By Marylin Robitaille
To me, our love story will always be a special gift from God. Some day, I will hopefully tell my children and grandchildren how I married my high school sweetheart, but there are so many other happy couples who are in love with each other and who could also be sharing their years of memories and experience. So, what makes our love story so special that it could help other young couples discern matrimony?
There are a few things that separate us from the others, the most obvious being our age. My husband and I were eighteen when he proposed to me, and we were married at the age of twenty. Let’s be real, marriage at twenty-years-old is fairly young. In society today, marriage at our age is nearly unheard of – even within the Catholic community. But I had specific desires and dreams. It took me a while to accept that it was perfectly normal for me to want a married life and that I didn’t have to go to college as all my other friends were planning (if I did not want to). However, there was pressure everywhere I went.
When my husband and I began to fall in love, I often heard phrases such as “there is no rush,” “set your career first,” and “don’t make decisions with him in mind.” Why not? All I wanted was to be with the man that I loved. The fact that we were young was imprinted in my mind like an advertisement that you can’t close, blinking persistently with flashes of green and yellow on the bottom corner of your screen. Of course I knew we were young, which is why I discerned what God wanted, day and night, so I could remain positive that this was part of God’s plan for me. Throughout this discernment, I focused on the following questions:
What is the Catholic purpose of Matrimony?
There are three: to guide each other to God’s Kingdom, to be open to children, and to educate those children about God and the Catholic faith. Where in those reasons does it specify age? I would never tell a couple that they should get married young, because this lifestyle is not for everyone. But if you and your partner are ready to walk side by side for the rest of your lives and carry each other to heaven, then you already know the meaning of matrimony. It is absolutely essential in an effective partnership to both be on the same wavelength in this understanding of the purpose of matrimony.
The next question becomes: Do we want to make this level of commitment at this specific point in our lives?
I want to make it clear that I didn’t take the decision to get married young lightly. My husband and I began dating with the intention of getting married in the future if we were good for each other and if we were ready to lead each other to God. This is also called “courting.” Notice that I did not use any phrases like “he was The One” or “it was just meant to be.” Yes, I love him with all my heart, but God created Matrimony for the reason mentioned above. Loving each other is a beautiful asset to a great relationship, but it’s important to remember in these situations what true purpose of Matrimony is. My husband and I’s decision was a difficult one, and it was preceded by months of discernment on both our parts. We discussed marriage well before he even proposed, and after the proposal, we still took Pre-Cana courses to prepare ourselves for married life as practicing Catholics.
The last question to ask yourselves is: Are we practically prepared to be married?
It was not easy to get married at our age; we had to set up our lives before the big day so we could enjoy the married life. This entailed multiple steps that most couples getting married today already have set in stone. Getting proper jobs, solving family problems, and finding a place to live (to name only a few). Make sure you are practically prepared to enter into a life together. If you haven’t secured the foundation, you cannot build a strong house.
There will be sacrifices.
There was a price to pay for getting married young, we had to make sacrifices. We couldn’t afford an “instagram worthy” wedding. We didn’t start with a big house and a fenced-in yard, and we couldn’t buy new cars from dealerships because car payments were not in our monthly budget. We also had to practice much self control because we were not ready for children.
But that price we paid bought us an insurmountable sum of happiness and faithfulness in our marriage. There was no “instagram worthy” wedding, but it was our wedding and the start of our crazy lives together. No, we couldn’t afford a dream home, but we bought our first house at twenty-years-old. We had to buy our cars from family members, but because of that patience, we had the chance to improve our credit to buy a new car. Through natural family planning, we learned our limits and how to practice self control. Through this challenge we also learned that sex is a sacred gift, and we learned how to respect it along side each other. All of these preparations encouraged me and my husband to learn and grow with each other. We had numerous opportunities to better our communication skills, and we have learned even more about each other which firmly set us up for a successful marriage.
My advice to young couples who are discerning marriage:
- Be prepared to be unprepared. Being young does not make you a naive idiot and lacking experience doesn’t make you incompetent. Seek guidance from others in all fields when you are unsure, and don’t be afraid to ask multiple people.
- Marry your best friend, someone you enjoy being around. If your financial situation is anything as ours was, get ready to spend many evenings at home with them because you won’t be able to afford regular date-nights out.
- Pray every single day, together and in private. Remember that a Catholic relationship consists of three people, not two. Go to mass together every Sunday, go to confession together, and volunteer in parish ministries. Build your foundation together.
“The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been built on rock.”Matthew 7:25