The blushing 20-something bride is nothing like the confident 30-something woman who takes her vows. Though neither is better than the other, each has her own aisle to walk.
I’ve been both, and though my journey presents me with insight on each perspective, I do hope that more and more couples only need to experience one or the other and that they do it before life gets too complicated.
Marriage in Your 20s
Getting married in your 20s is fun. You’re young and in love. You’re full of hopes and ideologies that fill you full of romance. It’s a beautiful time in life. It’s exciting, and though wedding (and life) planning may be a bit stressful, you’re more carefree because you’re less tethered to older-adult responsibilities.
I was able to adapt to marriage easily. I’d dated my ex-husband for years before we got married assuming that a long-lasting relationship would lead to a life-long marriage. Although that didn’t happen, we easily joined our lives together. He didn’t have a lot of stuff, and I’ve never needed much, neither of us had any kids, and the pets we did have were adopted together.
Getting married in your 20s is fun. You’re full of hopes and ideologies that fill you full of romance.
Unfortunately, this journey can be too idealistic at times. This can leave a woman unprepared when things get rough. It’s important to not be naive or pull your partner’s slack all the time.
Marriage in Your 30s
By contrast, couples who get together when they're older can have an uphill battle from the start. Your lives are pretty carved out. Your career has already taken off (hopefully), your families are less accepting of newcomers as they age, and pets or children from previous relationships just make everything more complicated. Not to mention that ever annoying weight we all carry around: our baggage.
It takes a lot to get to know someone in your 30s. As we age, for some reason, it’s just harder to reach out to others. We know who we are and what we want, and that narrows our options down a lot!
Thankfully, because we’ve been through some serious trials, we’re a bit more mature and stable. The older we get, the more we recognize how important our healthy coping mechanisms are, and that although life’s not fair, we’re pretty tough, so we can handle it.
The people who’ve never been married are often labeled as “broken,” “too picky,” “undateable,” and so on.
I met my second husband as my first marriage was falling apart. He wanted nothing to do with dating. I was a writer, and he was an artist. We were looking to do a collaboration and just support each other’s work. It was a long process – one that followed my separation and divorce. It took longer for us to trust each other because we had both been going through a lot. Things moved a bit slower. Because of that, we developed a serious relationship built on our devotion to each other and our lives.
Stigmas, Step-Kids, and Baggage
Blending families is a big step. Marriage in your 20s isn’t usually full of stepkids, half-siblings, step-dogs, or all the frustrating divorce fallout. By the time you hit your 30s though, look out, because that is often what dating is all about.
My husband had never been married before. We were in our early 30s, but I still wondered, “What’s wrong with him?” It’s a common stigma. One I’m not proud of attaching to him, but once people reach a certain age without getting married, the dating scene divides. The people who’ve never been married are often labeled as “broken,” “too picky,” “undateable,” and so on, while those of us who have been married are really the ones who are pretty screwed up.
I’ve survived abuse and neglect in both childhood and relationships. My husband has literally been stabbed within an inch of his life (by a crazy ex-husband of a female friend). When it comes to baggage, we’re record holders. But somehow, we found each other and continue to thrive because it’s way more fun to be together and enjoy life than to struggle and hide.
We also both have kids from previous relationships, and that was another significant hurdle. I used to swear I would never date a man with kids, not unless I was at least cool with the mother. That suits 20-somethings well, but once you hit your 30s you might have to give it up. Kids may be stressful, but they’re always worth it.
When I first introduced my husband to my daughters, before he became their stepdad, it was nearly a year after I met him. He joined us for a camping trip. It took all of five minutes before both of my young kids were climbing all over him and he was laughing and tickling them. This is because I let them talk on the phone and get rid of the awkwardness before they met in person, and it was well after I spent every day learning more and more about him.
Marriage in your 30s can be full of stepkids, half-siblings, step-dogs, and frustrating divorce fallout.
By the time he was introduced to my children I knew him inside and out, and vice versa. Meeting his sons was a little different. His agreement with the ex he was in contact with was that he could see his son when the kid wanted. He was nervous about meeting me, but he’s smart and fun so it was a cool time. He was so calm and shy, and his mother is very sweet. We sat together at my sister-in-law’s wedding and had a great time.
My husband’s other son is a different story. He hasn’t seen him in years because although he does have legal custody, the mother won’t allow it. When he petitioned the courts, they said he would have to go to therapy with her, and not only pay for his counseling bill, but for hers as well. So because he doesn’t have the money to pay for his ex’s therapy (and better lawyers), he hasn’t seen his other son in years.
This was a hard fact for him to share. It’s still very painful now that we have two sons together. As he tells it, “We’re like a screwed-up version of the Brady Bunch.” It makes me laugh, but yeah, getting married in my 30s has been a complicated mess of problem-solving and remembering what’s most important.
If you find the right one in your 20s, that’s great, but getting married in your 30s isn’t impossible. It does often come with more drama and baggage, and all sorts of issues. I often tell my husband, “I wish I would’ve met you sooner.” He likes to tease me and say, “You would’ve hated me back then.”
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