The Wisdom of Youth

You’re 20 years old, haven’t finished your post-secondary degree, have been dating a guy for 6 months, still live with your parents, and you come up with this winner of an idea: I’m getting married!

Holy shit, what the hell are you thinking? Sorry, first reaction. 

I love being married and think everyone has a right to get married if they want. But hold on there, Chuck, have you thought about all those crucial things that go into a successful marriage? And don’t say “all we need is love” because marriage is about way more than loving each other; it’s certainly a key piece but love doesn’t pay the bills or raise a kid. If my future child came to me at 20 and said, “Dad, I’m getting married!” I’d pour myself a scotch and start down a long conversation filled with questions and examples that both educate and illuminate.

Here are the questions that immediately spring to mind: Most pressingly, how are you going to pay for the wedding and honeymoon? Next up, where are you going to live and how are you going to pay for it? How do you both approach managing money? Are you confident in your abilities? Speaking of money and future earnings, will you both be finishing school? How will you pay for this schooling? Will you be pursuing more school or getting a job after your degrees? What about kids? If you have them, will one of you stay home or will both of you still work? Have you thought about child care if you both need to be out of the house? Have you thought about how you’ll discipline your kids, reward them, teach them, and guide them? Let’s leave kids out of this, how’s your relationship with your family, their family, and vice-versa? Have you thought about the level of involvement yours and theirs will play in your life? Switch gears again, what’s your approach to religion? Are you both okay if your religious beliefs are different? New question, how well have you two learned to communicate with each other? Do you have a good strategy to overcome the challenges that marriage presents? What challenges have you two faced together so far and how well did you resolve them? Put another way, how do you two fight and how do those fights turn out? Back to the positive, what goals do you both have in life? Are you willing to put some of your goals aside or delay them for the other person? Do you know what you like and – more importantly – what you don’t like about how the other person acts in a relationship? Putting them aside for a moment, are there things you like and don’t like about yourself? Do you see yourself working to change these things? Let’s bring them back in and ask are they aware that you feel this way?

These questions are all representative of things my wife and I had to talk about before we got married and will undoubtedly revisit countless times in the future. I’m not saying that at 20 years-old you don’t have some of this worked out but maybe give yourself a few years to date some different people, figure out what you like and what you don’t like, and take the time to learn who you are. Or, at the very least, be engaged for a while and go through some of that discovery together. Once armed with that knowledge and experience you’ll be better prepared for your exploration of marriage. The choice is ultimately yours but consider what I’ve said here and the ramifications of the decision you’re about to make.

One final thought: there’s a reason no one speaks about the wisdom of youth. It’s because it doesn’t exist but, with time, experience gives us that greater insight we call wisdom.

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