By Amory Godley // Contributing Writer
Most 20-year-olds spend time thinking about what they’ll do on Friday night, what they’ll eat for lunch or what TV show they want to binge-watch next.
I do all those things, but I have a few more concerns, too – because I’m married.
When I was 18 and met the guy I knew I’d marry, I didn’t hold back. Our commitment surprised a lot of our friends and relatives; they thought we should be engaged for two years, or that it was crazy that I wouldn’t be able to drink at my own wedding.
The negativity didn’t sway our decision. And after a year of marriage, the reality of it has started to set in a little bit.
A few truths I’ve discovered about being married at 20:
It’s not just “me” anymore. Just like any other student, my freshman year of college was categorized as “finally being on my own” and “free from my parents.” I spent a lot of money going out to dinner and hanging out with friends. When you’re married, though, you can’t go blow $20 of your combined income on dinner. You can’t just spontaneously go away for a weekend with friends. You have to check with your partner, even if you know they’ll say yes.
There’s such comfort in knowing someone cares about you, even if it can seem to cramp your style at first. You have crappy things like budgets and five-year plans and bills that have to be paid, and unfortunately that comes before your fifth movie date with your friends. That can seem a bit restricting, but it’s all for the ultimate good of the relationship.
We’re broke. We aren’t eating ramen every night, but the phrase “living on love” definitely applies to our lives. When you get married so young, “savings” aren’t much of a thing. For example, my husband is paying back his student loans on top of regular bills, and his car won’t pass the emissions test, required to renew his license plate. Or when an entire paycheck a month goes to rent and we’re eating rice every night. We dream about owning a house and being secure, but most days it seems far away.
Marriage isn’t glam. It’s not a normal thing for my husband to bring me flowers or for me to cook an elaborate meal. At our house, dinner often means eating spaghetti while sitting on folding chairs at our dining room table. All of our furniture are hand-me-downs and they don’t match. The HGTV glamorous houses aren’t within our reach quite yet. “Netflix and chill” literally means watching Netflix together. Sometimes, Chinese takeout becomes a weekly routine and pajamas start to feel like regular clothes – and that’s OK. First impressions are done and all that’s left is comfort.
Sweatpants are sexy. There’s no shame in T-shirts and no makeup, or even sweatpants and a ponytail. For me, one great thing about being married is the freedom to be comfortable. I don’t have to brush my hair every couple of hours or shower before I see my husband every morning because it’s impossible. Waking up with morning breath every morning and taking off smelly shoes at the end of the day is a daily occurrence. Thankfully, I don’t have to hide my retainer at night and look hot all the time – and neither does he.
I have ZERO free time. As a married full-time student, I spend a lot of time bouncing from thing to thing. I felt like I had no free time when I was single, but now I do everything for two. My husband works full time and also runs his own business, so I often do more loads of laundry and cook bigger meals than I used to. When I get home, I cook meals, since we try not to do takeout too much. And on top of a job, school and any social activities, I have to find time to clean, cook and give myself some ‘me’ time.
There IS freedom. Many things about marriage seem less than desirable to young people, especially fearing a lack of freedom. However, I’ve discovered there is freedom in that my husband and I can do whatever we want together: We can wake up and blow half a paycheck on Christmas decorations (and have). We can make breakfast for dinner. We can have living room dance parties. We can do anything we want and the best part is, we always have a partner to do it with.