In an article about navigating marriage young, an illustration of a bride and groom with pacifiers and navigation signs
Illustration by Sarah Shin, George Washington University

How To Navigate Marriage as a Young Couple

How I was able to guide myself through a new marriage in my early 20s when I felt immature and out of my depth.

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In an article about navigating marriage young, an illustration of a bride and groom with pacifiers and navigation signs
Illustration by Sarah Shin, George Washington University

How I was able to guide myself through a new marriage in my early 20s when I felt immature and out of my depth.

Marriage can be blissful and exciting. It can also be difficult if you are coming into it with unrealistic expectations and a flawed view of how a marriage is supposed to operate. Personally, a desire to live independently with someone who was as equally independent-minded as I am was a significant reason why I wanted to get married. I wanted the love and companionship, too, but the idea that I could live life on my own terms as a married woman was also very appealing to me.

I eventually did get married to a great guy two years ago at 23. I quickly realized that I had taken the security of living under my parents’ roof for granted. I was — and am — safe and loved in my marriage, but I completely underestimated the level of uncertainty that moving out would make me feel. Moreover, I felt an odd sense of guilt that I had somehow abandoned my family by getting married. There was a lot I needed to inwardly contend with while simultaneously navigating marriage at a relatively young age.

Naturally, getting used to living with someone new is not an easy feat. We know what we’re in for when living with family because it’s all we’ve ever known and typically, family members are forced to accept each other’s quirks and living habits. However, when you decide to live with someone new, such as a spouse, it’s a pretty big transition. You don’t know what you’re in for. You could be close friends with someone or date them for years and still have no idea what to expect if you end up sharing a living space with them. This is an experience I can definitely attest to.

Getting married opened my eyes to not only my husband’s quirks, but to mine as well. We found ourselves constantly questioning each other about why we did things a certain way. Why did I insist on watching movies on movie night with all the lights on? Why did he insist on cleaning the bathtub with Ajax before every shower? It was impossible for us to easily accept these things about each other when, to our own selves, our habits made perfect sense.

While it’s emotionally laborious to get used to the way your spouse lives, it’s not impossible. Compromise is key. My husband and I had to determine what our hard lines were and what we were willing to tweak to make the other person feel more comfortable and accommodated. Of course, this is something we still sometimes struggle with two years later, but I think that’s to be expected. Since my husband and I entered marriage at a relatively young age, we needed to learn to get the best of our understandable selfishness in order to maneuver our way through our relationship with the proper care and consideration each of us needed.

It goes without saying that there is a certain security that comes alongside living with your parents. They are meant to provide and maintain our physical and financial security. If we’re lucky, we have parents who assure us that they are there to fall back on in times of hardship. While I had a few part-time jobs here and there throughout my teenage and young-adult years, my main source of income was my parents giving me what I needed and then some. I never needed to worry about saving money or budgeting — my parents dealt with the money and I knew they would take care of it.

Looking back, I always felt safe and secure even when I knew that my family was struggling through hard times — the 2008 recession, for example, was particularly difficult for us. Even then, however, I can’t recall ever feeling like we were in danger. My siblings and I were never deprived of needs and many wants. My ever-present feeling of security was something I failed to really appreciate until I got married and was no longer dependent on my parents.

My husband had just graduated from college the year before and COVID-19 prevented me from working, so we weren’t very financially comfortable at the start of our marriage. We were trying to manage a decrease in general income (compared to when we lived with our own families) as well as adjust to being responsible for our spending. This hyper-awareness of money was something I wasn’t used to until I got married. The uncertainty regarding finances undeniably caused some stress, both in our marriage and individual selves. It’s hard to feel comfortable in a marriage when you are each constantly worried about money. With time, we learned that budgeting is crucial — tracking our income to a T and being honest with ourselves about what we needed to spend money on was vital in reducing financial stress and thus creating a more relaxed dynamic in the marriage.

It’s safe to say that my eagerness for marriage and independence clouded my mind when my husband and I first got serious. The fact that I was going to be a wife and have a house of my own with rules of my own was all I ever thought about. I was so excited that I gave little thought to what I’d be leaving behind — my family. It wasn’t long after my husband and I moved in together that I began experiencing feelings of guilt.

I’m the oldest of my siblings, so I always acted as a third parent to them growing up. Oftentimes, I felt a responsibility to make sure I helped nurture their growth and to act as an advisor to my parents when dealing with any of their parenting concerns. Part of my desire to get married and move out was born out of the desire to be free of this partial responsibility for my younger siblings.

When I realized that I had accomplished this by getting married, the guilt overtook me for a considerable amount of time. I felt as if I had abandoned my family, and had not given myself enough time to appreciate them and show them love before seemingly jumping into marriage. This caused me to feel a short-lived resentment of marriage in general, which in turn affected my attitude toward my own marriage.

There was a lack of maturity that prevented me from viewing the situation logically — the reality was that I did not abandon my family because I was not actually responsible for them. In this situation, communicating with them about how I was feeling helped me navigate this area of my marriage. I was able to overcome the feeling that I had gotten married too soon and thus abandoned my family. This helped heal the resentment I was harboring toward my marriage and helped ensure my relationship with my husband continued to run smoothly. While I’m happy that I’m married and glad my husband and I got married when we did, I acknowledge that entering into a marriage at the age that I did with so little life experience contributed to my conflicted feelings at the start.

Navigating a marriage can be tough — even more so when the couple is relatively young and one or both are inexperienced in living independently. Mixed emotions about the marriage and how they can be reconciled with valid concerns about responsibilities and other relationships may feel daunting and impossible to overcome, but they’re not. I was able to get married at 23 and two years later, I can confidently say that I conquered many of life’s trials when it came to an inexperienced and somewhat quick marriage.

Feeling unprepared to take on financial challenges, having negative feelings about being away from your family and adjusting to living in a new space with new habits can be tough in any situation, whether you’re moving into a new place by yourself or sharing it with a new spouse. In the case of living with someone new, patience and mercy are major factors in ensuring that the relationship or marriage sails smoothly. Compromise and financial responsibility are also impossible to disregard. Additionally, it is vital to communicate any negative feelings you’re having to your spouse, or another loved one, depending on the situation. Chances are your feelings of guilt are unfounded and the thoughts that brought them on need to be unlearned. When keeping all of this in mind, it is possible to have a happy and fun marriage without letting the possible challenges bring you down, even if you are young.

Writer Profile

Saba Bazzi

Wayne State University
English

Saba is a student and writer who is fueled by coffee and a desire for truth. She navigates the world with a sense of openness and values the power of conversation and written word.

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