, so this was perfectly normal and acceptable in our circles. When we got engaged, we sat down with both sets of parents to discuss money. It was agreed that we were to have a modest wedding, with silk flowers, a small band (and not one of the more sought-after ones), a family friend for photography, and very simple food. I could detail the rest, but you get the idea- no extra expenditures there, no debt, paid for by both sets of parents who were thrilled to be marrying off their eldest (we are both the oldest). As for how we were to live for the first year, until graduation, both sets of parents agreed to give us the amount that they would be paying for the dorm and meal plan (money that would be paid anyway had we not gotten married, as they were paying for college). This money basically covered rent and food (which, again, is exactly what it would have covered had it been going to school instead of to us). We signed up for health insurance through the college, and the rest of the money for whatever other expenses, came from us taking part-time jobs. This is how we lived that first year, and it was hard, but since we wanted to get married at that time, that was what we had to do. And we understood that this arrangement meant that we had to live in an uncomfortably small apartment, buy cheaper food (we ate mostly milchigs, produce, and chicken that year, and we were just fine), and overall hold off on things that fell into the "wants" column in our budget (wonderful parents that we have sat down and taught us how to make a budget). I went on to graduate school while spouse went on to work full-time for a year before applying to business school. I worked part-time, and the money we made allowed our parents to scale back their help (although they still generously helped us), and we made do, even thoguh at this point, we had already had our first child (which, incidentally, was already able to "fit" into our budget, as my mother gave us the stroller, high chair, and crib that had only just been retired from use by my then-4-year-old brother). I finished grad school, got a full-time job, and spouse worked through business school. We had invested the money we had recieved in wedding gifts (which was not an insignificant amount) and b"h we are solid financially. We have never gone over budget, and we have just bought our fist house, we no longer receive financial help from our parents (only moral support!) and our family is growing ka"h. We are teaching our kids the values and practices that our parents have taught us.

So please do not blame early marriage- the blame lies with parents who do not prepare their children, and children who are immature and getting married because of expectations rather than readiness. There is no need to demand that people marry older, or work for years, or finish grad school- the real demand should be that a society that expects early marriage and young families should prepare their children for such.

We are b"h very happily and lovingly married, our children are happy and healthy, and Hashem has blessed us with a solid parnassah, despite these tough times. We would do it again 1000 times. -- Someone who married young

16 comments:

YD said...

You got engaged and then spoke to parents about money. What if they couldn't help at all?

This seems to be a big problem nowadays; parents become burdened against their will when their children decide to marry at a young age.

Anonymous said...

...that should be "PRE-working"...

alpidarkomama said...

WILD APPLAUSE!!!!! :) :) :)

I hope my daughter, 15 or so years from now, will be able to write more or less the same thing. Thanks for getting me all warm and smiley for shabbos.

JLan said...

"You got engaged and then spoke to parents about money. What if they couldn't help at all?"

Well, when exactly are you supposed to speak about it? You're pretty darned close to "engaged" if you're going to be sitting down with your "possible" future in-laws and setting out the budget for a wedding. If you read the post, though, they were responsible and sat down with the parents to jointly figure out what was acceptable. The parents don't seem to have complained, and from the guest poster's description, it doesn't sound like they paid anything additional during those next few years.

SL-
My fiancee and I can't claim to be quite as young as your guest poster, but we're 24 and 22. We made sure to sit down with both sets of parents (before the "engagement", but everyone knew it was coming any day) and talk not only about the wedding but about our plans for the future, job thoughts, prospects, ability to move, etc. It's entirely possible to be responsible about these things; it's just a matter of being a responsible person.

Ezzie said...

Great, great post.

When we were about to get engaged, my FIL asked how we planned on supporting ourselves. I gave a detailed answer of what we each had, what we'd be doing, etc., and he said "Good". (Note: We never got any "support".)

Ezzie said...

If anything, couples who get married young and are NOT supported will end up being ahead of the game later, as they're forced to be budget conscious early on. People who get married later after they've saved up a lot are sometimes less aware, not realizing they're dipping into savings.

aml said...

See the last paragraph of my 10:03am comment on the last posting. I think there is a LOT to be said for marrying young. But you've got to have the right attitude and be willing to hold off on kids until you can support them. Walking together in this world is a wonderful thing but when two becomes three or four or five, we're on a different subject altogether.

Avi said...

Define "young." We felt terribly old when we got married - 25 and 23 - and many of our friends had already gotten married. Financially, it worked in our favor - we were both out of college and working by then.

alpidarkomama said...

Couples that support themselves from the beginning learn very well the value of a dollar. I also think we appreciate more what we have had to work for ourselves.

rosie said...

I was the poster who made the negative comment about marrying young. Most of my married children married while young, however some of their friends who also married young were not as successful at keeping their marriages together. I have seen several of their former schoolmates divorce within the first year, often in the early weeks of the marriage. Some of these kids were probably pushed and possibly did not really want to get married so early in life. While the majority of young marriages do succeed, and many (note disclaimer language) frum kids are raised to expect early marriage, we have to acknowledge that there is a risk involved.

Ariella said...

As Avi said, the definition of "young" is an open question. Mothers seem especially proud to announce their daughters are engaged at 18. In my mind that is young, so is 19. But in some cirlces the panic about getting too old to compete effectively in shidduch circles begins at 20 and escalates quite a bit at 23. Bochurim, on the other hand, are allowed to delay dating to the age of 23 or even 25 if they wish to work on a particula goal.


My own situation was different, as my husband was only 21 when we married, and I was 22, nearly 23. But I had already completed college and graduate school with just the dissertation still to work on, and I had already worked for a full semester. I wasn't earning much, but my husband got a kollel stipend, and we were able to cover our living expenses without having to live off our parents. We lived very cheaply in a one bedroom apartment for $550 a month and stayed there until our second child was born.

Anonymous said...

Like so many things, it comes to the problem of generalization. One size simply doesn't fit all. Some people are capable and prepared to mary and start a family at 20-22 and some aren't. If the couple understands something about finance and budgeting and are prepared to work and scrimp certainly helps. Personally, if the couple haven't figured out how to support a family on their own, then I think it's early to start one.

miriamp said...

"I think there is a LOT to be said for marrying young. But you've got to have the right attitude and be willing to hold off on kids until you can support them"Just wanted to point out that the guest poster both married young and started a family right away, while finishing college and then grad school!

I don't think being "willing to hold off on kids" is a necessary pre-req. (I hate generalizations, especially about who should be "allowed" to have kids right away and who has to "wait.")

Children are a gift from G-d, not just an extra item on the expense side of the budget. Can we please remember that?

aml said...

Or.. children are the biggest responsibility of your life, so if it means you have to wait a year or two to have then, that's OK.

SA said...

Being a gift from God doesn't mean that children are always perfect angels. Taking care of them can be very stressful, overwhelming and expensive. Childcare requires maturity and support that younger married couples don't always have. Introducing a gift from God to your family doesn't mean it's not a good idea to plan for them and make sure the marriage is on firm footing.

Btw, the phrase "Children are a gift from God" sounds like a generalization to me. It also sounds like code for "No need to plan for them because it will always work out for the best" (another generalization). I don't think that's true for all young couples.

the apple said...

If anything, couples who get married young and are NOT supported will end up being ahead of the game later, as they're forced to be budget conscious early on.Well, hopefully. But not necessarily.

People who get married later after they've saved up a lot are sometimes less aware, not realizing they're dipping into savings.Could be. But they also HAVE the savings.