Jeremy and I both read the recent New York Times article on women in college — well, at Penn — and their approach to sex and relationships.
When we discussed it, we realized we both found one of the quotes from a woman in the piece troubling: “I’ve always heard this phrase, ‘Oh, marriage is great, or relationships are great — you get to go on this journey of change together.’ That sounds terrible. I don’t want to go through those changes with you. I want you to have changed and become enough of your own person so that when you meet me, we can have a stable life and be very happy.”
I had also always heard that phrase. You meet someone you love, you marry, and you change and grow together. And while that sounded a bit intimidating — what if we didn’t grow together but apart? — it never sounded terrible. If scary, it was also sweet.
Over the years, as I thought about it more, I realized something important: I don’t think I’ll ever stop growing or changing. And if I waited to marry someone until they’ve stopped growing or changing, I’d never get married. Inevitably, we would have to change together.
Since we’ve been married, we’ve already both come to recognize changes in ourselves and each other. Some of them happen naturally, like his growing comfort with morbid humor or my acclimation to philosophical discussions, and some have taken time and effort and many conversations and even a few arguments, like his comfort with my publishing a blog about our personal lives, or my slow recognition that disagreements don’t have to be fights. Though we’ve been married less than a year, we’re already changing and growing together.
We also both agree that, while it certainly isn’t for everyone, getting married young has helped us specifically because we can both still change and adapt so well. As similar as we may be in some respects, there are still moments of friction, little contentions that have to be ironed out so that we can live happily together.
If we had gotten married years from now, we might not have been as willing to accept, or as capable of reorienting our comforts and discomforts around another person. We might be too stuck in our own ways—a definite downside to marrying someone who’s already changed to become his or her own person.
It’s possible that I’m wrong, that eventually people do stop changing and growing and can thus get married without worrying that the spouse will ever change any part of themselves; but that’s not what I’ve heard. And perhaps even if they do stop growing, they can readjust to another person in their lives, intruding on the space that they’ve become accustomed to being just theirs.
Having gotten married young, it’s impossible to know what would be otherwise.
Simi Lichtman is a contributor to the Forward.
Why I Married Young