I’m reaching the age where, mysteriously enough, marriages around me seem to be crumbling. At 28, I’ve lived long enough to finally see that “happily ever after” isn’t a reality for a lot of people — and divorce is something that happens every day.
My husband and I recently celebrated our seven year anniversary, a day that went down as one of the most unromantic in my life, with all four of our kids feverish and miserable — I don’t think I changed out of my pajamas for a week straight through that debacle. And if you can do math, you may have figured out that I got married at the relatively early age of 21.
So in reaching the milestone commonly known as the “seven year itch,” with my eyes opened to the realities of failed marriages all around me, I had to wonder — am I at risk for divorce simply because I got married so young?
An interesting op-ed in the New York Times recently exposed the damaging effects of young marriages in Bangladesh, pressured at best, forced at worst, citing a study that deemed young marriage and the usually resulting motherhood the “cause of a host of social and health problems, from a greater incidence of domestic violence to an increased risk of child and maternal mortality.”
Of course, Bangladesh is a far cry from our super-modern views on marriage here in the United States, right? Surely we don’t view unmarried women as problems that need some kind of solution, right?
On second thought, I’m probably the wrong woman to ask about that. Maybe Jennifer Aniston has some insight on that.
But here’s what I do know — marriage itself is not the problem, no matter where a lass may live, young or old, single or engaged. The problem lies still in flawed systems of patriarchy, in trying to control women, in each and every one of us who has ever thought, “She doesn’t have a boyfriend? I wonder what’s wrong with her?”
For marriage to succeed at any age, it needs to be a free institution, a genuine partnership, a joining together of two individuals who aren’t out to stifle or control, but grow together, side-by-side.
Of all people, I get that it can be hard to “know” yourself at a young age and I understand the irony in thinking that marriage can ever really be free, when marriage, at its core, involves a huge deal of self-sacrifice. I myself felt a lot of pressure to get married because I was pregnant, but luckily for me, I had a few voices of wisdom in my life at the time telling me to think it through before I committed.
Now, officially at the “seven year itch” mark I can safely say that I have no “itchiness” to speak of based on the fact that we got married barely out of our teenage years. A few ruffled feathers, sure, and definitely some rough patches, but no itchiness that leaves me running for a solution.
Of course, there is a big difference between my marriage at age 21 and a child bride in Bangladesh, although many of us still see marriage as some sort of a restriction for women. I’m happy to report that for me, it has been just the opposite.
I have been able to grow in better ways, add a fullness of life through motherhood, and have the pleasure of moving forward in life with the man who will, in my mind, probably always smell like the leather jacket he wore as a 17-year-old.
Image via j&j brusie photography