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.
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!