For the ones who married young

Various of our friends post articles now and then about the joys of marrying young and growing up together in harmony. The most recent of these was here, and is a beautiful story, full of sweet moments and good advice.

We are truly, deeply happy for our friends who had that experience.

There were times, of course, when we each, separately, assumed that they were lying, just as we were, in order to tell the story that everyone around them expected to hear. Twenty years on, it’s both delightful and deeply humbling to see that they weren’t – or that, even if they were, they managed to work through it and build happiness on top of the sad times.

But that’s not our story. This one is for those of us who married young and watched it fall apart. Because you need to know that there’s more to your story than regret, and watching other people get lucky and find happy–hard, but happy–the first time around.

We both married young and unwise, and, although beautiful things came from those years (most obviously our beautiful, brilliant, talented older children), those decisions were terrible, terrible mistakes. Mistakes that could have been avoided, at least for one of us, if we’d listened to those same dear friends, and actually opened our eyes to the various red flags.

But, as we mentioned, we were young, and so very unwise.

Our mistakes are put squarely in front of us, every single day of our lives. This is true even though my now-wife and I have found in each other a best friend, and each day is better than the one before. Our mistakes influence decisions we make every single day. My mistakes have a profound effect on my wife, and hers on me.

And so when we see these articles encouraging people to jump in with both feet while they’re young and unwise, naturally, we don’t have the same teary-eyed response that others might have. Our teary-eyed response is for years and opportunities lost. It is for the pain that our kids go through every time they talk about their parents, every time someone asks what their mailing address is, every time someone invites them to a birthday party and they have to figure out which home they’re in that weekend. For the confusion that our youngest has when her siblings go away for days at a time and she doesn’t understand why, and the stab of anger and sadness and whatever-it-is when she asks why she doesn’t get to have two houses, too.

Please, don’t stop posting those articles, particularly if they are written as compassionately as the one mentioned above. The compassion for those of us who failed made that one readable. And the advice in the article was also relevant to those of us trying to make another go of it.

And please don’t ever, ever hear us saying that if you are having a hard time of it, move on and you’ll find someone better. We are, as the Bible puts it, “as one escaping through the flames.” Neither of us recommends it to anyone. Every time someone comes to us, as the presumed expert, to ask our advice about whether they should leave their spouse, it breaks our hearts. We can identify with the pain, but it is a jump from one flame to another, and nobody can tell you which fire is worse.

Please also understand if we don’t “like” or comment on posts about early marriage on Facebook, or share them with our friends. Even on the other side of our respective tragedies, the flames can still burn.

But as we said, our story does not end with us looking back over our shoulder at what was irretrievably lost.

If you share our brand of brokenness, you need to know (if you haven’t learned it already) that there’s more to it than regret. There’s opportunity for healing and redemption (with or without remarriage); to see the glory of a Thing Made Whole Again, and when the light shines through the pieces, it’s a breathtaking sight to behold, especially from the Inside.