The Right Way

After getting back from a wedding this weekend, I’ve been thinking about marriage. Even before this trip, marriage seems to always be in the news: When is the perfect age to get married? Is it better to wait, to have life experience? Is it better to marry young and grow up together? Is it worth marrying at all – why not simply live together without the legal documentation?

I got married when I was 27, almost the exact average age that women in America tie the knot. Looking back, I am so glad I had most of my 20’s to myself. My college years were filled with questioning and refining my worldview and my faith. I learned to trust friends, community, and God in ways that I could not have fathomed. I traveled alone, spent a night on the porch of an abandoned house after missing the last train, and learned to rely on myself as I navigated new cultures. After college, I explored Nepal, moved back to Denver and started grad school. Once I had a job, each summer I would take an international trip. I went to Italy to see my brother as he finished a study-abroad experience; I visited my college roommate in Canberra, Australia; my roommate from Nepal and I spent a couple weeks in Ecuador. By the time Frank and I met, I had explored 5 continents with amazing friends.

Beyond travel and adventure, I came into our relationship with confidence and wisdom that years of adventuring alone can give. I learned how to be lonely and how to ask others for help. I learned how I wanted to budget my money and what things were important to me.

Our wedding

(c) Cathy Walters Photography

When we got married, Frank and I had been working for a while. We had a good-sized savings account, so were able to have a wedding that truly reflected us. Our parents chipped in, but we paid for most of it ourselves. During our first years of marriage, we ate at fancy restaurants for special occasions and just because. We spent our change jar on Dom Perignon and went on a wonderful, romantic hiking holiday one year and an African safari the next (and my 6th continent!) We would dress up and go to the opera, ballet, or symphony several times a season. We were able to give generously and knew that this was important to us. When the time came to become parents, we had seen a lot of the world, explored our city, and had been able to live a good Double Income, No Kid lifestyle for a few years.

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Feeding Mashumbi in Zambia

Here’s the thing: The way we did it worked for us and our personalities. I needed to explore on my own, to make decisions and mistakes on my own, before I was ready to join someone else in life. I have a cousin who met his wife when they were in high school, got married right out of college, and had three kids before they turned 30. And they are a very happy family who take advantage of exploring life with older kids. They, and my other friends who married and had kids young are now in places where they can get away for a week much easier than we can.

I have a friend who got married in her late 30’s and is just now starting her parenting journey. But, she was able to live abroad and see the world in amazing ways, and she’ll be able to pass on an incredibly rich worldview to her kids. I have other friends who are in their mid-thirties and wish they were married now, and others who got pregnant in their early twenties, married, and now feel they missed out on some freedom.

I love hearing people’s different stories and journeys and am always amazed at how unique and “right” each of our paths can be: How incredible to “grow up” with the person you love; and how incredible to have a baseline of travel and fine dining to return to when the kids are more independent. Being at the wedding last weekend reminded me of the importance in celebrating each person’s own journey. My way is right for me, just as my friend’s is right for her. Sometimes I grow weary of hearing about the “right way” to do something, when, really, all of our stories need to be unique to create a bigger picture.

What adventures did you have (or are you having) before you got married?

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3 thoughts on “The Right Way

  1. I love this. Being 42 and never married has worked beautifully for me, and I think marrying Frank was a brilliant decision for you!

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