I got engaged in the last month of high school and married two years later, just after my sophomore year of college. I didn't realize how much this would shock people. Quite often the assumptions people make about the hardships of combining undergraduate life and married life just aren't correct.
Here are the biggest myths about getting married in college that just aren't true:
1. It will be a financial strain.
I really don't know where this idea comes from. Unless you come from a wealthy family, college will always be a financial strain. Being married doesn't make that worse, rather, it can make it better. For one, your spouse is a built-in roommate, and you only need a one-bedroom for the two of you! Typically you'll have two incomes, even if they are only part-time college jobs. Not to mention, being married makes you legally independent when it comes to financial aid forms. Being married (and having good grades) is what paid for me to go to school. Both of us are graduating without any student loans!
2. Being married will be a distraction from your studies.
No. Just, no. Why do people think this? Having someone else to share the house chores with, to cook dinner for you when midterms have gotten you down, or rub your shoulders after a long day, this is a distraction? Not to mention that my husband is always there when I hand him a set of 200 Arabic flashcards and say "Quiz me." You know what is a distraction? Not being able to go 10 minutes into your study sesh without remembering that hottie at the bar and deciding if you were reading his signals right.
3. Being married in college means you'll miss out on the expected "sexual exploration" of your 20s.
Being in a committed relationship has certainly NOT tampered our exploration. The local sex shop knows us by name. I can almost guarantee you we've tried much more interesting things between the two of us then most people do with all their partners in college combined. I've tested more fantasies, scenarios, and toys than most people know to exist. When it comes to kinky sex, being so comfortable with each other allows us to push our boundaries much further. And if you ever get bored of each other, role play as someone else. Not to mention I can enjoy my wild bedroom activity with just my contraception implant and have no need for the inconvenience of condoms.
4. Marrying early means you've settled.
No, it just means I snatched up one of the good guys as soon as I found him. While you should make sure you and your partner are compatible and committed before a marriage (at any age), leaving them for the possibility of there being "someone else better" is not a recipe for true love — it's a recipe for serial monogamy. When you get into your 40s and are wondering why all the good men are gone, come to talk to me. You can keep your "highbrow" principles and your once-daily inspirational "I'm single and I love myself" quotes. I'll take my early success.
5. You'll have fewer college experiences.
I mean, this one is really up to the individual. I'm not a big party person, but if I was, being married wouldn't stop me. I've still joined RSOs (Registered Student Organizations) on campus. I'm also considering a semester abroad. Being married makes the planning for that a little different, of course, but it won't keep me from going. In fact, having someone around to hold the fort down back home makes it even more likely I'll go.
6. You change too often in your 20s to get married.
Of course, you change. If I change from 21 to 30 even half as much as I changed from 15 to 21, you won't even recognize me. But if you think at 30 years old you suddenly become a static human being who lives the rest of their life without having personality or goal shifts, you're in for a surprise. It's very important to know you have a partner who can weather that change with you AND help make sure it is in a positive direction. You might not be able to tell that if you marry your freshman year boyfriend your sophomore year, but I could tell from dating my husband from age 15 to age 20 before we got married. Talk about change! Now we've changed and grown so much side by side that who we are we owe to each other, and I think we've become much better people.
7. I don't love myself yet. How can I love a spouse?
This myth is my least favorite. Sure, having an accurate perception of yourself and your own abilities is healthy, and many people struggle with that. But if you think that loving someone else has anything to do with how you feel about yourself, you're setting yourself up for failure. REAL love is selfLESS not selfISH. When I'm feeling too ugly or too dumb, it can be really helpful to stop asking "What can I do for me to make me feel better about myself?" and start asking "What can I do for my husband to help satisfy his needs and help build his self-concept?" Feminism doesn't like me saying this, because it makes it sound like the man is more important. I'm not saying that, because in a healthy relationship, selflessness goes BOTH ways — you take care of each other.
8. You won't have time for self-discovery.
Just like change, self-discovery is a process that happens over a lifetime. It seems one of the most pernicious myths about all relationships is that you need to be perfect and have your life completely figured out before one will work. Learning about yourself can be easier when you have a spouse to act as a mirror. While it's certainly important to try and pick someone who shares your values, it's even more important to pick someone who can deal with a change in values, because over a lifetime, your mind will change as you make new discoveries. My husband stayed with me through two changes in religion and a shift in political ideology. We learned from each other and about each other.
9. One of you will have to sacrifice your career/educational future in favor of your marriage.
This one I hear less often, but it's still common. While I did take off a year to help put my husband through school, he has put off graduate school and isn't going back until I'm done. I took a risk on` my education for him, and now he's taking a risk, depending on me to keep my end of the bargain, but this is just how we choose to do it. If we wanted to rack up loans, we could go back at the same time, but we decided to take advantage of our situation and take turns working full time and paying for each other's school. We may take a few more years to get all our degrees, but it's more likely we'll be able to afford to finish what we've started, not to mention we can both have grad degrees by 30 with no loans. That's a "sacrifice" I'll gladly volunteer for!
10. People who get married younger are more likely to get divorced.
Well, OK. This one isn't a myth. 60% of marriages before age 25 end in divorce. That's a slight majority. But these statistics are the overall, not each individual case. I don't want to live my life by a statistic. Even if most marriages end in divorce, all the statistics in the world shouldn't make this choice for you, all the statistics shouldn't make this choice for you. If you are ready and with the right person can only be determined by you and your partner. And please, if you have young married friends, don't point out this statistic. We already know. It only makes us more determined to succeed and prove the bastards wrong. Also, it's just rude!
Marriage isn't right for everyone, and for some, it's not right in college. But all the above negatives aren't some guaranteed ruination unique to young married folk. They can happen to anyone who is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, married or otherwise, at any age. If the relationship is healthy, marriage can be a boon in college in ways many people don't realize. My intention is not to convince you to marry someone when you're not ready or if they aren't right for you. If you read my list and laughed because you can't imagine a marriage right now to your current partner being healthy, then please trust your instincts, but try to remember that your friend's marriage is not your own. What is right for you may not be right for everyone. Love is love, after all, even at 21.