Should people marry young in the military?

by | Nov 26, 2016 | Military Life, New Military Spouse, Save Money | 9 comments

The problem: You and your military boyfriend want to marry young. Keep reading because: you want to know how to handle those who say you’re too young to marry!

How to tell if you should marry young in the military

I don’t believe there is a magical “right age” to get married. As a military spouse who got engaged at age 19, after less than a year of dating, I totally understand the young couple who feels that they are mature and truly in love. I was there, and had that fight with my parents. Long distance relationships suck, and we never know how long our service member will survive, so we want to make the most of every day with them. It’s natural to want to marry young.

BUT… as a military spouse who dated my husband for 7 YEARS and didn’t get married until age 25, I also understand the benefits of waiting. My boyfriend waited while I finished college. Then I waited for him to finish some deployments. I have been the young teenager in love with a military man, fighting with my parents about whether he was a worthy husband. And I have also been the college graduate who asked my boyfriend to wait a little longer, because I refused to spend the first year of marriage living alone in the middle of the desert. In the end, we didn’t marry young. We married at age 25.

“I have been the young teenager in love with a military man. And I have been the college graduate asking my boyfriend to wait a little longer, because I didn’t want to live in the middle of the desert.” ~The Seasoned Spouse

When I encourage young military couples to wait to get married, it’s not because I’m judging them. It’s because I want them to succeed! I have seen firsthand the struggles that young military couples face. Military life is challenging at any age, but it is WAY harder when you are young. How do you know if you and your service member are too young to get married?

 

You should not marry young if:

1. You Don’t Have a Driver’s License: Go ahead and laugh, but I have met too many young spouses who never got a driver’s license. When their spouse deploys, this is a real problem. Sure, neighbors and other military spouses are sometimes willing to give you a ride. But married life will be easier if you get a driver’s license before you leave home.

2. You Can’t Cook. There is a legend on our base called “The Cheeseburger Story.” A military wife walked into the family center and said, “My husband is deployed, and I’m out of cheeseburgers. What do I do now?” The confused receptionist learned that the husband had thoughtfully stocked the freezer before he deployed. He bought hundreds of McDonald’s double cheeseburgers, so the wife could have one for lunch and dinner each day he was gone. Apparently, he miscalculated, and she had no idea how to cook for herself! Don’t be that wife. You don’t need to be a chef, but knowing how to make healthy meals, prepare a grocery budget, and plan time to cook are basic adult skills you should learn before marriage. No adult should eat fast food for every meal.

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3. You Think You Know Each Other. No matter how long you date someone, you don’t know everything. We met at 18, and dated for seven YEARS. Even after all those phone calls and letters and plane flights, there were still some surprises when we married. Like, I had no idea how much time he spent playing video games, and how many gaming hobbies he would return to from his Middle School years. He didn’t hide those things, I just wasn’t looking for them or expecting them, so they were never mentioned. And there were many things I did not know about the military, even though I dated him through Boot Camp and three combat deployments. We both grew and changed a lot during those years. There were times I was sure we were meant for each other, and times when I questioned if the military had changed him into someone I couldn’t marry. I’m glad I took the time to be sure, so that I don’t have regrets or doubts.



4. Your Significant Other is your Only Friend. My husband is my best friend, no question. But the years we spent dating long distance gave me a chance to pursue hobbies, make other friends, and become a strong person on my own. During his 7 deployments, those skills have kept me going. Waiting to get married helped me learn who I am without my husband. When you leave everything to follow someone, you risk losing yourself and blaming them.

“If you leave everything to follow someone, you can lose yourself and blame them.” ~The Seasoned Spouse

5. You Have No Money Saved. Marriage is easier when you aren’t fighting over ever dollar in the joint account. Right now, are you each paying all your own bills? Do you have your own car? The first few enlisted ranks in the military have a brutal paycheck. It is barely enough to support a spouse, and not enough to support a new baby. If you wait a few years, you can each work and save, which will give you a better foundation for your marriage and family.

 

6. You Have No Job. Getting a job will be even harder as a military spouse. 90% of military spouses are unemployed or underemployed! Frequent moves, employer military bias, and limited local job offers mean the deck is stacked against you. One big reason I didn’t marry my husband right after boot camp was because he was sent to 29 Palms (the middle of the Mojave Desert). There were no job opportunities for me there. Instead of sitting in base housing being dependent, we agreed it was important for me stay near my family and work at a job I loved. This was a great distraction and support system during his deployments. Having my own income gave me freedom to make big decisions after we married, like buying a house and getting my Master’s Degree.

7. You Have No Degree. If you don’t have a degree, you are severely limiting your job options. I know it feels really tempting to quit school and move to your fiancé right now. Please believe me: life will NOT get any easier after you are married! The military moves you around a lot, which makes some programs and certifications a real challenge. I finished my Bachelor’s before we married. I started my Master’s degree online when I was pregnant with our first child. It took several years because of deployments and more babies. Now, when he retires from the military, I can support the family while he looks for a civilian job. Or if something happens to him,  I will be able to support our children.



I know how exciting it is to be engaged, and how hard it is to wait to be together! But I see so many young military couples struggle, because they weren’t really adults when they married. Honestly, you have nothing to lose from a little more time of long-distance dating. But you have a lot to gain from waiting: financial stability, education, emotional growth, and basic adult skills. If you feel like people are judging you for wanting to marry young, maybe they actually are trying to help you. We all want you to succeed and have a happy military marriage!

Did you marry young? Or have you dated long distance for a while? Tell me your story!

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9 Comments

  1. reccewife

    This is great advice!
    Although I only scored a 2/7 when I got married as a teenager and I’m going on 16 years now :P.
    I think the willingness to put in the time and effort and sweat and blood to make it work trumps all the age and preparations. It’s not common in the Canadian Forcesto get married young and since getting married at 19 I’ve watched a ton of ‘later’ marriages crumble around me. More than a few in the first year, even when they had waited until the ‘right time’ to get married.
    So I figure it’s part planning and a much bigger part determination :).

    Reply
    • Lizann

      Hi, thanks so much for sharing your experience! Yes, you’re right, there is no magical age or success formula. I like how you said it takes ‘time and effort and sweat and blood to make it work.’ That is so true for any age. Congrats on your 16 years, that’s awesome!

      Reply
  2. Brooke dean

    My 18 yr old daughter is and her love are like the most amazing cutest couple..he went into the navy after graduation and they survived bootcamp and we even went to graduation and now he is in A school and seems to have decided that my daughter even though he absolutely doesnt want to tell her to but said she should move on and that he cant give her what she deserves and will want right now…my daughter is brokenhearted and really just wanted to at least attempt to try to work it out even though she knew the chances of getting hurt..the whole time through boot camp and even the 2 weeks hes been in a school he has done nothing but tell her he loves her and want her to be there at every opportunity he had for family to come..why would he just do a 180 like that and if he loves her why couldnt they work it out and try ..

    Reply
    • Anna

      I am 19 and going through the exact same thing right now with someone who is in the Army… :/

      Reply
  3. Makala

    So I have a long and interesting story. My fiance is planning on joining the Air Force. Though it doesn’t start there. We started dating a couple of months ago and his grandparents hate me. The reason why? I’m black, well I’m mixed actually. But they only see black when it comes to me. They’re racist and that’s just hard in genral. So from the beginning our relationship hasn’t been easy but we’re happy overall. So his grandparents don’t want him seeing and he decided to join the Air Force and I’m like that’s awesome. His grandparents are fine with that mostly because he couldn’t see me anymore. Lo and behold he proposed to and i said yes. And joining the service is something he talked about before and so it isn’t a new thing. It’s just I feel like our relationship has been through alot already and i don’t know how things would work our now. He’s 20, he’ll be 21 in april and I just turned 19

    Reply
    • Lizann

      Hi Makala, glad you found this site, but I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been treated that way. Congratulations on your relationship and your engagement! I’ll be honest– joining the military rarely makes a relationship easier. It may remove you from the drama with his grandparents, but there will certainly be new and additional challenges after he joins, such as moving to a new base, spending lots of time apart during training and deployments, you finding work at each new assignment, etc. If joining the military is something that you both agree on because of the overall benefits, then go ahead and support his dream and do what you can to increase your education and work options. Just know that it is going to challenge you and have difficult times when you need to lean on friends and family for support. But if he is joining the military to get you away from his family, well, that doesn’t always solve relationship problems. Often, after Basic Training, service members have a strong incentive to get married because then you can live with him and he gets a Housing Allowance, and you would be covered by his health insurance. But getting married right away isn’t always the best for you, especially if you are trying to go to college or get established in a career. There’s nothing wrong with dating long distance for a time so that you will both be more stable when you do get married. Make sure getting married is the right thing and the right time for both of you.

      Reply
      • Noel Leon Dibrell

        Yeah, with him being away so much is going to be a challenge. Even know I don’t see him that much and it’s hard. It’s just alot.

        Reply
  4. Madeline

    Hi! This was so informative, and very well written. I’ve been doing research upon research upon research. I’m currently working a full-time job and attending community college while my boyfriend attends his schooling for the Marines. We’re both 18 currently and have had a plan since before bootcamp, we’ve spoken about all the things that we need to be prepared for and all the possible outcomes, good and bad. We want to get married when we turn 19 and we believe this is the best decision for us. We know that it will be difficult with finances, housing, distance, and work schedules. At the end of the day we know that we want to grow as a married couple and do anything and everything in our power to make it work. This will be a difficult process but we are making steps everyday to prepare for this life. Although we are young and the military forces people to grow up, we feel we are ready to face anything that comes our way. If you have any tips, that would be amazing! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Lizann

      Hi Madeline,
      Thanks for reading, and I’m so glad you found this helpful. Yes, there will be times when military life is not easy. But if you go into it with your eyes open knowing some of the challenges that are ahead of you, then it will be easier for you and your service member to discuss them and work things out. I wish you both great happiness! 🙂

      Reply

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