Marrying Young: The Myths Busted

My first wedding anniversary was Monday, the 25th. My husband and I celebrated a decade together on June 16th. It’s a monumental period in our lives, and recently I’ve been reflecting a lot on marrying young (I was 24, he 26). One really strong sentiment always seems to come up when I reflect on our marriage:
Since we got married, things are different. Better.

That’s not to say that they weren’t great before we got married. They were amazing. Wonderful. Fabulous. But now they’re even better.

Another thing I’ve been reflecting on since we got engaged when I was 21 is the growing trend of hate toward couples that are marrying young. There is no shortage of blog posts and articles out there that explain why it’s a terrible idea (see exhibit Aexhibit B, and exhibit C for examples).

I did find one that echoes a lot of my own thoughts, this article by Ellie Krupnick, but I have more to say.

Before I begin, know that I’m not about to tell you that marrying young is for everyone. People are different. However, there are a lot of flaws in the “logic” and “common sense” I’ve found on the negative side of the topic.

Overall, I found three myths at the core of each marrying young-bashing article or post:

Myth One: If you’re in your early 20s, you’re too young to know what you want in a partner, or to understand what “real” love is.

The idea here is that youth prevents you from understanding what it means to love someone in manner that would be the basis for a successful marriage, and that youth and inexperience in the dating arena prevent you from knowing what you want and need from a partner.

Myth Two: Marriage is an end, and it sucks the fun out of life.

Anti-marrying young voices also suggest that marriage inherently takes away your individuality, and your ability to advance in your career, to hang out with members of the sex(es) and/or gender(s) you are attracted to, to get drunk, to go out without your spouse, to be independent, to experiment sexually, to mature and grow, to travel, to learn about yourself, or, essentially, to ever have fun again. Ever.

This myth also carries with it the similar idea that marriage automatically makes you a boring, stagnant, lonely, sexless, helpless, unsuccessful baby machine.

Myth Three: Marriage takes away your capacity to change, and means that changing is a bad thing.

The marrying young naysayers suggest that once you’re married, you no longer have the capacity to change. And that even if you were to change, that would be terrible, because your spouse would no longer love you.

I call bullshit on all of those.

Myth One, busted: The absence of a positive does not equal a negative, and love is ageless.

Not having been with many (or any) other people before marrying young does not automatically mean that there is an absence of knowledge about what you want and need in a partner. I know myself well. I know that I need someone who can handle my anxiety. Someone logical, affectionate, and funny. Someone loyal, hardworking, and dedicated. I didn’t need to figure that out by dating more than one person – I did it by learning about myself, which has nothing to do with other people the number of people that you date, or the length of time you spend dating before marrying. Learning about yourself comes from introspection and socialization, both of which a person has done ample amounts of by their mid-20s. Self-knowledge shouldn’t be a barrier to marrying young, or a determining factor as to whether or not a marriage will succeed.

Marriage will always inherently carry this weight, the definiteness of choosing not to worry about the what if.

When I was younger, my friends would ask, “How do you know he’s the one if he’s the only person you’ve ever dated? How do you know there isn’t something better out there?” (He’s not the only person, but that’s another story.) I’d always respond, “And what if I’d left him and never found anything as awesome?” Marriage will always inherently carry this weight, the definiteness of choosing not to worry about the what if. Besides, if I had dated more people, I could still have been asked those questions. How do you know he’s right for you? How do you know the next one won’t be better?

The fear that you might be missing out on something better is just an unwillingness to commit to the awesomeness that you have now. And if what you have now isn’t awesome, then it’s not right.

To “not know what love really is” due to youth is backwards. From the moment a child is born it knows love. Humans have an innate ability to love and be loved. Age is irrelevant. I have always voiced the conviction that my husband and I were forever. Even as young as fifteen. I always knew. There is a timelessness to our love that I have always felt. I am not religious, but I believe that reincarnation exists simply because I know that my soul has loved him for longer than this life alone. No matter who we have been and who we will become, our love is the constant. To invalidate that because I am young is nonsense.

Myth Two, busted: Marriage is a beginning, and it can’t take your fun away from you.

Let’s look at bust this list of 23 things Vanessa suggests you do instead of getting engaged before you’re 23:

  1. Get a passport. I’ve had one since I was 6 months old.
  2. Find your “thing.” I did. Before I even met my husband. And then I found more things. On my own and with him.
  3. Make out with a stranger. No thank-you. This would never be appealing to me at any point in my life, long-term relationship or not.
  4. Adopt a pet. We want to. And I would argue that it’s easier to adopt a pet with a partner. Financially, training-wise, and for the pet. They get more attention and have to stay at home alone less.
  5. Start a band. I’ve been in several, does that count?
  6. Make a cake. 1010460_10202503894712228_902725540_n
    Make a second cake. Have your cake and eat it too. And check and check. I make this chocolate cake weekly, no joke.
  7. Get a tattoo. It’s more permanent than a marriage. Working on it.
  8. Explore a new religion. I’m agnostic. And I came to that realization through exploration with my husband.
  9. Start a small business. That’s not my thing. Didn’t you tell me to find it earlier?
  10. Cut your hair. I did, a few months after getting married, for the first time in 11 years!
  11. Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face. Hells no. The idea of this makes my anxiety explode into full-on panic.
  12. Build something with your hands. I do this often. I did before, and I still do.
  13. Accomplish a Pinterest project. This too.
  14. Join the Peace Corps. Again, not my thing.
  15. Disappoint your parents. Been there, done that.
  16. Watch Girls, over and over again. I watch a ton of TV. Both alone and with my hubby. I actually watched way less TV before we were together.
  17. Eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting.  Done. While engaged. More than once. University is hard.
  18. Make strangers feel uncomfortable in public places. Done.
  19. Sign up for CrossFit. No thanks. That’s dangerous. You keep your dangerous peer pressure (that’s another story). I’ll stick to biking, hiking, running, and (safe) solo weight training.
  20. Hangout naked in front of a window. I can’t do that anymore? Shucks. Tell that to my neighbours, that will disappoint them. It’s a regular occurrence. My apartment is North-East-facing and all windows. Which also not so conveniently makes it a sauna.
  21. Write your feelings down in a blog. Um… hi.
  22. Be selfish. I’m the most selfish person I know. Ask my husband.
  23. Come with me to the Philippines for Chinese New Year. I think this (again) implies that with marriages comes the absence of travel. I got married in July 2015. Since then, I’ve been to Mexico, Calgary (twice with my husband, and three times alone), New Brunswick, and Shawnigan Lake, and will be hitting up Victoria, New Brunswick again, and Kelowna in the next few weeks.

Marriage is the beginning (usually continuation) of exploring and learning and adventuring with a person of your choosing. Choosing to be with them for the rest of your lives doesn’t immediately suck the fun out of everything. Nor does it take away your ability to learn about yourself, be spontaneous, have great friendships, try new things, or be wild. People believe that marrying young also implies a mortgage, kids, and a minivan. First, those things are not negative, and second, they’re not a necessity that comes along with the signing of the statement of marriage. Marriage is saying, “Let’s build a life, however we want to, together.”

Marrying young doesn’t mean you have to settle down. It means you’ll always have an adventure partner. It means you’ll always have someone to pick you up when you fail, and cheering you on when you succeed.

Myth Three, busted: Change is so, so important, and marriage instigates change.

Change is what makes a young couple like my husband and I so powerful. We’ve been together through some of the most volatile and fluctuating times in our lives (thus far). We were angsty, over-involved teenagers. We’ve gone to university, chosen career paths, moved across the country, chosen our home base, done long-distance (twice), and traveled. Together and apart. Through these things has been the never-ending subtext of love. We’ve already changed so much. The only constant has been our love. And even that has changed shape, grown and developed.  People inevitably change, but our core characteristics are determined well before we start dating. Likes and dislikes change. Mood changes. Physique changes. The things that a person enjoys doing change.

Changes don’t matter. They just make your partner more interesting.

I think that the reason marriages so often fail is that we fall in love with the wrong parts of our partners. We love them because they love the same things as us, because they’re always positive or happy, because they give us awesome gifts. We don’t love them for who they are at their core. If your character jives with your partner’s, that won’t change. Any other changes don’t matter. They just make your partner more interesting, and they can often be for the better – I don’t eat Nutella by the jarful anymore because, although delicious, it helped me gain 30 pounds (no joke). I also enjoy different physical activities than I did as a teen. Neither of these things makes me less neurotic or more extroverted.

Love is a choice. A choice to always love the core of a person and to enjoy watching them grow, develop, and change. It’s exciting.

When we got married, our best became better.

There’s something tangibly different in the way we are together now that we’re married. We deal with everything about our partnership and life differently. This could be for any number of reasons, but it feels like it’s because we’re married.

We’ve been together for a decade: That’s ten years to learn about each other. Ten years to develop our strategies for handling difficult situations and disagreements. We’ve changed with each other, adapted with each other, learned from each other. We’ve always done the best we could with everything we have to make our relationship a happy, loving, and productive one. But when we got married, our best became better.

It’s time like these when I wish I’d studied psychology, because it would be so interesting to know if things like societal labels (which is essentially all that marriage is) have tangible effects on people and their relationships. It’s not like we hadn’t already vowed to love each other for eternity before making it official and putting rings on each other’s fingers.

It’s ridiculous to assume that a young person is incapable of knowing who they are, what they want, and what love is.

I’ve always worried about what other people think. It comes with the territory of having anxiety. But never my relationship, and now, never my marriage. It doesn’t worry me that other people think 24 is too young to get married, 21 too young to get engaged. I’m addressing flawed reasoning, not hurt feelings.
It’s ridiculous to assume that a young person is incapable of knowing who they are, what they want, and what love is.

I’m proud of my partnership with my husband, and I’m so incredibly thankful for it. Thankful to have found so early something it takes some people their whole lives to find, or who never find it.

As a person with anxiety, I know I’m making the right choice when my mind is still, and every day, when I wake up and choose him, my mind is quiet. My body’s only sound is the steady beating of my heart, whispering over and over, “love, love, love.”



What is Lexical Abandon?

As with most things where I am concerned, the answer to this question comes in the form of a story.

For me, as a person with anxiety (and I’ve trained myself to say it that way – I’m not an anxious person; my disorder doesn’t define me), the best way I can describe my anxiety and moments of panic is as a tornado of words directly on top of my head.

I’m not an anxious person; my disorder doesn’t define me.

In a situation that feels normal to me, when I’m comfortable, I picture myself speaking by easily selecting words from a database – for the purpose of this metaphor, a cloud – that functions as a library, dictionary, or whatever you’d like to call it – a drawer set, an archive, of words. If I’m talking about something that excites me, like books, nature, or blogging, I easily and inventively (at least I like to think so) pull the words I want from their compartments in the figurative cloud above my head and combine them to make something certainly sensical, and hopefully beautiful.

Then there are the times when I’m experiencing anxiety.

This occurs on varying levels, from feeling a knot in my stomach, to a sense of dread, to an incessant debilitating worry, to full-on panic – about a specific thing, or, as also often occurs, just feeling anxious or worried in general. Then, not only is my ability to act, or even move my body, taken away from me, but so is my ability to select words from the cloud. Partly because the worry and/or panic make me feel paralyzed, but also because the cloud above my head transforms from a lovely wisp of cirrus that swirls gently and provides me with millions of options per second that I can easily pinpoint to choose from, into a terrifyingly dark cumulonimbus, borderline tornado, that swirls above my head. It smashes words together with cacophonous booms, making it almost impossible for me to pick any sequence of words out of it that I could in any way shape into something coherent, let alone grasp even a single word that might signify to any other party what is currently happening above my head, let alone in my body, mind, or heart.

It is easy to play something off as not a big deal when you don’t have the tools to recognize or understand it.

For the longest time, talking about my anxiety has been effectively just like the above situation, only I’m not having a panic attack or worrying about something specific when I’m trying to do it.

I’ve just never been able to share one of the most important parts of me – the way my brain functions. For a long time it was because I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Only recently has talking about and de-stigmatizing mental health become common. I didn’t know what generalized anxiety disorder was until university at the earliest (which, for me, began 7 years ago). I had encountered depression and eating disorders earlier in my life – as early as my pre-teens – and developed an understanding of them, but I didn’t know anxiety existed (even though it presented itself in myself and some of my friends) until later. It is easy to play something off as not a big deal when you don’t have the tools to recognize or understand it. Like my friends often said, I was just “being Becca,” or “having a Becca freak-out.”

It has only been in the past two years or so that I’ve begun to recognize my anxiety for what it truly is.

Recently, on Bell Let’s Talk day, I shared on Facebook with anyone who I have as my friend (exactly 750 people, at the time) that I have anxiety, and have dealt with the disorder for at least 12-13 years. Prior to sharing my experience, I had only told 7 people. 7 people, in 13 years. Only 7 people who really understood what shaped so many of my decisions and coloured how I went about my life. Like I mentioned, people had known my panic attacks as “Becca freak outs.” People dubbed my anxiety (as I now know it) as “super-organization” and “ultra-involvement,” but never as a disorder, a physiological, psychological problem condition. The most attention (and I struggle to use this word; I definitely didn’t want any more attention placed on it) it ever got was off-hand remarks and (sometimes not-so-light) teasing.

The response to my post was overwhelming, and enlightening.

I was on the verge of tears all day – sad, happy, and cathartic. These feelings were especially strong because I was teaching that day. I shared with each class, mostly of 13-14-year-olds, about Bell Let’s Talk day’s importance and the impact mental health had already had on my life in my short almost-25 years (two suicides and one attempt – people I knew well, significant others and friends with depression, eating disorders, BFRBs and/or anxiety, and the struggle with stigma that surrounded all of it). The students responded incredibly compassionately, and some even shared stories of their own. Likewise, so many people responded to my post. By commenting, liking, or sending me direct messages. And I never would have dreamed that so many of the people who reached out to me were dealing with the same things as me.

“You talking about your anxiety helps me understand.”

That day, that post, finally gave me the jolt I needed to know that I was not alone and that sharing more of my experiences would help not only me, but hopefully many of the people in my life. I first put it into practice by talking to my friends and family more freely. I said to my dad, “It’s so difficult to talk to you about my anxiety because you don’t understand.” (This is true – he finds it difficult to understand the concept of not being able to stop thinking about something that worries you, of being physically debilitated by worry.) He responded with, “You talking about your anxiety helps me understand.” I find that talking to people close to me is almost always more difficult than talking to those that aren’t quite so close. After getting such an enlightening response from someone I found it so difficult to talk to, and the beautiful abundance of messages from friends and acquaintances, I am finally ready to bring Lexical Abandon, something I’ve thought about, and planned for over two years, to fruition.

That begs the question, then: What is Lexical Abandon?

Lexical Abandon, to me, is the following:
Finally grasping the words I’ve never been able pull from the tornado or combine into sentences to finally break my silence about the struggles I’ve had with anxiety for over a decade
Abandoning my fears of lexical overload, and sharing my views about the world from my own unique perspective. Wordily. I’ve always been long-winded, and it’s always been something I’ve been anxious about, and even ashamed of. No longer.
Poetry. It is my creative outlet, something to finally spark me to write, something I haven’t been doing nearly enough of in recent years. I find that if I have an audience (no matter how small), a readership, I feel an obligation (not in a negative way, but a positive drive) to write for them, for you, and for myself. Creating this blog has been a long time coming, because it has taken me a long time to find the intrinsic jolt to actually publish it. I purchased the hosting and domain two full years ago. I have had “Lexical Abandon” sitting on the back-burner of my mind for two years. It has meant something for two years, for so much longer than that, and it has finally caught fire and is blazing so brightly that I can’t just keep it to myself any longer.

Finally, Lexical Abandon is not just about anxiety.

It’s about how I interact with the world. How I exist in the beautiful city of Vancouver that is my home. My experiences in the professional arena of teaching. My identity as a young, married woman, as a Millennial (and not in a derogatory sense). My exploration of the Pacific Northwest, my soul space, as I like to call it. My life. This is a life blog. But at the heart of all of it is the beautiful way I interact with everything in my world – through the lens of a person with anxiety. Sometimes it is a negative thing, but it also brings a lot of light into my life. I hope that will become clear to those who read my words, and that anyone with anxiety will find solidarity, and hopefully comfort, in my wordy ramblings (and sometimes rants).

In solidarity, de-stigmatization, and love,